Off the Beaten Path Wineries You Want to Visit
t’s no secret that Northern California is known for wine-growing. Viticulture and winemaking have been practiced in the area since the mid-19th century. Though Napa Valley is often the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of wine country, it’s not the only major area for your wine tasting adventures. In fact, its neighbor to the west, the Russian River Valley, has a lot to offer visitors who want a new and exciting wine experience. The flight from John Wayne to Santa Rosa is just under two hours making this jaunt up the coastline more than worth it! If you’re looking for a great trip to an exciting new area, the Russian River Valley will not disappoint with its stunning views and wonderful assortment of wineries.
The Russian River Valley is an area unlike any other for winegrowing; this is due to its unique climate and particular topography. We spoke with Sam Lando of Lando Wines who gave us some insight into what makes the Valley so unique for growing. “One of the aspects that makes the Russian River Valley so unique compared to other viticulture areas is the fog-cooled climate and well-drained soils which lend a hand in producing some of the finest wines in the world,” commented Lando. He explained that the Valley has a deep history in winemaking and that many of the growers are direct descendants of Italian-American farmers who established farms over a hundred years ago as well as many of the leading innovators of the 1970s and 1980s who were responsible for the rebirth of premium winemaking. The Russian River Valley is full of winemakers, many of whom are producing some of the best wines around, yet fly under the radar.
Under the Radar Wineries
1023 Limerick Lane | Healdsburg, CA 95448 | 707.433.9211
Limerick Lane is a unique estate that spans rolling hills with verdant vineyards just south of the town of Healdsburg. It is an absolute gem in the northeastern corner of the Russian River Valley. Their wines only bolster the impressive reputation of Sonoma County as they offer one of the most highly acclaimed Zinfandels around. Their 2012 Russian River Zinfandel ranked #12 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the World 2015. Their tasting room is open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and is available for your enjoyment by appointment. Don’t hesitate to check them out!
7015 Westside Road | Healdsburg, CA 95488 | 707.473.0606
Arista Winery, founded in 2002, is a relatively young winery. They are family owned and operated with the idea that quality is always prioritized over quantity. Their production remains small, yet they take the time to focus in on creating wine of the highest quality. Their expertise lies in award-winning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Tasting experiences are welcome for visitors, but by appointment only. So be sure to make yours ahead of time! These highly rated wines will be worth the visit!
Due to their limited production, they are not presently open to the public for tasting.
When asked what people should expect when trying a Lando wine, Sam Lando responded, “An unrehearsed and genuine experience! We do not have a tasting room, and we are not open for public visitation, but I do try to see folks as time allows. I have a little business office off the square in Healdsburg which occasionally serves as the background for tastings. Or, the tailgate of my truck in one of our grower’s vineyards. I also try to taste folks through some of the Pinot Noirs we have evolving in the barrels to give a sense of how we piece together these intense, yet elegant blends.” As you can see, it’s all about the flavors and genuine details of Lando’s Pinot Noir.
2109 Sanders Road | Sebastopol, CA 95472 | 707.824.1726
Tucked in the Sebastopol Hills of western Sonoma County, this vineyard is another family owned and operated business. In their early years, Kanzler Vineyards sold their grapes to wineries in the area. It wasn’t long before their Pinot Noir was gaining acclaim for its rare distinction and quality. The rest is history as they upped the production of these incredible wines. Check their website linked above for details about new wines and happenings within the vineyard. You don’t want to miss out on the Kanzler experience. These Pinot focused craftsmen are consistently producing some of the best wines in the area.
4940 Ross Road | Sebastopol, CA 95472 | 707.823.8980
Scherrer Winery is all about honesty and transparency. Fred Scherrer openly shares his past in winemaking and how he struggled in his early years, working for other wineries and learning the business (sometimes the hard way). Once he was ready, he started full production with Scherrer Winery in Sebastopol in 1998. Since then, the winery has expanded and offers a wide array of top-notch wines including, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Dry Rose and Grenache. This incredible selection of wines speaks to the passion and dedication Scherrer shows to his craft. Though the winery doesn’t have a tasting room, they offer open houses in April, August and November. Be mindful of this as you plan your winery visits!
2916 Laguna Road | Forestville, CA 95436 | 707.573.3747
Swan Winery is all about the legacy of Joseph Swan. He was a self-made and self-taught vintner who came up in the late 60s, purchased a small farm and revolutionized its grape production. He completely shifted its production from Zinfandel to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. His philosophy was that “small was beautiful” as he tended his small farm and had a more intimate relationship with the vines. This winery cares about its deep history and upholds the vision of Joseph Swan. Their tastings are small, personalized experiences offered in their self-proclaimed tiny tasting room (which is also their barrel room). This will make for an authentic and immersive tasting experience. Tastings are by appointment only. You’ll want to book ahead to make sure you get a taste of history at Swan Winery!
It’s clear that your trip to the Russian River Valley will be full of craft-based, heart-driven wineries. You’ll be able to explore the splendor of each vintage and take in the breathtaking quaintness of the valley. Sam Lando went on to explain that it’s not just about the wines in the Russian River Valley. When asked what a first time visitor should aim to do in the Valley, Lando commented, “Man, immerse themselves in the diversity and splendor of the Russian River Valley. The Russian River Valley is comprised of the northern point in Healdsburg, far west to Guerneville, and south through west Santa Rosa to the southern edge of Sebastopol. Depending on a first time visitor’s length of stay, I do have a few recommendations. If it’s a short two-day trip from Orange County or LA, fly directly into the quaint Santa Rosa airport via Alaska Airlines. Rent a car or Uber/Lift your way around town. Stay in Healdsburg and indulge in the fantastic restaurants and tasting venues in town and possibly the nearby wineries. But for a short trip, to stay in Healdsburg and simply walk to each location is fantastic and a treat.” The valley has plenty to offer those who are looking for great wine, food, and sites for a short trip up the coast. So call ahead for your tasting plans as you map out your next adventure to the Russian River Valley. Great wines and new exciting culture await!