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CA: Sonoma County: Wander Sonoma’s Westside, Part 2

Visit Mill Creek Winery
Visit Mill Creek Winery
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Play & Shop: Westside Road includes 20 wineries and two AVAs (Dry Creek to the north and the Russian River Valley to the south). We chose the following to showcase some of the boutique offerings.

Just outside of Healdsburg, we hit Westside Road and headed south along winding country roads to our first stop at Mill Creek Winery. With stunning views of Dry Creek, the tasting room is designed as a replica of a mill (with working water wheel and mill pond) reminiscent of those that dotted the land in the early 1900s. You can also savor the wine in the picnic area on the landscaped grounds.

Either way, you’ll be introduced to their estate grown varietals – all managed by three generations. Favorites included the crisp 2012 Unoaked Chardonnay and the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Merlot with luscious dark berries (grapes are from their Alexander Valley estate).

Virginia Marie Lambrix focuses on Pinots and Chardonnays at her VML winery (other varietals are produced as well). The stunning tasting room, gorgeous gardens and fountains – inspired by those in Europe – and outdoor seating combine for the perfect wine experience. Favorites include both the 2012 Russian River Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The 2012 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel, from the high elevation site in Dry Creek, is bold and delicious. For an alluring treat, don’t miss the 2013 Rosé of Pinot Noir.

Next up was Thomas George Estates. Having visited previously, it’s always fun to return to this idyllic setting and sip the wines in the 8,000 square foot cave, outside in the picnic area or in the casual tasting room. Their Russian River location inspires the small-lot, site-specific wines.

Explore the winery as part of a tour or opt for a private tasting in the Library (in the cave) with a yummy cheese and charcuterie pairing. You’ll find their artisan wines to be balanced with complex flavors of delicious fruit.

Each of their vineyard-designate wines is noteworthy, like the Chardonnay (2010) and Pinot Noir (2011) from the Starr Ridge Estate and the 2011 Pinot from the Cresta Ridge Estate. Don’t leave without trying the 2010 Timbervine Vineyard Estate Syrah.

At Gary Farrell Winery, it’s all about the sweeping views from their ridge top perch – and of course, the wine. Relaxing on the terrace with a wine and cheese pairing is a great way to end your wine tasting day. You’ll find the wines to be balanced and elegant.

Their single vineyard wines have been stars since the first vintage was produced in the early 1980s. They have maintained relationships with the same growers for years. Start with the 2009 Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay then try the 2011 Stiling Vineyard Pinot Noir and the 2011 Bradford Mountain Zin.

Westside Road is also a spectacular location to ride a bike. Get caught up in its beauty and eliminate any thoughts of that daily 24/7 madness. Shopping in nearby Sebastopol or Healdsburg is a short drive away.

OTHER ESSENTIALS: Russian River Valley Winegrowers; Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley; Westside Road Wineries Association; Sonoma County Visitors Bureau:

PATTY BURNESS can be found on Twitter at @pattygb