11 Next-Level Tasting Rooms in Napa and Sonoma
Winemaker Noah Dorrance has one decree when he builds a tasting room: It should feel as comfortable as his own home. “You’ll never see a bar or faux Tuscan decor,” he says adamantly. For his first winery, Banshee, his wife Kelly codesigned a space in downtown Healdsburg, California, furnished with a distressed leather couch, mid-century modern swivel chairs, and a record player and vinyl collection. “I hoped the absence of a tasting bar would make the experience feel less transactional and more social,” says Noah. The low-key room did exactly that. Friends lounged for hours, sharing bottles of Banshee’s Sonoma Coast Pinots and Mordecai blend. That laid-back vibe struck a nerve, and now it can be found throughout California wine country in more diverse tasting spaces reflective of both the wines and their producers’ personalities.
For Noah’s follow-up act, Reeve Wines, which focuses on eco-friendly farming and single-vineyard sources, mainly in Mendocino County, he and Kelly applied a similar design ethos to a very different location just outside Healdsburg. Their new 55-acre property is hidden away down a half-mile driveway shaded in Spanish moss. “We knew we had to capture the wild feel of the place,” says Kelly. The result is a Bohemian-chic space that embraces indoor-outdoor living. Black brick walls and a poured concrete floor create a dramatic setting for the tasting area, which spills out onto a patio that overlooks gardens and a pen of goats.
Reeve’s black-and-white wine labels (a nod to the bold labels of legendary Barolo producers like Borgogno and Giacomo Fenocchio) and the surrounding vineyards and live oak trees informed the interior. The focal point of the room is a reclaimed Russian oak table, stained black, surrounded by mismatched black rattan and tan leather chairs; two round marble tables anchor bistro-inspired nooks. Much of the decor, like the earth-toned wool throws and the large abstract painting of leaves and flowers by Healdsburg artist Jessica Martin, was sourced around Sonoma. Kelly even potted a giant manzanita tree from the property and draped it in moss to bring some of the outdoors in.
Members get first dibs on Reeve’s small-production Sangiovese and Pinots; invites to dinners hosted by visiting chefs like Katy Millard of Portland, Oregon’s Coquine and Matthew Williams of San Francisco’s Ramen Gaijin; and discounted stays at the four-bedroom villa at the top of the property. “My wines are inspired by the Old World, but I am still constantly in awe of what we can grow here,” says Noah. “I hope the estate captures that same sense of California wonder.”
Where to Sip in Style
Brothers Andrew and Adam Mariani spent 3 years renovating the over-100-years-old Sonoma hacienda that houses Scribe Winery. Deliberately unfinished touches complemented by custom pieces from artisan friends create a perfect setting for sampling the winery’s organically farmed estate Pinot Noir and skin-fermented Chardonnay.
Last September, Robert Young Estate moved its tasting experience from a tiny barn to a spacious home set high above the 470-acre Geyserville ranch. A two-way fireplace and antique mirrors give the inside a residential feel; outside, guests can savor the layered tropical fruit notes of the 2015 Alexander Valley Estate Chardonnay by a firepit.
An homage to mid-century modern design, the white modular buildings of Ashes & Diamonds in Napa reference Donald Wexler’s zigzag roofs and Albert Frey’s porthole windows. A vintage sideboard and lounge chairs create a Mad Men vibe where visitors can taste wines crafted by Steve Matthiasson and Diana Snowden Seysses.
Viticulturist Annie Favia and her winemaker husband Andy Erickson host appointment-only tastings of their citrusy Suize Viognier Amador and flagship Cerro Sur red in a 1930s Coombsville cabin outfitted with antique gas lamps and shelves made from French oak tank staves. Guests can geek out in a lab area where Erlenmeyer flasks double as decanters.
Founder Todd Newman says he wanted his appointment-only St. Helena tasting room to be “a place where old souls and dreamers would share a bottle and good conversation.” The resulting space features Persian rugs, leather chairs, and a vintage typewriter so guests can type notes after sampling winemaker Tom Garrett’s stellar Cabs.
Shop the Look
Ashes & Diamonds sources its earth-toned ceramics from Berkeley-based potter Sarah Kersten. Everything from vases to fermentation jars can be purchased directly from her website.
The luxurious wool Treko blankets and pillows at Reeve are handcrafted by artisans on the remote Chiloé Island off the coast of Chile. Erin Martin Design Showroom, 1350 Main St., St. Helena.
Many pieces at Reeve, including potted succulents, come from this home furnishing shop specializing in vintage industrial and mid-century pieces. 229 N. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale.
This indie shop carries gems like Drinking History: Part I: Stories from Wines and Vintages 1870-1970, which Favia bought for her tasting room. 964 Pearl St., Napa.
Both Scribe and Ashes & Diamonds have commissioned Sasha Papadin to repair and refurbish furniture, as well as create custom pieces. 19658 Eighth St. East, Sonoma.
Robert Young Estate commissioned local artist James Armstrong to paint views of its vineyards. Aerena Galleries, 115 Plaza St., Healdsburg.
Where to Stay
Inspired by traditional Japanese inns, amenities at this 23-room property include classic yukata kimonos and complimentary sake. Nine “Zen” suites feature touches worth the splurge, such as deep granite soaking tubs. There’s no restaurant on site, but local favorite Glen Ellen Star is within walking distance. From $279 per night.
The Castellucci wine family transformed a historic 19th-century residence into a four-room inn, complete with a bocce court and house Bentley. Guests have free rein of the gorgeous chef’s kitchen, which is stocked with ready-to-bake cookie dough and Castellucci wines. From $500 per night.