5 spots to im­bibe on Sonoma bub­bly tour

Riverbank News - - LIVING - By MICHELLE LOCKE

It’s 11 a.m. on a Mon­day morn­ing, which seems like an ex­cel­lent time to be sit­ting on a sun-splashed pa­tio, gaz­ing out at dap­pled green vine­yards and sur­rounded by big bot­tles of tiny bub­bles.

But I didn’t need to travel to the Cham­pagne re­gion of France for this trip. I’m in Sonoma County, just an hour or so north of San Francisco, and a re­gion that’s on the rise in the fizz fir­ma­ment.

Here’s a guide to dis­cov­er­ing Sonoma’s brut forces.


Buena Vista Win­ery was founded in 1857 by the self-pro­claimed “Count of Buena Vista,” Agos­ton Haraszthy, a larger-than-life char­ac­ter and in­no­va­tive vint­ner. To­day, the win­ery has been reimag­ined un­der the guid­ance of Jean-Charles Bois­set of the French Bois­set wine­mak­ing fam­ily. Buena Vista is known for a va­ri­ety of still wines but has a strong bub­bles com­po­nent, pro­duc­ing ex­cel­lent sparkling white and rose wines. Also avail­able is the La Vic­toire Brut Cham­pagne which is im­ported from France. En­joy your tast­ing in the Bub­bles Lounge, where you can sink into the com­fort of blonde vel­vet couches. Open daily 10 a.m.5 p.m. ex­cept ma­jor hol­i­days, 18000 Old Win­ery Rd., Sonoma, 800-926-1266, http://www. bue­nav­istaw­in­erycom .


The Ferrer fam­ily were pi­o­neers in the re­gion, plant­ing the clas­sic grapes of Cham­pagne (pinot noir and chardon­nay) in the 1980s. The Fer­rers have cen­turies of ex­pe­ri­ence; they are the fam­ily be­hind Freix­enet, the Span­ish sparkler in the black bot­tle. En­joy a tast­ing and some nib­bles on the pa­tio, take a guided tour or ex­plore the ef­fects of dif­fer­ently shaped glasses on taste. Also check out Gloria Ferrer’s ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of vin­tage glass­ware. Tast­ing ex­pe­ri­ences range from $7-$40; tours and el­e­vated tast­ing ex­pe­ri­ences range from $25-$75 per per­son. A wine to try is the vin­tage-dated Royal Cu­vee, a show­case for the es­tate vine­yard and a wine first served to the king and queen of Spain in 1987. Cheese and char­cu­terie plates and non-al­co­holic bev­er­ages avail­able for pur­chase. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 23555 High­way 121, Sonoma, 707-933-1917, http://www.glo­ri­a­fer­ .


Founded in 1986 by then-re­cent Stan­ford grad­u­ate Judy Jor­dan, J Vine­yards is a mod­ern win­ery pro­duc­ing sparkling and va­ri­etal wines. The win­ery, which was pur­chased by the Gallo fam­ily a few years ago, is set in Healds­burg, a town in the north­ern part of the county that has sprung from sleepy vil­lage to hotspot with up­scale restau­rants and ho­tels. The vis­i­tor cen­ter features the Bub­ble Room, where you can en­joy a five-course tast­ing menu paired with sparkling and va­ri­etal wines. Tours of the win­ery and vine­yards are avail­able as well as food-and-wine pair­ings on the ter­race. Open most days 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 11447 Old Red­wood High­way, Healds­burg, 888-594-6326. Tours Thurs­days-Sun­days, check for de­tails. Pric- es start at $20 for sig­na­ture tast­ings and go up to $110 per per­son for the full food and wine pair­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the Bub­ble Room. Reser­va­tions rec­om­mended.


Set on a hill­top in Sonoma’s Green Val­ley at the end of a long, wind­ing and one-lane road, Iron Horse Vine­yards out­door tast­ing room boasts mil­lion-dol­lar views of vine-cov­ered slopes. De­spite the rus­tic feel, Iron Horse is

known for wines of el­e­gance. Its wines have been poured at the White House on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, start­ing with the Rea­gan-Gor­bachev sum­mit meet­ings. Tast­ings are by ap­point­ment only and start at $25 per per­son, fee re­funded if you buy a bot­tle. Tours also avail­able in­clud­ing once-a week truck tours with wine­maker David Munks­gard. GPS ad­dress: Iron Horse Ranch and Vine­yards, 9786 Ross Sta­tion Road, Se­bastopol, 707-887-1507, http://www.iron­hor­se­vine­ .


Want to see a 4-foot-tall glass de­signed for bub­bly? A 5-foot-tall bot­tle? Head to Kor­bel, a ma­jor pro­ducer (1.5 mil­lion cases) in Sonoma County, mak­ing 960,000 cases of its flag­ship Kor­bel Brut a year. The red-brick win­ery build­ing, founded in 1882, in­cludes a mu­seum with a siz­able col­lec­tion of tools of the trade as well as the su­per-sized glass and bot­tle, cre­ated for the 1915 Pan-Pa­cific In­ter­na­tional Ex­po­si­tion. A wine to try is the Kor­bel Nat­u­ral, which has a lit­tle less su­gar and is a crisp and dry al­ter­na­tive with soft, creamy bub­bles. Buy pic­nic fare at the Kor­bel deli and en­joy it on out­door decks sur­rounded by red­woods (the Kor­bel broth­ers started as sawmill op­er­a­tors). Open most days 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 13250 River Rd., Guerneville, 707-824-7709. Pub­lic tours and tast­ings free for groups un­der 20, or up­grade to a pri­vate guided tour for $20 a per­son.


Sonoma County is quite large, so con­sider split­ting vis­its up over a few days. Buena Vista and Gloria Ferrer are close to each other and to Sonoma, a small town where bou­tiques and restau­rants sur­round a tree-shaded square. Iron Horse and Kor­bel are near Guerneville with B&Bs strung along the Rus­sian River. J Vine­yards is to the north near Healds­burg. As al­ways when vis­it­ing wine coun­try, if you don’t have a des­ig­nated driver, look into us­ing a car ser­vice for a care­free ex­pe­ri­ence.

Photos con­trib­uted

TOP PHOTO: Iron Horse Vine­yards is in Sonoma’s Green Val­ley. ABOVE PHOTO: The im­pres­sive view of Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vine­yards. TOP LEFT PHOTO: The pair­ing room at J Vine­yards and Win­ery. BOT­TOM LEFT PHOTO: The caves at Buena Vista Win­ery.

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