Warm sunny days and crisp cool evenings signal the waning of summer and the magic of autumn arriving. October along the Wine Road means stunning colors in the vineyards, a few less people as summer vacations come to an end, and the quality of light in the late afternoons makes for picture perfect photographs.
Besides endless opportunities to take photos that will make all your friends envious, visiting Wine Country in the fall lets you wind down a bit before the frenzy of the holidays and enjoy this magical time of year. To encourage you and help with your planning, let’s explore some of the newest members along the Wine Road.
Autumn weather provides ideal conditions for glamping, and two of the newest Wine Road lodging members offer a couple of alternatives for nature lovers.
Glamping in Style
Wildhaven Sonoma Glamping’s tagline is recharge, reconnect and rediscover your love of nature. Based on their location (just northeast of Healdsburg on the Russian River), the amazing tents and all the amenities, it would be easy to relax and recharge. After a couple of days of hanging out on the river in an innertube or kayak, making s’mores on the campfire and sleeping in the fresh Sonoma County air, you’re bound to feel recharged. Plus, their locations is a short drive to dozens of wineries along the Wine Road.
If you like the idea of glamping, but want to upscale it a bit and add some wildlife into the mix, check out the luxurious Safari West tents. The tents were imported from Botswana and each tent was customized to include a private viewing deck, en-suite bathroom and polished hardwood floors. But the best part is you’ll be glamping in a huge wildlife park, giving you the opportunity to hear night sounds you’ve never before experienced. Safari West, known as the Sonoma Serengeti, will have you thinking you’re in Africa without leaving Wine Country.
Safari West, located northeast of Santa Rosa, is also located within minutes of dozens of wineries and the Sonoma County Airport.
Ultra-Modern or Historical Victorian Charm
If glamping isn’t for you, there are plenty of other options available during your stay along the Wine Road. The recently built and opened AC Hotel, in Santa Rosa’s historic Railroad Square, offers a modern design and upscale amenities, including a state-of-the-art fitness center and the onsite AC Lounge. It’s located less than 15 minutes from the Santa Rosa Airport, steps from restaurants and bars, and is a great location to launch out to any of the Wine Road member wineries.
If modern isn’t you’re preferred style, The Gables Wine Country Inn might be your perfect fit. With quintessential Victorian charm, this charming bed and breakfast invites you to relax and rejuvenate in one of their eight rooms or the cottage, where your stay includes a three-course breakfast. Located just southeast of Santa Rosa on three and a half acres with views of vineyards and open fields, the inn is close to wineries, restaurants and shopping.
More Lodging Options
If you’re curious what else is available as lodging options along the Wine Road, check out the Lodgings page on the website. You can search by the lodging name, by the regions within the Wine Road, by lodging types like bed & breakfast, cottage, country inn, hotel/motel, spa, or luxury inn, or you can search by 36 different amenities including pets allowed, in-room fireplace or hot tub.
Along with new lodging members, the Wine Road has several new winery members, and it’s exciting to review the list. Be sure to check out their listings on the Wine Road website’s Winery page, or on their websites to get acquainted with the wines they produce and more about their winery’s story.
Check Out What’s New in Windsor
Bellacana Vineyards, J. Cage Cellars and Mengler Family Wines have tasting rooms in downtown Windsor, not far from the town green. These wineries are also new to me, and I look forward to exploring their offerings.
Carlisle Winery & Vineyards is just outside the town of Windsor on Starr Road. Carlisle’s owners Mike and Kendall Officer and winemaker Jay Maddox have been producing critically acclaimed wines for years. When you book a tasting with Carlisle, your host will be Riley Officer, the cellar master and Mike and Kendall’s son, so you’ll be sure to get the inside scoop on the wines and winery.
Bucher Wines is also just outside the town of Windsor, and when you taste at Bucher you’ll probably be tasting with owner Diane Bucher as she pours Bucher’s acclaimed Pinot Noirs.
The Wine Haven of Healdsburg
Healdsburg is always a popular spot to wine taste, and after being out of Healdsburg for a few years, Mueller Cellars has returned to the Old Roma Station building on Hudson Street. Their Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs are worth a visit.
Jeff Cohn Cellars also opened a tasting room in downtown Healdsburg on North Street, just a block off Healdsburg Avenue. Jeff is known as the Rhône-centric vintner, so if you love Syrahs (that are also highly acclaimed), be sure to add Jeff Cohn Cellars to your must-visit list.
With a tasting room in the Russian River Valley near Sebastopol, Furthermore Wines recently opened a tasting lounge just a half a block from the Healdsburg Plaza. The tasting lounge is open until 6 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday, and until 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, making it convenient to find a time to stop by. Furthermore produces about a dozen different Pinot Noirs, so you’re sure to find something you’ll love.
Getting Out into the Countryside
Less than a mile west of Healdsburg, off Westside Road, you’ll find an Italian-varietal haven at Orsi Family Vineyards. In addition to a wide-range of wines, Orsi offers picnic grounds, lawn games and an expansive deck to enjoy the views and sip.
South of Healdsburg, on picturesque Limerick Lane, discover due Ruscelli Vineyards. Open Friday through Sunday, or by appointment, they only produce Primitivo. If you’re not familiar with Primitivo, this is the ideal winery to learn all about this up-and-coming varietal cousin of Zinfandel.
If you enjoy the scenery in Dry Creek Valley, and who doesn’t, make Yoakim Bridge a stop on your next trip down Dry Creek Road. Enjoy great wines, an 1885 Victorian farmhouse, a rustic tasting room and stunning views of the valley.
Exploring the Russian River Valley
Wending through the Russian River Valley near Sebastopol, two renowned wineries can be added to your must-try list. Known for their critically acclaimed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Dutton-Goldfield also produces Riesling, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Syrah and Zinfandel.
A few miles from Dutton-Goldfield you’ll find Emeritus Vineyards. The unassuming building belies the stunning taste treat you’ll experience as you sip Emeritus Pinot Noirs. Reservations are required, but they’re open daily from 10 – 4, so you should be able to find a time that works for your wine tasting adventure.
And There’s More
These are just the newest Wine Road member wineries. Please remember there are many, many more stellar choices like Nalle Winery whose Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels are renowned and so are their humorous historical labels. Or, De La Montanya Vineyards & Winery that produces more than a dozen varietal wines and is tucked away in a gorgeous setting off Westside Road, just a few miles from Healdsburg.
To explore the full list of wineries, be sure to visit the Wine Road website.
What’s New with Wine Tasting
When wineries were allowed to reopen, the restriction of Reservations Required was put into place and remained there for over a year. Now as life is settling back into our new normal, we’re seeing more wineries changing from Reservations Required to Reservations Recommended. What’s the difference?
If a winery lists Reservations Required, they mean just that. You need to call or book in advance, before you show up at the door. There can be many reasons for that, but the most important one is someone needs to be there in order for you to taste the wines. So many of the wineries along the Wine Road are very small, and often operated just a couple of people who can’t always be on the property. If you want to taste at one of the wineries with Reservations Required, we recommend you always book your tasting with them ahead of your arrival date. And, if it’s a spur of the moment decision to wine taste, give them a call and see if they have a way to accommodate you.
Versus Reservations Recommended
Reservations Recommended means the winery is trying to accommodate as many visitors as possible, but might have limited space or limited staff. Wineries, like all businesses, find staffing a tad more challenging of late. If you’re planning your trip and really want to go to one or two of your favorite wineries or a winery you’ve been waiting to try, we strongly recommend you book a reservation. If you forgot to book in advance, call or stop by and see if they can accommodate you, or if they have time later in the day.
You’ll also discover some wineries no longer list either Reservations Required or Reservations Recommended. Those wineries generally have enough inside and outdoor space and staff to accommodate all visitors. If you wanted to enjoy a specific specialized tasting a winery offers or have a specific day and time you want to visit, a reservation is still an excellent course of action.
Sharing the Magic
This is a longer than usual blog because I just get so excited about new happenings along the Wine Road that I want to share it all. I hope you find the time to enjoy the magic of autumn along the Wine Road as you check out some of the new wineries along with your old favorites, and maybe do some glamping, too.
The cover photo shows the quality of the light at sunset from Carlisle Winery in Russian River Valley. Courtesy of Carlisle Winery.