Many wineries in Sonoma 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. This is a guide 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 palate 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 of Sonoma, there are still discoveries to be made.
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