VinoTripping Blog

Day 2: Sonoma – Flanagan Winery and Riley’s Rows

Day 2:  Flanagan Winery

The next day we woke up early, as it was the one day we had dedicated to touring Sonoma (definitely not enough time!).  We had a special invitation from Flanagan Winery to meet up with their Director of Business Development & Hospitality, Sarah Kelley, and their Owner, Eric Flanagan.  We didn’t realize that we were in for such a special treat.  We were wined, dined and also had the privilege of meeting Riley, Eric’s oldest daughter, and tastING Riley’s Rows, her new collection of wines.

We headed out to Sonoma and made a quick stop on the way in Calistoga for a coffee. It was a super cute main street and I wished I had more time there.  We also made a quick stop in to Sebastopol and had an amazing coffee and quick shopping stop.  It was a really beautiful square with cute designer shops.  Flanagan was just around the corner.

I had met the owners of Flanagan a few times at the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket wine festivals and they had extended the offer to stop by and visit when we were in Sonoma. I emailed Eric before we came out and he connected me with Sarah Kelley, his Concierge.  She helped us schedule our day and our trip to Flanagan.  When we arrived, we were greeted warmly by Sarah.  She had prepared a personalized tasting menu for us, and we sat on the beautiful deck of their mountainside vineyard, with a vista of the many mountain peaks of Sonoma wine country.  We tasted their wines, while enjoying the lessons and stories shared by Sarah and Eric.  Sarah poured head to head tasting comparisons of their exceptional Flanagan wines while she shared stories of her life in wine country.  Using maps and stories she taught us about Sonoma and the Flanagan story.  Sarah has been in the wine business for years and was an exceptional hostess.  This was definitely a highlight of our trip for me.

Eric soon came to join us, with his daughter Riley, and shared Riley’s story and her wines as well. Eric is a character, with many fun and interesting stories.  This was the highlight of the trip for Mr. M.  He and Eric talked about business and the state of the world and it was a fantastic afternoon.  Eric headed out to drive his daughters to their respective plans while Mr. M. and I continued on with Sarah.

Sarah gave us a tour of their production and storage facilities and pretty much taught Mr. M the ins and outs of winemaking.  I had to laugh, where I had spent years studying how to make and taste wine, Mr. M tried to learn it all in one afternoon and Sarah, ever patient, polite and lovely, entertained all his questions thoroughly.   I cannot say enough about Sarah.  She was gracious, and amazing and serves as their wine club Concierge, production tour guide, serves wine, teaches classes and generally takes care of all guests of the Flanagans.  What an incredible day we had with them. 

Eric’s wines speak for themselves and carry a more substantial price tag, though are well worth it.  His Pinot Noir’s blew me away with their complexity, color, structure.. just outstanding.  I am very selective about the wine clubs I join, but his was a must.  Every wine I have tasted and shared has been outstanding.

Eric started working with his daughter on building out her wine selection at a lower price point.  One of his venture’s is investing in vineyards, consulting and helping them to grow exceptional fruit.  He is the beneficiary of some of the best fruit in Sonoma and now his daughter’s line will be as well, though at a more accessible price point.

Later we tasted more of Riley’s Rows and her story is fantastic. Of all of the children, Riley had always shown interest in working with Eric in the fields and in making wine.  She is now in school to become a wine maker and is making her own wine under Eric’s tutelage.  This is a trend I am seeing around the world, daughters learning the art of winemaking from their highly successful fathers. They are taking on the trade and making a mark and Riley is already turning out some great wines!


Eric and Riley planting their first grapevine in 2001, drawing of Riley’s in 2003, in 2017 working as an intern
Riley in 2017 at the winery working as their intern.

The wines are great and the story is true!

About Author

After graduating from Brandeis University, Alison worked as a teacher at two op high schools in the country and spent her summers traveling the world. On one of her adventures, she visited Stellenbosch and Paarl in South Africa, which ignited a lifelong passion for learning about wine. In 2004, she worked as a Wine Consultant for the Traveling Vineyard and began to study wine more intensively. While working as a high tech recruiter, she completed her Advanced Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust in the UK in 2018. Her wine travels have taken her to the wine growing regions of the US, Europe, Africa and Australia. Alison is a member of the Boston Sommelier Society, a member of the Guild of Master Sommeliers and is a Wine, Travel and Lifestyle Media Influencer. She recently created and released her successful wine tasting card game VINO!. Currently, Alison is running her business, Artisan Wine Group, offering private and corporate wine events and sharing VINO! across the globe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *