I love wine tasting! What’s not to love? You find great new wine and it’s always in a gorgeous setting!
I bought a voucher at a Project Angel Foods charity auction last year, not knowing where Glen Ellen was, or any knowledge of the vineyards, but I’m glad I did! Turns out, it’s in Sonoma. The 4th July long weekend was the perfect weekend to go up, and use my vouchers before they expired.
We went up via the 101, which was the perfect excuse to stop for fish tacos in Morro Bay. I first tried these about 6 years ago and they are still phenomenal! Taco Temple, is totally worth stopping for, and the queue you will inevitably be in, doesn’t take away from the joy of these tacos. This time I grabbed some locally caught red snapper and Al opted for giant scallops (wow, wow, totally worth the $10 more). Kelsey (who doesn’t trust things of the sea) opted for a sweet potato enchilada which was surprisingly good.
Ok, but the fish tacos weren’t why we were on the move, it was about the wine! With 5 of us camping out near Petaluma and a puppy, we didn’t hit as many of the wineries as I would have liked, but that just means there’s more to try next time.
This vineyard is one of our friends’ favourite, so it was the perfect place to start our tasting. It was busy! But lovely grounds, and plenty of space to picnic. Ben is a member here so the tastings for us were free, thought I think they were around $15 normally. We got to taste a great selection here. For my palate, the reds didn’t have enough body, but I did like the whites. I ended up with several bottle of whites to take home if a wine I can I’m no way pronounce. I’m calling is gershinbershin.
We picnicked out on the grounds, which as I mentioned, really are lovely. There’s quite a few options, so even though it was busy, you weren’t on top of anyone. Oh! They have a fridge of cheese to to supplement your own picnic stuff, you’ll want to grab some of that, I recommend the fig goats cheese, it was a game changer. They do movies over summer on the grounds which I think would be great, if I lived in the area, it would be my thing.
Something that I think is important to note: the customer service was fantastic. We had a mix up which meant we didn’t have all of our bottles of wine when we got home the next day, they sorted it all out for us no problem at all and we left feeling really good. I always think, how people deal with a problem is the most important part and these guys get a 10/10.
Larson Family Winery
We found this one on a good site for dog friendly places in the area, and it was just down the road from Gun Bun. They have a nice set up in a barn and their 3 labs will be roaming around to greet you, which made @kevinfromfinance day. He had the best play while we tested some wines. I think tastings were $15/20 and free for every 2 bottles of wine you purchased. I’m not sure when everywhere turned to charging for tasting but it’s definitely a thing.
I think I liked how much fun Kevin had here more than I liked the wine. Of course, I still walked away with something 😂😂😂 A bottle of Syrah for me (felt like it has more body than the Gun Bun reds) and a dessert wine for Kelsey. I really wanted to like the 3 Lab wines they had, but I couldn’t force it. Hopefully, someone else does because I love that they name them after their dogs.
Benzinger Family Winery
This was the place from our voucher and man am I glad we went here. This was my number 1 choice of all the wine we tried. Seriously, they don’t make a bad wine. I enjoyed every single one, and even thought it was a good Pinot, even though I’m totally not a Pinot gal. Plus, Kelsey liked almost all the reds, without eating cheese first (too too for new red wine drinkers) and she is not, more like was not, a red drinker.
The grounds are gorgeous here; lots of green, flowers and cute buildings. You can do a tram ride around the ground, but this is the one thing that isn’t dog friendly so we gave it a miss. For tastings, they have 2 levels. You should definitely try both.
We walked a way with a lot of bottles here: red & white, as well as joining the wine club or as I like to call it, sponsoring them (doesn’t that make it sound much better 😂). I am now recommending this place to absolutely everyone to go to, you won’t regret it.
5 mins down the road from Benzinger, this is their sister Winery, and another place you won’t want to miss. Again, everything tasted good. They have a more limited tasting menu, but we were happy with everything we tried. Our wine guide (not sure what to call them) was really good at talking to us about the wine without being annoying. I bought about 5 different bottles based on our conversation, not on tasting, that’s pretty good! They specialize in some of the more unusual grapes, which was cool. It separates it out from Benzinger and creates a unique experience.
The good news, if you sponsor either Benzinger or Imagery you get discounts at both.
Another one from the dog friendly site, this place does Italian style wines. They had 2 different tasting menus but sadly none of it caught my interest (ok not that sad, it’s not like we didn’t have a car full of wine). Location wise , it’s cute. They play live music which would be good to hear but it wasn’t that dog friendly to me. I think it got built up with the ‘meet the vineyard dog’ so I thought @kevinfromfinance would be able to have a play but he wasn’t there. Apparently he’s only there for about 20 mins a day, so that made me sad. All in all, this place wasn’t really for us, but it seemed fairly popular.
As you can see, we didn’t even make a dent in Sonoma. I mean, we only made it 1/3 of the way around the town square! Reasons I like Sonoma:
- It’s pretty
- It doesn’t come across as overly pretentious
- Even though it was busy you didn’t feel crowded
- The wine tasting isn’t priced too bad
- The wine, it’s yum!
So now I’m thinking about when I can fit in another long weekend and go up. So much more wine to try!