Wine Tasting 101: picture of a glass of wine being poured outside on a wood table

Wine Tasting 101: The Do’s and Don’ts

Heading off to Sonoma or Napa wine country? Here are some wine tour tips that will help you have a great time!

As a tour guide, I had the pleasure of meeting people from all over the world with all sorts of levels of experience in wine. As I used to tell my groups, at the end of the day it’s just fermented grape juice. That said, there’s a whole lot to wine!

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Picture of a Kokomo sticker on a barrel

Kokomo Winery

Picture of a Kokomo sticker on a barrel

Solid wines across the board. One of my favorite wineries because the wines, value, location, and experience.

Kokomo Winery, named after the city in Illinois where winemaker Erik Miller is from, is home to an extensive tasting menu where you can get cab with your pinots, but what really makes this winery one of my favorites is the friendly staff, the value, and I love all of their wines. That’s a powerful combo, and it’s in a little village of wineries out in the center of the Dry Creek Valley (Zin country).


Why you should go: Go for the solid wines and cool staff. Stay to hit up the other family wineries next door.


Case Production: 4,000 – 5000

Wines: Muscat Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Grenache, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Late Harvest

My Favorites: ALL OF THEM, but especially Peter’s Vineyard Pinot Noir

Location: 4791 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448


Blanchard Family Wines

Picture of the Barrel Room at Blanchard Family Winery

A passion for wine, charity, with a tribute to the Air Force and the Special Forces.

Brothers Mark and James Blanchard, came together one holiday to discovered they both had a passion for wine and both had the dream to open a winery. In the early 2000’s, while James became a special forces pilot in the Air Force, Mark moved out to Northern California and learned to make wine. In 2009, they opened Blanchard Family Wines.

Why you should go: For barrel samples, great wine, meet the winemaker, casual


Case Production: 1500-2000

Wines: Rosé of Grenache, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon

My Favorites: Jackson James Zinfandel and Cash Allen Cabernet Sauvignon

Location: 109 W. North St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Today, Mark manages the winemaking and James the financials. Mark’s passion comes through when you visit their small appointment only tasting room and production facility in Healdsburg, CA. He proudly and honestly will chat about how he sources his grapes, how he makes wine, what it’s like owning a winery, and everything and anything in-between. He’ll tell you how sourcing his grapes gives him the freedom to choose the best quality and varietals for his style of winemaking, and how he didn’t inherit land or a chateau and so this is how you build.

Twomey Cellars

Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs, A beautiful tasting room with a great view, Friendly Staff, in the heart of the Russian River. What’s not to like?

People always ask me if I’ve been to “Winery XYZ,” and most of the time I get to say yes, but with about 400 wineries in Sonoma County (and another 400 in Napa) I’m always making sure that when I say no I write it down or make a mental note, then I go check it out on my days off. I know, tough job I have. Well I recently checked Twomey Cellars on a whim while I was driving out to the coast. I’ve been directing people there ever since.

Twomey Cellars is owned by Silveroak (famous Cabs) and Twomey is their Pinot Noir arm. With a super friendly staff, beautiful tasting room with a great view of Mt. St Helena, and great location in the Russian River Valley (Westside Road); you can’t go wrong.

Why you should go: Impressive tasting room, beautiful view, single vineyard Pinot Noir.


Case Production: 12,000-15,000

Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot

My Favorites: Sauvignon Blanc — Great notes of ripe peaches and grapefruit.

Location: 3000 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448

“For me, wine is an attempt to capture time and place in the bottle. It is a prism we look through, providing a glimpse of the past as we enjoy the present.”

Erin Miller

Twomey Winemaker,

Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc

I recommend people start their day here. Oh, and they have been know to give away their logo glasses with your tasting fee, but I’m not sure they do it every time. Also a special shot out to their merchandise buyer — they have great jewelry, shirts, winery branded bicycle jerseys, hats, and kitchenware.

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