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 the plaza to experience bucolic Blue Farm Wines or stylish 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 chosen, and how long the wines were 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 plaza, 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. 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 Blue Farm, Patz & Hall, Sojourn, and Three Sticks for all tastings. At WALT one is required for the Root 101 tasting. 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. Blue Farm closes on weekends, Three Sticks on Sunday. Patz & Hall, Sojourn, and WALT are open daily. WALT stays open later than its counterparts, so it can work well as the last afternoon session.
The Tasting Rooms
1) Blue Farm Wines
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, assiduously farmed.
Small but impressive Blue Farm Wines produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from vineyards throughout Sonoma County. Grapes from the bucolic 10-acre Sonoma estate of winegrower and proprietor Anne Moller-Racke go into two 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: bucolic setting; 19th-century pump house tasting room; wines representing the diversity of Sonoma County Pinot Noir.
2) Patz & Hall
Understatedly elegant setting for sophisticated wines.
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 three major Sonoma County appellations known for Pinot Noir; gracious service; Salon Experience wine-and-food pairing in private room (top photo).
3) Sojourn Cellars
High praise for Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs.
The first wines out of Sojourn Cellars, founded in 2001, were Cabernet Sauvignons, which it still makes (and well), but these days 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.
4) Three Sticks Wines
Historic adobe setting, wines from famous vineyards.
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 two others from equally famous locales. Winemaker Bob Cabral, formerly of the exclusive Williams Selyem Winery, achieves Pinot poetry here. Tastings take place in The Adobe, a restored 1842 residence.
Why go: historic setting; renowned winemaker; Pinot poetry.
5) WALT Wines
Pinot and Chardonnay from sister winery to HALL St. Helena.
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. The Root 101: A Single Vineyard Exploration tasting focuses on the nuances of the wines from WALT’s varied sources. You can also 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.
Why go: Relaxed setting; full-bodied Pinots; Root 101 tasting’s small bites from The Girl and the Fig restaurant.
This story first appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in 2019.