Summer Getaways: 7 Escapes in Wine Country
Head north from L.A. to check out some of the best tasting rooms in California, from a spectacular Sonoma sipping spot loved by Patrick Dempsey to Mendocino's under-the-radar gem.
This story first appeared in the July 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Ram's Gate Winery, 28700 Arnold Drive
The luxuriously furnished Ram's Gate has the feel of a friend's weekend house. Sit in the pavilion near the pond, by the outdoor fireplace or inside at the bar or library. The 30-foot ceilings and massive glass walls with vineyard views are in concert with its pinot noirs, chardonnay and excellent syrah -- expansive and remarkable. Patrick Dempsey is a fan.
Riverbench Vineyard and Winery, 137 Anacapa St.
Riverbench has a new tasting room a block from the coast in downtown's trendy Funk Zone. Known for its silken pinot noir and chardonnay, it also makes sparkling wine. There is an entire wall made from the wood of the San Ramon Chapel in the Santa Maria Valley, built in 1908.
Paso Underground, 1140 Pine St.
This converted garage co-op, near the Norman Rockwell-ish downtown, is bare bones. But the minuscule production (less than 500 cases each) from the four terrific wineries is why you've come. Considered "the next Napa" by critic Robert Parker, Paso (about three hours north of L.A.) is best defined by these lush, ripe Rhone whites and reds from Edmond August, Aaron, Clos Solene and Turtle Rock.
Talbott Vineyards, 25 Pilot Road
When owner Robb Talbott opened up a new tasting room in May, he combined two other passions: motorcycles and pedal cars, with collections in a polished wood-toned room. Talbott's seductive pinots and chards reign as some of Monterey County's best.
Amici Cellars, 3130 Old Lawley Toll Road
Napa winemaker Joel Aiken spent 27 years at Beaulieu Vineyard making Georges de Latour private reserve, so he knows cabs. Amici's appointment-only room -- where ABC Entertainment executive vp casting Keli Lee and a few girlfriends recently stopped by -- seats six to eight, with French doors opening to a balcony. All tastings come with a cheese platter to go with the heady cabernet sauvignons.
Phillips Hill Winery, 5101 Highway 128
In the Anderson Valley, about 25 miles in from the coast in the town of Philo, Phillips Hill has opened an open-air tasting room in an antique building used for making dried apples, which was once one of the area's staple crops. Now no one dries out at this relatively undiscovered spot, enjoying pinot noir and a crisp gewurztraminer in the second-floor wine pad surrounded by old, verdant trees.
Andis Wines, 11000 Shenandoah Road
Known for its flagship Barbera and a racy Semillion, Andis leads a regional resurgence, adding to its original tasting room in nearby Plymouth a second outpost in the perennially cute gold mining town of Sutter Creek.