Wine Harvest Day Tripping in Sonoma County

WineRoad_byLouBustamante.jpg
Lou Bustamante
Harvest time in wine country is quickly approaching and it's time to start making plans to head up north to "help" -- drink wine -- with this year's harvest. While you may be thinking about Napa Valley with its sleek tasting rooms and celebrity chefs, unassuming and rustic Sonoma has just as much to love in a less corporate package. Thankfully, playing tourist in the Bay Area is easy, and discovering more of the region is a whole lot simpler with the Wine Road website and app.

A concierge of sorts for Sonoma County, the Wine Road is a hub for events, planning, and most importantly wineries in the Dry Creek, Alexander Valley, and Russian River Valley. Pick up a tasting ticket from them ($25 for one day, $50 for three days) and get prepaid access and discounts at over 80 wineries. Even if you aren't sure what you want to do or what regions to explore, if the website can't help, they will.

Having grown up in the Bay Area but never having explored much of the Russian River Valley, I made my way through the wine area of Santa Rosa, making a mental note of the airport (who knew?) with direct flights to LA, Seattle, and San Diego and free check-in of a case of wine. The modern, yet rustic Martin Ray Winery was a great find, especially the rose of Pinot Noir that helped tame the afternoon heat.

A stop at Sunce Winery proved delicious with a tasting of the luminously sweet Malvasia Bianca Port and a game of bocce ball with Croatian-born winemaker Frane Franicevic. Word of warning: Frane will kick your ass, even when he is clearly holding back. Thankfully the white port helps erase the taste of bitter defeat.

A short time later I was on the main street in Guerneville enjoying a quick bite and a glass of wine at Big Bottom Market, with cocktails and bites at Dawn Ranch Lodge before heading home. The trip to Sonoma may leave a little more dirt on your shoes than a visit to Napa, but the friendly people and great wines make that all part of the fun.

Lou Bustamante tweets at @thevillagedrunk. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
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