One of the greatest pleasures as a wine lover is to go beyond the "big names" and discover the smaller, boutique wineries in lesser known regions. As a Californian, our unlimited access to some of the best wine in the world is a car ride away, whether you're in Northern California (Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Anderson Valley), Central California (Monterey down to Paso Robles) or Southern California (Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and even San Diego).
One of my most favorite places to visit is the small town of Sebastopol, 20 miles east of the Pacific Ocean in Sonoma County. In the past, the town was known for its sprawling plum and apple orchards, but today, most of the land is predominently vineyards. Emeritus Vineyards (recently featured in our inaugural Wine Mic Mondayseries) is a personal favorite, along with the very friendly folks at Dutton Goldfield, Marimar Estate and Lynmar.
A new addition to the town is The Barlow: a state of the art "business community" made up of wineries, eateries and galleries. The concept is to bring together consumers to learn, enjoy and appreciate all that goes in to producing the best food, drink and art - a really cool concept!
WINE: At the top of our list is MacPhail (no appointment needed, gorgeous tasting room and the ultimate hosts in Jim and his friendly staff!) Don't miss: (1) their "terrior wall," which showcases the different soil types in the vineyards they source grapes. (2) the Gap's Crown Chardonnay and the Anderson Valley Pinot from the Toulouse Vineyard. They also offer food and cheese pairings - highly recommended!
For the religious Wine Spectator readers, Kosta Browne (appointment needed but their entire facility and operation is located here) is a must. The #1 in 2011 (Kosta Browne's 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot) will be long gone, but they consistently make exceptional Pinot Noir year after year.
FOOD: Zazu Kitchen + Farm says "you don't get any more local than local can get." Bacon is the common staple here, with the brussel sprout salad and "bacon in the burger" pretty popular menu items. The wine list has lots of local varietals to try, and if you're in the mood for a cocktail, they have you covered too!