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Westside Road Wine Trail

Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California Winery and Wine Tasting Guide

by Peter Forbes Crossman, photography by Lee Nelson

Westside Road is simply amazing. You’ll be traveling through redwood forests and huge flat plains filled with vineyards. You'll be awestruck by ancient oaks with long moss beards and climb hills only to find new ecosystems and vistas around every corner. You'll be sheltered by forests full of a mind boggling number tree species, marvel at great Victorian homes and beaten down old buildings and barns. Great vistas across the valley to Mount St. Helena will pop in and out of view. And last but not least you can visit wineries large and small, old and new and you’ll only be driving about twelve miles!

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Old barn in wine country picture
Old barn in Sonoma Co.
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There are no places along this route for you to buy food so bring a lunch or plan your trip so you end up in Healdsburg to eat. There are many beautiful picnic areas at these wineries and there are many fine restaurants in Healdsburg.
You may want to stop in Santa Rosa and get a picnic. Here are directions to our favorite deli, Traverso’s, and it's a great one. From the South, take the central Santa Rosa exit, (3rd Street), off of Route 101 and turn right onto 3rd Street. Go under the buildings and turn right at the light onto B Street. Traverso’s is on your left. They have great sandwiches, fresh breads and 101 cheeses. Oh, and their deli meats are out of this world!
We suggest you come here in late spring through fall to enjoy the beautiful foliage that abounds on this gem of a back road. Always check with the wineries to see what their tasting room hours are because they vary from season to season. We’ve provided you with contact information so you can remove the guesswork.
Westside Road is the first of our new series of articles on Wine Trails worth exploring. If this is your first trip to wine country or even if you're a veteran, review our recommendations on how to visit a Wine Trail.
If you follow our suggestion to focus a single Varietal on your wine tasting adventure you can better appreciate the differences these skillful winemakers bring to your palate. Here’s a breakdown of who’s pouring what at these 11 wineries:
The main Varietals available on this wine trail are Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc (* also listed as Fume Blanc) and Syrah.

Wine and Winery table

Getting Started on the Westside Road Wine Trail


To help you navigate we are putting the mileage and the road number after each winery’s name, e.g. Gary Farrell Wines 1.8 miles, #10701 Westside Road.
The mileage indicated at each winery will be cumulative, so set your odometer to zero at the beginning of Westside Road when you reach the stop sign just off of River Road shortly after crossing the bridge over the Russian River.

If the driver watches the odometer and the copilot watches the road numbers, you shouldn't have any trouble finding the wineries. Mileage is to the winery location on the main road, so, if you stop and take the sometimes long driveway into a winery you’ll need to subtract this from the mileage we give you.
This adventure covers eleven wineries on a road less traveled. It's a small, rough, two-lane windy road and you do need to pay attention to the signs that say 20 miles per hour on curves. Signs for the wineries are often easy to miss, so pay attention. Choose your wineries well. This will leave plenty of time for you to enjoy a picnic at one of these beautiful wineries and make a day of it.
From San Francisco take route 101 north about 50 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge to River Road, which is about 7 miles past Route 12 in downtown Santa Rosa. It's a right side exit and you'll want to stay in the left lane to turn left (west) on River Road that takes you back over route 101.
About seven miles in you will enter redwoods in Forestville. Another 2 miles or so takes you over a steel girder bridge for the Russian River and it's time to keep an eye out for Westside Road, it's about 100 yards on your right. It's a sharp right that quickly takes you to a stop sign. Turn right, set your odometer at the stop sign and your adventure on Westside Road begins.

winery map for Westside Road
Westside Road Wine Trail Map to wineries

Opens in new window so you can refer to it.

The reason we suggest you begin your trip at River Road, the southern end of Westside Road is that after the maddening traffic of Santa Rosa, we want to get you into the country as soon as we can and let you take a leisurely drive back to civilization. You may also want to end up in Healdsburg for dinner. The southern end of Westside Road meets River Road in Forestville.
It's a steep climb out of Russian River Valley so you’ll soon be out of the redwoods. Notice how quickly your surroundings change, particularly if you've never been here before. One moment you're in towering redwoods, the next you're in Bays and Laurels then you're in gnarled old Oaks.

Gary Farrell Wines 1.8 miles, #10701 Westside Road

Like most roads first traveled, it seems to take forever to get to the first winery on Westside Road. This one is tricky because the sign is designed for traffic coming the other way. Just before you get to the Gary Farrell Winery entrance a large flat valley full of vines opens up on your right. When this ends, it's time to keep a sharp eye out to your left. Finally the fabulous sculptured metal gates announce the entrance to Gary Farrell Wines.
It's a long climb up the hill, but stop mid way up or on the way back down to look at the beautiful view across the Russian River Valley, Magnificent! And you've only begun to experience the incredible microclimates and the tremendous diversity of flora and fauna you will find around each corner on this wonderful back road.
The tasting room is to the right of the parking lot.
Gary Farrell’s gorgeous two-year-old facility is a modern, fully operational winery set on a ridge top setting amongst Redwoods, Oaks and Madrones. The beautiful wood and stone architecture gives you the feeling that a serious winemaker performs his magic here. He does!

Gary Farrell Winery sign picture
Sign at the entrance to Gary Farrell Winery
Gary Farrel Winery panorama picture
Gary Farrell Winery
Gary Farrell barrel room picture
Gary Farrell barrel room

Gary Farrell Wine Label
Click wine label to view winemakers tasting notes
American Red Winemaker of the Year"

"When hundreds of top winemakers throughout the country were asked to pick their favorite producer of red wines, Gary Farrell came out on top!"
California Winemakers Association 1997 survey of top winemakers

You’ll be struck by the view from the tasting room where huge picture windows give you a magnificent panorama of the Russian River Valley. The high ceiling with huge wooden beams, a cozy sitting area and none of the clutter of the usual gift shop let you know this is a place to taste great wines. A luxurious stone patio outside the tasting room allows you to enjoy the wonderful view to its fullest.
Gary Farrell is world famous for his red wines including Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and his version of a Meritage.

In 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle selected two of Gary Farrell's wines in their “Top 100”.
Tasting and tours at Gary Farrell Winery are by appointment only and there is no picnic area but the exquisite wines and views are not to be missed. E-mail or call ahead 707-473-2900.
This is a must stop, and definitely bring a camera!

Porter Creek Vineyards 3.8 miles, #8735 Westside Road

Next it's off to Porter Creek. Don't miss the left hand turn you’ll need to make at the junction of Wohler and Westside Roads and stop to enjoy the very different panorama that invites you into the wonderful valley floor section of this back road. You’ll burst out of a magnificent redwood forest just shy of 2 miles from Gary Farrell Wines. It's a great place to stop, enjoy the scenery and take a picture or two.

Porter Creek Winery picture
Porter Creek Vineyards

Porter Creek is a real small winery in a bucolic setting. At the sharp right hand turn on Westside Road, go straight on the dirt road that is the driveway for the Porter Creek Winery. It looks just like a small farm and it is.

You have to try 2000 Porter Creek Pinot Noir, Creekside. Their Chardonnay, from the vineyards that run up “George’s Hill” behind their small homey tasting room is also magnificent. Tasting is just past the house to the right of the parking lot.
Porter Creek is quite clearly a family winery and the rustic, old building they use for their tasting room sets the stage for the great personal hospitality you’ll find here.

Porter Creek Wine label & tasting notes
click wine label review of
Porter Creek Pinot Noir

George Davis has been proudly making award-winning wines at this gem of a winery that was founded in 1981, passing on the reigns to his son Alex in 1997. They don't have a web site (but keep an eye out, one’s coming), or facilities other than their tasting room. Make sure you call to see when their tasting room is open at 707-433-6321.
What a change from Gary Farrell, but you've just begun to see the incredible diversity of wineries and lots more on this Wine Trail!

Davis Bynum Winery 4.6 miles, #8075 Westside Road

Around another corner, less than a mile, is Davis Bynum on your left. The terrain has changed completely and now you're driving up a beautiful wooded hill to get to the winery.
Watch the speed bump at the entrance—it’s serious!

Davis Bynum Winery picture
Davis Bynum rustic setting
Davis Bynum Winery picture
Davis Bynum Winery

At the top of the hill take a right to find their small parking lot. Note that restrooms are on your right just when you enter the parking area and there's a small secluded picnic ground behind the small hedge to the right of the parking lot.
Through big wooden doors you’ll find a warm uncluttered tasting room with a small Franklin stove warming the place on chilly days. Local artwork is on the walls and rotates, so make sure you enjoy. Davis Bynum will often be serving you. This is a special treat and the wines are definitely worth stopping for.

Here you’ll find some great wines with a history. Founded in 1965 and moving to Westside Road in 1973, Davis Bynum is distinguished by being the first winery on Westside Road. Davis Bynum’s superb wines have been consistently winning awards ever since. Don't miss his Pinot Noir. It's had 90+ ratings for years.

This is an Organic winery, which means they not only take care of their vineyards, but have also integrated sustainable practices into every aspect of the property.
Contact them at 800-826-1073 to arrange for a special tour of their Permaculture Food Forest, a unique permanent agriculture concept they are very pleased to embrace.
According to Australian Bill Mollison, co-founder of the Permaculture concept, this practice is: "the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems, which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way."
David Georges has done an amazing job filling the shoes of his predecessor, Gary Farrell, who is widely recognized as one of America's elite winemakers. David's minimal approach to winemaking and meticulous attention to the vines has allowed Davis Bynum to continue their tradition of turning premium grapes into premium wines.
For a description of the rest of their award winning wines, visit Davis Bynum's web site.

Davis Bynum wine label picture
Click wine label for
Davis Bynum 2000
Russian River Valley
tasting notes

Old Hop Kiln picture
Farm goats picture

Westside Farms Vineyards
5.5 miles, #7097 Westside Road

There's no wine to be tasted here, it's just for the photographer. Keep your eye out for the old hop kiln on your right. You’ll see a restored one soon.
Don't forget to stop and smell the roses along the way—there's lots more than wine on the Westside Road, like the many farm animals that live near the old hop kiln.

Roses and fence picture

Rochioli Vineyards & Winery 6.6 miles, #6192 Westside Road

Almost 2 miles up the road from Davis Bynum you’ll find Rochioli. You’ll love the view across the valley that has now opened up to vistas of Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Knights Valley and the Chalk Hill AVA to the Mayacamas mountain range that includes impressive Mt. St. Helena. The small modern tasting room shares the great view and you’ll enjoy the great hospitality of their tasting room staff.

Rochioli Winery sign picture
Rochioli Vineyards Panorama
Rochioli Vineyards & Winery panorama

Rochioli looks like a nice private home. There’s a stone terrace for picnics and of course, the great wines. We hear the picnic table on the patio to the right of the tasting room has been tied up for hours with gourmet feasts. If you plan to eat here, arrive early.
Tom Rochioli is making award-winning wines at this vineyard and winery whose vineyards have been providing many other wineries in the area with their magnificent grapes since the 1930s.
Rochioli doesn't have a web site, so call them for tasting room hours at 707-433-2305.

Rochioli wine label picture

Hop Kiln Winery 6.7 miles, #6050 Westside Road

Next door to Rochioli is one of the most photographed wineries in Sonoma County, Hop Kiln. The smell of the hops still lingers in Hop Kiln’s historic tasting room. An historic landmark, it too produces some magnificent wines from its Griffin Estate Vineyards.
But you’ll really love their picnic area out back. The Victorian home in the private section behind the picnic area is another building with historic status at Hop Kiln.
This would be a great place to have your lunch. Get a bottle of Hop Kiln's great Zinfandel and enjoy the beauty of their duck pond and the view across the valley. Heaven!
This is an amazing place and owner Dr. Marty Griffin is an equally amazing hero of conservation in both Marin and Sonoma Counties. Since moving to Sonoma County, he has done some wonderful things to restore this beautiful hop kiln, get it historical landmark status and establish wildlife protection for much of this gorgeous neck of the woods.
We will be doing a series of articles on Unsung Hero’s of the Wine Country that starts with this great man. Marty’s written a book, “Saving the Marin-Sonoma Coast” of historical importance about his involvement in saving beautiful and important places in Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Historic Hop Kiln Winery picture
Historic Hop Kiln Winery

Historic Victorian home picture
Historic Victorian home

Hop Kiln Zinfandel label picture
Hop Kiln Zinfandel
tasting notes
Vineyard and old windmill picture
Old Windmill Vineyard

Nearby, at the intersection of Westside Road and Sweetwater Creek Road, you can see the windmill that served as the inspiration for the name of the Hop Kiln vineyard that produced the wine we are featuring. If you were to venture a little further on Sweetwater Creek Road you would leave the vineyards behind.
What an incredible find! You never know what you’ll discover on Wine Trails. For more on their wonderful wines check out Hop Kiln's web site or they can be reached at 707-433-6491.

Cows on California hillside picture
Cattle rest near
a majestic oak

Belvedere Vineyards & Winery 8.6 miles, #4035 Westside Road

About two miles up the road on your left is Belvedere. This is an impressive place with beautiful gardens, Jazz on the patio on Saturdays during the summer, and attention to details like the spices being grown between the steps leading up to their tasting room.

Belvedere Winery sign picture
Belvedere Vineyards sign

Belvedere Winery garden picture
Belvedere Winery
garden pond

Belvedere wine lable picture
Belvedere wine label
and tasting notes
Belvedere winery panorama picture
Belvedere Vineyards & Winery panorama picture

There’s a modest parking area on your right and the stairs to Belvedere’s tasting room are at the far end of the parking lot. Make sure you look around to see the many small details they have incorporated into their gorgeous gardens.

The wonderful canopy they have built around the large patio surrounding their tasting room is covered with Wisteria. Come in season—late Spring—and enjoy this magnificent setting.
Belvedere Vineyards Syrah received 92 Points from “Wine Enthusiast” so you know you should be trying some of the great wines made by their wine maker Bob Bertheau.
Belvedere is a nice place with all the amenities you could want. See the rest of their wines on their web site. Contact Belvedere at 800-433-8296.

Rabbit Ridge Vineyards & Winery 9.4 miles, #3291 Westside Road

A few more interesting turns in the road and you’ll find Rabbit Ridge. They have the greatest selection of wines on this wine trail and an interesting twist in winemaking by their owner/winemaker Erich Russell.

Rabbit Ridge Vineyard picture
Rabbit Ridge panorama

Rabbit Ridge sign picture
Rabbit Ridge Winery sign

Rabbit Ridge wine lable picture
Rabbit Ridge Winery
Sangiovese tasting notes

Erich is in love with Sangiovese, a Varietal unknown by many. His many wines include this great grape and are being sold at great prices. They are selling out fast so grab them if you can.
Located high on a hill, the small, uncluttered tasting room of Rabbit Ridge is surrounded by beautiful gardens and overlooks a large pond, full of wildfowl, with a view of vineyards running up rolling hills out back. Check out our 360° panorama that was shot from the hill behind the tasting room.
Don’t miss the great stained glass door they have at the front end of the Rabbit Ridge tasting room. It’s all beautiful beyond words.
Rabbit Ridge has just opened another facility in Paso Robles and probably has the best quality wines for the buck on this stretch of Westside Road.
See what I’m talking about by visiting their website or call them at 707-431-7128.

Roshambo Winery 9.6 miles, #3000 Westside Road

Don’t blink, because Roshambo is next on your right. If you came south from Healdsburg, you would need to be reading road addresses carefully to find their brand new tasting room.

Roshambo Zinfandel wine label picture
Roshambo full size label winemakers tasting notes

Roshombo Winery Sign
Entrance to
Roshambo Winery

Roshambo Winery view picture
Valley view from Roshambo

Roshambo is the newest kid on the block. Their facility is only one year old, but, wow, it’s impressive.
Modern art fills their tasting room and the view through the picture windows behind their tasting bar is stunning.
Paul Brasset, Roshambo’s wine maker, brings a clean and balanced wine making philosophy to this new winery based upon his long experience at great wineries like White Oak, Pezzi King, Paul Brasset, Clos du Bois, Christopher Creek, Kenwood and Fritz Cellars.

There is a long family history behind the establishment of this winery. Frank Johnson bought this apple and prune orchard many years ago. For more information, visit their web site or give them a call at 888-525-9463.

Armida Winery 10.4 miles, #2201 Westside Road

Like our first stop, Armida Winery has some elevation and tremendous views.

The winery is just around a few bends in the road from Roshambo and on the left. Again, the road up is long and picturesque, so stop and enjoy the different perspectives the altitude provides you.
The drive is also narrow and dangerous—watch for cars coming down the grade. Don’t miss the small waterfowl pond on your right near the top. Parking is on your left beyond the facilities.

Armida Vineyard picture
Vineyard behind Armida Winery
Armida Winery panorama picture
Armida Winery panorama

At the top, you’ll find Armida’s famous geodesic domes, a delightful tasting room-gift shop, and below a beautiful deck overlooking a second pond, a bocce ball court and incredible vistas. Make sure to walk around and enjoy them all.

We found some beautiful vineyard and valley views to the North behind all the buildings. We’re sure Buckminster Fuller is at Armida in spirit. His geodesic dome architecture is well used here in a spectacular setting.
This is a must stop.
Michael Loykasek has been making great wines at Armida Winery since 1997.
For more on Armida wines, visit their web site
or call 707-433-2222.

Armida wine label picture
Armida 2000 Pinot Noir
winemakers tasting notes

Mill Creek Vineyards 11.1 miles, #1401 Westside Road

Mill Creek Winery & vineyard picture
Mill Creek Vineyards

Mill Creek Winery panorama pictureDry Creek Valley View
Mill Creek picnic area

Mill Creek Merlot wine lable picture
Mill Creek Vineyards
wine tasting notes

Mill Creek is an enchanting place. It’s less than a mile up the road on your left. The waterwheel and pond adjacent to the tasting room are just delightful and draw visitors into their very secluded picnic grounds behind the small, but very warm tasting room. You’ll quite often meet the wine maker here. Hospitality, as with all of the wineries on Westside Road, is superb. When you’re off the beaten track, you get warm personal attention.
Surprise! They’ve got a huge deck up the hill that’s reached by taking a self-guided tour through almost fifty native and non-native plants. If I was going on a picnic, this is where I’d go. In front of you the valley rises to a notch between Fitch Mountain and Bald Hills through which you can see majestic Mt. St. Helena and the Mayacamas mountain range. Spring and early summer is the time to visit this wonderful display of our local flora and this remarkable vista.
Family owned and operated since 1974, three generations of the Kreck family are actively involved in hand crafting their award winning wines. Winemaker Hank Skewis started at Mill Creek in 1994 and was Sonoma County’s winemaker of the year in 1995!
For more on their wines visit them on line or call 707-431-2121.

Alderbrook Winery 12 miles, 2306 Magnolia Drive

Last stop before our return to civilization: Alderbrook. There’s a bend in the road to the right shortly after Mill Creek and in less than a mile you have to keep a sharp eye out for the Alderbrook sign on your right. If you go under route 101 you’ve passed it.

Alderbrook’s spacious tasting room is brand new. OK, it’s just opened recently, so it does not offer the old stone feeling of Napa County, but come on; we produce more great wines in Sonoma County than they do.
This is your last stop before enjoying the ambiance of Healdsburg for dinner or brunch depending on your schedule.

Alderbrook Winery picture
Alderbrook Winery
Tasting room at Alderbrook Winery
Tasting room at Alderbrook Winery

Alderbrook Winery
wine tasting notes

The Wine Enthusiast selected owner Anthony Terlato as man of the year for 2002 for bringing our great California wines to the world. Not to be outdone, Alderbrook’s winemaker T. J. Evans had his fine wines listed on the Wall Street Journal’s Top 10 list!
See their other world-class wines on their web site or call 800-405-5987.

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Website and all photos copyright © 20012015 Lee W. Nelson