9 sparkling wineries to visit in Sonoma this holiday season

Drinking sparkling wine is a year-round ritual for many, but some save it for the holiday season, most obviously New Years Eve. Now is the time to sip and shop, and the sparkling choices made by Sonoma are plentiful.

Three decades ago, a handful of Sonoma County wineries mastered the tedious techniques of making sparklers that reflect the quality and depth of real champagne, which relies on chardonnay and pinot noir for base wines and a secondary fermentation in the bottle, called the Champagne method or the traditional method.

In the 1980s, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Iron Horse Vineyards, J Vineyards & Winery and Piper Sonoma joined Korbel Champagne Cellars (established 100 years earlier) as powerful players in the local sparkling wine scene, transforming the sunny California fruits in brioche wines and toasted aromas and flavors, a fine bead of small bubbles and crackling acidity.

More recently, wines made with less intensive methods, and / or using non-traditional grape varieties, have burst onto the scene. There are natural sparkling wines, or pét-nats, which are bottled while they still undergo a first fermentation and closed with a crown cap instead of a cork stopper. The French call this process ancestral method, the yeast remaining in contact with the wine until the cork is removed. Out springs a fruity, slightly creamy and easy-to-drink sparkler that doesn’t have the complexity of champagne-type wines but appeals to everyone for its simplicity.

Some wineries use the charmat method to carbonate their wines in large steel vats, adding carbon dioxide to create the bubbles. Like the pét-nats, these wines are all about the fruit; they are simple but satisfying, ready to taste shortly after bottling and typically cost half the price of sparkling wines the traditional way. Zinfandel, Syrah, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer appear in the bubbles produced by Sonoma, expanding aromas and flavors beyond the more traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

For a sparkling tasting and sparkling bottle shopping while on vacation, try these Sonoma wineries. (Click on the gallery above to view the tasting rooms.)

Amista vineyards

Amista owners Mike and Vicky Farrow were passionate about producing sparkling wine when they bought what is now Morningsong Vineyards in 1999. They added syrah to the chardonnay vines, bought cabernet grapes. sauvignon and zinfandel to others and released their first wines in 2005. Three years later they launched their Sparkling Syrah, a relatively bold move in Sonoma but a long-standing tradition in Australia. The Farrows were so enamored with sparkling wines that they established the Amista Sparkling Friends Wine Club in 2014. Winemaker Ashley Herzberg bottles a wide range of traditional method wines for this Dry Creek Valley vineyard, in addition to wines. quiet (table). The reserve tasting experience ($ 40) includes sparkling and still wines.

3320 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-9200, amistavineyards.com

A bottle of champagne from Breathless Wines in Healdsburg. (Courtesy of Breathless Wines)

Breathless wines

Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services co-founder Rebecca Faust and her sisters Cynthia Faust and Sharon Cohn created Breathless Wines to honor their mother, Martha Jane Faust, who died of rare respiratory illness – but not before ” teaching his daughters the joy of every breath taken. Their unofficial fourth sister, Penny Gadd-Coster, is their winemaker, and her traditional method sparkling wines are fresh and crisp, with three new wines being introduced in 2021: two blanc de noir from a single vineyard at Robledo Vineyard in Sonoma and one blanc de blancs from the McMinn Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Customers can choose from three different wine flights ($ 20) and add boxes of cheese and cold cuts and caviar for an additional fee.

499 Moore Lane, Healdsburg, 707-395-7300, vinsessoufflés.com

Caves and vineyards of Gloria Ferrer

The Spanish Ferrer family arrived in Sonoma in 1982 and established the first sparkling wine house in Carneros in 1986. The parent company, Freixenet, was acquired by Henkell and Co. in 2018, although the sparkling end continues to flow. from this pioneering producer. Non-vintage Brut, Blanc de Noirs and Rosé “Gloria” Brut are relatively easy to find (and good value at around $ 22). But head to the tasting room for Carneros Royal Cuvée Brut Late Disgorged, more complex and complex, premium wines from Gloria Ferrer. The Classic Carneros Experience ($ 34 to $ 45) offers four wines, which can also include still chardonnay and pinot noir. Or splurge on the Culinary Food and Wine Pairing ($ 68 to $ 85) – a multi-course meal with a food and wine pairing available Friday through Sunday.

23555 Route 121, Sonoma, 707-933-1917, gloriaferrer.com

Sparkling wines at Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards in Sonoma. (Courtesy of Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards)
A glass of sparkling wine is served at Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards in Sonoma. (Jeremy Portje / For The Democratic Press)

Harvest Moon Estate and Vineyard

Randy Pitts’ family has been growing wine grapes in the Russian River Valley since 1976. In 2000, he took over farming responsibilities for the 9-acre ranch and began making zinfandel from the ranch. Pitts’ sparkling wine program began in 2003 with Gewürztraminer, the only white grape grown on the estate. Over the next decade he added small amounts of sparkling pinot noir rosé, chardonnay, zinfandel and gewürztraminer. Almost all of the grapes are grown on the estate on Olivet Road, where the tasting room is located. The bubbles are poured on weekends, along with the still wines, in flights of six wines ($ 30).

2198 Olivet Road, Santa Rosa, 707-573-8711, Harvestmoonwinery.com

The vineyards of the iron horse

This Sevastopol sparkling wine superstar’s tasting room offers an east-facing view of its vineyards, the Mayacamas mountain range and Mount St. Helena. Fog seeps in morning and evening at this green valley site in the Russian River Valley, refreshing the grapes, but the days can be gloriously sunny to sip champagne-quality bubbles and admire the visuals. As exceptional as the sparkling wines of the Sterling family are – and there are over a dozen of them, some with links to charitable fundraisers – the tastings ($ 30) are reasonably priced and al fresco, relaxed and not fussy, and staged in front of a sequoia barn building style. Spitting wines sampled down the hill is not only acceptable, it is encouraged for those who drive, although it is very difficult not to swallow these elegant and refined wines. Tastings seated in a gazebo are also available ($ 50).

9786 Ross Station Road, Sevastopol, 707-887-1507, ferhorsevineyards.com

The Bubble Room at J Vineyards and Winery in Healdsburg. (Courtesy of J Vineyards and Winery)

J Vineyards & Winery

Judy Jordan and her father, Tom Jordan of Jordan Winery, founded J Wine Co. in 1986 for the express purpose of producing Champagne-style wines. Judy then took over the business and, along with her then-winemaker, Oded Shakked, propelled J to the top of American sparkling wine houses. E. & J. Gallo purchased J in 2015 and has continued to provide elegant wines and a great experience for visitors, with an emphasis on food and wine pairing. The J Bubble Room’s five-course tasting menu, paired with cellar wines and older Nicole Hitchcock wines, is not to be missed ($ 150). The Legacy Tasting ($ 35) features a flight of five sparkling wines and one of a blend of sparkling and still wines; add cheeses for an additional $ 15. The standup, Signature Bar Tasting ($ 25) is an affordable way to start. The Cuvee XB Extra Brut, not available in stores, is arguably J.

11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, 888-594-6326, jwine.com

Champagne cellars Korbel

It is the oldest operating sparkling wine house in North America, established in 1882. This story gives Korbel the legal right to use the term “California Champagne” on its labels, even if the wines do not. are not from Champagne, France. They are produced in Guerneville, from grapes sourced from Sonoma and across California. Raw, rosé, blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs sparklers are ubiquitous in supermarkets, but cellar visits are always recommended. Not only do the staff serve cellar-only bubbles and still wines, the tasting of three wines is free and the all-bubble flight only costs $ 15 for five wines. Sip a sense of history at Korbel.

13250 chemin River, Guerneville, 707-824-7316, korbel.com

Visitors enjoy a glass of champagne at Korbel Winery in Guerneville. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)
La Prenda wine tasting room in Sonoma. (Robbi Pengelly / Index-Tribune)

Wines of La Prenda

Ned Hill, owner of La Prenda Vineyard Management, operates several sites in the Sonoma Valley. A few years ago he started producing wines from his customers’ grapes and selling them under the Sonoma Collection and La Prenda labels. In 2021, Ned and his wife, Erika, opened a tasting room in Sonoma, where their Sonoma Coast Brut Rosé, Carneros Pétillant-Naturel and Secco North Coast Brut are poured and sold, along with a wide range of still wines. Five wine flights cost $ 20.

535 First Street West, Sonoma, 707-938-7228, laprendawine.com

Longboard vineyards

Fizz runs through the veins of Longboard owner and winemaker Oded Shakked. A former effervescent winemaker at J Vineyards & Winery, he founded his own business in 1998. While Syrah, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc are the founding wines of Longboard, Shakked’s love for them. bubbles is evident in its Healdsburg tasting room (the Surf Salon). There the traditional brut method, brut rosé and a scintillating Brut Z are apt to be poured for those looking for sensational sparklers. Tastings are only $ 20 and fees are refundable when two or more bottles are purchased. Cheese and charcuterie items are available for purchase. The tasting room will be closed on December 24. 6 for vacation and renovation.

5 Fitch Street, Healdsburg, 707-433-3473, longboardvineyards.com

Joshua B. Speller