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Napa and Sonoma's Hidden Gems

July 17, 2018

 

This was my first time being back in the Napa and Sonoma wine regions since my time in sommelier school at the ICC in Campbell two years ago. I have been so busy trying to get my wine tasting business and blog off the ground it has not left me too much time to focus on traveling to different wine regions but my goal for my 25th birthday is to make that one of my main priorities. Since my birthday in April I have done extensive wine tasting in Cottonwood, Arizona, Lodi, CA and now this most recent trip to Napa and Sonoma. Of course one of the reasons I am trying to travel to more wine regions is to educate myself with new experiences, but my main goal is to do it for you all so that you can plan your own wine tasting trip with the “off the beaten path” wineries. Being an entrepreneur I know how hard it is to grow a business and spread the word about it, so I am making it a priority to focus my attention on the wineries that you don’t hear about everyday. With that being said, I want to share with you the wineries I was lucky enough to visit during my time up north. 

 

 

First up on the list we have Sherwin Family Vineyards. Sherwin Family Vineyards has been around since 1996 and sits on top of the breathtaking views of Spring Mountain in Napa, CA. Vineyard owner, Steve Sherwin and wife Linda, released their first Spring Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon in 1999 and the rest was history. Not only is it Sherwin’s delicious wine that caught my eye but Sherwin Family Vineyards is the only company in the US with Federal approval to place the image of the American Flag on an alcohol label. This began “The Home of the Patriotic Pour” Steve and Linda started as a tribute to those lost on September 11th, 2001. Sherwin Family Vineyards continues to produce limited amounts of these Estate Cabernet bottles as donations to various charitable causes every year across the country. Not only are Steve and Linda generous souls but they have an amazing talent for creating delicious wines and providing their guests with a beautiful experience. Wine tasting at Sherwin Family Vineyards at the top of Spring Mountain looking over St. Helena is like no other tasting I have ever experienced. I enjoyed my Estate Cabernet overlooking the Estates Vineyard on the most cozy patio which was so comfy I almost fell asleep, ha. I highly recommend making Sherwin Family Vineyards one of your stops during your Napa wine getaway if you are looking for a unique winery with a ton of history. 

 

 

 

 

For reservations, tasting fees, and more info please visit: 

 

https://www.sherwinfamilyvineyards.com/

 

 

Next up on my wine tasting getaway off the beaten path in Napa is a successful small winery that has been around since 1972, Burgess Cellars. In 2013, Burgess Cellars was made into a true Second Generation family run business when Steven Burgess was promoted to President and James Burgess made the vineyard manager. Soon after they hired winemaker Kelly Woods who manages all aspects of winemaking in the cellar, lab, and out in the field at Burgess Cellar. There are two ways to taste at Burgess Cellars depending on the experience you are looking for: the Mountainside Tasting and the Tasting in the Cellar. The Mountainside Tasting consists of a 90 minute intimate experience in their semi-private tasting room overlooking the Napa Valley. Not only are these views some of the best in the valley but you will have the chance to taste some of Burgess’s small production library wines and current releases. I was lucky enough to be shown my birth year wine, a 1993 Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. If you want to take a more casual yet intimate approach I would recommend doing the Tasting in the Cellar. This will be a 60 minute wine tasting experience where founder, Tom Burgess originally began his first Napa Valley wine tastings to visitors. This tasting will be around $30 per person and I highly recommend if you are trying to visit multiple wineries for the day. I left with their 2017 Rose of Syrah that I shared with Nic on our hotel patio that evening. Their wines are distinct and affordable proving that winemaker Kelly Woods has a true talent and passion for creating successful wines in this competitive industry. 

 

For reservations, tasting fees, and more info please visit: 

 

https://burgesscellars.com/

 

 

The last winery we had the pleasure of visiting before we ventured to Sonoma was Crocker & Starr. The story of how Crocker & Starr started made me smile and warmed my heart! Winemaker Pam Starr came across Charlie Crocker’s vineyards one day in 1997 and simply called him to say that he has the perfect growing soil. Charlie was quick to ask if she wanted to purchase his grapes and Pam’s answer was a hard no and she just wanted him to know he had great terroir. Charlie insisted she still come into the city to meet with him and they came together with a common goal to create world class wine from its extraordinary terroir! I love how Crocker & Starr offers three different ways to taste and experience their wines. They have a Vineyard Experience where you can get a personalized off the beaten path tour and tasting of their vineyards and restored farmhouse. This tasting will last around 50 minutes as is the perfect option if you want to get an experience of touching the beautiful estate vines! They also have an Al Fresco Experience which will give you a guided tasting through their current releases along with a artisan cheese and crackers to accompany their estate wine. If you are wanting a relaxing sit down experience and to take your time going through each wine this is a great option. The last and most casual experience is their Farmhouse Porch Experience. This is a perfect option for those that have only a limited time to taste the wine but want to sip something delicious and check out the great views of their vineyard! 

 

For reservations, tasting fees, and more info please visit:

 

 https://www.crockerstarr.com/

 

 

Now we are onto the next leg of this wine journey, my hidden gems of Sonoma! Out of the wineries that I had the privilege of visiting I will have to say me and Nic’s afternoon spent with winemaker Robert and wife PJ of Deerfield Ranch Winery at their home was an extremely memorable experience. Deerfield Ranch Winery is an award winning, certified organic producer and is making waves with their Clean Wine! Their mission of producing wines with low sulfites and low histamines by reducing bacteria in the fermentation process is just a glimpse at what it takes for Robert and PJ to create headache/inflammation free wine. One of the reasons I wanted to meet with Deerfield is to gain a better understanding on what triggers our “wine headaches” and how wine needs to be made to prevent that. My mom, who suffers from Lupus, has a very weak immune system and is very sensitive to any amount of alcohol but does enjoy the occasional glass of wine. Being a sommelier I have wanted to find her not only a wine that wouldn’t make her sick, but would also actually taste good. I scored the jackpot getting connected with Robert and PJ at Deerfield because I have never tasted an organic wine so delicious. If you haven’t done too much research on what Clean Wine is or even heard of it, it would make sense as the term Clean Wine has actually been trademarked by Deerfield Ranch and they have pioneered the way to what it means to be truly non-inflammatory organic wine. I highly recommend visiting Deerfield’s website and more importantly tasting their wine which will speak for itself. I will forever be a loyal customer to Deerfield Ranch Winery for their dedication and passion on establishing a successful sustainable winery in Sonoma County. 

 

For more information, please visit deerfieldranch.com (Walk in’s are welcome for tastings so this has to be on your list). 

 

http://deerfieldranch.com/

 

 

Hotel Accommodations:

 

Nic and I have always wanted to stay at a bed and breakfast so I thought there would be no perfect time and place than during our stay in the adorable downtown Healdsburg! I did my research and came across the Grape Leaf Inn and I can’t tell you how impressed I was with our brief stay. First of all I am a sucker for anything Victorian so this B&B stole my heart at first glance. Not only is the style on point, but the Grape Leaf Inn is quite literally a 5 minute walk from the center of downtown Healdsburg so no Uber/taxi rides needed! We woke up each morning to a gourmet breakfast that stood out to me more than any brunch I have had in a long time (and I brunch a lot). And if all of that wasn't enough to make you want to give this B&B a visit, their complimentary nightly wine tastings offered in their Speakeasy was the highlight of my stay. I have a video on my IG highlights under travel for you to take a peak for yourself. If you want to take a step back into the Prohibition era and sip on a specialty cocktail after a long day of wine tasting, the Grape Leaf Inn is for you. 

 

FUN FACT: The Grape leaf Inn is proudly owned by Wilson Artisan Wineries who have 9 amazing tasting rooms throughout Sonoma and Mendocino. While being a guest at the Grape Leaf Inn you will receive complimentary wine tastings at each winery!

 

Mazzocco Winery

Matrix Winery

Pezzi King Winery

Soda Rock Winery

Wilson Winery

Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery

deLorimier Winery

St Anne’s Crossing Winery

Greenwood Ridge Vineyards

 

For more information, please visit:

 

https://grapeleafinn.com/

 

 

 

Recommended Restaurants in walking distance of Grape Leaf Inn, downtown Healdsburg:

 

Dukes 

Bravas Tapas

Chalkboard

 

Barndiva

Campo Fina

Valette Restaurant 

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