The Wine Guy ~ Greg Walter

Greg Walter Gregory S. Walter has been a Sonoma resident for nearly 20 years. Greg has been in wine and food publishing for nearly 30 years, 15 of which were spent as a senior editor and later president of Wine Spectator magazine. Today he writes the PinotReport newsletter and publishes books through his Carneros Press imprint


My favorite Sonoma places for holiday cheer

Posted on December 20, 2012 by Greg Walter

First, I want to wish you holidays full of cheer and happiness!

There are times during the often stressful holiday season when one just needs a little impromptu holiday cheer. What better way to reward oneself for a successful outing in the maze that can be holiday shopping than with a glass of wine in a comfortable, friendly setting? Here are my top three locations in town for holiday cheer.

Enoteca Della Santina Next Door. It’s hard to beat the Enoteca Della Santina Next Door for an intimate, comfortable venue to sit and enjoy a glass or bottle of great wine. I’ve always loved the diverse, eclectic selection that can range from a killer Chenin Blanc from South Africa to Steve Law’s amazing local MacLaren Syrah.

When you walk in the door at Enoteca, you enter an intimate, warm space. On your left is the bar (about 10 seats) extending most of the length of the room. There is a small alcove in the back with a high-rise glass table and seats. On your right is a beautiful stone wall with floor-to-ceiling metal wine racks, literally a wall of wine. So far, so good. Great selection, cool, intimate setting, friendly people. There’s also a wine club and special tasting events throughout the year.

But that’s not all. Most nights you can also enjoy the full dinner menu from the adjacent Della Santina’s Trattoria served at the bar. A glass of Pinot Noir and some rich, earthy Penne con Funghi… just about says it all for me!

Enoteca Della Santina Next Door, 127 East Napa Street, Sonoma, 938.4200,

Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar. For many people, locals and visitors alike, the Carneros Bistro is not the first place they think of for a respite from the rigors of holiday shopping or just grabbing an impromptu glass of wine. Most likely, that’s because of it’s location at the Lodge at Sonoma, about a mile south of the Plaza. Well, that’s their loss. I’ve become more and more convinced over the past year or two that Carneros Bistro may be the best “complete” wine and food experience in Sonoma. The bar and lounge are comfortable and friendly with the full restaurant menu available. The restaurant, and Chef Andrew Wilson’s menu, is hands down one of the best in town. Chris Sawyer’s wine program is really eclectic and yet having said that he definitely has an affinity — and the selection to match — for Sonoma County Pinot Noir.

Let me tell you, the wine fun doesn’t end there. Chris has a lot of special wine programs and seasonal dinners at the restaurant including two special weekly features. Every Tuesday is the “Grapes to Glass” wine class with each class focusing on a different wine type or topic. The classes are free of charge. Thursdays are “Celebrity Wine-tender” nights featuring local winemakers pouring complimentary tastes of the latest and finest releases.

Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar, The Lodge at Sonoma, 1325 Broadway (at Leveroni), Sonoma, 935.6600.

Sigh. Sigh is unique in Sonoma in that it is the only wine bar in town totally dedicated to Champagne and sparkling wines. I haven’t had the chance to spend a lot of time here yet, but from what I have seen so far, this is an awesome addition to the Plaza wine mix.

Located toward the back of “Wine Alley” at the Sonoma Court Shops on East Napa (across the alley from the Bryter Estates tasting room), Sigh is the brainchild of Jayme Powers and features a wide ranging list of 20-30 bubblies from sparkling wine regions around the world, including but not limited to France (duh!), Italy, Spain, Austria, Australia and California. And while it is not difficult to find good sparkling wine at a number of locations around the Plaza, it is impossible to find a selection as diverse and eclectic as the one at Sigh.

There are times when only Champagne (or another bubbly) will do and I am looking forward to spending more of those times at Sigh.

Sigh Sonoma, 29 East Napa Street, Suite C, Sonoma, 996.2444,

As always, you can email me with questions at [email protected]

Greg Walter, a Sonoma resident for more than 20 years, has been in wine and food publishing for more than 30 years, 15 as a senior editor and later president of Wine Spectator magazine. Today he writes the PinotReport newsletter ( and publishes books through his Carneros Press imprint (

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