San Francisco. This part of California is highly known as wine country, encompassing a few regions each with their own microclimates and are Alexander Valley, Bennett Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Knight’s Valley, Los Carneros, Northern Sonoma, Rockpile, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Mountain and Sonoma Valley. There are over 250 wineries including a few big names and over 1100 growers many being multi-generational winemakers.
Three of the most important wine-producing regions the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valley. Centered around the Russian River, the Russian River Valley accounts for about one-sixth of the total planted vineyard acreage in Sonoma County. The cool ocean fog makes it an ideal place to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, which the area is known for.
Dry Creek is locate in Northern Sonoma and surrounded by mountains and redwoods. It is renowned for its dense concentration of Old Vine Zinfandel planted in the early 1900s. Although Zinfandel is the signature varietal, conditions are also perfect in Dry Creek for Bordeaux and Rhone varietals.
Alexander Valley is the largest and most fully planted wine region in Sonoma. The grapes in this region encounter cool morning fog that is quickly burned off by intense sun and then cooled down again in the evening. This climate characteristic along with fine-grained fertile soil makes Alexander Valley capable of growing a wide range of grape varieties but most known for Rhone varietals, like Syrah, Cabernet and Grenache.
Wheelchair access in tasting shops as well as wineries themselves vary, so it’s best to always call to confirm. Some wineries only offer tastings by appointments, which is also another reason to call prior to arrival. Usually there is a tasting fee but often is waived with a purchase of a bottle of wine. The design of wineries range from European-style villas to rustic “Mom and Pop” operations and all share a passion for well-crafted wines. If you don’t know where to go it’s always a good recommendation to ask a local, particularly one working in a tasting room. Tell them what you like or what you are looking for and they will be a tremendous help since they are all are passionate about wine. Some wineries may have a restaurant or offer food pairings. It’s always good to plan out where you are going to eat because there are some areas where there is nothing.
On my first trip out to the Sonoma Wine Country much of my time was spent in Alexander Valley. A local in Downtown Healdsburg recommended a winery called Unti, which was a Mom and Pop style setup but had exceptional wines. The tasting room was adjacent to the winemakers home and converted enough to be wheelchair accessible. The parking lot is made up of large gravel pieces but the handicapped parking spot has a cement pad with easy access to the tasting room. Inside is nothing fancy but with barrels fermenting the grapes feet away, I felt close to the winemaking operation. The tasting bar was at a reasonable height for most wheelchair users. A uni-sex wheelchair accessible restroom is around the corner from the tasting room.
The next winery I visited in some regards put Alexander Valley on the map and that is Simi, which has been practicing the art of winemaking for over 125 years. Simi’s visitor center does a great job with wheelchair access, starting with the parking. Inside at the tasting bar is a lowered counter for wheelchair users. Also on this level is an outdoor patio if you wanted to buy a bottle and sit outside. Between the parking lot and the tasting room is a beautiful fountain surrounded by redwood trees with a small stream nearby that also makes for a lovely spot to enjoy a bottle and the ambiance of the outdoors. It is in this area where the wheelchair accessible restroom is found. During the summer on Fridays and Saturdays Simi’s Pizza Café opens to bring a little bit of Italy to Sonoma County.
Kendal Jackson is a big name in the wine industry with a château set on 120 acres residing in Alexander Valley. The château is where the tasting room is located and although there is no lowered counter, a table can easily be set up if more comfortable. Inside is also an accessible restroom. Tables with umbrellas are on a patio outside. Kendal Jackson offers the choice of wine to be paired with food, cheese or dessert for an added fee. The estate grounds is really flat and very wheelchair friendly. There are picnic tables under oak trees that are open to the pubic as well as flower, fruit and vegetable gardens to meander through. Garden Tours are offered daily at 11am, 1pm and 3pm (weather permitting).
Food + Shopping
The Corner Stone is a little complex in Sonoma that makes for a great visit. All around the property are various gardens with sculptures. Every detail in the garden is designed with a specific purpose as each garden has been created as a bigger statement to the world. Find the description near each garden to discover what it is. If hungry the Corner Stone has delicious cafe serving items made with local, organic ingredients. The main draw for people at the Corner Stone are the cute boutique shops; there’s about four or five of them but each are totally unique selling one-of-a-kind gifts. Not surprisingly, also located at the Corner Stone is a winery called Meadowcroft Wines. This winery has ramp access into the tasting room and a lowered section at the bar for tasting.
Healdsburg is a commercial center for northern Sonoma County as is surrounded by three of the most important wine-producing regions the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valley. Downtown Healdsburg is a popular tourist destination for shopping, restaurants and spa services. With so many prominent winemakers so close by, Downtown Healdsburg has a number of tasting shops where you can conveniently sample wines from some of the best regions in Sonoma. One such tasting shop is La Crema which is located just off the square in downtown Healdsburg but the winery itself is in the Russian River Valley Valley. Kendal Jackson also has a wine shop in this downtown.
Accommodations with Roll-In Shower
- Best Western Cloverdale Inn – Cloverdale, CA
- Best Western Dry Creek Inn* – Healdsburg, CA
- Boon Hotel + Spa – Guerneville, CA
- Duchamp Hotel – Healdsburg, CA
- h2Hotel – Healdsburg, CA
- Hampton Inn & Suites – Windsor, CA
- Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites – Windsor, CA
- Honor Mansion, A Resort Inn – Healdsburg, CA
- Hotel Healdsburg – Healdsburg, CA
- Super 8 – Cloverdale, CA
- Wine Country Travel Lodge – Healdsburg, CA
Bed & Breakfasts
- Bella Luna Inn* – Healdsburg, CA
- Madrona Manor – Healdsburg, CA* Has an accessible lift for pool/spa