POSTED ON April 2, 2011 | IN Russian River Wine Country - Sonoma Cty., Travel Tips, Wine Information | BY Joe Becerra

This is one of our favorite months in wine country. The weather is warm and California poppies are proudly blooming among the vines. The main event this month is bud break. It signals a new growing period for the vines and it is the perfect time to savor the beauty of wine country.

We have a couple of suggested trips for this month. We’ll start with one in the Santa Rosa region. We’ll call it the Piner Road/Olivet Road Trail. In our next blog post, we will tell you about a great set of interesting wineries in the Geyserville area in northern Sonoma County.

Piner Road/Olivet Road Wine Trail

Winemaker Jon Phillips

This trip starts with a visit to a couple of tasting rooms in a warehouse section of Santa Rosa off Piner Road. Ordinarily, we don’t enjoy visits to warehouse style-tasting rooms. There are no vineyards to look at, just a batch of warehouse structures to ponder. The reason we are making the exception in this case is that both of these wineries make great wine, and the warehouse is a good financial choice for these two wineries to keep costs lower. At Inspiration Vineyards, you’ll more than likely run into Jon Phillips, the owner and winemaker. He has made a comfortable industrial-style tasting room for visitors to relax in and taste his delicious wines. Jon lives on Olivet Road where he grows estate old vine Zinfandel and Chardonnay. We tasted five wines on our recent trip to the warehouse, and all were excellent wines and well made. It is so much fun to sit and chat with a winemaker who is passionate about his or her wine.

In the same complex is Carol Shelton Wines. Carol has received numerous accolades for her wonderful line of Zinfandel wines. If you are a fan of the Zinfandel varietal, do yourself a favor and sample the entire lineup. Fantastico! This year Carol has added a very interesting white wine, Coquille Blanc, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Rousanne, and Viognier, all from the Paso Robles region. It is very different and very good.

Now let’s get into real wine country. Take Piner Road west all the way to Olivet Lane. Here at the corner of Piner Road and Olivet Lane is the Inman Family Vineyards. The winery and tasting room was recently completed and the surrounding vines are all estate property. Kathy Inman does all the farming, using sustainable methods, and does all the winemaking. Kathy specializes in Pinot Noirs, ones that are made beautifully with traditional Pinot Noir characteristics. These Russian River Pinot Noirs are lovely. The wines are on the expensive side, so if you are trying to stretch your pocket book, you may just have to settle for coughing up the tasting fee. At least you will know what good a Pinot Noir tastes like.

The newly constructed Inman Vineyards winery and tasting room

From here you have a couple of choices.

You can head along Olivet Road to the North and visit Pellegrini Family Vineyards and Harvest Moon. Pelliegrini is one of the oldest wineries in the area, dating back to 1933 making wine in San Francisco. Harvest Moon is one of the most interesting and fun wineries to visit. Randy Pitts is the owner and winemaker, and hopefully he will be in the tasting room as he is often pouring his boutique wines. He has three different Zins and one heck of a bone-dry Gerwurtztraminer.

Randy Pitts prunes his estate Zinfandel vines

A second option is to head back toward Santa Rosa on Piner Road and discover two different and completely opposite wineries in character and style.

On Hartman Road off Piner Road is a relative newcomer, Benovia Winery. Everything about this winery is first class. From the tasting room to the barrel room, everything is exquisite. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are quite delicious, as is a Zinfandel that is really outstanding. This winery is open by appointment daily, so call ahead to book a great experience.

At the Battaglini Winery, you’ll find quite a different atmosphere. You will likely meet owner and winemaker Joe Battaglini. What is fun is to hear tales of his winemaking and how he and his wife purchased the land. Nothing is formal here, just good old-fashioned fun, conversation and interesting wines to taste. It is a throwback in time.

Winemaker Joe Bagattalini

For lodging we recommend the Vintners Inn, which is centrally located to all of these wineries. For dinner, just walk over to the fabulous Jon Ash restaurant, which is adjacent to the guest rooms. If you’re looking for a lunch spot near downtown Santa Rosa, try the really fun and exciting Jackson Bar and Oven at 135 4th Street.

Vintners Inn in Santa Rosa

Below is our Google map on this trip. Click on the link at the bottom of the Google Map to get a larger view and the names of all locations in this post.

View Piner Road – Olivet Road in a larger map


  1. mike Beltran says

    Battaglini Estate is well worth the visit. Joe is a vintner from days gone bye. Very honest and up front with an opinion on many issues. His on site vines of more than 100+ years are amazing to look at. His reds are bold and serious. If you hit the winery at the right time he may be moving some old inventory out and you can get some serious deals. His whites in my opinion are not his best effort and you can tell by the lack of modern equipment to keep the whites fresh. Also notice what vintage of wine is for sale. Almost all the whites have a number of years in the bottle, which can be the start of oxidation, so look at the color or better yet taste them at the winery. Well worth the trip to see traditional wine making.