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Sonoma’s Strangest Tasting Room

Wigs, mannequins, and a dimly lit barrel room decked out with crystal chandeliers offer a different approach to wine tasting.

One minute you’re strolling through a winery, surrounding vines heavy with ripe fruit to your left, a bustling crush pad to your right. The next, you’re in a dimly lit barrel room decked out with crystal chandeliers, a long marble dining table, mannequins in various states of undress, and a wall of wigs. You’ve just entered JCB Lounge, Sonoma’s most unexpected tasting room.

Occupying a corner of the grounds of DeLoach Vineyards in the Russian River Valley, JCB is truly doing its own thing. The eccentric vision of wine-mogul Jean-Charles Boisset, this winery-within-a-winery features limited-production wines focused on terroir and style. In fact, instead of the usual tasting notes, you’ll find each wine described with three attributes of style—for instance, spontaneous, graceful, and romantic rather than, say, oaky or full-bodied.  It’s a highly individualized, and surprisingly quirky, approach to wine in an industry that leans heavily on tradition, even here in relaxed Sonoma.

For anyone used to country-chic tasting rooms that rely heavily on natural light and the feeling of natural abundance, this experience, which the winery offers in addition to its more familiar main tasting room, is going to feel like a trip to outer space.

In this unique universe, you can, by appointment, book one of three JCB experiences. You’ll taste wines and maybe try on a wig or two. And when you are ready, you will re-emerge right back where you started, within spitting distance of the sun-drenched vineyards.

 

Side Note: Do you know of a more unexpected tasting room in Sonoma or anywhere else? Please share your unique experience in the comments section below!

(Photos: Christine Sarkis and Sonoma County Winegrowers)

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By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

Email Christine Sarkis at editor@smartertravel.com.

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