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San Francisco Home > Leisure > Stone Cold

Published February 15, 2012

Stone Cold
Private Wine Tours on Howell Mountain

We won’t call it a rivalry, exactly.

But there’s Napa, and then there’s Sonoma.

So when a new winery manages to straddle those two worlds—in the face of scorpions, raptors and mountain lions, no less—well, then we’d like to raise a glass...

Say hello to Arkenstone Vineyards, a casual, family-run winery focusing on Bordeaux-style sauce, situated high up on Howell Mountain, now open by appointment only.

Basically, this off-the-beaten-path mountainside locale is like a breath of down-home Sonoma air with a Napa address. Meaning it’s a tour-bus-free zone where you hang out with the winemaker and the owners and nobody else.

Once you make your appointment and drive past the winery gates (by the way, ignore your GPS and take Deer Park Road, unless you prefer the hairpins on Howell Mountain Road), Susan or Sam will lead you through the crush pad to the tasting room overlooking a block of cab vines. Here, by the fire, you’ll take it all in—sampling cabs and downing bottles of rare stuff that they never released to the public, like an ’07 pure sémillon.

Fortified by wine, you’ll get to explore the fermentation hall and their extensive network of state-of-the-art caves.

Yes, there are such things as state-of-the-art caves.
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