What To Drink Now: Tasting and Toasting in Sonoma (Part Two)

Tasting through Sonoma makes you feel like you are part of the family.

100+ Year Old Zinfandel Vines at Valley of the Moon in Sonoma
80+ Year Old Zinfandel Vines at Valley of the Moon in Sonoma

Continuing with some of the great wineries of Sonoma County, here are a few additional ones to try and visit when traveling to the area. Each welcome you like you are part of the family.  I had a chance recently to tour and taste as their guest.

Three Sticks Winery has embraced one of my favorite elements of Sonoma, the industrial warehouse winery. Established in 2002 owner William (Bill) S. Price III named the winery after his Hawaiian nickname, where, when growing up on the islands, his fellow surfing buddies would call him “Billy Three Sticks” noting the three Roman numerals after his name. His Three Sticks production facility, situated in the industrial location with a handful of other boutique producers known as Eighth Street Wineries, is lined with surf boards on the wall, and state of the art equipment inside to assist in their production of premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Sonoma, even a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, much of which is sourced from the Durell Vineyard which Bill Price purchased in 1998.

Surf boards line the walls of the winery at Three Sticks
Three Sticks owner Bill Price’s beloved surf boards line the walls of the winery
Three Sticks Winemaker  Don Van Staaveren
Three Sticks Winemaker Don Van Staaveren

Three Sticks Winemaker Don Van Staaveren, formerly with Chateau St. Jean, who worked along side Richard Arrowood until his departure and was responsible for producing Wine Spectator’s best wine in the world in 1999, his 1996 Cinque Cepage, joined Three Sticks in 2004. Don describes the wine he is making now with Bill with genuine, eager excitement, as they are coming from some of the best fruit in Sonoma, and Don’s hands-off approach with limited use of oak allows the caliber of the fruit to shine.

While producing quality wines, the winery is also in the final stages of building out their own tasting room just off the Sonoma square, the 170 year old Vallejo-Castenada Adobe. Built in the 1800’s the historic old adobe building was given to General Vallejo when Mexico controlled California, and one of the only still standing structures in California from the time period. Purchased in the 1940’s by Mr. Gregory Jones and his wife Harriet, who outlived her husband and stayed in the property until her death in 1996, updating elements periodically while keeping the integrity and authentic character of the building, which they named ‘La Casita.’

Now, with the help of interior designer Ken Fulk, Three Sticks is working to maintain the integrity of the building, while making it a working tasting room for their guests. Three Sticks will open their tasting room later this summer hosting tastings by appointment. Three Sticks wines are available through allocation via their website.

jordan estate
The Jordan Estate in Alexander Valley, Sonoma

Jordan Vineyards and Winery has built their reputation on producing consistent, quality focused wines from their Alexander Valley property, with a visit to their almost 40 year old property including tastings of their two flagship wines, Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon and Jordan Chardonnay. A visit to their luxurious property allows guests to enjoy their wines in a variety of unique experiences, from tasting new and old vintages after walking the winery, to trying their wines with a selection of light appetizers made with estate grown produce and olive oil prepared by the Jordan Executive Chef, Todd Knoll.

Picnic in the vineyard on the Jordan Estate Tour
Picnic in the vineyard on the Jordan Estate Tour

Last fall the winery introduced their traveling estate tour and tasting, introducing guests to their expansive, sustainably managed property by traveling around from location to location, like their fishing pond, chef’s garden, vineyard lined picnic tables and vista overlooking the entire property, stopping at each to taste, pair and relax with various vintages of their signature wines. The ultimate behind the scenes tour is available from the start of spring, when vines are in the midst of bud break, through the fall when ripe grapes are in preparation for harvest. This July and August they will also host a few sunset dinners in the vineyards, starting the night at Vista Point, the highest hilltop on Jordan Estate, followed by a seated, multi-course meal giving guests the ability to dine amongst the vines as the sun sets over their lush Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Full details on all tasting opportunities at the winery are available on their website, Jordan wines may be purchased locally at fine wine stores like Sigel’s and Pogo’s stores.


Valley of the Moon Winery
Valley of the Moon Winery
The inspiration for the new Valley of the Moon "The Bough" wine, an heirloom California Bay tree
The inspiration for the new Valley of the Moon “The Bough” wine, an heirloom California Bay tree

A few months ago I had a chance to visit with Dan Zepponi, now co-owner of the historic Valley of the Moon Winery at the base of Sonoma Valley. A few weeks ago I had a chance to visit, walking the property and tasting with Zepponi, and enjoying lunch on his sunshine, old vine and wild flower filled patio, as his guest. Zepponi, and his ownership partner Tony Stewart, purchased the 150 year old winery a few years ago with the goal to reinvent the historic brand, improving the quality of the wines while enhancing the overall experience at their winery, making it a place that not only tourists visit, but also Sonoma Valley locals, come to enjoy great food, quality wine and often live music. As noted in my previous post about their work, the wine continues to make strides in their overall quality, but my time at the winery showed the dedication these new owners have to both maintaining the historical integrity of the place, while redefining it.

oil and vinThe family friendly environment is complete with a bocce ball court, a special indoor and outdoor VIP tasting area, a massive patio and indoor tasting room to guarantee comfort when tasting, picnic areas along with a mobile pizza oven and a full time in-house chef, Culinary Institute of America – Hyde Park graduate, Chef Peter Roodhouse who specializes in seasonal, locally sourced everything from veggies and herbs they will begin growing on property to local cheese, meats, oils and vinegars.

In addition to the changes around the property, they are getting ready to release a new wine, The Bough, named for one of the heirloom California Bay trees on the property. Though just bottled the week we were there the Malbec based blend was lush, layered and nicely balanced, showing that once it had settled a bit in the bottle it was going to be something very special from the winery. Details on tasting at Valley of the Moon are available via their website, their wines are available at Spec’s stores throughout Dallas.


Lasseter Family Winery continues to make impressive, approachable, Bordeaux and Rhone style blends from their sustainably farmed Glen Ellen Estate vines.  Started in the late 1990’s, created out of love for each other and for great French wines, John and Nancy Lasseter started their Sonoma winery to create wines that were classic, Old World style that showed artistry in the glass and stewardship for the vines in the vineyard. There is also a bit of whimsy, as you would expect from the Pixar founder and his creative bride, with a steam train running through the estate vineyards as a nod to John’s love of trains and wooden puzzles, many depicting their beautiful wine labels designed by artist Dennis Ziemienski, set throughout the tasting room, a nod to Nancy’s passion for puzzles.

enjoueMore than that though, they make beautiful wine with the help of winemaker Julia Iantosca whose blend is like her symphony, each glass creating a concerto. As spring is upon us, the Lasseter Enjoue is a perfect wine for evenings on the front porch at sunset. A Provence style Rose blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre the dry, delicate and fresh wine is filled with notes of strawberry, tangerine and watermelon….summer in a glass. The Enjoue Rose is available via the Lasseter Winery website for $24 a bottle.