Sonoma Helicopter's fleet of choppers hardly ever stops spinning as they lead training, photography, and tour flights throughout the Sonoma Valley and wine country year round. Their thorough training program pairs classroom and flight sessions to produce pilots capable of taming wild helicopters, and the mountain-flying school further specializes chopper jockeys. Aside from aerial surveys that delve into animal populations, power-line patrols, and crop pollinations, the staff also takes to the air to give guests a bird's-eye view of Sonoma.
There's a lot of history inside Simi Winery's stone cellar. Its prime conditions have housed vintages since 1890, though the winery's own story goes back much further. Tour the grounds, and visitors soon learn that Simi Winery made its first wine in 1876. Today, its 600 acres grow the hand-selected, heirloom grapes that ultimately become the winemakers' signature cabernet sauvignons, chardonnays, and other wines.
Once owned by the mayor of Berkeley and family-owned for three generations, with current owner Reverend John Staten, Field Stone Winery has a long and varied history dating back to 1894, when Petite Sirah vines were planted in the estate vineyards. The wines created from the grapes of these vines continue to tantalize palates today with robust notes, rich color, and turn-of-the-century gossip. Buzzworthy libations also hail from the Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard, planted in 1968. The winery boasts sprawling Oak trees and a comfortable spot tucked into the hillside where renowned wine consultant Andre Tchelistcheff once worked, and the property's farmhouse was used in a Bartels and Jaymes wine cooler commercial in the 1980s. The winery, winners of myriad awards, handcraft a Convivio companion wine culled from Merlot and Cabernet. They donate a portion of their profits to local nonprofit medical center Clinica Alianza.
Williamson Wines' small-batch wines start on its 12 vineyards, which span roughly 200 acres throughout Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino counties. The lush terrain's grapes have produced vintages from the CMH Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Napa, which earned a gold medal in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, to the Embrace Grenache 2011, which delights palates with hints of toffee apple. To taste these creations, clients order bottles in the online store or head to the winery's tasting room nestled in downtown Healdsburg. There, wine samples are complemented by perfectly-paired food samples.
Tucked away along 11 rolling acres of the Russian River Valley, Christopher Creek Winery's vines have been producing boutique, hand-crafted varietals since 1974. Over the years, these award-winning wines have drawn visitors to the winery's rustic tasting room, where their signature estate Syrah can be sipped poolside, or enjoyed with a picnic on the grass.
Locals Wine Tasting outfits sip-seeking palates in a tasty variety of grapey frocks, all crafted by 11 lauded and loved wineries. Corral a fellow oenophile or wine-fueled automaton for an informative tasting session, which features grape-blood goods from purveyors such as Dark Horse, Foggy Valley, Bedarra Vineyards, and more. The session's flight tastings imbue suppers with a wine-filled cornucopia of vino-based knowledge, such as tasting and pairing tips and how to build a suitable flotation device from leftover corks. All participants leave with a bottle of 2008 Foggy Valley Leras Vineyard, RRV chardonnay, a fruity brew with hints of green apple, white nectarine, and melon.