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Tastings at St Francis Winery & Santa Rosa

St Francis Winery
St Francis Winery in Santa Rosa - Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Part 2 in our Series: Wine Tasting in Sonoma Valley

Inspired by some fabulous wine dinners that we attended in the Midwest, we traveled north of San Francisco to Sonoma.  Join us as we visit vineyards and taste the wines first-hand, learning more about the process of winemaking! In this leg of our journey, we’re in Santa Rosa and visiting the St. Francis Winery.

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St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa

st francis statue
Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Daylight was fading quickly, but I remembered my sister mentioning another winery to check out. The winery was St. Francis. Why not check it out? Not much farther to the north along Highway 12 – actually listed as being located in Santa Rosa – we discovered the mission-style building of St. Francis Winery Vineyards and Visitors Center, nestled alongside the road.

Although we entered with only a half-hour remaining before closing time, Phillipe – our “guide” to the wines of St. Francis – was as gracious and accommodating as if it were the start of the day. We actually ended up sampling a total of eight wines, since the price of tasting includes any four wines on their list, and we paid for two tastings. Originally from France, Phillipe was the expert and we let him decide for us.

st francis wine tasting room
Phillipe at the wine tasting bar at St Francis WInery – Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Phillipe’s Suggestions

Phillipe suggested we try the

  • 2005 Chardonnay,
  • Wild Oak Sonoma County (“Citrus, pineapple, and toast”),
  • the 2005 Chardonnay, Behler Vineyard (“Ripe apple, tropical flavors, toasted oak, and vanilla”).

Our favorite among those three was the Chard from the Behler Vineyard, and we purchased a bottle to take along.

We also sampled

  • a very nice 2004 Old Vines Zinfandel (“Cherry, pepper, and spice”),
  • a 2004 Cabernet Franc, McCoy Vineyard (“Dark spice, black fruit, mineral”),
  • a marvelously big and bold 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, King’s Ridge,
  • a dry but mellow Cabernet Sauvignon, Nuns Canyon,
  • and a peppery but smooth-finishing 2004 Zinfandel, Pagani Vineyard.

Thanks to St. Francis, for some truly great wine tasting, and especially to Phillipe, for being so gracious and accommodating after our late arrival.  Excellent tasting experience!

California grape vines
Sonoma County vineyards – Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Too Late for Wine & Food Flights

We were too late to partake of the Wine and Food Flights offered at St. Francis from 10:00 to 4:00 daily (~$25-$45 in November through April), but we hope that another trip to Sonoma will be in the offing. This is an inviting venue with a beautiful campus, and the pairings we saw on the list would definitely make another stop worth our while. (Wine Dining is also available.)

Again, many thanks to Phillipe and St. Francis for some excellent wines and a fun and informative stop! We were only a few miles from our first night’s lodging at the Doubletree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country. After a long day of traveling – we had actually been up since 2:30am California time – I was now more than ready to call it a day.

Hilton Sonoma, Plans for the Day Ahead and Breakfast

The Doubletree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country in Rohnert Park was a great location from which to sortie to a large number of vineyards. The restaurant there also exhibited a menu chock-full of tasty and long-awaited vittles. We sat at a small table in the bar area and enjoyed some excellent cuisine and, of course, a glass of Chardonnay before we headed back to our room. We literally collapsed into a cloud-like king bed; the softest of feather pillows soon sent Yvonne and me into a deep, relaxing, and well-deserved sleep.

The morning would bring more of the azure-blue skies and warm temperatures that we had looked forward to. The day ahead would involve visits to the wineries that had supplied the nectar we had so enjoyed at the wine dinners: Chalk Hill and Sonoma Cutrer, and we eagerly looked forward to the visits. However, first things first; breakfast was solidly on my mind. I have never been disappointed by breakfast at a Hilton Hotel; today would certainly be no exception.

Salmon, Champagne, or a Hot Meal?

Available on the buffet menu were chilled and lean cuts of beef and ham. These were accompanied by portions of excellent smoked salmon, complete with chopped tomatoes, onions, and capers. There were champagne glasses filled with fresh fruit compote topped with yogurt, mouth-watering chunks of watermelon, cantaloupe, grapefruit, and pineapple. completing the menu was a wide selection of healthy cereals.

For those requiring a hot meal there were chaffing dishes filled with steaming scrambled eggs, hot bacon, sausage, potatoes, and pancakes; fresh salsa was available too. We had a complete and very healthy breakfast, topped off by fresh-squeezed orange juice and coffee before heading a few miles to the north and the Chalk Hill Winery. See you there!

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We launched this website in 2004 after getting married on a beautiful bluff just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, on the patio of a small restaurant called Rocky Point. Since that time, we have returned to the West Coast as often as time and funds would allow, always seeking new restaurants, wineries, beaches, unforgettable memories…“


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