Best Tasting Room: Paradise Ridge Winery


“Wines & Sunset really is a beautiful way to spend an evening. It puts you in a position to soak the most out of the summer sun.”—Rene Byck, co-owner and vice president, Paradise Ridge Winery

As if Sonoma County residents didn’t love Paradise Ridge Winery enough before 2017, the Tubbs fire burned the place into our hearts as a symbol of resilience.

The fire ran rampant through the Santa Rosa property, incinerating the old event space and destroying much of the vintage from that year. Walter Byck, the patriarch of the family, was 85 at the time. When the family committed to rebuilding and coming back bigger and better than ever before, they spoke for everyone. “There wasn’t a question for us,” says Rene Byck, co-owner and vice president. “We had to rebuild.”

The new and improved Paradise Ridge is quite a spot. A new hospitality pavilion opened in December 2019. It is built in the same footprint as its predecessor, with ample tasting and event space. Areas can also be designated for private tastings and events. (The winery is a popular spot for weddings.)

For all visitors, the winery offers seated tastings at three specific times a day, seven days a week. There’s also a sculpture garden in an area dubbed Marijke’s Grove—home to the famous LOVE sculpture that had endured the flames. (All the metal sculptures survived in the fire.) The hillside has changing exhibits throughout the year and most pieces are brought in with the help of the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation.

The popular Wines & Sunsets series runs from June through October on Wednesday evenings. For this event, reservations are recommended. At the new hospitality center, visitors can come, buy wine from a trailer and food from a visiting food truck, grab a table at one of the many seating areas and enjoy the sounds of live local bands and sweeping views of the Russian River Valley while the sun sinks into the horizon behind the vineyards. “Wines & Sunset really is a beautiful way to spend an evening,” says Byck. “It puts you in a position to soak the most out of the summer sun.”

Byck adds that he thinks people like Paradise Ridge for the breadth and depth of options when they visit. Heading into the summer, there are a few new options at Paradise Ridge as well. First, in the Tasting Lounge, the winery is hosting an exhibit of photographs and artifacts that tell the story of Kanaye Nagasawa, a Japanese Samurai. Nasagawa’s intriguing life took him around the world and eventually to Sonoma County, where he was a winemaker and presided over the legendary Fountaingrove Winery.

The winery also recently changed up its wine program, bringing on new winemaker Dan Fitzgerald, discontinuing use of fruit from the Rockpile appellation, and opting to work exclusively with fruit from the Paradise Ridge estate.

This means the 2021 vintage will feature only estate fruit, with sauvignon blanc, Rosé (a blend of syrah and grenache grapes), chardonnay and pinot noir. It also means the experience in the glass will mirror the real-life experience more closely.

Which is to say it will be diverse, eclectic, and totally delicious in deep and exciting ways.

[Photo courtesy of Paradise Ridge Winery]

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