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WINE BANTER - By John Haggard - May 2016


Explore the Wine Road

by John Haggard

2015 is another extraordinary vintage, low yields are producing finer qualities of wine. Vintage releases for white wines and roses are only months away. Red wines, seven months to two years.

Whether Sonoma County is your home or you’re one of the millions of tourists who now visit Sonoma County each year, oftentimes, we are so pressed for time that the only way to enjoy an early afternoon of tasting is to consider combining perhaps a picnic, wine tasting and taking in some of our spectacular scenery, all at the same time, in other words, a Sonoma County wine pairing.

There are a few simple ways to alleviate the pressures of all that Sonoma County offers when you have only a short time to spend by simply preparing a picnic to take along for lunch and if time does not allow, pre-ordering from a local deli and picnicking in one of the vineyards you’ll be visiting. 

While most tastings really ought to only take 30 or 40 minutes, the larger your group, the more the time it may take for you to move from one place to another. Prepare ahead. If you’re unable to go to a wine co-op, consider going to a location where there are several wineries within just a few short blocks or miles. Some wineries are clustered very close together although you would not know this if you were simply travelling through the countryside. Another reason to look at the Sonoma County wine guide (

An obvious wonderful central location of multiple tasting rooms all within walking distance is Front Street in Healdsburg, and, of course, so many great restaurants. And, just two blocks off Healdsburg Plaza is the fabulous Costeaux Bakery where you can either people watch or get your packed lunch togo with the most delicious fresh-baked breads. If heading North into Dry Creek, stop by Big John’s Market. Whether a sandwich or salad, their selections and quality are incredible, you’ll also be very happy at the Dry Creek General Store. If heading North East out to Alexander Valley – then the Jim Town Store is a must stop of your picnic lunch.

If you are heading East out to our spectacular Sonoma Valley stop by the Glen Ellen Market for a box lunch and head to Jack London State Historic Park where you’ll find many wineries clustered together along Highway 12 (our Carneros appellation), some right by the park.  You can even buy your lunch through the Park website ( with profits supporting this wonderful treasure.

Heading West to the Sonoma coast, the Russian River and redwoods – Big Bottom Market in Guerneville is a great place to get a lunch togo – though call ahead as they are not open every day.

It’s easy for everyone to take advantage of all the opportunities of Sonoma County – it simply requires planning ahead and remembering that a picnic planned or pre-ordered will save you another hour in time – allowing you time for that hike, trip out to the coast, stroll through the redwoods or kayak down the Russian River. There are so many options in Sonoma County – why not enjoy them all!

EXPLORE WINE ROAD ~  Saturday, May 7th

This is not an “event” with food pairings, music, themes.this is a day of exploration. Your $40 Ticket Includes (one ticket required per taster). Complimentary tasting at all of the 50+ participating wineries  Explore your backyard… Join 50 wineries for a day of exploration.  Pack yourself a picnic and let the adventure begin. Explore the vineyards, enjoy a cellar tour, meet winery owners and chat with winemakers. At the end of the day treat yourself to a farm to table meal.  Then treat yourself to a “staycation” at one of our beautiful lodging properties. Visit for tickets and more details or for lodging ideas


John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, Sonoma Wine Tasting in Duncans Mills, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open Thu, Sat, Sun and Mon: 11am – 5pm, Fri:  11am-7pm (Local’s Night, Friday, 4-7pm, and you don’t have to be a local to join us).