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San Francisco Wine Country Wineries
Here are some of our favorite wineries in the Sonoma Wine Country and Napa Wine Country. On our Wine Lover's Tour, we entertain suggestions on which wineries to visit, within the constraints of the distance and travel time involved. You also have a chance to decide where and when you want to eat. That is why we call it our "semi-private" wine country tour. Keep in mind that just getting into the heart of Napa Valley involves between 45 minutes to an hour of travel time back and forth, beyond staying in Sonoma Valley.
Sonoma Valley Wineries
- Jacuzzi Family Vineyards
Famous for the bath spa that bears their family name, the Jacuzzi family, also own a winery and vineyard located in Sonoma Valley, California. Over a century ago, the Jacuzzi family emigrated from Italy to Washington and eventually to Northern California. Starting their operations with 161 acres, the family now owns a total of 940, mostly in the Petaluma Gap of the Sonoma-Carneros Region.
Jacuzzi Family Vineyards practice and promote responsible farming practices using a variety of unique farming methods and imaginative fertilizers. For example, instead of using pesticides to prevent weed growth in their vineyards, Jacuzzi employs a friendly herd of sheep to 'weed' crops, and pull any remaining weeds by hand. Also, instead of petroleum-based fertilizers, Jacuzzi trust “Compost tea”, a concoction of molasses, fish emulsion, rock dust and microbes to fertilize their vines.
Jacuzzi Family Vineyards is a pleasure to visit and their Italian heritage is evident as soon as you step foot inside their winery and tasting room. Enjoy a selection of varietals including Barbera, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Primitivo and Sangiovese amongst a magnificent European ambiance set by the Italian artwork and furnishings. The director of wine-making at Jacuzzi, Charlie Tsegeletos, has a penchant for reds which are big and dark and whites that are bright and fresh and this is reflected in the wines produced. Also on-site in Jacuzzi is the award winning Olive Press where guests can enjoy a sampling of the most decadent Extra Virgin Olive Oil produced in California.
- Chateau St. Jean
Chateau St. Jean is located in the heart of the beautiful Sonoma Valley, and has long been recognized as a leader in Vineyard Designated wines.Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren uses her 30 years of winemaking expertise at Chateau St. Jean to highlight the best of each vineyard in their wines.
In 1999, Chateau St. Jean was the first Sonoma winery to be awarded the prestigious "Wine of the Year" award from the Wine Spectator Magazine for its 1996 Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon, a Bordeaux-style blend of "five varieties." The winery received high acclaim again when it received the "#2 Wine of the Year" from Wine Spectator for its 1999 Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chateau St. Jean is not only well known for its great tasting wine, but their elegant landscape is abundant with exotic trees, flowers, and spectacular water features, which provides visitors with a perfect backdrop for an afternoon of wine tasting.
- Cline Winery
Cline Cellars is a truly picturesque vineyard and winery. Their magnificent landscaped grounds are surrounded by 350 acres of vineyards and lush lawn surrounded by 5, 000 rose bushes. This historic property was site of a Miwok Village, the first camp of the Sonoma Mission, a natural hot spring bath house of the early 1900s, a horse ranch and today it is the perfect place for a picnic in the wine country.
Cline Cellars History: After spending his childhood summers learning farming and winemaking from his grandfather, Valeriano Jacuzzi (of the pump and spa fame), Fred Cline founded Cline Cellars in 1982, in Oakley, California. Fred started the winery with the $12,000 inheritance from the sale of Jacuzzi Bros. In 1986, Fred's brother Matt joined Cline Cellars as winemaker after studying winemaking at the University of California at Davis. In 1991, the winery facilities relocated to the Sonoma Valley on a 350 acre estate in the Carneros District. The Cline Brothers, Fred and Matt, are Zinfandel and Rhone varietal specialists. Their holdings include some of the oldest and rarest vines in California. They are best known for the one hundred year old plantings of Carignane, Mourvedre and Zinfandel grapes they farm in Oakley, California. The Mourvedre represent approximately 85% of California's total supply of this fascinating and versatile varietal.
- Loxton Cellars
Chris Loxton would have been the 4th generation of Australian grape ranchers, but for some reason they encouraged him to go into Physics, and he ended up in Southern Illinois, teaching particle physics. But his upbringing left him with wine in his blood (it was well above the legal limit!) and he applied his scientific mind to the problem of how to break into the business as fast as possible – by commuting from Australia to California every year and getting two harvests, two crushes, two of everything under his belt each year.
So he became the 4th generation involved with wine in his family, but he’s here in the heart of Sonoma Valley making great Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Late Harvest, Shiraz AND Syrah wines, and an award winning Port made from grapes imported from the family vineyards in Australia. His very small operation, about 3000 cases per year, is also one of the most accessible, as you park next to his Syrah vineyard, walk past the fermentation vats and grape press as you enter, and stand next to the aging barrels as you taste his great wines, served by Chris himself unless he is busy actually making the wine out on the pad.
- Homewood Winery
Dave Homewood looks like he never left the beach, but he moved from the Midwest into wine country, and got his tan in the Sonoma sun, not Malibu. Homewood is a very small operation, and you can see almost all of it from the parking lot, which holds about 7 cars. His car license plate is “RDRDBTR” and his truck’s is “SNMARED” so you know where his heart lies when it comes to making wine - and drinking it!
Making around 3000 cases per year, he does make a great Chardonnay, which is natural considering the location in the heart of the Carneros, known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which is another of Dave’s specialties. He also has great Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Zinfandels. He has hired knowledgeable and personable servers, and a trip to Homewood is always fun and informative, and Dave usually stops by to say hello and maybe answer a few questions.
- Viansa Winery
Founded by Sam and Vicki Sebastiani, Viansa (from Vicki and Sam) has the experience of three generations of winemaking put into every bottle wine, most of which are sold exclusively at the winery. In addition, the Old-World Tuscan style winery offers a delicious variety of gourmet foods that can be sampled in conjunction with their refined wine to make an unforgettable experience. A whole new level of flavor and taste are discovered when mixing special foods with special wines.
- Schug Carneros Estate Winery
The Walter Schug has a long history of experience in making wine for Phelps and others, but he wanted to start his own, which finally happened in 1980. They specialize in wonderful Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but also make great Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and even a sparkling Pinot Noir!
- Kenwood Vineyards
Located in the village of Kenwood in the northern half of Sonoma Valley, Kenwood is a medium-large operation, producing several hundred thousand cases per year. Founded in 1970 in the old Pagani Winery, they have had exclusive access to the Jack London Ranch for the better part of 2 decades.
Jack London was a famous author from the early 20th century, who invested his royalties in land and grapes near Glen Ellen, just south of Kenwood. Kenwood is well known for its Sauvignon Blanc, but also produces some fine Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Merlot, mostly in small lots, but a whole lot of lots!
- VJB Vineyards and Cellars
A young Vittorio and Maria Belmonte emigrated from Italy to Boston in 1963. Vittorio dreamed of continuing the family tradition of wine-making, so they naturally ended up in California and opened a restaurant. Their sons Henry and Victor wanted to open up a winery to complement the restaurant.
Before their dream reached fruition, tragedy struck and Young Victor died, and the family honored his memory by naming the winery VJB, Victor’s initals. They concentrate on Italian grapes, like Barbera, Primitivo, Sangiovese, and Montepulciano, but they also have Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. There is a nice little Italian Cafe Citti next door.
- Valley of the Moon
Originally part of General Vallejo’s huge estate, the first grapes were planted here in 1863. The current stone wine cellar was built in 1887. Prohibition made for hard times and dormancy, but it was reawakened when the Parducci Brothers bought it and named it Valley of the Moon in the 1950’s. The tasting room is a huge open room filled with elegant gifts, and artwork for sale. The wine list features Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. (Small groups)
Napa Valley Wineries
- V. Sattui Winery
Back in 1885 Vittorio Sattui made a deal to buy grapes from St. Helena, in the heart of Napa Valley and founded his first winery in the heart of the Italian section of San Francisco, North Beach. After moving to the Mission District, the entire industry was flattened by Prohibition in 1919, and he closed the doors, never to open again. But his great grandson Daryl had a dream in 1975, and was determined to get back into his great-grandfather's business. This resulted in the resurrection of V. Sattui winery in 1975, just in time for the new Wine Renaissance. Twenty-nine years later, they won the prestigious honor of Best Winery of the Year 2004 at the California State Fair, by virtue of taking home the most awards for different wine categories. But, now they have a problem - they have to change their sign, because they won the same honor again in 2006! They have a really long wine list for a small winery with no distribution deal, so almost everyone will find something they like. They also have a large selection of gourmet cheese, olive oil and other condiments, and sandwiches, which can be eaten at the picnic tables outside (sorry, no outside food or beverage allowed).
- Vintage 1870 Winery
This is not a winery per se, but it is a wine shop and tasting room with wines from a wide variety of regions, including neighbors from Napa and Sonoma, but also Europe, Australia, and South America. It a registered historic site, the Groezinger Winery founded in 1870, but has been a shopping center for over 40 years, in the town of Yountville, just north of Napa the city.
- Silverado Winery
When the wine country was still in its dark ages, back in the 70’s, there was a vineyard on the west side of the Silverado Trail at the base of the promontory called the Stag’s Leap in the Vaca Mountains. The owner sold his grapes to a winery across the highway, and a little bit south, named after the rock formation towering overhead. The harvest of 1973 produced a Cabernet Sauvignon good enough to beat the best of California and the best the French had to offer in the competition of 1976, the year everything changed in the American wine business. Years later, Don and Diane Miller decided to open their own winery on their award generating property, and Silverado Vineyards was born. They are known for excellent Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and other special “editions”. The view from the terrace is breathtaking, overseeing their own vines, and looking northwest toward Rutherford, and the Mayacamas range. (Tasting fee of $10; $20 for reserves)
- Mumm Napa Sparkling Wines
On the beautiful and historic Silverado Trail, nestled into the Vaca foothills, Mumm Napa is a state of the art winery that makes sparkling wine on display for you to see if you take the time to follow one of their engaging guides on a complimentary tour of their large, modern facility. The tour drops you into a large gallery of spectacular nature prints by well known photographers like Ansel Adams and others. Then you are welcome to sit and purchase one of several flights of their delightful sparkling wines at various price ranges, flavors and colors! You could definitely spend hours here if you don’t set your alarm.
- Madonna Estate Winery
Since 1922 the Bartolucci Family has consistently been creating a perfect marriage of wine and grapes at Madonna Estate. They are the third oldest winemaking family in Napa Valley, who has found success with their organically grown grapes and Estate Bottled wine. Located in the world-renowned Carneros region, the Bartoluccis combine modern and tradition winemaking techniques with their natural farming methods.
- Grgich Hills
“Mike” Miljenko Grgich gained international recognition at the historic 1976 Paris “blind tasting” when his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay won a Gold Medal, establishing it as the finest white wine in the world. After his victory in Paris, Mike partnered with Austin Hills, from the Hills Brothers Coffee family creating Grgich Hills Winery. World leaders such as Presidents Clinton and Reagan, Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand have chosen their wines to serve at state dinners. Their wines include Chardonnay, Fume Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Merlot. (Tasting fee of $10 includes souvenir glass and is applied toward wine purchase)