It’s raining really hard outside (YAY!) so it’s nice to check out these pictures from two weekends ago when we were having a mini-roadtrip with friends and soaking up some sun.

Living in Northern California means we can zip off to the surf, the snow or wine country in just  a few hours. And by wine country I mean one of many different areas, not just Napa (Paso Robles, Sutter Creek, Santa Cruz, etc.). Our friends are big fans of the Sonoma Valley (that basically runs parallel to the Napa Valley on the west) because it’s less touristy– less limos and party buses out wine tasting– and has more small wineries. But before you can taste wine, you must fill up on pizza. Well… and a little wine.
Our first stop was thanks to an article on Serious Eats about the pizza at Rosso Pizzeria in Santa Rosa, CA. It was hidden away in a strip mall and didn’t have very many full tables when we were in on a Saturday, but it wasn’t for lack of good food. We ordered the Goomba pizza (topped with spaghetti and meatballs!) and the Funghi pizza.

Spaghetti and meatballs on a pizza!? Ohhhh yeah. It was applied with a light hand and super good.

Two pizzas and a salad were enough for the four of us to split and take us onto a tour of four wineries.

Our first stop was at a larger winery, Kunde Family Estate, who sells their wine in a few major grocery stores as well as under a different label at Trader Joe’s and is in talks to make Kirkland branded wine for Costco. Despite being a little more commercial than we usually like (there was a limo car there with wine tasters) we had a great tasting room host, June, who really impressed us.

We were able to sit outside and enjoy some sun with our wine drinking as June let us sample several wines.

Ultimately, this was the winery whose club we signed up for with our friends. I thought it was great that they let two couples sign up so that we could split the cost (we just have to buy a case of wine in April and in October) but what really had me was when June told us that we could take wine hikes on the property! A guide carries wine and will take a small group through the property while you sample the finished product and enjoy the scenery.

Kunde also has dinner events, music events and special tasting events throughout the year. This was the largest winery we visited that day but I’m looking forward to enjoying more of their wine and events in the future.

After Kunde we visited three more much smaller wineries where tasting was free. Each of these wineries, I believe, may grow some of their own grapes but primarily buy grapes from elsewhere. Loxton Cellars features red wines (the tree above is outside their tasting room) by an Australian wine maker, right down the road from them is Wellington Vineyards which has some white and red wines, and finally Eric Ross Winery in Glen Ellen was also recommended to us and was across the street from a great Indian restaurant, Yeti Sonoma, for dinner.

While Napa is also beautiful country and has good wineries, I would recommend that if you are really interested in getting to know about wine that you head toward Sonoma (or another less visited wine area). At each tasting room we were able to have more attention from the staff who was happy to answer questions and more importantly, were the people who recommended the wineries we ended up at and loved!

Anyone else have any wine tasting areas they recommend? Have you been to Sonoma or Napa?

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