Woodbridge Winery's tastings and tours enroll ordinary laymen in a day course that unleashes the close-kept secrets of liquefied grapes. Tipplers start off in the Woodbridge tasting room, where they can sample a rotating quartet of wines typically not available in stores as smiling sommeliers guide untutored taste buds around every flavor note. After a boxed lunch of sandwiches and chips, curious quaffers follow experienced vine wranglers on a one-hour tour of the winery grounds. Like a peek behind the curtain of a magician’s workshop or a trip into the depths of a Wonkaian lollipop mine, the visit includes a look at the pressing operation and the red barrel-aging room.
Boasting a bevy of organic wines within its solar-powered vineyard, The Lucas Winery welcomes wine enthusiasts to train their palates with taste-toning sips of chardonnay, zinfandel, cabernet, and rosé. Over the course of the 45-minute tasting, guests will swirl glasses, waft wine, and elegantly tipple a minimum of five sippables (a $10 value per person).
An enormous redwood wine tank stands at the heart of Oak Ridge Winery. At one point it held 50,000 gallons of zinfandel, but these days the barrel echoes with laughter and clinking wine glasses. Inside, at a red-brick bar top, winemaker Rudy Maggio and his partners Don and Rocky Reynolds introduce customers to the flavors in their hand-crafted wines.
To craft their specialties, the trio carefully tends aisles of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc grapes. However, they take particular pride in their 120-year-old zinfandel vines, which have gnarled, weatherworn features and no patience for kids these days. The wines of these grapes—including Moss Roxx Ancient Vine Zinfandel and OZV—consistently take medals at international wine competitions.
Casual visitors to Harmony Wynelands Winery might be forgiven for thinking the vineyard’s name derives from its perfectly balanced wine selection, but a surprise waits in the blue and white barn amid the rows of grape vines. There presides owner Bob Hartzell’s prize possession: the 2/11 Robert Morton organ that was originally installed in the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. The winery satisfies music lovers with regularly scheduled concerts, enophiles with on-demand tasting experiences, and both at the same time with finger-licking wineglass players. The musical theme is also reflected in the vineyard’s Orchestra wine club, which fans can join at a Soloist or Maestro level to receive wine shipments and special offers.
Bill and Stephanie Prioste stumbled upon winemaking—literally. After finding grapes growing at the rear of their half-acre plot, their property manager suggested they try to turn them into wine. Nearing retirement, it became more than just a hobby, and their initial venture grew into what today is Windmill Ridge Winery. There, they oversee the production of an impressive selection of wines, from silky and acidic Petit Syrah to light and crisp Chardonnay.
The cooks at Sips Bistro and Wine Shop use locally acquired and organic ingredients where possible in their classic menu of small plates, varietals, and espresso drinks. The intimate bistro setting—rendered warm by colorful murals of pastoral settings and elegant wood wine racks—hosts guests as they try refined eats such as a chicken, brie, and caramelized onion quesadilla, or a brined and herb-crusted bone-in pork chop. During wine flights, vino sippers may choose their own drinks from a temperature-controlled wine bar or the frigid palms of a grape-eating sprite. The company also occasionally hosts events such as champagne Sundays and special tastings.