Russian River Wining to Madrona Manor Dining

I hadn’t had a chance to see Beth from Wine Road Northern Sonoma since my 2010 trip so I was excited that she would be taking me around for the day. It was a full itinerary of wine tasting so we needed to start with a big breakfast and we did that in downtown Healdsburg at Bovolo. I thoroughly enjoyed the baked eggs, with roasted potatoes, mushrooms and truffle oil.

Our first stop of the day was at Dutton Goldfield Winery in the Russian River Valley. We met with Dan Goldfield at their tasting room, which has only been at this location for about a year. This winery began in 1998 when Dan joined his friend Warren Dutton, a fifth generation farmer in this area.  They do a lot of single vineyard wines at Dutton Goldfield. The standouts here are the 2009 Freestone Hill Pinot Noir, fruit forward with a light spice on the back; and the 2009 Zinfandel Stoetz Ridge, with soft tannins and light oak, with obvious red fruit.

Next, we walked over to Red Car Winery, which produces wines from grapes grown on the Sonoma Coast and bottles them under the Boxcar, Trolley and Reserve labels.  Owners Mark Estrin and Carroll Kemp both worked in the movie business before starting the winery in 2000. Though their first vintage was just Syrah, there’s also Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rose now, and even a Roussane. They still know how to do their specialty and I was really impressed with the 2007 Cuvee 22 Syrah, with a long finish of nutmeg and raspberry. I also had a barrel sample of the 2010 Ritchey Vineyard Chardonnay which was out of this world.

We headed to the scenic Russian River Vineyards for a tasting (their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc is a winner, full of banana and lemon) and lunch at their restaurant, Corks. It was a perfect fresh wine country meal of Squash Soup with purple potatoes and a Chicken Breast Sandwich with mushrooms and pesto.

The next stop on the list was Benovia Winery. This large property spans 58 acres (they also have two other properties producing grapes) and even includes olive trees in addition to the vines. They have a brand new, modern tasting room for events and tours by appointment. The concentration here is on making Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Grenache and Chardonnay in small lots for maximum quality. If you are looking for a top notch Pinot Noir, I’d recommend their 2009 Cohn Vineyard, heavy on cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg, with enough fruit to balance it out.

Old World Winery was like no other winery we had visited and their wines were just as unique.  Winemaker Darek Trowbridge is the third generation in this business and he uses native yeast, little sulfite and winemaking skills just the way his grandpa did. The results include a Pinot Gris that’s got a honey sweetness and a Fulton Folderol blend of Zinfandel and Abouriou that is delicious. Also here is the Juggernat, a blend of six different wines that you can buy in a refillable jug. You also get a chance to guess the six wines (in order of percentage). I did pretty good on guessing what’s in this tasty wine, but I’m not giving away the secret.

We did a quick stop at Kendall Jackson because I was curious to see the grounds. They are beautiful and the Culinary Gardens are especially impressive. I hope to go back there at some point and check out their wine, but I was needed a break and time to get ready for a very special dinner.

Madrona Manor is an exquisite inn with a Michelin Star restaurant that the Wine Road graciously invited me to have dinner at. The dining room is intimate, yet formal, and the food of Executive Chef Jesse Mallgren is an experience as much as it is magnificent.  In between the courses, we had tiny morels that were deliciously creative. I was impressed with how the chef started and finished the meal with a churro dish and a radish dish, savory at the beginning and sweet at the end.

I started with the Fuyu Persimmon, with pomegranates, kabocha squash, pumpkin seeds, mascarpone and truffle. My next course was Foie Gras Terrine, with guava, ginger, cipollini onions, pistachios and brioche. Then it was White Truffle Risotto, with abalone mushrooms and alba truffles, followed by Roasted Duck Breast with crisped confit, apples, pine, matsukake mushrooms and beans.

Beth had the same as me except for one dish. She raved about the Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi, with lobster, winter squash, lemon and parsley. We finished the meal with their famous ice cream, made right at the table. I was glad the portion was small.

Beth took me back to the Camellia Inn for my final night in Healdsburg. I had an exciting day ahead of me as I was going to Santa Rosa to check out Inspirato’s new property for their members, and my family was joining me for three more fun-filled days.


  1. I wish all of my days could be like this. Love looking back at our itinerary, we covered a lot of ground and tasted some fantastic wines. Corks and Madrona Manor were both a treat too. Beth

  2. Thanks again, Beth, for arranging yet another great time in Sonoma. I look forward to the next one!

  3. This is great. Thanks for sharing such a nice story of your stay. I just bothered about on your blog and this seems like to have some stay here.

    Merry Christmas


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