Top tasting rooms in and around historic Sonoma Plaza.
Several of the best Sonoma County Pinot Noir producers have tasting rooms on or near the town of Sonoma’s central square. You can visit three—Sojourn Cellars, Three Sticks Wines, and WALT Wines—walking less than a half-mile total, and it’s worth venturing 3 miles from Sonoma Plaza to experience the pastoral setting of Blue Farm Wines or the stylish one at Patz & Hall.
These acclaimed wineries have access to the very best fruit, in some cases from the same vineyards. Four of the five wineries, for instance, source grapes from Gap’s Crown, a Sonoma County jewel owned by Bill Price of Three Sticks. Sampling the different Pinots from this vineyard provides the chance to ponder how subtle variations in each winemaker’s approach—among them when the grapes were picked, which types of barrels were used, and how long the wines aged— influenced the finished wines.
Planning Your Day
Visiting two tasting rooms before a late lunch and one or two afterward makes for a pleasant day. You can break the tasting up with a little shopping along the plaza. A quick peek into historic Sonoma Mission, just north of the square, is also diverting, and several restaurants worth investigating border it. Downtown Sonoma lies 45 miles north of San Francisco, making this an easy day trip from the City by the Bay. You can extend your visit at lodgings facing or near the plaza that range from inns and apartments to resortlike spreads.
Reservations are required at all five tasting rooms. For sessions that involve food, book at least 48 hours ahead of your visit.
Plan on spending from 60 to 90 minutes at each tasting room. Hours and days open are subject to change. As of July 2020, Blue Farm was open on weekdays only; Three Sticks daily except Sunday; Patz & Hall from Friday through Sunday; and Sojourn and WALT seven days a week.
As wineries began to reopen following the relaxation of shelter-in-place regulations, most (including all five listed below) began receiving visitors by appointment only. Same-day appointments are sometimes possible, but it’s best to reserve space a day or more ahead. Some of the private, socially distanced tastings described here may evolve or go temporarily on hiatus; check winery websites for the latest offerings as well as guidelines regarding party size, mask-wearing, and related matters. When making reservations, you’ll be required in some cases to sign a waiver absolving the winery of liability for any subsequent Covid-19 issues.
The Tasting Rooms
Blue Farm Wines
Small but impressive Blue Farm Wines produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from vineyards throughout Sonoma County. Grapes from Sonoma estate of winegrower and proprietor Anne Moller-Racke go into three of the Pinots. Moller-Racke’s rose garden with dozens of varieties is a stop on the short vineyard walk that precedes many tastings.
Why go: vineyard and mountain views; Pinot Noirs “made in the vineyard.”
Patz & Hall
Patz & Hall showcases its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs at Sonoma House, a tasteful former residence with vineyard and mountain views. Winemaker James Hall displays a sure hand with Pinot Noir grapes from three major Sonoma County appellations known for Pinot Noir, along with fruit from elsewhere in California. The understatedly elegant tasting space is open from Friday through Sunday.
Why go: wines from multiple regions; elegant setting; satisfying hospitality; vineyard and mountain views.
The first wines released by Sojourn Cellars, founded in 2001, were Cabernet Sauvignons, which it still makes (and well). These days, though, the winery receives more attention for its Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs, particularly the ones winemaker Erich Bradley crafts from grapes grown in the Gap’s Crown, Sangiacomo, and Rodgers Creek vineyards. Given their quality and the high praise they receive from critics, these wines, served in a modest bungalow, are reasonably priced.
Why go: Pinot Noir lineup; high-quality grapes; comparative tastings.
Three Sticks Wines
The holdings of Bill Price, the owner of Three Sticks Wines, include the Gap’s Crown and Durell vineyards, which provide grapes for two estate Pinot Noirs. Three Sticks sources grapes for others from equally famous locales. Director of winemaking Bob Cabral, formerly of the exclusive Williams Selyem Winery, and winemaker Ryan Prichard achieve Pinot poetry. As of June 2020, tastings were taking place in the garden behind The Adobe, a restored 1842 residence.
Why go: historic setting; renowned winemaking director; Pinot poetry.
WALT Wines, sister winery to HALL St. Helena, specializes in single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from grapes grown as far north as Oregon’s Willamette Valley and as far south as the Santa Rita Hills of California’s Central Coast. As of July 2020, two tastings are being offered. Taste a few current-release Pinot Noirs along with a Chardonnay, or sample two Pinot Noirs, two HALL Cabernets, and a Zinfandel from a third label. WALT expects to revive Root 101, which showcases on single-vineyard Pinots and includes small bites from a local restaurant, sometime this summer.
Why go: Relaxed setting; full-bodied Pinots; “1,000 miles of Pinot,” from Oregon to Southern California.
This story first appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in mid-2020.