Sonoma Wine Country isn’t the kind of place to show off its luxury and wealth, nor is it the place to be seen. Rather it is the place to be. Located just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Sonoma County offers a genuine and adventurous wine country experience featuring more than 425 wineries, 100-plus organic farms, and over 80 kilometres of stunning Pacific coast.
With an abundance of wineries, restaurants, hotels, B&B’s and landscape to explore, it can be tough to know where to begin. Here are a few insider tips to one of California’s luxurious foodie destinations.
Where to stay?
The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is the ultimate oasis, blessed by natural mineral hot springs in the Sonoma Valley and located in an idyllic, world-famous wine growing region. With complimentary wine tasting in the lobby daily, premier dining room Santé Restaurant offering innovative local California cuisine, as well as being one of the only luxury spa resorts in the country with its own source of thermal mineral water, guests will find everything they desire here.
Guests seeking the warmth and hospitality of a family style accommodation will find this at the Farmhouse Inn. This family-owned bed and breakfast inn is coupled with all of the services and amenities of a luxury boutique hotel in a more laid back lodging environment. Located in Forestville, the international acclaimed Inn houses a Michelin-starred restaurant as well as a perfect luxury spa that uses a farm-to-table inspired treatment menu incorporating ingredients grown in Farmhouse’s kitchen garden.
What to do?
Aside from being a wine lover’s paradise, Sonoma County offers something for everyone; from families to couples on a romantic getaway.
Take a walk along Gualala Point Regional Park at the junction of the Gualala River and Pacific Ocean and immerse yourself in white beach dunes while you appreciate stunning ocean views. Experience a bird’s –eye view of the stunning landscape from the basket of a hot-air balloon – be prepared to rise early though as most balloons launch in the early hours of the morning when the air is cool and the wind is light.
For breathtaking views spiced with a dash of literary history, go on an 11 kilometre hike from Jack London State Historic Park to the Sonoma Ridge Trail. Don’t miss the opportunity to savour just-off-the-farm veggies and fruits along with locally-made products at Sonoma Valley Certified Farmers Markets, or take a delicious tasting excursion along the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail – distinctive hand-crafted cheeses on a trail that winds through over 150 kilometres of canyons, pastures and oak-covered hills, linking close to 30 farms and creameries.
Those making the pilgrimage just for the wine, you will have no problem fulfilling this. Home to almost 25,000 hectares of vineyards plus more than 400 wineries, there are plenty of ways to taste wine from guided tours to self-exploring. If you’re all about the pampered get-around, jump on board the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley – a chauffeured tour in a vintage 1890s San Francisco cable car that takes passengers on a six hour field trip to some of the top wineries.
Where to eat?
Farm-to-table, field-to-fork, or plant-to-plate: call it what you want. Sonoma County eateries invite food lovers who dream of eating their way through great restaurants to make a valiant effort.
Dustin Valette is rocking the food world at Healdsburg’s Valette, bringing in crowds for his contemporary Cal-global cooking and reclaimed wood-trimmed, open kitchen ambience. Reservations are recommended to score a table laden with seasonally (and often weekly) changing dishes like slow cooked celeriac soup with toasted pistachios, yellow beet tartare and goat cheese meringue, or crispy skin local sable fish with garden bok choy, roasted ginger dashi, toasted soba noodles and spicy kimchee purée.
Matzoh ball soup, prepared ramen style. Cheesy grits topped in pickled shiitakes, grilled chicken, cured egg and spicy schmaltz. They seem like odd recipes, but restaurateurs Mark and Terri Stark of Santa Rosa’s Bird & The Bottle are professionals, so their modern tavern melting pot works well. Try grilled and chilled shellfish accompanied by Southern Saltines and Korean chile buerre; clam chowder studded with kielbasa; kimchee latkes with sour cream and garlic chives; chicken fried oysters with shiso leaf and spicy mayo.
So whether you’re exploring the historic charms of the town of Sonoma, or the amazing wineries situated in the Sonoma Valley, or even the amazing diversity of agriculture, ocean coastline and, yes, wineries of Sonoma County, as long as you see the “Sonoma” name, you’ll be in for an authentic California wine country experience.
For more information: visit sonomacounty.com. BFM