When longtime Sonoma Valley resident Gail Hardin recommends local wineries to her grown children and their friends, she tells them, “You should go see Bartholomew (Estate). This is where your mom was born.
She came to the world as Gail Ann Hardister in the summer of 1956, when the local hospital was located in the same 1922 hacienda-style building now occupied by Bartholomew Estate Vineyards and Winery. She shares the distinction with other baby boomers born there in the 1940s and 1950s, when the Sonoma Valley Hospital rented the property in rural East Sonoma.
The Bartholomew Estate is one of the many tasting rooms in the Valley of the Moon – from Kenwood to the Carneros region in the south of town – located in refurbished buildings with a rich history and a rich past. Some would be haunted.
From a one-room old schoolhouse with a steeple to a pre-cut historic salt shaker house from Sweden around Cape Horn, the valley’s tasting rooms are as diverse as their wine flights.
“Old places tell the story of our past,” said Patricia Cullinan, president of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society. “This connection enriches people’s experiences.
She pointed to the various wine experiences that are popular today – food and wine pairing, appreciation of wine and art – but said there is nothing like a tasting room that has been reused from the past. “It’s adaptive reuse,” she said.
Hardin, 65, appreciates the efforts to restore old buildings “and make it a new thing”. The mother of three and the grandmother of five appreciate her unique connection to local history.
Wine lovers and history buffs can spend a weekend, or more, tasting fine wines and discovering links to the past. Sonoma Valley is home to some 75 tasting rooms, although a few closed during the coronavirus pandemic, said Nicole Garzino, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance, a commercial non-profit organization.
As the vineyards take on brilliant hues of red, yellow and orange, fall is a great time to visit the Sonoma Valley. In addition, September is California Wine Month, a time to celebrate the harvest.
The following are 10 tasting rooms with a special connection to history that serve world-class wines from redeveloped venues. COVID-19 security protocols are applied, with some tastings offered outdoors. Many forgo wine tasting fees with wine purchases. Be sure to check out the winery’s website for more information, as most require reservations.
Muscardini cellars: Located in Kenwood, the Muscardini Tasting Room is in the historic Los Guilicos School, a one-room school that welcomed the youth of Kenwood over 120 years ago. Although now with an addition, the exterior of the school is authentic. The interior has been updated, but framed vintage photos bring to mind the past: solemn-faced students at their desks and an outdoor photo of the vintage school. The site was once a boarding house and hardware store. Wine tasting: $ 25. 9380 route 12, Kenwood. 707-933-9305, muscardinicellars.com
Cave Beresini: In nearby Glen Ellen, it’s easy to spot the tasting room at Beresini, a small, family-run winery based at Black Dog Ranch in the Carneros area of Napa. Set within the artwork-filled walls of a 22-foot-high wine barrel dating from the 1880s, the tasting room offers a unique wine-making setting. The related 19th century winery was located across the street in what is now Jack London Village. Look for the tap on the outside of the barrel. Wine tasting: $ 20. 14300 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen. 415-531-5003, beresinivineyards.com
Eric Ross Estate: Right next to Beresini, the Eric Ross tasting room is in a historic building that was a gear shed / shed for the 1880s vineyard across the street. For the past several decades, starting in the early 1970s, Jack London biographer Russ Kingman and his wife, Winnie, ran a bookstore and museum dedicated to the author / adventurer, including the Beauty Ranch (now a park State Historic Site) is a few kilometers away. Today’s wooden facade looks a lot like what it used to be, minus the bookshelves the Kingmans displayed outside their store. Wine tasting: $ 30. 14300 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen. 707-939-8525, ericross.com
Domaine Barthélemy: Located on the property where Sonoma’s first private vineyard was planted in 1832, Bartholomew Estate Vineyards and Winery is in Bartholomew Park, a 375-acre private protected area operated by the non-profit Frank H. Bartholomew Foundation; profits from wine sales support the park. The two-story building that houses the tasting room was originally built as an inmate hospital for the female delinquent industrial farm that stood on the grounds, and then was used by the Sonoma Developmental Center as a treatment center for epileptics. It was the local hospital from the mid-1940s to 1957, then converted into a convalescent home before its conversion into a cellar. Wine tasting: $ 30. 1000 Vineyard Lane, Sonoma. 707-509-0540, bartholomwestate.com