Sonoma: New free, wine-themed tours

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— Larry Levine
Mauritson Winery is one of four participating vineyards that has launched free walking tours.

For the first time, a group of Sonoma County wineries are offering free, self-guided walks, letting you venture far beyond their tasting rooms. Since the start of the New Year, Sonoma Vineyard Adventures tours allow visitors to walk through the vines—an area that's normally off-limits to outsiders—at Balletto Vineyards, Matanzas Creek, Paradise Ridge, and Mauritson wineries.

The participating wineries have created paper guides that point out notable details along the clearly marked paths, each less than a mile long. For example, the Mauritson trail winds past rows of various grape varieties, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and sauvignon blanc. Other sights include essential equipment, such as a wind machine that protects vines from frost. You'll even spot the winery's crush pad, where more than 20 grape varieties are processed during harvest season. Run yearround, each tour ends in a tasting room so you can sample the final product.

The self-guided walking tours are all free; Mauritson offers a complimentary wine tasting, but Matanzas Creek, Paradise Ridge, and Balletto each charge $5 per tasting. The pilot program, developed by the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, may expand to other vineyards. Cheers to that.

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