Visiting Sonoma Valley: The Wineries, The Food, And The Scenery

It’s no secret. I love to travel. This year my husband and I decided to take a trip out west and experience the Sonoma Valley. I can honestly say, I want to go back…blike yesterday. There are TONS of wineries to choose from so you will not be short of options. We went to far more than my list below but these were my top three and honestly, for very different reasons. Each winery we visited really did have its own personality. From this trip, I realized the wine making process is pretty much the same for everyone but it’s the brand that makes each unique.

Hanzell Vineyards –  A sophisticated and refined farm setting tucked in a private corner of Sonoma. This was our first official tasting in the Sonoma County and it could not have been better. The Hanzell winery was first established in the 1950’s and still has a much of its original, rustic elegance even down to signing a guestbook. They are on volume ten by the way. Though expanded and modified over the years, there is still a respect for the roots of the company which is ever present in the tasting room. Surrounded by the original fermentation tanks from when the winery was first established you can certainly appreciate all the decades of hard work that went in creating such a prestigious brand. Admittedly, I am a sucker for blending the past with the present so this winery was just about perfect in my view. Now, on to the wine tasting itself.

The tasting room overlooks the beautiful Sonoma Valley and you really get a sense of the countryside’s topography, which was filled with miles of grape vines. Not too shabby. We tasted a 2016 Sebella Chardonnay, 2014 & 2015 Chardonnay and a 2014 Pinot Noir. Historically, I’ve been 50/50 with Chardonnay but this visit may have changed my opinion on that front forever. Crisp, delicious on not overly buttery the 2016 Sebella was an absolute favorite. Our guide, Tony, admitted that this wine in particular was a huge part of the reason why he wanted to work at Hanzell.

Scribe Winery – a relaxed, social setting where both grape vines and fresh produce are equally celebrated. Sometimes you just need to chill with your friends and this was the perfect setting to do so. My husband and I have several friends in the San Francisco area and Scribe was our meetup destination of choice. The drive approaching Scribe takes you away as though you are cruising along the Mediterranean coast enroute to a fabulous estate in Spain. Focusing on a balance between wine and food, all of our bites were grown on the property or in nearby farms. We had an assortment of salad, fruits and cheeses all of which were amazing but the star among the produce was by far the strawberries. Honestly, we thought they had been soaked in something because they were so incredibly flavorful. But no, that is just what an in season California strawberry tastes like. Our wine selection was a mix of Chardonnay, Rose and a Red blend with the Rose being my favorite.

This winery is all about being social and relaxed which was the perfect way to break up our day.

Hamel Family Wines – An exclusive, contemporary winery with an extraordinary attention to detail. Upon our arrival to Hamel I was immediately in awe of the clean lined, modern building with understated furnishings. The simplicity of the design aesthetic truly allows you to soak up the beautiful surrounding landscape obstruction free. In going back to the details, I do not use ‘attention to detail’ lightly here folks. Nothing, not even the washroom soap was chosen by accident when creating an experience for guests. Everything from the stained French oak wine barrels with the caned accents to the tasting room with an assortment of pashmina wraps, should you get a bit chilly, was selected with great care and consideration. Even our tasting notes stationery was on fine, letterpress cardstock personalized with our names. I mean come on! Who does this? I was certainly impressed.

But, enough on the beautiful surroundings, high quality paper goods and cozy textiles. The wine itself was among the best we tasted in Sonoma so all the fuss over the details is certainly an appropriate build up to the pièce de résistance. We had five wines in our tasting which included a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, Isthmus, and Zinfandel. Of the five, the Isthmus and the Zinfandel were personal faves but full disclosure, I’m typically a red gal. As if the amazing wine weren’t fabulous enough, the on-site chef prepared a fresh ricotta cheese whipped to perfection and freshly baked artisanal crackers. Seems simple enough but the quality of these ingredients to prepare these delectable snacks were tasted in every bite.

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