Gloria Ferrer, the grande dame of Sonoma Valley's sparkling-wine producers, is named after José Ferrer's wife, whose family has made sparkling wine for 5 centuries. The family business, Freixenet, is the world's largest producer of sparkling wine. That legacy amounts to big bucks, and certainly a good chunk of change went into building this palatial estate. It glimmers like Oz, high atop a gently sloping hill, overlooking the verdant Carneros District. On a sunny day, enjoying a glass of dry brut while soaking in the magnificent views is a must.
If you're unfamiliar with the term méthode champenoise, take the $10 tasting and 30-minute tour of the fermenting tanks, bottling line, and caves brimming with racks of yeast-laden bottles. Afterward, retire to the elegant tasting room, order a glass of one of seven sparkling wines ($5-$10 a glass) or tastes of their eight still wines ($2-$3 per taste), find an empty chair on the veranda, and say, "Ahhh. This is the life." There are picnic tables, but it's usually too windy for comfort. You must buy a bottle (from around $20-$50) or glass of sparkling wine to reserve a table.