Winter Wineland Sonoma County - A Review
Updated: Mar 16, 2020
Now that we've moved back to California's wine country, my goal is to experience everything this area has to offer, including great events like Winter Wineland that involve tasting a lot of delicious wine in this area!
Winter Wineland is a weekend long event (usually in January) in Sonoma County where you get the opportunity to visit different wineries and tasting rooms, taste some great wine, and have the potential to meet local wine makers. You can see all the details at TheWineRoad.com. Winter Wineland is very similar to the Barrel Tasting weekend that I wrote about in another blog post that you can check out HERE. I've attended Barrel Tasting for 6 years, this year was the first time I attended Winter Wineland, and I am excited to share my experience and honest review with you here!
I attended both days of Winter Wineland and went to three different wineries on both days. One Saturday on of my good friends Teina joined me and on Sunday my mom came along. Before we started our day on Saturday, I researched which wineries were participating and I chose 3 wineries to taste at that I had never been to before. For Sunday I decided to start our day at one of my favorite wineries, and then see where they day took us.
We started our day at Walt Baca, located on Westside Road just outside of Healdsburg. This is a new spot for them, they have two other tasting locations in Sonoma and Napa. Their tasting room was light an airy with large windows overlooking the vineyards. They were one of the participating wineries serving a food item to pair with their wine which was a nice way to start the day.
The tasting room quickly became crowded. We checked in right when the event started at 11am so we had the place practically to ourselves for a short while. Soon tho, two buses showed up with large groups of people and the inside of the tasting room was packed. We decided to sit outside on the terrace for a little while to escape the crowd and really enjoy what we were tasting.
Because of Walt Baca's proximity to downtown Healdsburg, I have a feeling that was why it was so busy right away. It's easy to pick this location as your starting point during this event, then make your way down the winding road of Dry Creek or Westside road to other wineries further away.
For the record, buses are banned from events like these, it's one of the first rules you're told when purchasing your event wrist bands. So I was highly frustrated seeing two buses right away when our day started. A lot of the boutique wineries that participate in these events cannot physically house that many people at one time or have room in their parking lots to accommodate buses on top of the influx of regular size vehicles. Also, the roads through this area are small and can be dangerous in a regular size car, let alone a giant tour bus.
I was really disappointing seeing the behavior of the people coming out of those buses as well. They clearly were there to just drink as much wine as possible in a short amount of time and were constantly disrespectful of the tasting room associates and the winemakers who are genuinely interested in sharing the product they have to offer.
Ok. Rant over. On to more fun details of our weekend!
Our next stop was at De La Montanya. Be sure to pay attention to the road signs where this tasting room is located, there are a couple small winding roads and it's easy to take a wrong turn. We spent our time there tasting where they keep their wine barrels which they had decorated with twinkly lights and snowflakes and ice cycles, perfect for the winter wonderland theme.
During these events you have the opportunity to see different parts of the winery or tasting room that you normally wouldn't be able to without an appointment. Be sure to bring an extra layer because usually when you taste in the storage room or wine cave it can get a little chilly.
One thing I learned this weekend; invest in Wineaway. The likelihood you or your friend spilling wine on your clothes in tenfold. I've done a lot of wine tasting, but I made the biggest rookie mistake and spilled wine all over my friend's sweater while I was swirling my glass to get more oxygen in contact with the wine. Thankfully the lovely folks at De La Montanya were stocked with the miracle product that is Wineaway and it got the stain out right away. When we got home after our day of wine tasting, I immediately purchased the stuff on amazon to forever keep in my purse whenever I am wine tasting.
Our last stop of the day was at Matrix Winery. This was the perfect place to end our day as well as set up our little picnic I had brought that included some cheese and crackers, charcuterie, preserves, grapes, strawberries chips and trail mix. At Matrix Winery there are plenty of tables and chairs around the property to sip on some wine and snack on some foods. We were able to purchase a bottle of wine and snag one of their tables overlooking the pond that sits just down hill from their tasting room. The folks at Matrix were also nice enough to let us barrow a knife or two since I had forgotten to bring one for our cheeses. Thank you Matrix!
We decided to end our day at Matrix for several reasons; Winter Wineland is an event that goes from 11 to 4 and we had taken our time at all three wineries so by the time we were sitting down and enjoying our picnic here, it was already 3pm and we didn't want to rush to another winery; our taste buds were already shot from the wine we had tasted that day and if we had gone to one more winery we would not have been able to fully appreciate it; I was driving and I didn't feel comfortable drinking anymore since I had to take us home still.
Also, this event is not meant for people to cram as many wineries as they can into one day. Too many times did we overhear people saying their goal was to visit as many as they could and drink as much wine as they could so they rushed through tastings and didn't fully appreciate what Winter Wineland is about. This is not a bar crawl. Do these wineries and winemakers a favor, don't be like those people.
Soda Rock Tasting room near Downtown Healdsburg
For the second day of Winter Wineland I brought my mom along. For this day I didn't really plan ahead. I knew I wanted to start at one of my favorite wineries but then from there I planned on seeing where the day would take us. We started at Martorana Family Winery, a certified organic winery located on the river with a cute garden, bocce ball courts and outdoor seating perfect for a picnic. It was a little chilly and overcast this day so they were holding tastings in their cozy wine cave. In addition to tasting their wine, we were offered some homemade chili and cornbread to pair with their Zinfandel. They were also handing out recipe cards of the homemade chili for us to take home which was such a nice touch.
The ladies at Martorana Family Winery then suggested we continue our day up the road a little ways to Capo Creek Winery. This winery has a gorgeous view of the Dry Creek Valley and was holding their Winter Wineland tastings inside their u-shaped wine cave! On top of the wine we were tasting, Capo Creek also had a few food pairings including a mashed potato bar which was perfect for the colder weather that day.
At Capo Creek Winery, we ended up purchasing 6 bottles of some of the wine they were featuring. One of the best parts of events like Winter Wineland is that participating wineries will feature a handful of their wine selections and offer great deals for that weekend only. We purchased 6 bottles in total and they gave us 20% off as well as a free hat.
Because both wineries we had been to so far were offering great food pairings, and because it was colder and cloudier than the day before, we decided not to chose our next winery based out the ability to have a picnic. So we made our way back to Downtown Healdsburg where there were plenty of tasting rooms to choose from that were participating in Winter Wineland.
That's when I decided I wanted to visit Soda Rock Winery's new tasting room. Soda Rock Winery has their original location in the Alexander Valley off of highway 128 that burned down in the 2019 wildfires, so they opened up a tasting room near the Healdsburg Square. Their tasting room is located on Healdsburg Avenue, just down the road from Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar. I had been meaning to visit their new tasting room and figured this was the perfect opportunity. We lucked out an grabbed a seat on their comfy couch and ended our weekend sipping on their delicious wine.
In my blog post about Barrel Tasting weekend, one of the things I suggest doing if you decide that you would rather not spend your day driving from winery to winery, is staying in downtown Healdsburg and visiting some of the participating tasting rooms. While we were at Soda Rock's tasting room, we did see that there were some groups of people who decide to do this. One thing you risk tho is drinking way too much. You hardly have any down time in between tasting rooms this way, therefor you have the opportunity to taste a lot more wine. If you decide you want to stick to tasting rooms near the Healdsburg Square, bring water and snacks to balance out all the wine you could potentially drink, or stop at one of the many restaurants in the area.
All in all we had a great time participating in Winter Wineland this weekend. There were a few moments that I was disappointed in the behavior of some other people participating, but what are you going to do? I wasn't going to let disrespectful and immature people ruin my time tasting at some great wineries in the area. I would 100% look into attending Winter Wineland again next year.
If you attended Winter Wineland this year let me know in the comments below! Did you enjoy it? Why or why not? Which wineries or tasting rooms did you visit? If you didn't get the opportunity to spend this weekend at Winter Wineland don't worry! The Wine Road has another event coming up called Barrel Tasting that happens every year during the first two weekends of March. If you decide to attend Barrel Tasting, you can check out my blog post on How to Have the Perfect Barrel Tasting Weekend.