Lenore Rutherford, The Union Democrat

The new La Bella Rosa Winery tasting room and gift shop in Sonora is designed to offer visitors a multi-layered taste of Italy.

Visitors will be able to taste wines made by owners Don and Lynda Peterson, sample specialty food items such as olive oil, olives and vinegars, and browse through home decor products and gifts, all in the spirit of Tuscany.

Lynda Peterson said she comes from Italian ancestors, and she loves Tuscan decor. It fills her home as well as the tasting room at La Bella Rosa Winery and the new tasting room and gift shop.

The Petersons have owned La Bella Rosa Winery since the late 1990s,

planting an eight-acre vineyard in 1998 and opening their tasting toom

in 2007. They grow Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and also buy

grapes for the wines they make.

In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, their wines include

Cabernet Franc, Port, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sangiovese and Aglianico,

plus an almond champagne that Lynda said is one of their most popular.

"Even people who don't like champagne love it once they taste it," she said.

Lynda and her daughter, Crystal, will man the new tasting room,

which will be open in addition to the current tasting room at their

winery, 17990 Old Wards Ferry Road.

Lynda Peterson said she decided to open the new tasting room after

retiring in June from a 26-year career at Twain Harte School, where she

was a teacher's assistant and had worked at many tasks over the years.

Ron Peterson is a building contractor. They have both lived in Tuolumne County for about 40 years.

They have two children, Clay and Crystal, and five grandchildren.

The tasting room and gift shop is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays at 72 N. Washington St.

Although wine tasting isn't available yet because of a heating

system problem that needs to be repaired, it is expected to be open any

day. Visitors could stop by and check out the rest of the store or call

ahead at 533-9968, if they prefer, to find out if tasting has begun.