I am now beginning the process of updating both The Back Lane Wineries of Napa and The Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma for a new third edition. If you would like to recommend a favorite small, family-owned winery or other local venue--a great little restaurant, special farm stand, a quiet picnic spot; anything you'd want to know about--I am very happy to receive recommendations.

A word about process: I am an independent wine journalist and author, and that means that I do not charge anything, do not take payments of any kind, and have no financial relationship with any winery or venue included in the guides. There is no advertising fee. There is no requirement to buy copies of the book or to sell it in your tasting room, though you may if you wish. I make a "living" by writing books that (hopefully) people find interesting and will buy and not by charging wineries. I've owned a winery. I have a home in Sonoma. My interest is in the ultra-local and in supporting small wineries with great stories in a place I love.

By the same token, all the photography and writing is done independently. I don't / can't / won't use any press packs, in-house tasting notes, press photos, and wineries do not have editorial control. As a courtesy, I share the text and photos pre-production with all wineries or venues, and a winery can always choose not to be included in the guide at that time, on the theory that I only want to include places where visitors with guide in hand will get a warm, family-style welcome. But all content is independent.


Please be aware as well that these are primarily descriptive wine guides and not evaluative. I only include wineries and venues that I think make great wine and/or offer a great experience and that I can recommend wholeheartedly. I do not "rate" wines in this guide or put one great winemaker in competition with another great winemaker with a palate-driven scorecard. My philosophy as a wine writer reflects my experience as a winemaker: there are well-made wines, and there are flawed wines. The flawed wines I pass over in silence and don't include those places. But among the many well-made wines in the world, there are some I happen to enjoy and others that I enjoy less. Among that panoply of good wines, you very likely have different and personal preferences. These guides offer readers an intimate, narrative-driven snapshot of a winery, the people behind it, and the style of (well-made) wine you can expect to find. I strive to include wines made in all different styles and approaches, so readers can find their own way. The back-lanes are windy. We all take a different path, and most of the fun is the journey.

So if you have a recommendation of a small, family winery that you love and think no one should miss, please feel free to reach out. Submission button is to the left. I can't guarantee inclusion in the guide (the guides are my 70 top-picks), but I can guarantee that I'll follow up and take the recommendation to check it out. I only write about wineries and places that I have visited in person and about wines that I have tasted personally. If a recommendation is a good fit and the winery is interested in being included, the process starts with getting together to walk the vines, talk wine, maybe take some pictures, and hear some wine-countries stories.