The newest winery in the Sonoma Valley is also one of the most spectacular, as well as one of the most wheelchair accessible. Hamel Family Wines opened in June 2014 and raised the bar for the Sonoma Wine Country experience. Conveniently located in the Valley of the Moon less than 5 miles from the historic Sonoma Plaza, it’s hidden from the highway, tucked behind rolling hills and vineyards.
Hamel Family Wines
15401 Sonoma Highway
Sonoma, CA 95476
Tours by appointment only 10 AM, 1 PM, 3 PM
Estate Experience $40 per person 1 hour
Premier Experience $60 per person 1.5 hours
Reserve Experience $100 per person 2 hours
Tours are by appointment only, so as you pull up to the grand gates you’ll need to request entry from the call box. DO NOT be intimidated by the By Appointment Only status! Hamel Family Wines wants to provide their special touch of a personal tour. Your party, whether it’s 2 of you or 10 of you, will have your own HWF Wine Ambassador that will spend 1-2 hours with just you, depending on the tour you select. Yes, it costs more than tastings at Open to the Public wineries, but the pampering is worth it. You will not be in a sea of boisterous wine drinkers crowding the bar, but basking in luxury and savoring the experience. So think ahead, find a spot in your budget for a little extravagance, and be prepared to enjoy Wine Country like a VIP.
A short drive up the hill through the vineyards brought us to the ultra-modern winery and an accessible parking space where we were promptly greeted by Leslie Garcia, our personal HFW Wine Ambassador. I could already tell that the accessibility would be ideal as I peered out at flat, wide pathways integrated into the landscaped terrain and a wheelchair accessible direction marker tastefully mounted on a wooden pedestal. Accessibility was indeed integrated into the design throughout the property, with flat thresholds, wide doorways, and accessible paths of travel, that were inclusive for all.
Our first stop was the tasting bar, where Leslie indulged me with an icy glass of water on this hot Sonoma day. Surrounded by expansive windows and valley views she shared a bit about the winery history. It is indeed a family winery. Built and owned by George Hamel Jr and his wife Pam, their 3 kids are part of the winery team, with George Hamel III as the Managing Director, John Hamel as the Winemaker, and Casey Hamel as Administration.
Badgers also seem to be part of the family. Three generations of Hamels are alumni from the University of Wisconsin, and the badger mascot appears on the wine labels, with badger sightings throughout the winery.
Our tour continued outdoors, taking in the breathtaking views across the Sonoma Valley. The accessible pathways were hard-pack decomposed granite, a very natural look, but also wheelchair friendly. Leslie commented that even in the winter rains the paths stay firm and easily accessible. The outdoor seating areas looked like a magazine spread and each had that spectacular view across the valley.
Many wineries use stainless steel tanks to ferment their wine, but this was the first time I had seen concrete fermentation tanks. Hamel Family Wines uses some of each to impart different qualities to their wines.
We journeyed on to the cave through yet another accessible entrance. Barrels of wine are aged in this 12,000 square foot cave dug into the mountain. The cool cave temperature was a relief from the exterior summer temperatures outside, but just in case the temperature is too cool for some, there was a rack of pashmina wraps, a very thoughtful touch that I have not seen in other wineries.
My first concrete egg sighting! Hamel Family Wines has 3 of these, each tucked into a niche at the end of a tunnel, and proudly displayed against a backdrop of the natural stone of the cave, left exposed during the cave construction. The concrete egg fermentation tank is a relatively new addition to winemaking. The concrete is porous like wood so it is breathable, unlike stainless steel. The egg shape creates a natural stirring effect during fermentation. The end result imparts a greater level of complexity to the wine and Hamel Family Wines is on the cutting edge of incorporating the technology.
With the winery tour complete we got down to the serious business of tasting wine. What a decadent and leisurely experience! Our private tasting was set up in the coolness of the Premier Tasting Room, with an expansive view over the infinity fountain to the Sonoma Valley beyond. We tasted 4 wines- a rose, a sauvignon, a zinfandel, and Isthmus, a Bordeaux inspired red wine blend.
Back into the sunshine and onto the terrace we posed for a final photo with Leslie, realizing with sadness that this blissful afternoon was drawing to a close.
Based upon the remarkable accessibility of the entire property I was confident that the restrooms would be accessible and I was not disappointed. Keeping with the contemporary design the sink and the toilet were fully accessible. The sink even had the magic triangle where the faucet, towels, and towel disposal were all reachable from the sink, so that I didn’t have to drive the scooter with wet hands to get a towel.
Our visit to Hamel Family Wines was an incredible experience and the accessibility was flawless.
- 2 accessible parking spaces with 1 van accessible
- accessible parking short distance to entrance
- all entrances wide with flat thresholds
- Wine Ambassador opens all doors for you
- spacious interiors and ample maneuverability space
- spacious exterior terraces paved or hard-packed decomposed granite with maneuverability space
- wide exterior pathways of hard-packed decomposed granite
- accessible Men’s and Women’s restrooms
- roll-under sink
- low mirror
- soap, towels, towel disposal reachable from sink
- automatic water faucets
- accessible toilet room with back and side grab bars
- bring the right mobility equipment to go distances
- in hot weather dress in layers- the caves are chilly (though they do provide pashmina shawls to wrap up in)