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.
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.
A restored Queen Anne structure in Sonoma wine country, Grape Leaf Inn won NBC11's award for best area bed and breakfast for two consecutive years. Six available guestrooms await visitors, each equipped with a king or queen bed. A bottle of old-vine zinfandel (a $37.50 value), recently liberated from its oaken prison, regales sippers with tales of life on the inside. Downstairs, the speakeasy offers complimentary vine-blood samplings that awaken the unexplainable urge for more, as well as an intimate setting for romantic paper-football games. Excellent breakfasts of local produce and freshly roasted coffee also await visitors. Wineries available for tastings vary based on date of stay.
Named for the iconic director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, the Francis Ford Coppola Winery gratifies grape groupies with a wide array of virtuosic vinos. Pirouette your way into the Bottling Ballet Mechanique tour for a chance to examine the winery’s bottling process, which is exactly the same process used to bottle model ships. From the huge barrels of grape soup in which wines are born to the priceless glass containers into which they’re packaged, the 45-minute tour—which takes its name from the way each bottle shimmies and pirouettes down the line—gives guests the chance to see and more fully comprehend how wine comes to take its uniformly bottle-like shape. Visitors also learn the back-stories behind the winery’s labels and take part in a palate-expanding tasting, completing the beautiful circle of libationary life.
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 manufacturers, 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.