Sonoma Wine Tasting

or, We Like All of Them!

We just returned from a long weekend in the Sonoma Valley with friends.  We drank  “a little bit” of wine.  Here are a few of the wineries and wines that we especially liked this year.

Gary Farrell

We enjoyed the wines at Gary Farrell.  The tasting room and the views were beautiful and we found the staff friendly and knowledgeable.  This was our first visit to this winery.

Be warned, this is not a bargain winery.  The tasting fee of $15 is not refunded with a purchase and are were no case discounts (what are they thinking???).  On the tasting list bottles start at $38 and go up to $65.  For us, the wines were so good that the $15 tasting fee was worth the money.  But if we hadn’t like the wines so much, I would have been unhappy.

Our favorite wines were:

  • 2008 Chardonnay  – Weststide Farms – Russian River Valley ($38): Lots of complex flavors, I tasted a lot of vanilla.  This was my absolute favorite wine of the entire weekend.
  • 2009 Pinot Noir – Rochioli Vineyard – Russian River Valley ($65): We liked all 3 Pinots we tasted, but this was the one on everyone’s list of favorites.


Outdoor tasting are held in a peaceful courtyard at at Michel-Schlumberger.  Since reservations are required it never feels crowded.  This is a nice place to go to get a break from a “hectic” day.  Our tasting was complimentary with our purchase.

On this visit we found the wines less special that I have in the past, but we still found plenty to like at a reasonable price.

Our favorites were:

  • 2009 La Brume Chardonnay ($32): Nice buttery finish with just a little oak.
  • 2010 Le Fou Pinot Noir ($40): I like the hints of strawberry.
  • 2009 Le Cime Cabernet Sauvingnon ($45):  Fruity and spicy.


One of my favorites to visit.  Frick specializes in Rhone wines and you won’t find the pinots, zins and cabs that you’ve been tasting everywhere else.  This is a great place to get the “small winery” experience.  There are no tasting fees at Frick.

The tasting room is casual and a bit small.  It can feel crowded with 2-3 groups tasting.

Our favorites were:

  • 2007 Carignane ($23) – Mendocino County
  • 2008 Grenache ($27) – Sonoma County – Conley Vineyard
  • 2008 Cotes-Du-Dry Creek ($24) – Sonoma County
  • 2009 Counoise ($26) – Sonoma County – Owl Hill Vineyard

Merry Edwards

Some really nice wines and a great history.  We found the tasting staff friendly, very knowledgeable and willing to share information.  This was our first visit to this winery.  The tasting was free with our purchase.

There is no question you are visiting a working winery.  The entrance to the tasting area is an office area and it can feel a bit awkward – especially if you show up first thing in the morning like we did.  This is not a place that’s trying to make busloads of tourists feel comfortable (maybe that’s a good thing…).

We liked:

  •  2009 Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley – Meridith Estate($57): We will age all both of the Merry Edwards wines for a couple years before drinking.
  • 2009 Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley – Klopp Ranch ($57)

Stryker Sonoma

A large, beautiful tasting room with great views and nice wines.  Stryker would be a nice place to bring out of town guests – the location is impressive, the staff is friendly, the prices are reasonable and the wines taste good.  Tasting was free with our purchase.  This was our first visit to this winery.

While we liked the wines at Stryker they were less memorable than the architecture and the views.

On this trip we liked:

  • 2009 Zinfandel – East Block Estate Vineyard ($40) – We enjoyed all of the zins we tasted at Stryker.


We are wine club members at Ridge.  This was our first visit to the Sonoma location; we usually visit the Monte Bello (Cupertino) location.  The tasting room is friendly and fun, but was a bit crowded.

On this trip, many of the wines we tasted were young and would improved with aging.  We were OK with that but some tasters might be more comfortable with wines that are easy to drink right now.

On this trip, we liked:

  • 2010 Zinfandel – Pagani Ranch ($35): We will age this for a few years before drinking.

Will I return for another visit?

  • Gary Farrell – Yes, but…. with the non-refundable tasting fee and high prices I will only return as long as the wines stand out compared with other wineries.
  • Michel Schlumberger – Yes… the tasting patio is so restful and we always find a wine that we like at a reasonable price.
  • Frick – Yes… always an interesting tasting and we always find a few wines we like.
  • Merry Edwards – Yes, but… I will not return on a busy weekend or with guests who aren’t serious wine drinkers.
  • Stryker – Yes, but… I will definitely take out of town guest here, but if I’m just tasting for myself I would spend my time exploring new wineries before returning here.
  • Ridge – Yes… we’re wine club members so I guess it goes without saying that we will visit again.