Take the Sonoma Square WineWalk
By SUZIE RODRIGUEZ / Sonoma Valley Correspondent
Less than two years ago, Sonoma Plaza was home to half a dozen wine tasting rooms. Today there are fourteen, with two more set to open soon.
Collectively known as the “Sonoma Square WineWalk,” the tasting rooms are rapidly gaining a reputation as Sonoma County’s premier destination for sampling top-notch, small-lot wines. They even have their own WineWalk map, which you can obtain for free at the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau on the Plaza (the back side offers 2-for-1 tasting coupons). Many, though not all, tasting rooms waive the tasting fee if you purchase one or more bottles.
A stroll through Sonoma Square’s tasting rooms reveals a diversity of wine and atmosphere:
1. Adobe Road Winery: Owned by professional race car driver Kevin Buckler and his wife, Debra. Tasting room: bright, cheerful, lots of art, an indoor wine lounge and an outdoor patio with firepit. Specialties: Cabernet, Zinfandel and Syrah. Tasting Fee: $5/4 wines or $10/4 single vineyard designates. Open daily 11 a.m.-7 p.m., 481 First Street West, 939-7967.
2. Charles Creek Vineyards: Owned by Bill and Gerry Brinton. Tasting room: Ms. Moo-Lot, a sculptured cow made from hundreds of used corks, greets visitors; gold ribbons won by the wines, paintings by local artists, the Brintons’ line of food products. Specialties: Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay. Tasting fee: $5/5 wines. Open daily 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 483 First Street West, 935-3848. www.charlescreek.com
3. Eric K James Vineyards: Owned by James (Jim) Walker and Eric K. Glunt. Tasting room: tucked away in the Spanish-style Mercado’s courtyard, wine cave feel, tables and a bar, small patio. Specialties: Syrah, Pinot Noir. Tasting Fee: $10/flight (usually 5 wines). Open Wed-Sun, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 452 First Street East, 996-1364. http://growine.com/tasting-room.html
4. Hawkes Winery: Owned by brothers Stephen and Jacob Hawkes and their families. Tasting Room: converted Craftsman bungalow, bright and open, patio with umbrella tables; Saturdays, May to October, a food truck/vendor pairs food and wine (food price waived with wine purchase). Specialties: Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay. Tasting Fee: $10/5 wines. Open daily, noon-6 p.m., 383 First Street West, 938-7620. www.hawkeswine.com
5. Haywood: Owned by Peter Haywood. Tasting room: Open, friendly, cozy; an every-Thursday “Wine-Down,” 5-7 p.m., offers $5 glasses paired with local Laura Chenel cheese. Specialties: Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay. Tasting Fee: $10/6 wines (waived with purchase). Open daily, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 25 East Napa Street (Suite C), 933-3001. www.haywoodwinery.com
6. Highway 12: Owned by Michael Sebastiani, Paul Giusto, Doug Offenbacher. Tasting Room: spacious, friendly, one of Sonoma’s finest old buildings. All wines served are grown along Highway 12 in Sonoma Valley. Specialties: Cabernet, Chardonnay, Red Blends. Tasting Fee: Complimentary. Open daily, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m., 498 First Street East, 938-8091. www.highway12winery.com
7. R2 Wine Company: Owned by brothers Roger and Richard Roessler. Tasting Room: Open, airy, warm earth tones, elegant, patio overlooking Broadway. Specialties: Rhône White and Red, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. Tasting Fee: $8/5 wines. Open daily, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 654 Broadway, 933-1330. r2winecompany.com
8. Roche Winery: Owned by Joe and Genevieve Roche. Tasting Room: Historic 1940s Craftsman-style bungalow with fireplace, wide porch, shaded patio; daily appetizer menu. Specialties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Dessert Wines. Tasting Fee: $5/6-9 tastes (parties greater than 8, additional fee). Open daily, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., 122 West Spain Street, 800-825-9475. www.rochewinery.com
9. Roessler Cellars: Owned by Craig & Kathryn Hall, Roger & Richard Roessler. Tasting Room: 1930s Tudor-style home of the Sebastiani wine family, wooden wine bar, fireplace, comfortable feel. Specialties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay. Tasting Fee: $10/5 wines. Open daily, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 380 First Street West, 933-4440. www.roesslercellars.com
10. Sojourn Cellars: Owned by Craig & Ellen Haserot, Erich Bradley. Tasting Room: Sojourn asks you to make an appointment and then seats you around a table with other guests for a comparative tasting of, and conversation about, the wines. Specialties: Pinot Noir, Cabernet. Tasting Fee: $25. Open daily by appointment, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 141 East Napa Street, 938-7212. www.sojourncellars.com
11. Sonoma Enoteca: Owned by Andrew Guerico. Tasting room: Sunny, Mediterranean-style setting, long curved wooden tasting bar, wine-related gear for sale. Specialty: Collective of 10 family wineries. Tasting Fee: $5/5 wines. Open daily, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 35 East Napa Street, 935-1200. www.sonomaenoteca.com
12. Spann Vineyards: Owned by Peter and Betsy Spann. Tasting Room: Open, artsy space shared with the Saret Gallery; stunning modern photography covers walls. Specialties: Malbec, Cab Franc, Petite Verdot. Tasting Fee: $10/6 wines. Open daily, 12-6 p.m., 111 East Napa Street, 996-1330. www.spannvineyards.com
13. Two Amigos: Owned by Bob Briner and Squire Fridell. Unpretentious, laugh-laden atmosphere thanks to owners who often wear Groucho glasses. Specialties: Sniff, Swirl, Sip & Giggle. Tasting Fee: $10/8 wines. Open daily, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 25 East Napa Street, 799-7146. www.twoamigoswines.com
14. Westwood: Owned by John Kelly and partners. Tasting Room: Off small private courtyard at the end of an alley; comfy couches and laid-back atmosphere give it the feel of a friend’s living room. Tasting Fee: $10/ varies (one tasting fee comped for every $50 purchase). Specialties: Pinot Noir, Syrah. Open daily 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 11 East Napa Street (Suite 3), 935-3246. www.westwoodwine.com
15. Bryter Estates. Owner: Terin Ignozzi. Set to open late January/early February at 25 East Napa Street, forming a tasting room trio with Two Amigos and Haywood. Ignozzi, also Bryter’s winemaker, recently submitted three wines to the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition–the first wines she’d ever entered in a contest. All three won, including a Double Gold for her 2010 Sonoma Coast Affine Chardonnay. www.bryter.com