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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.

Sonoma Funky Fridays 2017 Concert Series | Tickets, Who is Playing, Things to Do in Sonoma!

Local Wally

SonomaFunkyFridays

The Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation, in conjunction with concert organizers Bill Myers and Linda Pavlak, announces the return of the Funky Fridays concert series to the lawn of the historic Hood Mansion. The concerts will begin on Friday, May 26 with the well-known 5-piece band, The Bruthas, and run through September 1. Hood Mansion is conveniently located in Sonoma Valley off Highway 12 at Pythian Road, and concerts are 7-9 p.m. each Friday night.

Funky Fridays is in its fifth year as a 15-week concert series, opening Memorial Day weekend and running through Labor Day weekend. Proceeds benefit the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation with focus on parks projects in the Sonoma Valley, Kenwood, and Hood Mountain.

Funky Fridays features popular regional bands, who play under the stars at the grounds of the historic Hood Mansion, which is tucked into the Los Guilicos complex, north of Highway 12 off of Pythian Road. Attendees come for the mellow atmosphere, the dramatic setting at the foot of Hood Mountain, and to support parks through live music. It’s lawn seating, so guests bring low back lawn chairs, blankets and picnics and just enjoy a Sonoma County night.

This year’s concert series brings the return of the area’s most popular bands, as well as some newcomers to the event. Audiences will once again enjoy Rosetown Soul, Volker Strifler, Hour of Tower, Funky Dozen, The BluesBurners, Gator Nation, Soul Fuse, Soulshine Blues Band, Jami Jamison Band and A Case of the Willys. Newcomers include Frobeck, Stax City, The Poyntlyss Sistars and Dylan Black Project. The complete band schedule and more details about the
event are available on the event website at www.funkyfridays.info.

Ticket prices remain $10 per person. Parking will be $10 per vehicle or free for Regional Parks members with a parks pass. TIPS Tri Tip Trolley and the award-winning Rainy Day Chocolates will again sell food at the event. HenHouse Brewing Company returns as the Funky Fridays beer partner, and Kenwood Vineyards has signed on as the event’s first wine sponsor.

Audiences this year will see several improvements to the site, including a new industrial grade 600 square foot dance floor. Additionally, the stage location will change; it will face the mansion, creating more of an amphitheater effect for the audience.

The Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation raises funds, fosters partnerships and advocates on behalf of Sonoma County Regional Parks. The Parks Foundation has directed more than $3.5 million to county parks projects since its inception in 1998. The nonprofit currently is raising funds to build more trails at Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve, sponsor environmental field trips for local school children, and support swim classes and water safety programs operated by Regional Parks.
 

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

CHEAP WINE TASTING IN SONOMA - FREE!

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
Healdsburg
707-433-7209
www.avvwine.com

Arbios Cellars / Praxis - Locals Tasting Room

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

21023 Geyserville Avenue
Geyserville
707-857-4900
www.arbioscellars.com

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
Cloverdale
707-894-4812
www.bobdogwine.com


GET A WINE PASS FOR MORE DISCOUNT SONOMA TASTINGS!

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. 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
707-575-3441
www.carolshelton.com

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.
Geyserville
707-433-2371
www.gfvineyard.com

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

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

300 Via Archimedes
Geyserville
707-857-1427
www.franciscoppolawinery.com

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
Geyserville
707-857-1980
www.frickwinery.com

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
Healdsburg
707-486-0017
www.hauckcellars.com

Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery

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

498 1st Street East
Sonoma
707-938-8091
www.highway12winery.com

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
Cloverdale
707-758-3441
www.jrwinery.com

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Lovely stone building near the south tip of Sonoma.

24724 Arnold Drive
Sonoma
866-522-8693
www.jacuzziwines.com

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
Cotati
707-795-3030
karahestate.com

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
Guerneville
707-824-7316
www.korbel.com

Locals Tasting Room

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

21023 Geyserville Avenue
Geyserville
707-857-4900
www.tastelocalwines.com

Merry Edwards Winery

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

2959 Gravenstein Hwy North
Sebastopol
888-388-9050
www.merryedwards.com

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
Geyserville
707-857-9988
www.munsellevineyards.com

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
Healdsburg
707-431-8222
www.optimawinery.com

Rodney Strong Vineyards

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

11455 Old Redwood Highway
Healdsburg
707-431-1533
www.rodneystrong.com

Sonoma Portworks

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

613 2nd Street
Petaluma
707-769-5203
www.portworks.com

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
Healdsburg
707-433-1500
www.williamsonwines.com


IS VISITING COPPOLA WINERY WORTH THE TIME?

Local Wally

FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA WINERY

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.

FIRST TIMERS TO SONOMA TOP MISTAKES TO AVOID

Local Wally

CORNERSTONE SONOMA

CORNERSTONE SONOMA

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 ($15 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.

WELCOME TO LOCAL WALLY'S BLOG TO SONOMA!

Local Wally

quiviraWinery.jpg

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 for $39.99 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!

Cheers,

Local Wally