It's easy to enjoy a lovely day in wine country tasting at different wineries, but there are some obstacles: crowded tasting rooms and lineups of California Cabs, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that start melding together. And there are always the questions around navigating wine country and who's going to drive responsibly between tastings (unless you use those spittoons).
To avoid such tasting drags, wineries spanning Napa and Sonoma to Healdsburg and Bodega Bay have stepped up their tastings to merit an extended visit and appeal to more senses, often incorporating wine and food pairings. Because they are enhanced, many of these tastings require reservations and some are seasonal, so be sure to plan ahead. What's more, many wineries are happy to assist in customizing your tasting further to make sure you have an experience you'll remember.
For Outdoorsy Types
Clos Pegase Winery in Calistoga offers a bento box picnic with a three-wine flight on their patio or garden surrounded by lush vineyards.
Kunde Family Winery's Mountain Top Tastings begin with a private tour of the caves followed by a coach ride to a mountaintop tasting deck overlooking the family-owned-and-operated winery and the Sonoma Valley. Kunde's hiking program leads guests on a hike up 1,400 feet into the Mayacamas Mountain range then ends in the tasting room. Dog lovers and their furry friends can accompany the winery's dogs on the dog hike along the Sonoma Valley floor that concludes with a tasting and lunch. (A portion of the dog hike fee benefits local dog organizations.)
Liana Estates’ brunch and yoga experience includes a one-hour all levels morning class followed by a bento box lunch on the estate. Namaste.
Ram's Gate Winery offers a private picnic that begins with a guided tasting of five wines, where you select your favorite for your picnic. Your bottle is tucked inside a wicker basket along with artisanal snacks, and a personal valet sets everything up between the vines and a relaxing pond with panoramic views of the countryside.
Viansa Sonoma's Private Outlook Tasting is romantic experience that’s best enjoyed inside their wooden gazebos. Sip wine paired with locally sourced cheeses while soaking up superb views of the Sonoma Valley, Mayacamas Mountains and the property's conservation wetlands. In the winter, they have an indoor fireside pairing for a cozier tasting.
B.R. Cohn Winery's Wine and Chocolate Experience indulges chocoholics. Cabernets and Cabernet Port are paired with chocolate truffles. Another treat—Tomales Bay oysters—is sold on summer weekends, when you can enjoy the bivalves with rosé on the winery's lawn. The winery also hosts daily olive oil tastings.
Cosentino Winery offers a private, seasonal farm-to-table food pairing with its small production wines in the beautiful barrel room.
Peju Province Winery's Interactive Culinary Experience offers up the winery's chef to show you and up to 20 guests how to cook in his kitchen or wood-fired brick oven in the vineyard. You pick the vegetables and herbs from the organic garden to take to the kitchen and cook.
Sonoma Coast Vineyards' Wine & Food Experience in the Edge Club Room pairs tapas with five wines and a Pacific coast view.
Swanson Vineyards will charm you and your palate with wines paired with chocolates, caviar and cheese during the Oenophile Tasting Experience in the salon.
B Cellars is all about outside tastings and exploration with its market garden, bumble bee aviary, henhouse and croquet.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery wins for wine tasting fun with two swimming pools and countless games, including bocce, backgammon, chess and checkers. Get daily pool passes or rent a cabana and dive in.
Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards hosts croquet and tasting with a three-wine flight and access to its croquet court.
For Fabulous Touring
Clos Pegase Winery's Connoisseur Cave Tour & Tasting includes a tour that ends with an intimate wine tasting with cheese and charcuterie in the dramatic Cave Theater.
Jordan Winery's Estate Tour and Tasting includes an extensive tour of the winery, chateau and grounds, including vineyards, vistas, lakes, the chef's garden and more, followed by a tasting with wine and food pairings from the resident chef.
Sterling Vineyards has a self-guided tour that begins with a glass of wine and a ride on an aerial gondola equipped with motion-activated screens that provide facts about the winery against a country backdrop. A seated wine tasting follows, and you can sip through the art gallery admiring Picasso and Chagall.