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. A few of the 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 bit of shopping along the plaza. If it’s open, 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 vary and are subject to change, but at least three places will be open on whatever day you choose.
The Tasting Rooms
Small but impressive Blue Farm Wines produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from vineyards throughout Sonoma County. Grapes from the Carneros District estate of winegrower and proprietor Anne Moller-Racke go into some of the wines. 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 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.
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.
Why go: Pinot Noir lineup; high-quality grapes; comparative tastings.
Director of winemaking Bob Cabral, formerly of the exclusive Williams Selyem Winery, and winemaker Ryan Prichard achieve Pinot poetry at Three Sticks Wines, whose estate vineyards include the highly regarded Gap’s Crown and Durell vineyards. Grapes from other sites throughout Sonoma County go into other equally sublime single-vineyard wines.
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.
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 2022.