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The Leica Q2 Goes Wine Tasting: A weekend of photography in the Sonoma Valley


Recently I visited one of California’s marquee wine-growing regions: the Sonoma Valley. Based on previous experience, I was sure the business of wine production and wine tasting would afford rich opportunities for photography. So, along with my sunhat and shorts, I packed my Leica Q2. At each winery, while my compatriots were quaffing samples of locally-produced Pinot Noir, I wandered around with my camera. This is what I saw.

Wine tasting in California

To anyone who enjoys wine, a tasting tour in a picturesque region of the world sounds like a winning proposition. Living in California, a weekend jaunt along those lines is an entirely realistic prospect. In Southern California, where I live, there are wine-growing regions of note within reasonable driving distance, such as Temecula, Santa Barbara, and Paso Robles. But, the heavyweights are to be found in Northern California.

Glasses at the ready for wine tasting under the red umbrella

I reckon if you asked an oenophile to name the world’s most important centres of wine production, the Napa Valley would appear on their list, perhaps after Bordeaux, Burgundy, and maybe Beaujolais. Napa is a town at the southern end of the valley bearing its name, an hour north of San Francisco. It is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes, wines made from which are considered among the world’s best. They are also among the world’s most expensive.

Santa Rosa, the largest town in the Sonoma Valley, can be seen in the upper left corner. The Napa Valley, featuring Yountville, St Helena, and Calistoga, lies to its east

The Sonoma Valley lies just to the West of its more famous sibling. Like Napa, it is named after the eponymous town at its southern end. Whilst still producing sensational wines, Sonoma enjoys a more easygoing vibe than Napa. Its wines are also more reasonably priced. This was our destination for a wine-tasting weekend.

Travelling to wine country

You can fly directly into the Sonoma Valley via the Charles M. Schulz Airport. Yes, that is the same Charles M. Schulz who wrote the Peanuts cartoon strip. Hence, the airport’s logo: Snoopy in his World War I flying-ace attire, sitting upon his doghouse. Schulz lived for thirty years in Santa Rosa, the main town in Sonoma County.

However, long-distance travellers to Sonoma are likely to fly into San Francisco, as we did, or Oakland. After a short Air Train ride to pick up a rental car, and a brief stop in San Francisco to pick up passengers, we were soon on our way to Sonoma.

We rented an AirBnB in Windsor, a few miles North of Santa Rosa. It is close to Healdsburg, a charming spot with a classic town square, art scene, tasting rooms, and a selection of restaurants. We dined in one of them on the evening of our arrival.

Make mine a Cab’

I consider myself a wine enthusiast: someone who enjoys wine, is not too bad at identifying wines, and is willing to splash occasionally on an expensive bottle. Amongst the reds, I can tell the difference between a Cabernet, Pinot, Petite Syrah, and sometimes a Malbec. Amongst the whites, I can spot a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Riesling. That’s about it.

But, in the spirit of continuous learning, ahead of the trip, I began reading Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker. It is an irreverent account of her efforts to improve her understanding and enjoyment of wine. In fact, she aspires to reach sommelier-level expertise in wine identification. I won’t spoil the story, but her ultimate goal was to be able to identify the grape, region, producer, and vintage for each of four wines in a blind tasting. I recommend it.

We visited three wineries on our trip, each offering guided tastings. Collectively, we sampled wines made from Pinot Noir, Grenache, Zinfandel, Barbera, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. Yum! As the designated driver, I sniffed a few but refrained from drinking any. I had other things on my agenda.


Our first port of call was the Martinelli Winery. Founded by two Italian immigrants, Giuseppe and Luisa Martinelli, the family has been farming the property for 135 years. Before the emphasis on grapes, they grew hops and apples, the latter still being an important part of their business. The main building houses an original hop-bailing shute, complete with gears for compressing the bales. These were transported to San Francisco by a long-defunct railway, which ran beside the farm.

Martinelli turned out to be a great place to start the day. The staff were friendly, its history was fascinating, and for the drinkers, its wines were delicious. The winery allowed us to hang around in the shaded tasting area and eat a picnic we had brought for lunch. Note to novice wine-tasting tourists: it’s a good idea to eat as well as drink, especially when the drinking starts at ten in the morning.

When travelling with the Q2, I look for opportunities to use its fast lens and macro capabilities. The Martinelli winery did not disappoint. Naturally, I zeroed in on a glass containing a splash of wine, alcohol refluxing temptingly above the liquid surface. Since it was springtime, a photo of fresh green leaves unfurling on the vine was also hard to resist.

We decided to purchase a Pinot-based rose that even the designated driver could enjoy as an aperitif before dinner later in the day.


The perfect accompaniment

On we went. A short detour was required before our next stop to pick up a selection of cheeses and crackers. At the grocery store, Olivier’s, we were greeted by a beautiful, apple-green, vintage delivery truck.

Now that’s a delivery truck

Note to novice wine-tasting tourists: cheese is the perfect food to accompany wine tasting.


Unti Vineyards is a small winery specialising in Rhone and Italian varieties, such as Grenache, Mourvedre, Vermentino, Barbera and Sangiovese. A row of Italian Cypresses enclosing the garden helped convey a Mediterranean ambience. The property is surrounded by acres of vines that were just coming into leaf. Spring flowers bloomed in abandon. A spectacular arbour, created using the prolific yellow climbing rose, Lady Banks, led us to the tasting room.

Unti felt very much like a working farm, with barns, trucks, tractors and smiling, check-shirted vintners. Note to novice wine-tasting tourists: although in Britain, vintner means wine merchant, in North America, it means wine grower.


After an animated debate, the 2021 Barbera was declared the winner of the tasting. A bottle was duly purchased for consumption that evening.


Our final stop was at Comstock Wines. This was a grander affair than the two earlier establishments, even boasting a bocce ball court. Bocce is a member of the boules family of ‘sports’, such as petanque and lawn bowling. Played on an enclosed gravel area, the objective is to toss and land your ball close to the white ‘jack’.

Note to novice wine-tasting tourists: one’s aim can be impaired after a day spent consuming wine in the hot sun. I will just note that the designated driver won the game by a convincing margin.

More food was, of course, necessary to accompany the wine tasting. In this case, a few mezze plates did the job nicely. You can see from the ‘red flight’ list that the tasting involves a steady progression in ‘bigness’ or ‘oomph’. It began with a delicate Pinot Noir and concluded with a robust Syrah. Yum!

Once again, the surroundings were delightful, as was the weather.

Leica Q2 vs Q3

The 28mm field of view of the Q2 was perfect for capturing a range of indoor and landscape shots. I know that many readers prefer a 35mm focal length, but I think Leica made the right choice when choosing the lens for the Q2. I was also able to snap a few still-life and shallow-depth-of-field shots while I was at it.

The word on the grapevine (I couldn’t resist!) is that a Q3 is coming soon. I wonder what improvements we will find over what is already a sensational camera? A range of sensor resolutions, like the M11? In-camera charging or memory? A tilting, rotating screen? I really hope it retains that gorgeous 28mm f/1.7 lens. Not long to wait now.

This has been the third instalment in the ongoing Macfilos food photography series since I count wine as food. I wonder what cuisine my Q2 and I will explore next.

Do you have any tales of wine-tasting trips? What is your favourite wine varietal? How do you think Californian wines compare to those from Bordeaux? When was the last time you played boules? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. I have seen pictures of it and it does have a tilting screen, much faster AF etc, and is due to be announced on May 25th. Don

    • Temptations will never cease! And I have to eat my words (or chew my sour grapes!) about nary a tilting screen from Leica.

    • Don and others: while we have all seen the rumour sites, Macfilos adheres to manufacturers’ embargo where necessary and, for that reason, we have to wait until the official announcement. In return, we have all the information to publish on the agreed release date and time.

  2. Very nice project, Keith,

    both the wine and the photography part. I remember I once hat to give a small lecture on winegrowing in California on a University field trip with the geography department (my major). What I kept is that the wines were good but expensive by European standards.

    The Q series offers wonderful travel cameras, and as John writes in his comment, the 28mm are more versatile that you might think, especially with the 1.7 aperture that gives you quite shallow depth of field. It only needs a bit of practice.


  3. Just to say: Don’t ever expect a tilting/rotating screen to be on Leica’s grapevine! Panny-Leica, yes; Leica never! But I was intrigued to hear how you handle the fixed 28mm.

  4. I thought the Q2 (and the photographer!!) did an excellent job rendering the very sophisticated aspects of the wine-tasting scenes. and the Martinelli label seemed strikingly 3D.The “landscape” photo of the San Francisco airport was also amazing.

    There’s one aspect troubling me: how much do these wines actually cost? Speaking as one who usually drinks ‘plonk’ (a term I learned from Far Flung Floyd 🙂

    • Hi Kathy, many thanks! I find that wines purchased at a winery usually come at a premium price, but they are often difficult to find locally. I think I handed over ~$35 for the bottle of Barbera, which is much higher than I would pay for wine at home. I am more of a $10-15 per bottle kind of guy, occasionally drifting up to $15-25 for a treat. Yum!

  5. Great article, detailing the wonders of my first wine tasting experience with the family, however I knew there was an advantage to having a designated driver to capture the highlights on camera, fabulous shots ! Well done Uncle !

  6. Nice shots that bring back many happy memories of trips to Sonoma when I worked in the Bay Area.

    I took my Q2 on a two week trip back to the mothership last year and had preflight anxieties about not taking another camera with a couple of lenses. That anxiety was unfounded. Common sense tells you how to use the 28mm lens to your best advantage and how to ignore those faraway shots of distant trees on a hilltop unless you deliberately want the trees to look small.

    I also think 28mm is the right choice. It’s easy to perform that dirty little act of cropping when you get your images back on the computer and you lose little. With new AI programs and widgets you lose even less.

    Should I put my name down for a Q3? I don’t “need” more megapixels but things like phase detection focusing might be a plus. TBD

    • Hi Le Chef, I have no qualms about cropping my Q2 images in Lightroom to achieve a longer effective focal length, because the lens and sensor are so good. I don’t see myself trading in my Q2 for a Q3, but if the latter really does come with an even larger sensor option, I think cropping to an even longer effective focal length (90mm?) would be viable. As I said to Ed, if you are comfortable with cropping, you have an extremely versatile camera in a superbly built, compact package.

  7. I am an M shooter almost entirely, but had been quite impressed with the Q2 when I was able to handle it. It can do more, more quickly than all but a pre-set primed M, and the results are comparable almost always. Lovely images. Both the camera and the subject matter can get addictive, quite rapidly.

    • Thanks Ed. The lens and sensor are so good that, if you are prepared to crop in post-processing, it’s like having a 28-75mm zoom, but with a prime lens, in a very compact package, with superb ergonomics.


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