Visiting the Healdsburg area? Well, here's a proper list that will guarantee a solid wine experience. Wineries are listed in no particular order - they are all #1 to me and my guests who've experienced their hospitality this summer.
Ridge Lytton Springs - Dry Creek
A warm and friendly staff is always waiting to greet you at Ridge. Their new patio overlooking old vines makes this visit comfy and relaxing. Beats the heck out of the zig-zaggy drive up to Montelbello in the Santa Cruz Mountains too! If you're lucky you'll hit it while their Carignan is available. Montebello wines are also for sale here, ask about their "Celler" selections as well, to buy not to taste - just go for it.
Medlock Ames - Alexander Valley
Learn about their "save the earth" philosophy while sipping on tiny production organic Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Tastings are paired with small bites and wood-fired pizza sometimes too. The real secret: Plan your visit after 3:30, the AV Bar located at the back of the tasting room opens at 5pm - everyone passing through should stop of a refreshing cocktail made with ingredients from the garden or a cold beer - a beautiful patio to watch the sunset.
Natural Process Alliance & Salina Wine Company - Santa Rosa (Russian River area)
This is not a stop for Cowboy Cabernet drinkers. NPA wines are made with TLC naturally and left to do their own thing until poured down the hatch! The wine on tap system complete with Kleen Kanteen's is the hippest way to drink since the milkman made deliveries. Winemaker Kevin Kelly's Salina wines are also here, well he produces less than 300 cases annually, but seriously some of the most fabulous cold climate Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the planet.
Arista - Westside Rd., Russian River
The Texas born McWilliams family has created an absolute magical experience high a-top Westside Rd. The tasting room is surrounding by Japanese gardens and native boulders that take you to a far-away-land for a bit. The family is 100% dedicated to showing you a good time, plan ahead & schedule a vineyard tour for a real treat! Oh and there's the wine - the Artista wines are a must have for any Pinot Noir lover. I also can't seem to get enough of their Syrah, Cab Franc and Gewürztraminer - while they last.
Copain - Eastside Rd., Russian River
Seriously, I just want to live here. The decor inside and out - coupled with a view overlooking Williams-Seylem and other legendary wineries along over on Westside Rd. is spectacular. You'll encounter an incredibly knowledgeable and accommodating staff, while sipping on "anything you can get your hands on" - ask for them - seriously good wines. Viogner, Rose, Syrah and Pinot Noir have all been sipped and shipped among my visiting friends and family this year. Only wish I bought more Rose!
Kokomo - Dry Creek Valley
For the love of dogs! I get my Labrador love fix walking in the door at Kokomo. The friendly owners are followed around by their four-legged buddies. The wines are for us humans, almost always featuring a new release or small production wine reserved for Wine Club members too. I guzzled mounds of their simple but delicious Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc this summer - looking forward to opening a few pinots this fall. The tasting room is no-frills, but the hip music and groovy winery t-shirts are a big bonus.
Inspiration Vineyards - Santa Rosa (Russian River area)
Yes, you are now in an industrial park next to a Baptist Church!! Situated across from the NPA tasting room and winery, the tasting room at Inspiration makes you feel right at home- almost like it's "game night" and it's going to be awhile before you want to leave. Small production Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Viogner are all a treat, one of my favorite discoveries this year. I first met the owners Jon and Barbara while taking their nightly walk through the vineyards off of Olivet Rd. where they live, they are as lovely as the wines they create!
Jordan - Alexander Valley
Call ahead to schedule your tasting and tour. The picturesque grounds take you right to Bordeaux's Chateau Margaux. The winery is tucked away in the hills of Alexander Valley, but extremely easy to locate. You'll feel like a million bucks walking into the winery and will have plenty of options in how to spend a few bucks too. I recently walked away with a bottle of 2003 Jordan Cabernet - the wines age very well and the library wines are "the get" when visiting since their distribution across the US is now everywhere from grocery stores to fine wine shops.
Davis Family Vineyards - Healdsburg
The "gargiste" tasting room is open Thursday - Sunday only and is a real treat to visit. Looking for Napa Cabernet while in Sonoma County? This is your stop. Guy Davis always has a few wines open that are not in national distribution too - just ask. You'll be greeted by Lexi most days, who keeps things lively and fun during your visit. A lot of the time you'll meet the family too, Cole is Guy's right hand and often brings grandson Luke in tow. Ahh what a cutie! Take a peek high above the tasting room bar to see the Davis Family Vineyards "Grand Champion" Saddle Trophy for winning the Texas size wine competition at the Houston Rodeo's International Wine Competition a few years ago - yeah Davis Family Cabernet won the whole show - this is a big deal.