You say you are looking for a place with gentle weather, top notch food, gorgeous wine, and nature? That's Sonoma. I find myself going to Sonoma over and over again. This could be because I'm a huge wine afficionado and traveling to Sonoma is much easier (and cheaper) than going to Italy, France, Spain, or Chile. But it is more than just convenience. Sonoma is simply gorgeous. There's nothing like looking out your window in the morning to see the sun rising over Sonoma's mountains. A list of things you will fall in love with in Sonoma:
- The Square
Wine: If you are staying in the center of town, you can easily reach Bartholomew, Buena Vista, Ravenswood, and Sebastiani wineries. There's no need to worry about DUI's because you can walk (or bike there). The roads that lead to those wineries are flat and tree lined for a lovely experience.You can also rent a limo for about $60 per hour (which is not bad if you have a large group of people, much cheaper than a ticket, and safer than driving drunk) to take you from winery to winery. Click the link f you need a list of all the wineries in the area (Napa included). I suggest you check out the wineries on the list below, some make fantastic wines while others are just really fun places to visit. If you're not into walking, you can check the tasting rooms and wine bars all around the city.
- Gloria Ferrer (lovely bubbles)
- Silver Oak
- B.R. Cohn
- La Crema.
Nature: Where you have wine growing, you usually have nature. Sonoma is nestled between the Mayacamas Mountains and and the Sonoma Mountains and has 13,000 acres of parklands.. This means that if you are into camping, hiking, swimming, cycling, or birding, you are in for a treat. And during those hikes, you'll probably run into some quail, swan, herons, robin, thrush, deer, and maybe...just maybe, mountain lions.
Sonoma Square: Right in the center of town is a park known as Sonoma Square. It is home to Sonoma's City Hall, as well as the cutest ducks I've ever seen. I could easily get lost in Sonoma Square. It is filled with smiling locals on a daily basis. You will want to go there on Tuesdays for the Farmer's market. It is a lovely experience. Obviously, local farmers set up shop and sell their goods. Area restaurants also take the opportunity to fill hungry bellies. There was a Cuban band singing on the day I was there. You will find that locals bring in foldable tables and chairs, plenty of wine and sit back to enjoy the experience. I can see myself living in Sonoma quite easily. All around the square there are fabulous restaurants, and shops for you to enjoy. There are museums...you'll never run out of stuff to do here.
Food: If you want all my recommendations, check out FriendsEAT (I'll post the links once I'm done writing), but know that there are no crappy restaurants in Sonoma. As in most wine regions, the produce is too good to make bad food. Besides, when you are competing with The Girl & The Fig, and La Salette (which are both incredibly well priced and serve food that is out of this world), bad restaurants just can't survive. There are also options if you're on a budget. Keep in mind that you are in California where there is a lot of immigrant labor. This means awesome, super inexpensive Mexican food. Check out El Brinquito for some kick ass chicken. Or, if you're like me, you will rent out an apartment with a kitchen instead of staying in a hotel. This means you can go to the farmer's markets and cook your heart out.
Markets: There are a lot of farmer's markets in Sonoma County. I visited two (and one in Napa). All were spectacular. The Valley of The Moon Certified Farmer's Market at the town square was my favorite. It takes place on Tuesdays from 5:30pm to dusk. It had music, wine, food, and awesome produceYou can legally drink there, so locals set up makeshift dining rooms and enjoy an evening with friends. The Sonoma Valley Certified Farmer's Market is held at the parking lot of Arnold Field on Fridays from 9 am to 12:30 pm. It is not too far from the center of town. This one is a little quieter (no music or partying), but again. The produce is awesome.
People: I met nothing but nice people in Sonoma. The population seems to be older, and affluent. In most places this means that you are excluded, but not in Sonoma. You can go hang out at a bar, with your bottle of wine, and locals will walk over, chat with you and suddenly, you've got dining and drinking recommendations.
Music: As I mentioned above, there's live music at the Farmer's market. If you like music, you can also check out Annex Wine Bar, El Dorado Kitchen, Blue Moon Saloon, or simply weave in and out of the hidden corridors near Sebastiani Theater...it is likely that quite a number of places there will have a live band.
How to get to Sonoma
Planes: First you fly to San Francisco, Oakland, or Sacramento.
- Shuttle: From San Francisco International Airport, you can take the Sonoma Airporter shuttle directly to The Lodge at Sonoma, this will cost you $29 one way. Not bad at all.
- Car: Sonoma is about 35 miles from both San Francisco and Oakland. It's not a bad ride. It is actually kind of lovely. And it is nice to have a car when you go to Sonoma so you can travel outside the area. It will take you about an hour and a half to drive from Sacramento Airport to Sonoma.
Where to Stay in Sonoma
As you know, I'm not a fan of hotels. I do long term travel. This means I require a kitchen, some space to work, and a washer dryer. I did add two hotel options, just in case you don't have luck with AirBnb.
- Airbnb Rented a 2 bedroom, 3 bath home on AirBnb with a garage. The hosts gave us some lovely recommendations on food and wine, and the house had everything we could possibly need. It cost $225 per night, a bargain, especially if you are traveling with more than 2 people.
- Sonoma Valley Inn Best Western: The rooms are nicely sized, the staff is lovely, and the facilities have a pool. There are also outdoor tables, so that you can enjoy food you purchased outside of the hotel. The hotel is pet friendly (a big plus in my book), and they will give you complimentary breakfast. The hotel is quite close to the town center too, so it is super convenient. This is a fairly priced option at prices usually around $200.
- The Lodge at Sonoma & Raindance Spa: This one is quite a bit pricier, but the grounds are fabulous. The hotel has a pool, hot tubs, restaurant, wine bar, gym, is pet friendly, and a fabulous spa. Book yourself a treatment, and even if you are not staying there, you can get use of the grounds. This one will cost you a bit more, around $400 just for the rooms.
Get yourself to Sonoma and have some fun!