Scholarly Sips: Educational Tastings & Tours

Rebecca Germolus on Aug 23, 2017

It’s always fun to try something different, and there are plenty of opportunities along the Wine Road to check out some educational tastings and tours, a.k.a. scholarly sips. With younger students back in school, now is a great time for us over 21 students to think about expanding your knowledge about wine.

Wine & Food Pairings

The pairing of wine and food is hardly new, yet it is amazing how creative the wineries along the Wine Road continue to be in their inventive and delicious pairing. Here are a few of the foodie opportunities:

Alexander Valley Vineyards has daily wine and cheese pairings at 10:30, 1:00 and 3:00. Local artisan cheeses are paired with four of their most limited release wines. The pairing tasting takes place on the expansive deck overlooking the beautiful Alexander Valley. Cost is $25 per person, $18 for Wine Club members, and reservations must be booked at least 48 hours in advance.

Alexander Valley Vineyards Wine & Cheese Pairing
Alexander Valley Vineyards Wine & Cheese Pairing

deLorimier Winery offers a “Farm to Fork” food pairing and wine tasting on selected Saturdays. The food is sourced from locally owned and operated farms within a 20-mile radius of the winery. The local cuisine is artfully paired with a four-course seated pairing. Reservations are required and can be accomplished online, via an email to, or by calling 707-857-2000. The cost is $60 per person, $45 for Wine Club members. Upcoming tasting days are August 26, September 9 and 30, and October 21 and 30, 2017.

Kelley and Young Wine Garden Inn offers a delicious pairing set in their historic Bed & Breakfast Inn in Cloverdale. Savor a six-course wine and food pairing led by family member Madeline Kelley Stewart. Madeline has a degree in Culinary Science and is WSET certified, making her the ideal match for the job of wine and food educator. Cost is $35 for Inn guests and $50 for non-guests. Advanced reservations are required (info@WineGardenInn or 707-894-4535).

Cherry & Chocolate Truffles served at the Kelley & Young six-course wine and food pairing.
Cherry & Chocolate Truffles served at the Kelley & Young six-course wine and food pairing.

Pinot on the Patio is offered daily at Papapietro Perry. This seated tasting includes five Pinot Noirs paired with carefully selected artisan cheeses. The cost is $45 per person, and reservations should be made at least 48 hours in advance. To book your reservation, either call the tasting room at 707-433-0422, send an email, or book online.

Table set up with many wine glasses filled with wine and cheese plate at each place setting

Rodney Strong Vineyards offers year-round wine and food pairings crafted by winery chef Alejandro Garcia. May through October enjoy Pairing on the Terrance, Friday through Sunday from 11 – 4. During the winter months, the wine and food pairing is held in their Single Vineyard Room on Saturday and Sunday at 12 noon and 2:30. Reservations are required, and can be made online at VinoVisit, OpenTable, or by calling the winery (707-431-1533). The cost is $55 per person.

One of the pairing courses during the Rodney Strong food and wine tasting
One of the pairing courses during the Rodney Strong food and wine tasting

Sbragia Family Vineyards not only has stellar views from their expansive deck, they also offers a three-course wine pairing luncheon for $60 per person. Advanced reservations are necessary. To book your pairing luncheon, contact Erin Meyer at 707-473-2992 x119 or

Seghesio Winery’s Chef’s Table experience focuses on their current or library Zinfandel and Italian varietals paired with gourmet small plates prepared by the winery’s executive chef, Peter Janiak. One pairing example from their August menu is 2011 Sangiovese paired with tomato and mozzarella arancini with herb aioli and grana padano. Seghesio family recipes inspired all Chef Janiak’s creations. The cost is $65 for Centennial Club members and $80 for non-members. The pairing experience is available Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and reservations are required.

images of Two of the Seghesio family recipes served at the Chef's Table tasting
Two of the Seghesio family recipes served at the Chef’s Table tasting

Educational Focused Tastings

Educational focused wine tasting can be informative and tasty, too. Here are a few options to learn more about wine:

deLorimier Winery invites Cabernet lovers to check out their Rare & Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Flight. This tasting features library Cabernet Sauvignons, some dating back to 2006, and current vintage reserve Cabernets. All the wines are from Alexander Valley, and this tasting showcases how within a single appellation each vineyard can present a distinctive flavor profile. This experience is offered daily at 11:00, reservations are required, and the maximum size is 14 people. The cost is $45 for Wine Club members and $60 for non-members. Reservation can be made at VinoVisit, via an email to, or by calling 707-857-2000.

deLorimier Winery's Rare & Reserve Tasting
deLorimier Winery’s Rare & Reserve Tasting

Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s Matchmaker Experience teaches you the science behind your sense of taste. Tasters will be guided through various tasting exercises that demonstrate how to identify different flavors in food, and how balancing these flavors affects the relationship between wine and food. Sounds like a great seminar for wine lovers who want to dig deeper into the art of wine and food pairing. The Matchmaker Experience is only offered once a month, so check their website for date and more details. The cost is $50 per person for Wine Club members, and $65 for non-members. Reservations are required.

Hawley Winery’s educational tasting is via a private blending class. You’ll get to learn, hands on, the basics of blending wine. This class is held in the Hawley Cellar, and reservations are required. Classes are held upon request from 10 a.m. to 12 noon only. To request a reservation date, contact Kristen Power at 707-431-2705 x1, or email her at

Sbragia Family Vineyards offers two educational tastings. The Sensory Tasting will teach to identify common aromas in wine while tasting through a flight of favorite winery wines. The cost is $25 per person for Wine Club members, $50 for non-members. The Comparison Tasting is held in their wine library, and you will compare and contrast Sbragia wines produced from various local appellations including Dry Creek Valley. The cost is $20 per person for Wine Club members and $40 for non-members. If you are interested in booking one of these tastings, email Erin at, or call 707-473-2992 x119 to set up your advanced appointment.

At the MacPhail Tasting Lounge, you’ll get the opportunity to learn and taste how terroir influences a wine during their Terroir Tasting. Taste through Pinot Noirs produced from grapes grown in various locations within Russian River Valley, and other local appellations. Experience for yourself how to identify the characteristics of the various terroirs. This tasting is held in MacPhail’s Soil Room where the walls have eight foot by four foot panels of soil from Toulouse, Pratt, Sundawg Ridge, and Mardikain Vineyards. The cost is $30 per person, reservations are required, and you can book online.

Educational Tours

Some wineries offer year-round tours, while others have seasonal tours.

Winery Tours

It is fun to see more than a winery tasting room, and several Wine Road members offer tours of their winemaking facilities. Here are just a couple to give you the flavor of what is available:

Alexander Valley Vineyards offers complimentary winery and cave tours at 11 and 2 daily. During the tour, you’ll explore part of their 25,00 square foot underground wine cave and learn about barrel aging while tasting some “newbie” wines right from the barrel. Reservations are recommended.

Check out Alexander Valley Vineyards winery & cave tour--it's complimentary!
Check out Alexander Valley Vineyards winery & cave tour–it’s complimentary!

There are two options at Rodney Strong Vineyards to tour their winery and both are complimentary. Option one is a self-guided tour, available daily between 10 -5, and reservations are not needed. Option two is a guided winery tour offered most days at 11 and 2, and reservations are recommended (707-431-1533). This is a more in-depth overview of their 12 estate vineyards and small-lot artisan cellar.

Vineyard Tours

Walking through a vineyard, no matter the season, can be fun and informative. Alexander Valley Vineyards offers a guided Vineyard Hike at 10:30 from Monday through Saturday. This grape-to-glass tour gives hikers an insider’s view of the vineyards, and includes strolling by the original 1868 Alexander Valley School and Cyrus Alexander’s homestead. The tour concludes in the underground wine cave, tasting wine from the barrel. A box lunch enjoyed on the deck or picnic area is also included. Cost is $45 per person for Wine Club member, and $50 for non-members. Reservations are required, and must be booked at least 48 hours in advance. To book this tour, go online, or call the tasting room (800-888-7209 x116).


Group of people holding wine glasses in a vineyard

Ridge Vineyards combines an in-depth vineyard tour with an educational tasting as well. The Lytton Spring Century Tour & Library Tasting starts by exploring their century-old historic vineyard. You’ll learn about true old-vines, organic and sustainable farming, and how a traditional field-blend impacts the final wine. Following the vineyard tour, you’ll return to the winery to one of the private tasting rooms. Here you’ll taste multiple older vintages and their current vintage counterparts, allowing you to experience how wines evolve over time. A selection of artisan cheeses complements the tasting. The cost is $45 per person, with an option to add $20 per person to taste older vintages of Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon. The tour and tasting is offered daily, and reservations are requested.

Winery & Vineyard Tours

Hawley Winery offers a guided estate vineyard and winery tour of their Bradford Mountain property, overlooking the Dry Creek Valley. The walking tour covers their organic vineyards, garden, and hopyard. It also includes a behind the scenes look at their production facility. The cost is $10 per person for Wine Club members, and $25 for non-members. Reservations are required.

Medlock Ames offers a tour of their Bell Mountain property, which also includes a tour through their vineyards, olive groves, and organic garden as well as an in-depth look at their state-of-the-art winery and barrel cellar. The tour concludes with a seated tasting of their estate wines, paired with a selection of local cheeses and seasonal bites created with produce from their organic garden. The cost is $40 per person (complimentary for Wine Club members). The tour is offered Thursday through Monday at 11 and 2, and reservations are required.

Harvest Tours

Since harvest is a once a year event that only lasts four to six weeks, if you are interested in taking a harvest tour, don’t wait! We found at least six Wine Road members offering something special during harvest, and many of the other Wine Road wineries will show you around the crush pad or cellar, if possible. Tours aren’t always possible, or safe to do, when harvest is in full swing.

A view from the Timber Crest Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley just before harvest.
A view from the Timber Crest Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley just before harvest.

Carol Shelton Wines, one of our Urban Warehouse Wineries, offers tasting room visitors a chance to tour the cellar and get some hands-on experiences as well. Carol, or one of her crew, will guide you through the cellar, let you try punching down the fermenting wine, taste juice straight from the destemmer or press if the equipment is running, and if not, then from a tank, and taste grapes that have just arrived. This is an excellent opportunity to see what goes on in the first days grapes arrive at a winery. This isn’t about making a reservation, rather being at the right place at the right time.

Hanna Winery is offering winemaking tours four Saturdays this fall—9/16,9/30, 10/14, and 10/28. Visitors will tour behind the scenes with Hanna’s winemaker Jeff Hinchliffe. Taste grapes and fermenting wine, and immerse yourself in the aromas and excitement of harvest. Then enjoy a picnic lunch paired with Hanna wines on the patio. The cost is $50 per person for Wine Club members, and $70 for non-members. This tour will be held at Hanna’s Russian River Valley location at 5353 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa, CA. To book this harvest tour, email, or call 707-431-4310 x124.

Kokomo Winery has two harvest tours scheduled—Saturday, September 23rd and Saturday, September 30th from 10 – 1. Each tour will start with a brunch paired with Kokomo wines in their picnic area overlooking Dry Creek Valley. Winemaker/owner Erik Miller will lead an educational tour through Timber Crest Vineyards, and finish with a behind-the-scenes look at fermentation and winemaking in the cellar. The cost is $40 per person for Wine Club members, and $50 for non-members. Reservations are required.

Kokomo's owner/winemaker Erik Miller leading a tour.
Kokomo’s owner/winemaker Erik Miller leading a tour.

Experience crush at Korbel on Saturday, September 23 from 10:30-3 with their Flavors of Fall! This includes a behind the scenes tram ride to tour their vineyards and crush facilities. You’ll also have samples of Korbel’s California Champagnes paired with delicious bites, and be able to take home a logo glass. The cost is $20 per person for Wine Club members, $25 for non-members. Reservations are required, and tickets are online.

Merriam Vineyards does it the old fashioned way…if you’re at the winery and something is happening at the crush pad, you can have a tour. No appointment is needed and there is no charge for the tour. If you are in the area, you can give them a call (707-433-4032) and see if the winery is crushing grapes that day. These impromptu tours take place Monday through Saturday from 10 to 5 during harvest season.

On Saturday, September 3rd and Saturday, September 16th, West Wines owner and winemaker Katarina will be hosting a vineyard hike and wine tasting starting at 9:45. You’ll be able to pick grape samples, and then field test sugar, pH, and of course, taste the grapes. Katarina will explain how she decides when to harvest, as well as other winemaking topics. The tour will conclude by tasting a flight of West wines. The cost is $30 and each tour will be limited to 10 participants. Reservations are required, and don’t forget to wear comfortable walking shoes!

A Comprehensive Harvest Experience

Experience harvest with the Wilson Artisan Wineries and winemakers in this in-depth four-day event, September 18 – 21 known as The Wilson Family Experience. Now in its third year, their harvest immersion experience includes a three-night stay at the Grape Leaf Inn and four days of learning everything from vineyard management to when to pick grapes at just the right time. Enjoy three gourmet meals a day and a range of wines from all the Wilson Artisan Wineries. The $3750 cost (plus tax) is the all-inclusive price for 2 guests—gourmet meals, wine, and lodging. The Experience is limited to 26 people. For more information, a sample itinerary, or to book your reservation, visit the Wilson Artisan Wineries website.

A view of the backyard and deck at the Grape Leaf Inn
A view of the backyard and deck at the Grape Leaf Inn

These aren’t all the education options along the Wine Road, but clearly there is something for everyone who wants to expand their knowledge and have fun, too!

Happy Sipping!

#WineRoad #AlongTheWineRoad #HarvestAlongTheWineRoad #harvest2017

Posted by Rebecca Germolus

Rebecca Germolus, co-owner of Maximum Value Marketing, loves Sonoma County and playing along the Wine Road. Rebecca daily immerses herself in wine country by providing cost-effective marketing and writing solutions to wineries and restaurants.

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