By Emma Krasov. Photography by Yuri Krasov
You might think it’s all about drinking at home alone, but hey! If you live or travel on essential business anywhere within the driving distance to California wine country, you’re in luck. Those legendary tastings, complemented by balmy weather, gorgeous grounds, and delicious local bites paired with excellent wines are now smaller, better, and more memorable than ever before!
To avoid overcrowding and deliver their stellar experiences that lure visitors from near and far, many Northern California wineries are now accessible by appointment only. Thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed, with abundant parking, clearly visible markings that assure social distancing, spacious outdoor seating, and masked and gloved staff, these wineries exude a feeling of safety, well-being, and enhanced privacy in a quieter, calmer environment dictated by the somber reality outside these oases of joie de vivre.
The Donum Estate is sprawled over 147 acres in Carneros, on the border of Sonoma and Napa counties. The recently implemented Discover and Explore wine tasting experiences include tours of the property showcasing an enviable display of outdoor sculptures and installations by the famous artists, like Anselm Kiefer, Louise Bourgeois, Fernando Botero, Yayoi Kusama, and other international big names.
A wonderland of vineyards and meadows, ponds, flower beds, hilly wooded areas and lavender fields, studded with about four dozen precious art pieces, the Donum (gift of the land in Latin) is first and foremost an award-winning producer of single-vineyard estate-grown pinot noir and chardonnay from the lush soils of Carneros, Russian River Valley and Anderson Valley.
A visit to the Donum Estate is bound to be outstanding, but to make it exceptional, try to reserve an Explore Experience with the winery’s lead host Filipe Herrarte who would conduct your VIP tasting of incomparable pinots with creative deconstructed bites. But first, you’ll try two kinds of 2017 chardonnay from the same clone, but different locations, each with its own microclimate—Russian River, yielding the tropical notes of pineapple, guava and peach, and Carneros—mineral-driven, with green apple and citrus flavors.
Your pinot feast might include 2011 Ten Oaks Pinot Noir paired with vegetable tapenade, cheddar cheese and crostini; 2013 Angel Camp Pinot Noir with mushroom rillette, almond cracker, and smoked Maldon herb salt; 2017 White Barn Pinot Noir with roasted german sausage, sauerkraut, and tortilla chip, and 2015 Russian River Reserve Pinot Noir with red wine onion jam and toasted walnuts.
The Donum Estate is located at 24500 Ramal Road, Sonoma, CA 95476. Call (707) 939-2290 or visit https://www.thedonumestate.com/
Ledson Winery & Vineyards at the beginning of Sonoma Valley looks like a colorful illustration from a fairy tale book. Impeccably groomed vineyards, manicured lawns, surrounded by blossoming rose bushes, a sparkling fountain in front of a caste-like mansion adorned with arched passageways, turrets, and spires—all invites you to enter a dreamlike world of richly decorated wood-paneled tasting rooms and bars, and a gourmet marketplace.
Universally called “The Castle” for obvious reasons, the Ledson Winery tasting facility is a 16,000 sq ft French Normandy building, designed by the winery founder Steve Ledson with a multitude of elaborate detailing inside, like a whimsical grand staircase, marble fireplaces, cathedral-style windows, vaulted ceilings, wood inlays and mosaics, hand-cut and installed by Steve’s son, Mike.
The winery is home to select wines from small varietal lots with distinct characteristics of their appellations. From the proprietor family’s first release, 1994 Ledson Estate Merlot, to current vintages derived from various locations in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties, the grapes are harvested from brand-maintained estate-owned (70%) and leased (30%) vineyards, with 100% Ledson labor invested in each bottle of thoughtfully created wines.
Treat yourself to a private tasting, and indulge in the like of the following array of wines, accompanied by local charcuterie and cheese board:
2019 Sonoma Valley Sauvignon Blanc, richly layered with aromas of mandarin orange, pink grapefruit, and white peach, and pineapple and orange blossom on the palate
2017 Carneros ‘Sangiacomo Vineyards’ Chardonnay Reserve, vibrant with caramel and vanilla aromatics; crème-brulee and peach on the palate, and vanilla custard finish
2017 Russian River Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir Reserve with aromas of dark cherry and ripe plum, and cherry, strawberry and clove flavors
2016 Sonoma Valley ‘Estate Ancient Vine’ Zinfandel Reserve, ruby red, with aromas of raspberry, strawberry and blueberry, with plum and raspberry full-bodied flow, giving way to toasty vanilla oak
2017 Sonoma Valley Caudalies Reserve, richly dark and complex, with bright vibrant finish
2017 Sonoma Valley ‘Estate Vineyard’ Vin de l’Amour—a special treat created especially for the proprietors’ wedding anniversary
2016 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% cab, filled with flavors of cassis, black cherry, tobacco, herbs and spices.
Ledson tasting rooms and marketplace are open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 7335 CA-12, Kenwood, CA 95409. Call (707) 537-3810 or visit https://ledson.com/