Kick off 2016 with a wonderful Sonoma County wine event, the 24th Annual Winter WINEland. On January 16-17, over 100 wineries throughout Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Russian River Valley are ready to help you welcome in the new year with wine tasting, entertainment and delicious seasonal bites. Between 11 am and 4 pm each day, you and your friends can try limited production wines, embark on winery tours, and perhaps meet the actual winemakers.
2016 Winter WINEland attendees can enjoy wine tasting at all of the participating wineries that weekend, and advance ticket prices are just $45 per person for both days or $35 for Sunday January 17 only (plus tax and a small service charge). Designated Driver tickets are $5 for either one or both days. To purchase advance tickets (before January 11) and/or to see the complete list of participating wineries, please go here.
If you miss the advance purchase window, you can still purchase tickets at participating wineries during the weekend but prices increase to $60 for both days, or $45 for Sunday only. Designated Driver tickets will be $10 (for either one or both days) at that point. So, it probably makes more sense to just buy your tickets now.
The 2016 Winter WINEland, sponsored by the Wine Road, offers over 100 premium Sonoma County wineries to choose from and each one will have something on sale that weekend. The bad news is now you have to choose which ones to visit (but if you keep reading we’ll try to help with that).
2016 Winter WINEland: Wine Suggestions From the Wine & Food Affair
Have you heard of the Wine & Food Affair? It’s a wine tasting event from the Wine Road focused on the pairing of food and wine. In our opinion, the best combination at the last event was the Stuhlmuller Vineyards 2012 Estate Zinfandel along with Peppered Duck Breast with Blackberry Jam from Chef Heidi West. Our favorite food-and-white-wine pairing of the weekend was the Chalk Hill Estate 2013 Estate Chardonnay with a Savory Flan with Fresh Herbs from Estate Chef Ryan Freebern. One of the appeals of the Wine & Food Affair is that each winery offers a specific dish to pair with one of their wines, and the recipe for the dish is available on the Wine Road’s website if you want to make it yourself later. If you’re interested, you can follow the links above to get to the recipes.
Many of the wineries from the November 2015 Wine & Food Affair event are also participating in the 2016 Winter WINEland, so we’ve listed below our favorite wines from that weekend (in case it helps you select wineries to visit):
Acorn Winery – 2012 Dolcetto, 2012 Sangiovese, 2012 Cabernet Franc, 2012 Heritage Vines Zinfandel
Balletto Vineyards – 2013 Pinot Gris, 2012 Sexton Hills Chardonnay, 2013 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2013 Cider Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2013 Winery Block Pinot Noir
Colagrossi Wines – 2013 L’inizio (Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier)
Fog Crest Vineyard – 2012 Estate Chardonnay, 2012 Estate Pinot Noir
Joseph Jewell Wines – 2013 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Kendall Jackson Wine Estate – 2014 Grand Reserve Rose (Grenache, Pinot Noir, Syrah), 2012 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Martin Ray Winery – 2014 “Clone 809” Chardonnay, 2013 Mill Station Vineyard Chardonnay, 2013 Simpson Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon
Martorana Family Winery – 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Portalupi Wine Co. – 2013 Vermentino, 2013 Charbono
Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs – 2013 Geyserville (Zinfandel, Carignane, Petite Sirah, Mataró), 2013 Lytton Estate Grenache Mataró, 2013 Lytton Springs (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mataró)
Robert Young Estate Winery – 2013 Alexander Valley Chardonnay, 2013 Malbec, 2012 Merlot
Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards – 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 2013 Russian River Ranches Chardonnay, 2013 Les Pierres Chardonnay, 2013 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Stuhlmuller Vineyards – 2013 Estate Chardonnay, 2012 Estate Zinfandel, 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Block 11 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Sunce Winery – 2014 Viognier
If you personally prefer certain wine varietals, here are some other wineries participating in the 2016 Winter WINEland you may want to consider (based on our own past experiences):
- Cabernet Sauvignon – Geyser Peak Winery, Longboard Vineyards, Silver Oak Cellars, West Wines
- Chardonnay – Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards
- Merlot – Hawley Winery
- Petite Sirah – Mounts Family Winery
- Pinot Noir – Davis Family Vineyards, Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards, Skewis Wines
- Riesling – Everett Ridge Winery
- Sauvignon Blanc – Fritz Underground Winery, Taft Street Winery
- Syrah – Longboard Vineyards, Valdez Family Winery
- Zinfandel – Dashe Cellars, Hawley Winery, Wilson Winery
2016 Winter WINEland: Planning Around Food Offerings
Not every winery will have food at Winter WINEland, but we’ve got some ideas about some of the places. Since the weather will probably be in the 50’s, you may want to know that all of these wineries are expected to have some soup for you to try: Field Stone Winery, Fog Crest Vineyard, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Kelley & Young Wines, Kokomo Winery, Rued Winery, Trione Vineyards & Winery, and Windsor Vineyards.
Pech Merle will be dishing up Chicken Chili with Cornbread, Rued Winery will have Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Silver Oak Cellars will be preparing Pizza, and Sunce Winery will be serving Tri-Tip Sliders with Blue Cheese and Balsamic Reduction Sauce. You can also expect to find small bites from Baci Café & Wine Bar (at Gustafson Family Vineyards), KinSmoke (at Mounts Family Winery), and Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar (at Acorn Winery),
If you feel like judging, you can stop and graze (and vote) at the annual Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese Competition at Thumbprint Cellars. Or, for dessert, you can enjoy a Chocolate and Port Tasting at Pedroncelli Winery or grill a marshmallow and make your own S’mores at Kelley & Young Wines.
Lastly, here are the rest of our favorite pairings at the Wine & Food Affair event in November (so you may want to consider these wineries from a historical-quality-of-food standpoint): Acorn Winery 2012 Dolcetto and a Mushroom Arancini with Blue Cheese Aioli (from Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar), Balletto Vineyards 2013 Russian River Pinot Noir with Ratatouille served in a Tart Shell (from La Gare Restaurant), Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs 2013 Geyserville alongside Herbed Gnocchi, Braised Beef Cheeks, and Black Garlic Brodo (from Feast Catering), Robert Young Estate Winery 2013 Malbec paired with Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, Sunce Winery 2014 Viognier tasted with a Tinga de Pollo Tostada, and Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards 2013 Russian River Pinot Noir accompanied by Pork Chops with Habanero-Peach Glaze and Jicama Slaw.
2016 Winter WINEland: Football
If you need to check on the NFL Divisional Playoffs that weekend, you are bound to find TVs at some wineries. Or, you may just want to plan your days knowing that Clos du Bois has 2 large flat-screen TVs and Simi Winery has a 92″ screen.
2016 Winter WINEland: “The Rules”
If you decide to attend the 2016 Winter WINEland (and we highly recommend you do), please realize that no one under the age of 21 is allowed (including children and babies), no dogs are allowed, and about half of the wineries specifically request no limousines or groups of 8 or more. In fact, full-size buses (24 passengers or more) are not allowed at Wine Road events at all, and will be turned away. In addition, you are required to start at the winery you selected if you purchased your ticket(s) in advance.
To find complete details on the weekend, including a list of the participating wineries and which ones have requested smaller groups only, please go here.
2016 Winter WINEland: Breakfast with the Winemakers
As a new option this year, you have the ability to start your Winter WINEland weekend by joining some winemakers for Breakfast along with a casual Q&A session. On Saturday, January 16, between 9 am and 10:30 am, you can either join winemakers from Longboard Vineyards, Pech Merle and Portalupi Wine Co. at Longboard in Healdsburg or winemakers from Siduri Wines, Trentadue and West Wines at Siduri in Santa Rosa. Tickets for either breakfast are $20 per person, and you can find more information and/or purchase tickets by going here.
2016 Winter WINEland: Lodging
If you need a place to spend the night, you can find a list of almost 40 local lodging options at the Wine Road’s website here. Some establishments are offering specials that weekend, including:
- Belle de Jour Inn (Healdsburg) – Book three nights over Winter WINEland weekend and the third night is 50% off. The stay includes a full breakfast each morning, and you receive a bottle of wine at check-in. (707-431-9777)
- Camelia Inn (Healdsburg) – Book three nights for Winter WINEland and two tickets are included with your stay. Your experience includes local wines and hot appetizers served each evening that weekend. (707-433-8182)
- Hampton Inn & Suites (Windsor) – Book your room for Winter WINEland using Rate Code “TWR” and receive 15% savings (and a holiday amenity). (707-837-9355)
- Rio Nido Lodge (Guerneville) – Book a room at this picturesque spot (with redwood trees providing a serene backdrop) and if you stay two nights or more receive 15% off the Standard rate. (707-604-7641)
Wine Road, an association of wineries and lodgings in the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys, presents three events each year: Winter WINEland in January; Barrel Tasting in March; and A Wine & Food Affair in November. You can read more about the events, play with interactive maps of the region, and/or learn about local lodging options here to help you better plan your next trip to the region.