Red Wine Roads
“I have been in the Wine Tour business for over 14 years. I started driving buses and limos with the largest company in Northern California. The idea of Designated Drivers started about 6 years ago and I felt with all of my experience, driving thousands of people thousands of miles, I could offer an insiders view of this beautiful area I am lucky to call home. I am CTA for Sonoma County and a native of San Francisco. I have lived in this area my whole life and raised two wonderful children. I love to show our visitors the native’s perspective!”
Sonoma is a world-class destination. With more than 400 wineries, redwood forests that reach upwards to the heavens, a beautiful, jagged Pacific Ocean coastline, and a stone’s throw to San Francisco, Sonoma is one of the top destinations in California. Whether you are looking to discover hidden winery gems where the tasting room consists of a barn with barrels and a plank as a tasting table, enjoy a relaxing day at the spa, or hike across miles of coastal landscape, you have come to the right place. As we sit down with Brigid Maloney, owner/operator of Red Wine Roads wine tour company, she provides us with highlights of Sonoma County as well as insight to all of the magic that makes this wine country a top destination for tourists the world over.
For parents also bringing children on their winery adventures, where are a few places they will be most welcomed in Sonoma?
Wide open plaza, shops restaurants, and of course tasting rooms!
Part of the allure of Sonoma Valley is this Park, boasting over 29 miles of trails across 1400 acres including stunning vistas and the historic buildings from the time when famous writer/adventurer Jack London called this his home.
Old growth Redwoods in a small and easily maneuvered State Park. They even have a map for children...it’s a treasure hunt of specific trees.
Whether it's amateur or professional SCCA road races, AFM motorcycle racing, sports car events, vintage cars or the raw power of NASCAR, INDYCAR and NHRA drag races, Sonoma Raceway has played host to some of racing's top events and its greatest moments.
What are some other fun things to do in Sonoma?
Whale Watching at Bodega Head
This is a GREAT beach. Low waves, perfect for little ones. My kids fav beach when they were little ones... Kite flying and picnic. It's in a cove, so it's sheltered from the wind.
For the guys - Golfing, Bodega Bay. BEAUTIFUL links on the ocean.
What are a few of your favorite hidden gems in Sonoma?
B Wise Vineyards is about the pursuit of excellence in winemaking. Our mission is to produce authentic, graceful, memorable wines. Our 100-acre Estate vineyard is perched in the western Mayacamas foothills in the beautiful Sonoma Valley. We are known for our Cabernet Sauvignon. We also produce small lots of Syrah, Pinot Noir and Red Wine Blends form our Sonoma Estate, select North Coast vineyards and Napa Valley. We invite you to join us to experience our wines.
In addition to Brunello di Sonoma, the winery also produces miniscule amounts of estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah as well as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and the 100% certified organic estate extra virgin olive oil. Lorenzo Petroni also runs the famous North Beach Restaurant, considered by many a San Francisco institution, and has proudly served authentic Tuscan cuisine to San Franciscans and world-citizens since 1970.
Tucked into a nook on the steep hillside of the Sonoma Mayacamas mountain range, Hanzell Vineyards sits with a quiet elegance overlooking the valley of Sonoma. For over fifty years, Hanzell Vineyards has grown, produced and bottled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which have the unique distinction of being produced solely from our estate-grown fruit since 1961.
For so many Italian families, traditions are important. For the Belmonte family, the owners of VJB Vineyards and Cellars, that’s most certainly true, and it’s those treasured traditions combined with the relaxed California lifestyle they’ve come to love that they share with guests to their winery since 2003.
WHERE TO STAY
What are a few of your favorite places to stay in Sonoma?
The Secret Cottages are just steps from the restaurant, each with its own fireplace, Jacuzzi tub, shower, TV, fruit & pastry basket, in-room coffee andhonor bar. The creek side setting is serene.
Tucked into the Sonoma Valley hamlet of Glen Ellen, the Gaige House feels like a secret hideaway. The Gaige House is regularly recommended in Michelin and other guides, and has been listed repeatedly in Condé Nast Traveler's Gold List of the top hotels in the world.
The Kenwood Inn and Spa is the premier destination for visitors seeking the ultimate wine country hotel experience offering personalized service, lush surroundings, and luxurious accommodations. Designed with hand-crafted artistry, the Inn has the allure of a Mediterranean villa enticing guests to leave the real world behind and enter our tranquil hideaway.
The Swiss Hotel is located in Sonoma, California, heart of the Sonoma Valley wine country. Our 5 guest rooms, restaurant, garden dining and banquet areas are just steps from the historic eight acre Sonoma Plaza and its surrounding shops.
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn is the ultimate Wine Country destination. Blessed by natural mineral hot springs in Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County, California and an idyllic, world famous wine growing region abundant with local products, our Willow Stream Spa, championship Sonoma Golf Course and signature restaurant, the Michelin award winning Santé, offer an unforgettable retreat.
Owner, Tour guide, CTA
What makes Red Wine Roads unique to the region?
I have lived in Sonoma County for 29 years, moved here from San Francisco. I know all the back roads, and shortcuts, the weather, the roads...It really makes me an expert on the area. I have always loved Sonoma Wines. I am constantly looking for new wineries, trying new vintages, meeting new wine makers, wineries. It’s a labor of Love! Living in the town of Healdsburg, it really gives me an advantage. I am part of the community. My clients are loyal, my company is at about 75% repeat and referral. That is a statistic I am very proud of!
Speed round questions with our insider on favorites in the area and life in wine country
What's your favorite winery?
Favorite place to dine?
Favorite wine to wind down with?
I think the California Coastal Pinots are so amazing and complex. They are great on their own, or with food. They are definitely my favorites to relax with.
Favorite wine to have in hand while at an event or entertaining?
Zinfandel. The big peppery Dry Creek Zinfandel. It goes with everything, and it’s an amazing showcase of this beautiful area. Zinfandel grows nowhere on earth better than here and Croatia, we are just a little closer!
Favorite meal with wine - what is the wine and what is the dish?
My favorite thing to eat...a great cheese plate with different cheeses. A big Cabernet with that...Heaven!
The next winery on your "must-hit" list is?
When I'm not drinking wine you can find me doing what...
I am often at ATT park watching the Giants play, or in SF visiting my Mom. I am often traveling to other wine regions close to home. Willamette, Santa Barbara, Santa Lucia highlands. Always exploring and staying on top of the every changing wine industry.
If you could tell the world anything about wine country what would it be?
Wine is everything...it makes you happy, it makes you think, it makes friends, it makes memories. Sunlight held together by water (Galileo Galilei)...Exploring wine, finding what you like, that's the fun!
Rivers End in Jenner is my favorite! A bit of a drive (or Uber ride) but worth it!