Thought I’d share my favorite Top 10, most fun, top notch wineries along Russian River’s highly touted Westside Road. If you’re new to Russian River Valley and love artisanal Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon, I highly recommend planning a few days wine tasting on Westside Road. Starting from the far west end of Westside Road, moving toward Healdsburg, here are my top 10 picks for 2021 ~ Cheers!
1. Moshin Vineyards – One of my all-time favorite wineries at the far west end of Westside Road! Look for the giant metal hummingbird hovering over the treetops to guide the way to the tasting room. Moshin is always fun and funky, with unique local art displayed in the tasting room. There’s a wide range of of small production wines available for tasting, including sparkling wine and a great line up of Pinot Noir. Friendly wine hosts engage with the guests and are eager to share their stories.
2. Porter Creek Vineyards – No trip is complete without a visit to Porter Creek. The dollhouse-like tasting room holds about six people comfortably but long-time wine host Jonathan will always make room for more. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines are meticulously crafted by winemaker Alex Davis, who studied viticulture at the Université de Bourgogne before taking the reins at the family winery. Other varietals produced include Viognier, Syrah, Zinfandel and Carignane.
3. Thomas George Estates – Plan ahead and reserve a cave wine tasting or take a wine safari aboard a vintage Pinzgauer to the top of Baker Ridge vineyard to revel at the panoramic view. Enjoy an estate four course picnic lunch, complete with a select bottle of estate Pinot Noir. Thomas George was originally a hop kiln in the 1920s, later owned by the late wine pioneer Davis Bynum who planted some of the first Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Grenache Noir in Russian River Valley. Truly a spectacular property with gorgeous lush gardens and towering trees, and of course, a wine cave.
4. Landmark Vineyards at Hop Kiln Estate – Heading toward Healdsburg at a hairpin turn, you’ll find the historic Walters Hop Kiln. Built in 1905 by a crew of Italian stonemasons, it represents the finest existing example of its type, consisting of three stone kilns for drying hops, a wooden cooler, and a two-story press for bailing hops. In the late 1890’s, the property was a stagecoach stop. Here you’ll find mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Grenache and Pinot Gris. Now corporate-owned by Landmark, the ambience is still rustic and worthy of a quick stop to grab a glass and marvel at the restored hop kilns.
5. MacRostie Winery & Vineyards – Hands down, some of the best views along Westside Road, looking out to Mount Saint Helena and the Mayacamas. One of the newer wineries, MacRostie, is always packed to capacity, so reserve days ahead. The tastings are seated and not rushed, with great individual interaction with entertaining and knowledgeable wine hosts. Guests are greeted with a cold glass of Rosé or Sauvignon Blanc, depending on the season, and escorted to a view table. Side by side tastings are common with the many single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. Can’t say enough about MacRostie ~ it’s top of the list for me!
6. Bacigalupi Vineyards – Best known for the grapes in the 1973 award-winning Chateau Montelena Chardonnay in the movie Bottle Shock. Still family-owned, Bacigalupi is a nice respite off the main road. The twin adult granddaughters work in the tasting room occasionally, while father John , renown RRV grower, can be found in the vineyards. Most of the grapes are sold to other producers nowadays, however, there’s always pristine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to taste in the vintage tasting room. Other varietals include Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and late harvest Muscat.
7. Flowers Vineyards & Winery – Who doesn’t love Flowers? If you’re looking for an elevated food and wine pairing, The House of Flowers is a must visit. Guests are warmly greeted with Rosé of Pinot Noir as they walk through the gardens to the private cabana-style tables. Unique small bites with edible flowers are artfully paired with each Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. There’s so much to appreciate at Flowers ~ the amazing wines, beautiful vineyard setting, Provence-like flower gardens and the towering redwoods surrounding the renovated tasting room, that you’ll want to return again.
8. Matrix Winery – Another fun stop on Westside Road, is Matrix,where Pinot Noir is king. Family-owned by Ken and Diane Wilson, Matrix always has a dizzying array of Dijon clonal Pinot Noirs. It was here that my love for the 667 Dijon clone was discovered! Like many wineries in Russian River, winemaking is a family affair, with daughter Victoria at the helm. In addition to the small lot handcrafted Pinot Noir wines, Matrix offers Chardonnay, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, all native grapes sourced from the RRV AVA.
9. Arista Winery – Venture down the long paved driveway to one of the markedly top wineries in the area. Arista has a cult-like following and a long wait for the “A-List”. Brothers Mark and Ben McWilliams run the day-to-day operations on the the 36 acre ranch, complete with an organic garden for farm-to-table food pairings. There’s even a few chickens. The Japanese inspired architecture and meandering ponds make this a super special place. Known for their single estate vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, the presentation of the food and wine is just as impressive!
10. Flanagan Vineyards – Just a slight jog off Westside Road, is a little known gem, but definitely worthy of a sip and stay. Flanagan is another family-owned winery, with father Eric and daughter Riley as the stewards of winemaking. Grapes are sourced from Russian River Valley, Bennett Valley and the Sonoma Coast for the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir , Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Ask to try Riley’s Rows wines too. These wines are over the top. Riley started winemaking before she was even of legal drinking age. Talent runs deep in the Flanagan family and shows in every wine.