Been sidelined by insane work sked (15 nights in last 17) and wine dinner (a friend “auctioned” me — actually, my wines — off for surprisingly big bucks; some of them below) and big party tomorrow.
But I took time out when I got an email this afternoon from an old friend needing tips for “off-beat wineries” in the Russian River Valley, where he’ll be next week. I’ll have more extensive Sonoma tips up soon, but had so much fun crafting my response that thought I’d share it:
“Go to Copain [which has a relationship with his hotel] for sure. Wells Guthrie is kickin’ it.
Two amazing wineries share a barn-like facility in Sebastopol. Both are fascinating and phenomenal:
Wind Gap http://windgapwines.com/contact
Arnot Roberts http://arnotroberts.com/contact
Brilliant winemakers; check out what both are doing at the websites. Copain and these two fit the “off-beat” you’re looking for; not traditional, often low alcohol, unusual grapes.
Thomas George [another connection with his lodgings] is also stellar. It’s the old Davis Bynum property and they’re making really good pinots and chards. Iron Horse [connection] makes really swell bubbles.
These are just great wineries but not pushing the envelope:
Hartford Court is about 3 miles south of the river near Forestville. Beautiful drive and great wines (including the zin) and never crowded, best I can tell.
Williams Selyem is appointment-only (and maybe just mailing list) but well worth a stab.
Littorai has fabulous wines but is an expensive visit by appointment — $30 a person. Might can get that waived if you buy wine
And if you have the chance, be sure to eat at Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa.
And if you go to the Farmhouse Inn, absolutely save room for the cheese.”