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Blog for Third Street Wine Shop in La Verne. Wine tasting tips, buying guides and winemaker insights.

Best Places to Visit in Sonoma Wine Country: Muscardini Cellars

Sonoma County

Sonoma Wine Map (image courtesy of bestinsonoma.com)

Sonoma County – generally overshadowed by the big Napa Valley and the wineries to the east, is not a region to be missed. Boasting over 425 wineries, at least 400 of which have won awards, little is not an accurate description of Sonoma wine country. Growing 50 different grape varietals in its 16 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), Sonoma's diverse terrain stretches from the coast to valleys inland. Home to more old vineyards (along with the Sierra Foothills) than any other region in California, Sonoma is a historical center of winemaking in Northern California. Sonoma wine country has its roots in farming and that same homespun character persists throughout the county, earning the nickname “California’s Provence.” From illustrious vineyards and wineries to the small family run wineries, there is a wine for every palate

The core of Third Street Wine Shop’s inventory is centered on smaller wineries, focusing on their stories, character, and the quality of wine. Napa wineries tends to be slightly more commercial, while Sonoma wineries are generally more approachable and casual. Muscardini Cellars is one of those Sonoma gems, making them one of the best wineries to visit in Sonoma, and our featured winery for our upcoming Farm to Table Wine Dinner at the Farm at Fairplex.

Top Sonoma Wineries to Visit: Muscardini Cellars

While there’s a lot going on in Sonoma, Muscardini Cellars stands out among them by offering the wines worthy of Napa tasting rooms, events that involve live music, food pairings, and barrel tasting, paired with the atmosphere and friendliness of your own small town wine shop, the result is quintessential California wine country experience. 

Tasting Room Experience

Beni Muscardini (image courtesy of sonomanews.com)

Beni Muscardini (image courtesy of sonomanews.com)

When asked what the tasting room is like, Michael Muscardini, owner and winemaker of Muscardini Cellars divulges, “We have lots of events...music, oysters, barrel tastings and just a home spun feeling. I always say ‘I am there six days a week if I’m not traveling.’ You get to meet the owner/winemaker!”

Opposite the Mayacamas Mountains, along historic Highway 12, is where you'll find the Muscardini Cellars tasting room. The front porch of this big red schoolhouse tasting room is dotted with bright yellow umbrellas for sunny days and porch sipping. Follow the suspended train track around the tasting bar, where you can stand at the bar and taste with one of the knowledgeable hosts (Jen was engaging and all smiles). The large tasting room sometimes houses a couple of barrels used not just for decoration, but also barrel tasting!

Along with wine accessories and current releases on display, one in particular caught may catch your eye: Winery Dogs of Sonoma, where the resident wine dog Beni is featured. Aha! A dog friendly winery! The front porch offers ample seating for your four legged companions, and while they may not be able to partake in some Sonoma wine tasting, the grassy backyard will delight your furry friends. The backyard often houses events, but is open to the public and set with picnic tables.

The Art of Winemaking: Bottled with Love, for the Joy of Living

Michael Muscardini makes his wines to be “enjoyed with food and friends,” from a party with friends (Pinot Grigio) and poolside sipping (Rosato di Sangiovese) to deep conversations (Tesoro) and special occasions (Cabernet Sauvignon); a bottle for every occasion. Many of Muscardini’s wines are single vineyards, sourcing grapes from some of the best vineyards in both Napa and Sonoma.  According to Muscardini, it’s all about finding that “sweet spot.”

As an art school graduate, Muscardini embodies a passion for the art of winemaking:

As I said before, ‘I love the Art of Winemaking. It can take up to two to four years to complete a wine. From finding the perfect grapes grown by the best grower, to a hand shake deal that the grower grows to my specifications, to picking the grapes at the best time. All before the magic that happens at the winery and the aging of the wine for 24 to 48 months in the barrel. Finally, we are ready to bottle it and let it rest.
— Michael Muscardini

Each facet of the winemaking process is as precise as completing a work of art, from selecting the right materials to putting on the finishing touches, Muscardini imparts his touch to every part of the wine. If each wine is a piece of art, then visit Muscardini’s personal art gallery, The Library Room at the Muscardini Cellars Tasting Room, where you can find wines dating back from his early winemaking days. Enjoy a reserve tasting, library tasting, or a food and wine pairing in that intimate setting. 

Winemaking Style: Italy Meets California

Michael Muscardini, owner and winemaker of Muscardini Cellars (image courtesy of sonomavalleywine.com)

Michael Muscardini, owner and winemaker of Muscardini Cellars (image courtesy of sonomavalleywine.com)

Muscardini’s wines are big and extracted, a new world style on some old world grapes. While fruit driven, Muscardini’s wines are laced with complexity and balance…art in a glass.

When asked who, living or dead, he would share a bottle of wine with, Muscardini answered, “The great Franco Biondi Santi” the Italian winemaker, most known for producing Brunello di Montalcino, from Montalcino, Tuscany.

Consequently, Muscardini’s portfolio of wines is predominantly Italian varietals: Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Barbera, etc., in addition to international varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon that contribute to “Tesoro,” a Super Tuscan blend, and a labor of love. 

After a day of perfecting his craft, Muscardini likes to wind down his day with a glass of wine with friends and family…we’ll raise a glass to that!

Meet Michael on August 11, at our Five Course Farm to Table Winemaker Dinner at the Farm at Fairplex Pomona, part of The Farm’s Farm to Table Outdoor Dinner series. See Farm to Table Dinner Menu here.