A world away from that crowd is Highway 116 in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. The stretch of 116 between Sebastopol and Forestville is the main section for wine lovers. This is a cooler micro-climate so you'll mostly find cool climate grapes such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.
The road is known locally as the Gravenstein Highway named for the apples that used to be the predominant crop here before wine grapes took over.
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Heading north along 116 from Sebastopol to Graton then Forestville
Hook & Ladder Winery has a tasting room in Sebastopol. They make a little bit of everything from Gewurztraminer to Zinfandel.
Balletto Winery is is a couple miles east on Occidental Road. They are known for estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Hanna Winery has a tasting room near Balletto. They are known for Sauvignon Blanc and heavy-duty reds from Bismark Mountain Vineyard.
One the most most respected
winemakers in Sonoma County
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Taft Street is just west on Occidental Road. Lots of different wines from all over the county at decent prices.
Merry Edwards is all about Sauvignon Blanc and vineyard-designated Pinots.
Red Car has three price tiers of wines and specialize in Syrah.
Dutton-Goldfield is known for balanced Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Dutton Estate (yes, the Dutton family name is popular around here). Chardonnay and Pinot.
Lynmar is off 116 on the bumpy Frei Road. Once again, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They have an in-house chef so you can get a picnic lunch or pizza. (Check their web site for details).
Iron Horse Vineyards is off 116 on Ross Station "Road" (it's not much of a road). Great sparkling wines and view.
Hartford Family Winery is NW of Forestville on Martinelli Road. Chardonnay, Pinot, and Zinfandel. Soft, higher alcohol, pricey, and they have a cult following.
Sebastopol - Cafe Claudio, Hopmonk Tavern, K&L Bistro, King Falafel, Starlight Wine Bar/Restaurant.
Graton - Underwood, Willow Wood
Forestville - Farmhouse
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Other Food Stops
Mom's Apple Pie - Lunch sandwiches and maybe the best pie ever.
Kozlowski Farms - A family farm and store started just after WWII. Apple cider, apple pie, jellies, mustard, BBQ sauce, etc. They will ship. Don't miss it!
Link: Taste Route 116