The urban tasting room at Broc Cellars in Berkeley.

Top 25 Wineries

Best Wineries in the Bay Area, Fall 2022

THIS LATEST UPDATE to the Top 25 Wineries list highlights the classics, with lots of estate wineries that have stood the test of time. New to the list — but not new to Wine Country — are Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma, which pioneered modern Chardonnay winemaking, and Spottswoode Winery in St. Helena, the maker of one of Napa Valley's most memorable Cabernet Sauvignons. We're also recommending some wineries that would be excellent destinations for a special occasion or for out-of-town visitors, like the lush, scenic Lynmar Estate in Sebastopol and the Donum Estate, which is as notable for its outdoor sculpture garden as its Pinot Noirs.

Each time we publish an update to this list, it seems, the cost of going wine tasting in the Bay Area creeps up a little bit, with wineries charging higher tasting fees. There are lots of reasons for that in both Napa and Sonoma counties, as we've covered in our Chronicle reporting. But we believe all the wineries in this guide still represent good value, and even if it costs more to visit than it did a couple years ago, we doubt you'll feel disappointed when you leave.

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Top 25 Wineries to Visit

Winery features
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Aeris Wines

337 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg

California’s only brand inspired by the wines of Sicily.

One of the newest additions to the downtown Healdsburg square is Aeris, where the North Star is the Italian island of Sicily. Step into this tasting room for wines like the honeyed, waxy white Carricante and the light, earthy red Nerello Mascalese — grape varieties you won’t find elsewhere in California. Aeris is an offshoot of Rhys Vineyards, a Santa Cruz Mountains specialist in Pinot Noir with a fanatical following; it seems inevitable that these Italianate counterparts will find a similarly passionate audience. When you sit down for your tasting flight at the bar or in one of the lounge areas, pay special attention to the differences between Aeris’ wines from its Sonoma County vineyard, on the outskirts of Dry Creek Valley, and the wines it makes in Sicily itself. White wines from the former tend to show more floral characteristics, while the latter are influenced by the volcanic terroir of Mount Etna, and can take on a more beeswax-like note.

Tasting fee: $45

Phone: 669-240-5611

Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday


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Antica Napa Valley

3700 Soda Canyon Road, Napa

A scenic mountaintop hideaway from one of Italy’s most famous winemaking families.

Some of Napa Valley’s most rewarding wine tasting experiences are in the hillsides, at wineries high above the hustle and bustle of the valley floor. But most of the time, hillside wineries have strict limits on their visitor capacities, and they tend to charge more for tastings. That’s why Antica Napa Valley, perched at 1,600 feet elevation on Atlas Peak, is such a gem. The large estate is owned by the Antinori family, whose eponymous company is one of the most famous wineries in Italy. (“Antica” is a portmanteau of “Antinori” and “California.”) Try to make a reservation a few weeks in advance. For years, the tasting fee was $45, exceedingly generous for Napa; it’s now $75, on par with current valley standards. The guided tasting of four wines comes with a hearty spread of cheese, fruit, salami and bread. Block off some time for this visit so that you can wander around the grounds with a glass of the butterscotchy Chardonnay or the supple Mountain Select Cabernet Sauvignon and take in the breathtaking views.

Tasting fee: $75

Phone: 707-257-8700

Hours: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Open on some Saturdays; call ahead to confirm.


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Broc Cellars

1300 Fifth St., Berkeley

Thrilling natural wines in urban Berkeley.

Broc Cellars has long been one of the leading producers of boundary-pushing wine in California — and more than 15 years after launching, winemaker Chris Brockway’s creations remain as intriguing as ever. From neon-pink rosés to translucent, ruby-hued reds, the wines here are unfailingly refreshing. Although the winery occupies a small, warehouse-like space in industrial West Berkeley, it has carved out a charming tasting room with wooden booths indoors and a botanical-inflected patio outdoors. Come for a glass during happy hour or for a leisurely afternoon wine flight. On Thursdays, your tasting is free if you buy bottles to take home. The tasty snacks — creamy dips, olives, tinned fish — come from the excellent Berkeley cafe Standard Fare. If it’s available, don’t miss the Michael Mara Vineyard Chardonnay, a deeply complex rendition of this often-maligned grape variety.

Tasting fee: $20

Phone: 510-424-7323

Hours: 2-5 p.m. Thursday, 2-7 p.m. Friday, noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday


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Corison Winery

987 St. Helena Hwy., St. Helena

The holy grail of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

All devotees of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon will eventually find their way to Corison. Since 1987, winemaker Cathy Corison has made some of the most awe-inspiring wines in the valley, though it took a long time for her reticent bottlings to get as much attention as the flashier, more powerful Cabs being made at other Napa wineries. All tastings here begin with a guide through the Kronos Vineyard, directly behind the winery, where the grapes for Corison's top wine grow. Since tastings have moved from indoor to outdoor areas, the winery has been hosting visitors outside on the crushpad, with fire pits and blankets available for chilly days. The Corison Cabernets — elegant, long and graceful, often recalling raspberries and fresh herbs — are the highlights here, and the basic tasting will take you through a few different vintages.

Tasting fee: $75

Phone: 707-963-0826

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily


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The Donum Estate

24500 Ramal Road, Sonoma

A winery with an extensive outdoor sculpture museum and a unique tasting experience.

Donum in Carneros has undergone a radical transformation in the last five years, and it now draws visitors as much for its art collection as for its wines. More than 50 sculptures are scattered throughout the vineyards, with pieces from famous artists like Richard Hudson, Ai Weiwei, Fernando Botero and Louise Bourgeois. For art lovers — or those simply seeking a unique experience in Wine Country — the collection helps justify the $95 price tag for the basic experience, which consists of a guided walking tour through the sculpture garden and vines with pours of several wines dispensed as you walk. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind wine tasting, one that’s extremely scenic (and aromatic, thanks to the lavender when it’s in season). You’d be wise to bring comfortable footwear. Donum offers pricier tasting options too, including an ATV tour with a food pairing ($175) and a private tasting inside one of the sculptures, a kaleidoscope-like dome by the artist Olafur Eliasson ($500). Donum’s Pinot Noirs, the Carneros specialty, are balanced and well crafted, and the property’s Chardonnays are tense, lively and delicious.

Tasting fee: $95

Phone: 707-732-2200

Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily


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Faust Wines

2867 St. Helena Hwy., St. Helena

Modern Napa Cabernet in a gothic Victorian manor.

Come for the vibe, stay for the wine. The Faust Haus is one of Napa Valley's most boldly stylized tasting experiences. A refurbished 1870s Victorian mansion has been outfitted with lavish interiors meant to recall the sensual pleasures sought by its namesake, Dr. Faustus, the literary character who made a pact with the devil. Flights of Faust wines, dominated by rich and plush Cabernet Sauvignons, are served alongside small bites like veggies with tzatziki dip in the shaded outdoor patio areas, all of them overlooking terraced vineyards and busy Highway 29 in St. Helena. Like Flowers, its sister winery in Healdsburg, it’s highly Instagrammable. The basement of the mansion has a stone-walled speakeasy that’s purportedly haunted.

Tasting fee: $75

Phone: 707-200-2560

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Monday


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