The wines from Sonoma and Napa are world-class, and each year over 7.5 million tourists visit what locals call simply the North Bay—the rural and still magical wine country less than an hour north of San Francisco. And everyone knows, of course, that wine tasting is a serious business. Swirl, sniff, taste. This is the stuff la dolce vita is made of.
Many wineries here are large retail operations offering wines that you can buy just as readily on the shelves of your local store. Often, these are beautiful places, and a part of the California wine-tasting experience is sitting on marbled Italianate terraces overlooking acres of perfectly pruned vineyards, basking in the warm sun and the intense loveliness of it all.
Just as exciting and but far more difficult to spot, however, are the small, back-lane wineries, places that the critics, industry professionals, and locals revere but that few visitors ever see. These are wineries run by the same people who grow the grapes and make the wines. The Back-Lane Wineries of Sonoma and The Back-Lane Wineries of Napa are guides to wineries where you can find excellent handcrafted wines made by on-site proprietors, often with only a local distribution and limited production, places where wine tasting gets down-to-earth—no one needs to show off how developed his or her palette is. These are often also where sustainable and organic viticulture is being pioneered. Above all, these are wines that are likely to be a new experience; amid the back-lane wineries, there are still discoveries to be made.
Revised and updated new editions of both guides coming in 2013 from Ten Speed Press.
Photographs by Paul Hawley
From the reviews:
It’s easy to Google ‘Napa wineries’ and end up with plenty of big name wineries with daily tours and souvenir shops. But what of those off the beaten path? Back Lane Wineries of Napa and its sister book for Sonoma are guides to 70 small wineries making quality, hard-to-find handcrafted wines.
—San Francisco Chronicle
This is the quintessential guide…wines that you can keep a secret or brag to your friends that you’ve found the new best-tasting wine.
Oenophiles will enjoy this pocket-sized guidebook.. with insight into small, mostly family-run operations that are—for the most part—unknown to the average visitor. In addition to large color photos of the featured wineries and local landscape, the guide provides background information on the personalities.
—Novus Vinum, Gayot.com
Napa gets all the glory, but to the west lies another wine-tasting area, Sonoma. Each year about 7.5 million tourists visit the region. The lovely towns of Sonoma, Healdsburg and Glen Ellen are well-known in their own right, but there are plenty of other towns and ‘small, back-lane wineries,’ as author Tilar Mazzeo says, that are also worth visiting. These are the places that the critics and wine aficionados love but few visitors are aware of. Many of the wines here are hand-crafted and made by on-site proprietors. In fact, most wineries in the book make fewer than 10,000 cases of wine a year; some produce only 100 or so.
–The Chicago Tribune
In Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma, author Tilar Mazzeo steers the reader away from the crowded commercial wineries to charming, one-of-a-kind boutique establishments…This book is invaluable for touring North Bay, as Sonoma is known to the locals. There’s also a list of restaurants and ‘picnic provisions.’ The photos of the sun drenched valleys and vineyards exert their own restorative power.
–The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma takes day trippers to the rambling, quirky, yet loveable Sonoma wine country. The author set out to pique the reader’s interest in the smallest producers, and achieves the goal with charming descriptions of the proprietors with alluring photos.
–Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine
Drink a toast to Napa Valley. But let us praise less famous wineries in the legendary California wine-growing region. Back Lane Wineries of Napa takes the reader off the beaten path to friendly, down-to-earth establishments where the wines are made by on-site proprietors.
Where to purchase:
Photo credit Paul Hawley