by Sergio and Liane Sismondo

This wonderful winery is located just west of the Sonoma Highway (Route 12), on Madrone Road, Glenn Ellen. This is the oldest winery in Sonoma County, dating from 1863. The original stone foundations and wall, part of which are visible today, have been incorporated into the more recent main building. It is here that the tasting room is housed. The original vintner was George Whitman, who sold it to Eli Sheppard, the former consul to China in 1883. At one point it was re-named Madrone Vineyards and it passed through the hands of Senator George Hearst. Today is is owned by Heck Estates family wineries.

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The tasting room is spacious and cool. It is often busy, this being a very popular winery for visitors. The atmosphere is inviting and friendly. There is also a wide assortment of accessories for the kitchens and dining rooms, colorful, tasteful, and distinctive. Outside the building are located a few picnic tables which may be used by visitors for meals and snacks at any time.

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No visit to Sonoma Valley is complete without stopping at Valley of the Moon. The wines, the people, and also the grounds are delightful. "Tour guides" like administrative assistant Marlene Higgins and wine experts Bob Graff, Cindy Cloutier and Dennis Welch are generous with their knowledge and their time.

Following is a list of the wines we sampled in 2005, 2006 and 2007 along with our ratings.

Barbera, 2000 87
Barbera, 2001 88
Barbera, 2002 88
Barbera, 2003 88
Barbera, 2004 89
Barbera, 2005 88
Cabernet-Sauvignon, 2000 89
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Sonoma, 2001 88
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Sonoma & Dry Creek 2001 88
Cabernet-Sauvignon, 2003 89
Cabernet-Sauvignon, 2004 89
Chardonnay, 2002 87
Chardonnay, 2003 89
Chardonnay, 2004 87
Chardonnay, 2005 88
Chardonnay, 2006 88
Cuvée de la Luna (Meritage), 2000 90
Cuvée de la Luna (Meritage), 2002 90
Cuvée de la Luna (Meritage), 2004 90
Pinot Blanc 2002 89
Pinot Blanc 2003 88
Pinot Blanc 2004 89
Pinot Blanc 2005 89
Pinot Blanc 2006 88
Pinot Noir Carneros, 2001 89
Pinot Noir Carneros, 2002 88
Pinot Noir Carneros, 2003 88
Pinot Noir Carneros, 2004 88
Pinot Noir Carneros, 2005 89
Port 2002 89
Sangiovese, 2000 88
Sangiovese, 2001 88
Sangiovese, 2002 88
Sangiovese, 2003 88
Sangiovese, 2004 89
Sangiovese, 2005 88
Sangiovese-Rosé, 2003 88
Sangiovese-Rosé, 2004 87
Sangiovese-Rosé, 2005 88
Sangiovese-Rosé, 2006 88
Sparkling Wine 1997 89
Sparkling Wine 1998 89
Sparkling Wine (tasted 2006) n/v 89
Syrah 2000 88
Syrah 2001 89
Syrah 2003 89
Syrah 2005 88
Zinfandel, Old Vines Estate, 2001 88
Zinfandel, Old Vines Estate, 2002 89
Zinfandel, Old Vines Estate, 2003 90
Zinfandel, Valley of the Moon 2001 88
Zinfandel, Valley of the Moon 2002 87
Zinfandel, Valley of the Moon 2003 88
Zinfandel, Valley of the Moon 2005 89

  • Our first choice among the red wines sampled is the Cuvée de la Luna 2000, which is a traditional Bordeaux varietals blend of Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It is priced at $35, and received our rating of 90. The 2002 vintage produce very similar results, and our recommendation is to buy a few bottles to put away for a special occasion, we did just that. The 2004 Cuvee de la Luna is a four way blend with Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec, and was aged 24 months in American and French oak barrels. The result is a fine wine, intense and complex. The same recommendations made for previous vintages apply to the 2004 vintage.
  • Our first choice among white wines goes to the Sonoma County Chardonnay, vintage 2003, with a fresh taste reminiscent of apples and citrus. It is priced at a modest $17, and received our rating of 89. The Pinot Blanc of 2004, priced at $17, with our rating of 89 is also an excellent value.
  • Our "best value for money" choice is the Carneros Pinot Noir 2001 which we rated 89 and is priced at $19. We also particularly liked the 2005 vintage Pinot Noir.
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We tasted a wide range of wines, mostly new releases, both white and red, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Sangiovese Rose, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet-Sauvignon, a Meritage named "Cuvee de la Luna", Sparkling Wine, and a 2000 Port style wine. All the wines were very fine, to satisfy different palates, and we rated them in the mid to upper 80's and 90's.

  • Our preference for a white wine goes to the Chardonnay, 2002. It is priced at $18 and has our rating of 87.
  • Our first choice among the reds tasted is the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cuvee de la Luna, 1999, which is a wonderful Bordeaux varietals blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (68%), Merlot (30%), and Cabernet Franc (2%). It is priced at $30 and we rated it 90.
  • Our second preference among the red wines tasted went to the Sangiovese, 1999, which we rated 90. It is priced at $18 per bottle. It has 98% Sangiovese and 2% Barbera grapes, from Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma Valley.
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  • Our "Best value for money" choice goes to the Barbera, 2000, which is priced at $12 and which we rated 87 A great buy, in our opinion. The Sangiovese 1999 mentioned above is also really good value for money.

There is a 10% discount for purchases of six bottles, and 20% for cases.

The Zinfandel wines sampled are included in the extensive Zinfandel listing in this web site, in the section "Wine Listings / California - Zinfandel".

To learn more about Valley of the Moon Winery, please visit: There, you can read about the wine club, Club Luna. Club members receive 2 hand-selected bottles of wines four times a year, winemaker notes by Greg Winter, recipes created to complement each wine, and a whopping 25% discount on wine and non-wine merchandise for the entire family of wineries of Heck Estates. There are also invitations to events, often with gourmet foods and live entertainment.