3 Must-Visit Sustainable Wineries in Sonoma County, CA
Updated: Jun 13, 2022
With more than 400 wineries, 18 unique American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), and nearly 60,000 acres of vineyards within its borders, Sonoma County, CA, knows wine. Dozens of grape varietals are grown within the region, meaning there is something for everyone, whether you’re searching for a bold Cabernet or a refreshing Viognier.
In recent years, there has been a push to ensure the long-term sustainability of Sonoma viticulture. Environmental changes driven by climate change, like drought, wildfire, and temperature shifts, pose a threat to wine growing in the region. Winegrowers can help mitigate some of these effects by managing their land sustainably.
In 2020, Sonoma County Winegrowers, an industry group representing businesses in the region, launched a Climate Adaptation Certification pilot program in partnership with the California Land Stewardship Institute. Participating growers are experimenting with winegrowing techniques that help to sequester carbon, including no-till agriculture, utilizing cover crops, planting hedgerows, and more.
While many wineries are just waking up to the benefits of sustainable farming, some wineries have already made real, meaningful investments in ensuring their winegrowing practices are good for people, the planet, and their bottom line. By seeking third-party certifications, like sustainable, organic, and biodynamic, these wineries are demonstrating their firm commitment to environmentally-sound growing practices.
When wine tasting in Sonoma County, consider a trip to these three must-visit sustainable wineries. With their knockout wines, stunning scenery, and responsible farming practices, you’ll see why sustainable vineyards offer the best Sonoma County wine tasting experience.
Read on to learn about three must-visit sustainable wineries in Sonoma County.
Bartholomew Estate Vineyards & Winery
Bartholomew Estate Vineyards & Winery is situated on a gorgeous, oak-dotted 375-acre parcel on the outskirts of the town of Sonoma. The property is steeped in local wine history. In 1832, a Native American homesteader baptized as Viviano planted the first private vineyard in Sonoma Valley. After multiple owners and decades of winemaking, the vineyard eventually fell into disrepair before being reborn in the 1990s under the ownership of Frank and Antonia Bartholomew.
Today, the property is owned by the Frank H. Bartholomew Foundation in partnership with winemaker Kevin Holt. With 22-acres of certified organic vines, Bartholomew Estate produces elegant, high-quality wines, including Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, Marsanne Roussanne, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
In addition to functioning as a working vineyard and tasting room, the property boasts a dog-friendly park and hiking trails open to the public. All profits from wine sales go directly to support the park, meaning you can support the protection of this unique Valley of the Moon ecosystem while also ensuring outdoor recreational opportunities for all.
If You Visit
For a dreamy tasting experience, book a table on the Oak Knoll. Sunshine drifts through the branches of gnarled old oaks trees as birds flit amongst the canopy. As you sip, gaze out over the vines and listen to the stories told by Bartholomew’s warm, generous staff.
If you have the time, plan to pack a picnic and enjoy a leisurely afternoon in the park after your tasting. Choose a picnic table in Antonia’s Garden or spread a blanket on the lawn where you can soak up the sounds of nature in the surrounding hills. For a bit more of an adventure, bring your tennis shoes and stretch your legs with a short (or long) hike through the park. Don’t forget to bring your furry friend along - dogs are allowed on-leash throughout the property!
Located in Sonoma, CA. Reservations are required. Dogs allowed on leash.
Located in the Dry Creek region just north of Healdsburg, Quivira Vineyards is a small, family-owned winery with a big commitment to intentional winegrowing and organic farming. Originally started in the 1980s, Quivira has been managed by the current owners since 2006. Their 110-acre estate, named Wine Creek Ranch for the creek that cuts through the property, boasts 59 acres of planted vines and produces luscious luscious Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache, and other Rhone varietals.
Quivira has integrated a variety of environmentally-responsible practices into its winemaking process. They strive to limit off-farm inputs by nurturing their vines with compost made on site and by planting extensive cover crops. By introducing cover crops, they rejuvenate the soil and avoid the harmful effects of a monoculture. A flock of chickens provides manure for compost and eggs for employees while bees help with pollination. Thanks to a 55kW solar system installed in 2005, half of Quivira’s energy needs have been met by the sun.
In addition to farming responsibly, Quivira has worked in partnership with the Department of Fish and Game and other organizations to restore Wine Creek for native Steelhead trout and Coho salmon by removing stream barriers, planting willow trees to stabilize banks, and reconstructing deep pools for fish to utilize. Quivira was the first landowner to join the partnership, inspiring numerous downstream neighbors to join the efforts.
But perhaps the most remarkable element of Quivira’s approach to sustainable winemaking is their expansive onsite organic garden. Featuring more than 100 raised beds, a fig forest, a blueberry patch, a fish pond, and an array of pollinator-friendly flowers, the garden is a spectacular tribute to organic practices. Freshly-harvested fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers appear on charcuterie boards, giving visitors a taste of the gardens, while the remainder of the bounty is shared with winery employees (they sold to restaurants in the past and may look to revive the program in the future).
If You Visit
Allow yourself plenty of time to taste your way through Quivira’s organic wines. If the weather allows, opt for a table on the patio beneath climbing vines and redwood trees. You’ll enjoy birdsong, the buzz of bees, and the soft sounds of chickens pecking in the dirt as you sip. Take your glass into the garden for a stroll to fully immerse yourself in the land that produced your wine.
After your tasting, be sure to explore the garden more thoroughly. Peek into the greenhouse to see the vegetable starts, sit for a moment beneath the lush figs, and stop to admire the water lilies floating on the pond. You’ll find vegetables of all sorts, interspersed with flowers, fruit trees, and herbs. Believe me when I say you’ll be tempted to stay all day!
Located in Healdsburg, CA. Reservations are required. Dogs allowed on leash.
Benziger Family Winery
Benziger Family Winery has been family-owned and operated since 1980. Sustainable farming has been at the heart of what they do since 1995 when the Benziger Sonoma Mountain Estate began its transition from conventional to biodynamic farming. By 2006, all wines produced under the Benziger label are certified by a third party as sustainable, organic, or biodynamic.
Today, you can visit the biodynamic Estate Vineyard perched on the edge of Sonoma Mountain. In accordance with biodynamic practices, cover crops are planted between the vines, flowers and vegetables in the “insectary” attract good bugs that help with pest control, livestock is kept on the property to provide manure and “mow” cover crops, habitat is maintained for owls and other birds that carry seeds and help pollinate the gardens, and more.
Their multiple vineyards produce everything from Rosé to Pinot Noir, Malbec to Merlot, highlighting the diversity of Sonoma County winegrowing. Lisa Amaroli serves as the Director of Winemaking, proudly bringing certified wines to market.
If You Visit
For a fully immersive experience, consider either the Tribute Estate Tour & Tasting or the Biodynamic Tractor Tram Tour. Both tours will give you a deeper understanding of the practices that guide Benziger’s winemaking and a real sense of the place where the grapes are grown.
Even if you don’t make it out onto the Estate, you can soak up the peacefulness of the property at a seated tasting on the patio where a gigantic old oak tree stretches its branches towards the sky. Meander down to the Tasting Room wine bar after for a bit of shopping and a different view of some of the vineyards and production facilities.
Located in Glen Ellen, CA. Reservations are required for seated tastings and estate tours. Walk-ins are welcome at the Tasting Room wine bar. Dogs allowed on leash.