Wine Wednesday: Sipping Sonoma Style

by Robin Barr Sussman on September 13, 2023 in Food+Drink,

Family-owned boutique wineries, miles of gardens, James Beard awarded chefs, oyster and bee farms, soothing spas, and walkable towns with chic shops: Let us count the ways this California wine country area should be on your bucket list! Sign up for a trip to Sonoma County and be rewarded with epicurean and sensory delights.


Bricoleur Vineyards

Photo courtesy Bricoleur Vineyards.

With one of the most extensive wine and food pairing programs in Sonoma County, this sprawling equestrian-meets-chic winery in Windsor is a must. Bricoleur was recently featured on the TODAY Show and last year it was honored by USA Today as one of the “10 Best” new wineries in the country. The grounds are stunning and anticipate a huge portfolio of wines including sauvignon blanc, rosé of grenache, brut, chardonnay, zinfandel, pinot noir and more. Choose from three different sit-down food and wine pairings, plus there are fun seasonal experiences and dining events. In October, proceeds from the sale of its Isla Rose brut rosé will benefit the V Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting cancer.

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery

Photo courtesy Ferari-Carano.

Take the joyride out to beautiful Dry Creek Valley for this iconic Italian-style winery complete with striking fountains, patios, flower gardens and a lily pond. Anticipate a Sonoma County varietal for every palate, from fume blanc and pinot grigio, to rosé, merlot, zinfandel and much more. Experiences include the Classic Tasting (flight of 4 wines); pizza and vino on the terrace; Sunday wine & brunch; a private Pergola Experience in the gardens; and the Reserve Wine Tasting indoors.

 Flowers Vineyard & Winery

Photo courtesy Flowers Vineyard & Winery.

A quick cruise out Westside Road takes you to the House of Flowers, an estate specializing in expressive Sonoma Coast pinot noir and chardonnay. The lush gardens are dotted with cabanas for a semi-private, sit-down tasting in a natural setting. The Sonoma Coast Journey is a guided flight accompanied by seasonal nibbles. The Estate Vineyard Immersion (enjoyed indoors or in the garden) is an in-depth tasting of two iconic estate vineyards and served with seasonal pairing bites crafted by the culinary team.

 Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Photo courtesy Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery.

In the heart of the Russian River Valley, Gary Farrell offers a proud winemaking history and unique sense of place. Exquisite chardonnay and pinot noir are the mainstays crafted by winemaker Theresa Herdia. Drive up a hill to the tasting room, which opens to a sunny terrace and sweeping views of the sunlit treetops, vineyards and mountains. Choose from the Exploration Tasting or the Tour and Tasting experience by appointment only.

 MacRostie Winery and Estate House

MacRostie Winery Estate House. Photo Kathryn MacDonald.

A visit to MacRostie off Westside Rd., a stone’s throw from Healdsburg, will make you want to come back. Open and contemporary, its glass-wrapped Estate House has a California-cool vibe with loungey patios for sit-down tastings and views galore. Explore the portfolio of Sonoma Coast wines with a focus on chardonnay, pinot noir, and a sauvignon blanc through its Signature Tasting. MacRostie also produces zinfandel, rosé, sparkling brut and more.

 Marine Layer

Photo courtesy Marine Layer.

This contemporary new tasting room overlooking the Healdsburg square is calm, cool, and a perfect pitstop for sampling elegant cool-climate Sonoma Coast wines. Choose a table or a couch by the fireplace and pair your wine (two tasting options) with an impressive mezze plate from nearby Little Saint restaurant.

 Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Photo courtesy Jordan Vineyard & Winery.

A drive through enchanting Alexander Valley should include a visit to John Jordan’s famous destination situated on 1,200 acres of stately grounds with European architecture. The seamless wines by winemaker Maggie Kruse are focused on Burgundian-style chardonnay with grapes from the Russian River Valley and Bordeaux-style Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon. Choose from the Signature Tasting paired with seasonal bites; the Chef’s Terrace Tasting with sounds, sights and flavors of France; or the Estate Tour & Tasting. The latter is the crème de la crème featuring a cruise through the property in the Mercedes Sprinter and stops for wine tastings at the lake, the culinary garden, and a seated wine pairing lunch indoors at its highest and most breathtaking point, Vista Point. There’s really nothing like Jordan wines, its land, and the experiences. Reservations required.

Dutcher Crossing Winery

Photo courtesy Dutcher Crossing Winery.

Located in Dry Creek Valley, this dog and picnic-friendly gem will make you feel right at home. And what a view overlooking the mountains! Barrel up to the bar for an extensive and fun tasting of treasures that might include pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, syrah, zinfandel, carignane, chardonnay and more.

 Benovia Winery

Photo courtesy Benovia Winery.

This small production family-owned winery in the heart of the Russian River Valley specializing in a broad portfolio of sustainably farmed, single-vineyard pinot noir and chardonnay. Love these varietals? Don’t pass up a visit. Winemaker-partner Mike Sullivan utilizes grapes from three different Benovia vineyards for rich, nuanced wines (rosé of pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, syrah and cabernet sauvignon are also in the mix). Its wine club rocks with great member events, perks and fabulous wines delivered to your door. The tasting room is open daily; reservations required.


Dry Creek Kitchen

Photo courtesy Dry Creek Kitchen.

Celeb-chef Charlie Palmer’s serene and sunny dining room in Hotel Healdsburg is the place for special dinners. Expect polished service and a seasonally changing menu with local specialties including Humboldt Bay oysters, smoked Duroc pork chop or Liberty Farms duck breast.

 Journeyman Meat Co.

Photo courtesy Journeyman Meat Co.

Pop into this cute locally owned charcuterie shop for rib-sticking sandwiches to go, wines by the glass, house-made sausages, or lunch on the fly. Think meaty subs, pizzas and burgers. 

The Matheson

Photo courtesy The Matheson.

Serving upscale farm-to-table fare in Healdsburg, this double-decker from chef-owner Dustin Vallette is one hot ticket. Pull up a chair at the impressive Wine Wall to pick your favorite pour or choose a table in the lofty dining room. While tucking into a New York Strip with chimichurri or Northern halibut, you might just rub shoulders with a local winemaker. The rooftop patio offers drinks, pizza, salads and more.

 The Farmhouse Restaurant

Photo courtesy The Farmhouse Restaurant.

Located in aptly named Forestville is this lovely inn and notable white-tablecloth restaurant. Newly appointed prominent San Francisco chef Craig Wilmer brings his version of avant-garde California-French cuisine with a new menu featuring seasonal ingredients from Sonoma County. 

Bravas Bar de Tapas

Photo courtesy Bravas Bar de Tapas.

With one of the best backyard bars in town, Bravas is a local’s favorite. Expect flavor-packed Spain-inspired shareable small plates that pair well with beer, specialty cocktails or zippy Spanish wines. 

Molti Amici

Molti Amici. Photo Emma K Morris.

Wood-fired pizza, homemade pasta, and a side of bocce are the highlights at this newcomer in Healdsburg. The covered outdoor patio with a bustling bar is the place to be!

Lo & Behold

Photo courtesy Lo & Behold.

New to Healdsburg is this vibrant café with a large cocktail bar and delightful garden patio. Come hungry for global comforts including smoked salmon, house made kimchi noodles, brisket tacos, Marin French brie en croute, and the “almost famous chicken tendies.”


Harmon Guest House

Photo courtesy Harmon Guest House.

The hotel group’s newest boutique concept flaunts remarkable minimalist architecture, picture-perfect rooms with window seats and tiny terraces, and a coveted rooftop bar. Modern with a sustainable design and eco-chic rooms, adjacent H2 Hotel has its own restaurant, Spoonbar. It has fun amenities (you can use a bike to tool around town, for instance) and breakfast is included.

Vintner’s Resort & Spa

Photo courtesy Vintner’s Resort & Spa.

Prepare to be utterly charmed by this ivy-covered inn turned resort and handy spa. With John Ash & Co. restaurant on site, a garden, walking trails in the vineyard, and a bocce court, there’s no reason to ever leave!


Spa Montage

Photo courtesy Montage.

Elevated above grapevines, this spa in the newcomer hotel Montage Healdsburg is a secluded sanctuary. Expect treatments, couples’ treatments, and wellness experiences like yoga in the vines. Reserve a body, facial, hair or massage treatment and make sure to use the luxe pool area during your stay. Reserve well ahead for the spa or hotel, as this is the most upscale property in the area.

 The Spa Hotel Healdsburg

Photo courtesy The Spa at Hotel Healdsburg.

There’s nothing as blissful as incorporating the natural fragrances of wine country – Meyer lemon, eucalyptus and lavender – into a soothing spa treatment. Try the wonderful body scrub finished with body butter.


Cover Photo Courtesy Sonoma County Tourism

Robin Barr Sussman ( is a freelance culinary and travel writer who studied at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone, Calif. As a chef for Sonoma County wineries, her specialty was food and wine pairing. Sussman is a columnist for Houston CityBook Magazine, Prime Living and Houston House & Home. Her work also appears in Texas Monthly, Fodor’s and Private Clubs Magazine.