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There is no shortage of wine country near San Francisco. The most well known area is north of the city in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Most wineries in Napa, such as Domaine Carneros, Stag's Leap, Opus One, Hall, and Trinchero Estates, charge a tasting room fee that ranges from $10-30. Many also require an appointment for tasting, so research the wineries you would like to visit before leaving San Francisco. Wine tasting in Sonoma is a little more relaxed with fees being less expensive. Walk around the main square and sample wine at Envolve, then head a little out of town to Ravenswood, Sebastiani, or Four Corners. East of San Francisco is the Livermore Valley, home to the beautiful Wente vineyards and golf course. South of San Francisco you'll find wine country in Monterey, Carmel, and Saratoga. Other areas known for wine, like Lodi and Murphys in the Sierra Foothills, are about two hours away from the city.
To get away from the foggy summer weather that clings to San Francisco, I went chasing the sun and some open space. At just an hour’s drive north, Sonoma is a splendid region to explore, with excellent wineries and great dining for visitors. On a recent road trip to visit Sonoma County, I was led by good friends to two choice destinations in the charming wine region of Kenwood. The wineries tend to be low key and casual, a little quieter, just right for a lazy day away from the city. I always take the Golden Gate Bridge route; who can resist the vistas of the Pacific Ocean and Bay region from this perch.
First stop is the well established St Francis Winery, amongst its varied wine tasting programs, the culinary team offers a unique wine and food pairing experience featuring a multi-course small plates menu created to accompany a selection of St Francis wines from its portfolio. I very much enjoy this style of dining, especially while wine tasting, it adds an extra dimension to the experience of sampling wines. A small group of guests are seated in a glass box of a private room, adjacent to grape fields. The views of the grape vines are front and center, with surrounding mountains as a dramatic backdrop. The chef takes you on a food and wine tasting journey with interesting and remarkable flavor combinations, the dishes are well crafted and visually creative. A host is there to provide introductions to the courses and accompanying wine selection. The experience feels intimate, relaxed and exquisite. Reservations are highly recommended.
A visit to Deerfield Ranch Winery is like sipping from inside a bottle of wine! The cave, where the tasting room is located, is shaped like a bottle, with comfy couches, and armchairs in this cocoon like space. Deerfield Ranch is a certified organic winery, with grapes selected mostly from Sonoma, as well as the Estate itself for the delicious Syrah. The winemaker has been toiling in the valley for over thirty years and knows the profile of the Sonoma wine region’s terroir well. The wines are particularly smooth due to the low sulfite achieved by the careful, hand crafted wine-making process. It’s an interesting trend with delicious award-winning results.
With so much excitement for my taste buds and warmed by golden sunshine, Sonoma was a splendid respite to remind me its summer, a perfect reason to raise glasses to both wineries and their hospitality that made the visits so special.