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Local Wally's Blog to Sonoma | Sonoma Tourist Guide | Free Wine Tasting Coupons

Local Wally Knows Sonoma! Follow Local Wally's Blog for stories, deals, and reviews in and around Sonoma.

Where to Find FREE Wine Tasting in Sonoma, Healdsburg, and Russian River

Local Wally

Yes, free wine tasting at Rodney Strong Winery

Yes, free wine tasting at Rodney Strong Winery


Yes, believe it or not there are still some wineries who give away free wine tastings. Most of these are not in the main part of Sonoma however, but further north in in the Russian River Area. There are enough freebies up north to warrant a special trip. So what are you waiting for? Gas up that rental and get going for free and cheap wine tasting in Sonoma, Healdsburg, and the Russian River area!

Alexander Valley Vineyards

Family-owned estate, producing nine varietal wines and proprietary blends.

8644 Highway 128

Arbios Cellars / Praxis - Locals Tasting Room

A small Sonoma County family wine business; Bill Arbios makes the wine.

21023 Geyserville Avenue

BobDog Wines at Sky Pine Vineyards

At 2,000 feet above the Alexander Valley, the highest winery in Sonoma County and the only winery located in the new Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak Appellation.

31955 Pine Mountain Road


Just $39.99 per couple for my readers, order the card and flash it for free wine or two for one's at over 75 Sonoma and Napa wineries, including many with exclusive offers and VIP tasting experiences. It pays for itself as long as you visit 2 or more wineries.  Highly recommended! Click to Order Now!

Carol Shelton Wines

Based out of an industrial park in the city of Santa Rosa, Carol continues to meticulously hand-craft her wines with a combination of experience, creativity, and passion.

3354-B Coffey Lane
Santa Rosa

D.H. Gustafson Family Vineyards

Visit the Estate to experience our award-winning wines, friendly hospitality, and the best view in Dry Creek Valley

9100 Skaggs Springs Rd.

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Mega "Winery Wonderland" with giant pool, restaurant, shops, and lots of movie memorbilia.

300 Via Archimedes

Frick Winery

Frick Winery is a one man winery creating Viognier, Syrah, Cinsaut, Merlot, Carignane, Grenache, Grenache Blanc and Counoise from hillside vineyards in Dry Creek area.

23072 Walling Road

Hauck Cellars

By apptointment only - From the beginning, it was their goal to produce only the kind of wines they liked to drink - sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and syrah.

999 Foreman Ln

Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery

Right in the Sonoma Plaza, a great free winery stop among the shops and restaurants.

498 1st Street East

J. Rickards Winery

Family-run operation of both wine grape farming and wine production, located at the northern end of the Alexander Valley.

24505 Chianti Road

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Lovely stone building near the south tip of Sonoma.

24724 Arnold Drive

Karah Estate Vineyard & Winery

Located on a scenic 144 acres situated in the hills of the Petaluma Gap on the crown of the hill above Highway 101 in Sonoma County, the vineyard enjoys a panoramic view of the surrounding county.

1010 West Railroad Ave

Korbel Champagne Cellars

Lovely drive in the countryside lands you at Korbel where you'll find free wine and free tours and a deli for picics.

13250 River Road

Locals Tasting Room

Wines of numerous area producers are offered for tasting & sale in a rustic, warehouse-type setting.

21023 Geyserville Avenue

Merry Edwards Winery

Merry Edwards, produces critically acclaimed Pinot Noirs in the Russian River Valley.

2959 Gravenstein Hwy North

Munselle Vineyards

By appt. only - For more than three decades we've produced premium grapes that have contributed to a multitude of award-winning and notable wines.

3763 Highway 128

Optima Wine Cellars

Every bottle of Optima is handcrafted with a focus on striking a perfect balance between beautiful fruit, silky tannins and a lingering finish.

101 Grant Avenue

Rodney Strong Vineyards

Known throughout the world for its unique estate-bottled and vineyard-designated wines.

11455 Old Redwood Highway

Sonoma Portworks

Specialize in ports and after-dinner wines including Grappa, DECO Chocolate Port and an Aperitif.

613 2nd Street

Williamson Wines

Every wine is served with delicious food creations from our winery kitchen so you can taste the wine alone, then experience how it works with the food pairing.

134 Matheson Street


Local Wally


300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, CA 95441|  707-857-1400

Before I start I need to say right up front that I have a ton of respect for Francis Ford Coppola, both as a movie director and as a Napa and Sonoma winery owner. He did a good thing with Inglenook in Napa, taking a wonderful old historic winery and helping it find its way back from Jug Wine Hell to its more pure, original fine wine state. I tell people all the time to go there and I mean it.  The bistro is great, the setting beautiful, it's iconic.

Of course Coppola ran into a bit of controversy when he added movie memorabilia to Inglenook. Purists were appalled that there was a Tucker car upstairs in the historic winery. He listened. And he decided to build a separate winery in Geyserville that made no apologies to his film making background and marketing instincts. He once described this as a Winery Wonderland, a place for families (yes, kids welcome) could spend a day.  And with that in mind, he succeeded.

Let's start with the pool.  Wait - What?  Yes, there is a resort style pool on the premises where you can rent cabanas and get cocktails and pretty much stay the entire day. He said he always felt bad for the kids at Inglenook who wanted to jump in the fountain so fixed this problem by building them a pool. Reservations required.

As for dining, the main dining room is called RUSTIC and features what they claim are some of Coppola's favorites. The menu is quite varied, ranging from $12 spaghetti to $95 steak for two. I opted for the whole trout cooked encased in salt and it was surprisingly well prepared. I didn't expect the food to be this good, to be honest, especially in a setting that looks a bit like the fancy restaurant at Disneyland. Vineyard views on the outside patio, don't shy away if you're hungry.

For more casual dining find a place at one of the bars. And in case you were crazy enough to bring your kids on a winery vacation, there are smoothies and kid food out by the pool so everyone is happy.

And yes, if you want to see movie props such as the Tucker car or The Godfather scripts, this is the place. Lots and great movie memorabilia and gift shops, you can spend hours just roaming around to see the displays, sipping and eating along the way.

So right around now you might be asking "how's the wine?" and all I can say is that I never got there. Seriously, I never made it to the tasting room because it was so packed. Yeah, forget about the "free tasting" come on that you'll see pop up on the internet. That would be like trying to have dinner at Costco by eating the free samples. Instead reserve one of their other tasting experiences,  Or just forget about wine tasting completely.  I mean, this isn't like you're in some quaint boutique winery chatting with the winemaker. You're in a, well, Winery Wonderland, a theme park sort of winery. And while critics may say it lacks the authenticity of a more traditional winery there's no denying that Coppola succeeded in his vision to build a winery to showcase his life's work, from film making to wine making.

SHOULD YOU GO?  There's no denying that this is a sight to see, an experience unlike any in Napa and Sonoma. It can get as busy as a theme park and the wine tasting experience isn't going to compete with what you will find at a smaller winery but there are plenty of people enjoying it.  My recommendation is to go only if you really want to check it off your bucket list. The movie memorabilia, the glitz, the sheer spectacle of it is quite impressive. But perhaps less impressive is the actual wine tasting experience and maybe that doesn't even matter in a setting like this.


Local Wally



Top Mistakes First Timers to Sonoma Make

1.  THEY DON'T REALIZE HOW BIG SONOMA IS:  Sonoma is big, huge really. On a google map it might look like you can easily drive from the Sonoma Plaza to Healdsburg and unless sitting behind the wheel of a rental car is your idea of a good time you need to plan it out.  If you're coming on a day trip just stick to one area - Downtown Sonoma Plaza, Glen Ellen/Kenwood, or Healdsburg.

2.  THEY DON'T GIVE THEMSELVES ENOUGH TIME AT EACH WINERY:  Don't try to do 10 wineries in one day. I know, I once wrote an article about that but I was kidding! No, you should start your day around 10, do one winery, do a picnic or lunch, then 2 in the afternoon. OK, you can squeeze one more in but the idea of wine tasting is to visit places where you want to hang around for a while, not taste and get going to the next one. Do a tour, taste in a cave, have a leisurely picnic. Rushing around is for rookies.

3.  THEY DON'T STOP AND SEE THE SIGHTS:  You came to Sonoma to taste wine, I get that. But if that's all you did you'd miss some great Sonoma attractions such as Cornerstone Sonoma, a very cool space with boutique shops, restaurants, and some of the coolest gardens (presented by Sunset Magazine) you might ever see. And yes, there's wine tasting there as well as cooking demos and other activities.

Downtown Sonoma Plaza is another destination, a town square sort of stop lined with shops and restaurants and, yes again, winery tasting rooms (some free - Check out Highway 12 tasting room right in the plaza). My favorite restaurant is there as well, the girl & the fig, a casual French/California bistro that's romantic like a Woody Allen movie (think Annie Hall).

There's also Jack London Historic State Park, a beautiful destination with a terrible website. Hey Jack, I'll redesign your site any time :-)

4.  THEY DON'T PLAN OUT THEIR WINERY STOPS:  Don't confuse Sonoma with Napa where you drive down the road and see one winery after another. Sonoma wineries are more spread out, tucked away, up dirt roads or hidden in industrial areas. Plan it out, map it out, and stick to it.

And don't forget, wine tasting can get very expensive ($20 to $25 per person) so if you are on a tight budget you should get the Priority Wine Pass for 2 for 1 tastings.  Get it here to get my discount, $39.99, and get just one card per couple.  Then get back to me and I'll even help you pick out your wineries, for free. No coupons to clip, no phone app that makes you text or post, just lots of great wineries and free wine offers.

5.  THEY DON'T LISTEN TO LOCALS ON WHERE TO EAT:  You're on vacation - don't eat at the same places you can find back home. Instead, take a risk and dine somewhere different and try new things. One of the best tips I read recently was from Bon Appetit magazine where they said to never order something you make well at home because the restaurant version will never live up to your expectations. And never order a steak unless you are at a steak house. That's good advice and I'll add one more - always listen to the locals on where to eat. This is their town, they know the good places. Here's a list of some of my favorite Sonoma restaurants that you can't go wrong at.


Local Wally


I am so glad you found me! Not that I've been lost but I know a lot of you planning a wine tasting trip might be. I'm just a guy who wants to help you plan your best trip to Napa and Sonoma ever with no advertiser bias, no paid reviews, just honest info that's vetted and endorsed by my team of friends and locals around the area. You won't find scathing rants like you do on Yelp!  You won't find hidden agenda recommendations. No, I'll just show you the BEST of Sonoma from my perspective, one that has garnered me thousands of happy readers and followers.

If you own a winery or business reach out to me and let's talk about getting your content onto this site.  And if you're a visitor know you can reach out to me and ask me questions and expect to get honest and unbiased help, including picking out the wineries and restaurants to visit.

And yes, I also have the best deal on the Priority Wine Pass, the cool two for one card that's so cool that I think everyone visiting should have one. Just flash the card at over 75 wineries in the area and get two for one or free tastings!  Email me for more info or buy it here, get ONE per couple.  It's good for a year, good in Napa and Sonoma, it pays for itself before you finish at your second stop.

So thanks for dropping by and let's get the wine flowing!


Local Wally