Santa Rosa offers upscale wineries set amid beautiful California backdrops in California’s Sonoma County. Travel along as we explore the upscale side of Santa Rosa.
Sonoma County, California, is one of the top wine regions in the world, and Santa Rosa boasts an exclusive collection of wineries and vineyards. Petaluma, my hometown, is less than 30 minutes from many Santa Rosa wineries. Growing up, I had little knowledge and no experience with this prized beverage, but Sonoma County is one of my favorite places to visit as an adult.
Three Upscale Santa Rosa Wineries
I love to return to Santa Rosa to explore the wineries. Here are three upscale Santa Rosa wineries I recommend you check out while visiting the area.
St. Francis Winery & Vineyard
Established in 1971, the St Francis Winery & Vineyard is one of Sonoma County’s finest mountain and valley vineyards. The mission-style tasting room with its stunning bell tower rests at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains.
A sizable statue of St. Francis of Assissi, the patron saint of the natural environment and animals, sits front and center in a garden to the right of the entrance. Behind the tasting room, lengthy patios feature umbrellaed tables where guests enjoy a variety of tastings while overlooking the vineyards and the mountains. Colorful flowers and manicured lawns add to the beauty of the fruitful vineyards.
St. Francis Winery offers various tasting options, from a guided line-up of the winery’s exclusive collection to a five-course seasonal dining experience paired with wines selected by Executive Chef Peter Janiak. Additional options include the Estate Pairings, Pedal Trolley Vineyard Tour & Tasting, Group Tastings, Tower Tastings, and more.
The Artisan Flight
During my recent visit, I opted to try the Artisan Flight. Kelly Bryant was my wine educator for the day. She was enthusiastic and well-versed at describing the different wines. The Artisan Flight wines are only available at the winery or to wine club members.
The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Moon Mountain District was my favorite. The grapes grow at 2200 feet elevation and experience 30-degree temperature variations. The high heat and challenging terrain cause the roots to dig down 40 to 60 feet to reach the water. The environment causes quite a strain on the grapes, and they pick up a delicious minerality from the terroir.
According to Kelly, “Due to the conditions, this cabernet drinks like a bourbon. It has high acidity, is clear when entering the mouth, showcases bittersweet chocolate notes mid-palate, and finishes with maple, baking spices, and dark berries.”
Matanzas Creek Winery
Matanzas Creek Winery opened in 1977 and specialized in sauvignon blanc and merlot in the Bennett Valley region of Sonoma County. These two grapes love the temperate climate of the area. Today, Matanzas also produces chardonnay, pinot noir, and Bordeaux-style reds. All the fruit comes from sustainably farmed estate vineyards. The winery is also known for its lavender.
Bradford Yoell, my wine educator at Matanzas Creek Winery, guided me through a delicious Comparative Tasting, one of my favorite ways to taste wine. I loved my first taste of citrus notes in the 2020 Jackson Park Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. It smelled like candied ginger. I also appreciated the 2013 Journey Sauvignon Blanc with an acidity that had mellowed over time, smoothed out, and was easy to drink.
Matanzas is all about the experience. This family-friendly winery has room for everyone. Guests can savor a glass of wine on the deck, share a picnic in one of the shelters next to the old-growth oak trees, or meander the lavender fields, the barn, or the gift shop.
DeLoach Vineyards is owned and operated by Jean-Charles Boisset and is part of the Boisset Collection of wineries. Since its opening in 1975, DeLoach Vineyards has worked to be socially responsible and sensitive to the environment. Owners and staff use traditional Burgundian wine-making techniques and remain dedicated to their estates’ organic and biodynamic farming methods.
DeLoach offers a variety of tastings from the Franco-American Tasting—a side-by-side tasting of wines from the Boisset family of wineries in France and their counterparts from DeLoach Vineyards—to an Estate Library Tasting. Additional options are available on the website.
Cyndee Nelson, the tasting room manager, led me through an Appellation Tasting that explores the unique terroir of Sonoma County and its local AVAs. This tasting showcases the differences in the grapes when the altitude changes. My favorite was the 2019 Forgotten Vines Zinfandel. I loved the jammy red fruits with notes of nutmeg and oak, the robust tannins, and the hint of black pepper at the finish.
The Theater of Nature on the DeLoach property is a stunning place to explore. Visitors can take a self-guided tour through the 20-acre organic and biodynamic farm that incorporates the culinary garden and medicinal plants. It is also fun to check out the chickens, sheep, and goats onsite.
Vintners Resort, an Opulent Place to Stay Near Santa Rosa Wineries
Walking through the grounds at the Vintners Resort is like being transported to a small village in Tuscany, Italy. This lush oasis tucked away just off Highway 101 is the perfect place for a romantic weekend, girls’ getaway, or solo escape from the busyness of everyday life.
Rooms and suites come with various options, including room size, number of beds, fireplaces, and more. I stayed in a Vineyard View Fireplace King Room. The room featured an exquisite balcony with a decorative rod iron balustrade complete with climbing ivy, a California king-sized bed, a fireplace, a spacious bathroom, and complimentary Wi-Fi. My favorite pastime was sitting on the balcony each morning, looking out over the vineyards while sipping hot coffee, watching the fog lift, and feeling the sunshine warm my face.
John Ash & Co.
Executive Chef Thomas Schmidt is responsible for all the delicious dining at the Vintners Resort. John Ash & Co. is the “fine dining” restaurant onsite and offers an a la carte menu with food and wine and a scrumptious tasting menu accompanied by optional paired wines. The restaurant offers indoor and alfresco dining on the patio and tented lawn.
My friend, Judy, joined me for dinner, and we opted for the tasting menu. The four-course menu was reasonably priced, as were the savory wine pairings. Annie, our server and sommelier for the evening, was exceptional.
Many of the ingredients used in our dinners were grown in the gardens on the resort’s property. Judy and I dined on mixed garden lettuces with grilled peaches, herbed potato gnocchi, and Angus beef. My favorite dish was the dessert, hibiscus buttermilk panna cotta with strawberries and Meyer lemon crumble.
Gardens & Grounds Experience
The Vintners Resort, located on 92 acres of fruitful vineyards and meticulously landscaped gardens and grounds, is a magical place. Guests can meander the gardens or book a guided tour with Chris Connell, the grounds and garden manager.
Judy and I enjoyed a fabulous morning listening to Chris talk about what he and his crew grow in the two gardens. We learned about how the vegetation is rotated throughout the year to yield as many herbs, flowers, and produce as possible. Chef Schmidt uses the bounty from the garden in the three resort restaurants: John Ash & Co., Rivervine, and The Front Room Bar & Lounge.
The Gardens Provide Food for the Restaurants Onsite
Chris says, “What we want to grow here is just interesting food. It is fun to watch guests taste food in the garden and then go inside and enjoy Chef Schmidt’s preparation of the ingredients. And vice versa, the same guests often enjoy something in the restaurant and realize how much they love something like the figs. Then they come out to the garden and pick from one of our 72 fig trees with seven different varieties of figs.”
When people join the garden tour, he wants the experience to tie into a memory of their vacation they can take home with them. He hopes that people, perhaps through his tour, will go home and think about eating locally and supporting their local farms. Chris plants seasonally. The summer offered up several varieties of tomatoes, beans, and lettuce for us to taste during our tour.
The front garden has seen three iterations over its fifteen years, and Chris was in charge of two of them. The current garden uses a drip system for irrigation, reducing water usage by 40%. Like many others in Sonoma County, Chris believes in implementing sustainability practices and using natural resources wisely.
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Any season is a great time to plan a visit to Sonoma County, and the Vintners Resort makes the perfect basecamp for exploring Santa Rosa wineries. If you love wine and want to discover additional wineries in Sonoma County, Napa County, and around the world, let Wander with Wonder be your guide.