Sonoma Valley wineries offer spectacular spring hikes
With California golden poppies and yellow mustard dotting the landscape and the promise of sunny days finally beckoning locals outdoors, springtime may be an ideal season for exploring Sonoma Valley vineyards.
Many wineries in the picturesque Valley of the Moon invite visitors to enjoy self-guided vineyard tours or join guided walks and hikes into terrain typically not open to the public.
The historic region is home to the state’s oldest premium winery (Buena Vista, founded in 1857) and arguably is one of the North Bay’s most scenic tourist destinations.
Both wine and outdoors enthusiasts can learn about Sonoma Valley’s five distinct wine grape-growing regions, called American Viticultural Areas, and discover the farming practices, vineyard life cycles and unique terroirs that produce some of the world’s finest wines.
“But the real privilege of walking a vineyard in Sonoma Valley is seeing firsthand a piece of California history,” noted Lori McGovern, communications and social media manager with the nonprofit trade group Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance, and a resident of Sonoma Valley. “Our winegrowers are stewards of these old vines and are preserving the rich history of our heritage vineyards for generations to come.”
Added McGovern, “Our roots truly run deep in Sonoma Valley,” the alliance’s mantra.
Below is a list of several ongoing and specialty hikes and walks that provide opportunities to see where premium wines get their start. Events are weather-permitting. Reservations are required for guided hikes and events.
Maps for self-guided tours typically are available in tasting rooms.
Schug Carneros Estate
Where: 602 Bonneau Road, Sonoma
Vineyard trail: Follow the vineyard trails at this 50-acre hilltop property in the Carneros district, where four viticulture regions intersect. Watch for the owl nesting boxes, wine barrels and a pond among the picturesque vineyards, where sweeping views stretch toward San Pablo Bay and across southern Sonoma Valley. The free, self-guided walks range from one-third mile to just over 1 mile, with kiosks detailing operations at Schug. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Details: 707-939-9363, schugwinery.com
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
Where: 100 Pythian Road at Highway 12, Santa Rosa
Self-guided estate vineyard tour: Visitors can take a free, self-guided 1-mile walk through the certified sustainable Wild Oak Estate Vineyard and the 2-mile organic vegetable garden. With mountain surroundings and expansive vineyard views, the landscape offers stunning scenery. Kiosks inform visitors about the winegrowing practices at St. Francis. Winery hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Details: 707-538-9463, stfranciswinery.com
Where: 18701 Gehricke Road, Sonoma
Barrel tasting and winery and vineyard tour: Walk through the old-world vineyards to learn about the viticultural practices at Ravenswood, long known for its credo: “No wimpy wines.” Located in the foothills of the Mayacmas Mountains, the winery offers scenic tours daily, starting at 10:30 a.m. and ending with samples straight from the barrel. The fee is $30.
Details: 707-933-2332, ravenswoodwinery.com
MacLeod Family Vineyard
Where: 740 Lawndale Road, Kenwood
Vineyard tour: This four-generation family winery is dedicated to sustainable practices. Two-hour tours are held in the vineyard, with food and wine pairings included. Tours begin at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and are limited to eight guests. The cost is $25. Learn about the terrain that was loaded with rocks when the MacLeods began transforming the property in 1974.
Details: 707-833-4312, macleodfamilyvineyard.com
Larson Family Winery
Where: 23355 Millerick Road, Sonoma
Behind-the-scenes walking tour & tasting: Explore this scenic country property that once was home to the largest and longest-running rodeo in Northern California (from 1929 to the early 1950s). Finish your walk by checking out the cowboy memorabilia in the tasting room, converted from the barn. Stay for a game of bocce ball, too. Tours resume in late April or early May and typically are offered at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. The fee is $35.
Details: 707-938-3031, larsonfamilywinery.com
Jack London State Historic Park
Where: 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen
Winery ruins: This 1,400-acre park celebrates the life of author, adventurer and innovative farmer Jack London and his wife, Charmian. Among more than 20 miles of scenic trails (from easy to strenuous), visitors can hike past vineyards to the former Kohler and Frohling winery building, which was heavily damaged in the 1906 earthquake. It’s now home to the popular Broadway Under the Stars stage productions, with the season opener, “A Chorus Line,” set for June 14. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $10 a vehicle.