Our Sonoma Valley wine country getaway – do’s and don’t’s
There’s so much to see, do, and explore in this area known as the Valley of the Moon. We just spent three full days exploring the Sonoma Valley wine country. What a treat and delightful way to relax and rejuvenate while enjoying beautiful scenery, fine foods and fantastic wines. We’ve been here several times, and each getaway we find something new and exciting in the world of wine and food.
We headed over the Golden Gate Bridge, which is always a treat in itself no matter what the weather or other conditions. After driving north for about 30 minutes on Hwy. 101, take the Vallejo turnoff and then head to the Sonoma Raceway and the Carneros Highway. There are several wonderful wineries along this area of the Carneros wine region. Cline Cellars and Gloria Ferrer are always great wine visits, and we think very visitor friendly. Viansa winery and Jacuzzi (owned by the Cline folks) seem to be more on the touristy side.
The boutique shopping and garden center Cornerstone is directly across from the entrance to the Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards.The Cornerstone Gardens have always been a remarkable attractions, but in May the gardens will be even more so. Sunset Magazine will add the Sunset Gardens’ site and will operate their test kitchen there. This will certainly be a major draw to Cornerstone. There are currently three different tasting rooms to visit. They each have a casual style and a relaxed setting. At the Poseidon Vineyard & Obsidian Ridge tasting room, we decided to sit and relax on the deck and enjoy a glass of wine. You can also taste the lineup of wines at each tasting room, but enjoying wine by the glass seems to be much more enjoyable than getting small sips of wine and having to listen to the pitch of how wonderful and tasty the wines are. Besides the boutique art and other shops, there is a very laid back and comfortable eatery, the Park 121 restaurant.
Sonoma – The Town
From Cornerstone, stay on Highway 121 around the bend and head to Highway 12 and the town of Sonoma. There is Sonoma County and there is the town of Sonoma. The town of Sonoma is at the very heart of the Sonoma Valley or, as the Native Americans dubbed it, the Valley of the Moon. The main attraction in Sonoma is the Sonoma Plaza. Surrounding the Plaza are a plethora of boutique shops, restaurants, hotels and wine tasting rooms. You could spend your entire getaway of three days just on the Plaza. We don’t recommend that, because there is much to see and do to the north of the town on Highway 12 and on the floor of the great Sonoma Valley.
Lodging in Sonoma
There are plenty of B&B’s and hotels in Sonoma. We stayed at the Sonoma Valley Inn at 550 Second Street West. It is a Best Western and reasonably priced, very clean and comfortable. Breakfast is included from 7 to 10 am. The Inn has a swimming pool and a fitness center. It is also pet friendly. One can choose from a choice of rooms, standard to a luxury suite. The Sonoma Valley Inn is right across the street from Whole Foods market and is just one block from the Sonoma Plaza. There is no need to jump in your car for dinner. There are plenty of restaurants within easy walking distance. Enjoy that extra glass of wine and leave the car at the Inn. Other recommened lodging in Sonoma
Dining in Sonoma
We have a list of recommended Sonoma Valley restaurants for you to check out. We dined at a new restaurant, the Sonoma Grille. The food was very good and prices were moderate. The Sonoma Grille has a very good wine menu. I love it when the wine list at a restaurant is priced fairly and has a lot of good choices. My only knock on the Sonoma Grille was the crowd noise. I rate it at very noisy. We also enjoyed the Red Grape. The Red Grape is mostly a pizza joint and more family oriented. The Pizza is delicious and the fact that the restaurant has been there 13 years is a testament to their pizza and reasonable prices.
Tasting Rooms & Wineries
In and around the Plaza, there are 25 wine tasting rooms. We stopped in on three tasting rooms on our visit. We visited Walt Wines, Pangloss and Passaggio. Walt Wines has
outdoor seating and delicious Pinot Noir wines. Pangloss has a very inviting tasting room; it’s like sitting in a huge living room with comfortable furniture. In Sonoma, but away from the Plaza, we love visiting the Buena Vista winery and Gundlach Bundschu winery. There is so much California wine history in these two wineries! They are among the oldest wineries in California. Along Highway 12 heading north are many wonderful wineries. These are full-fledged working wineries with vineyards, cellars and barrel rooms. Most of these wineries offer tours and picnicking in addition to a set of wine tasting choices. Our recommended list of wineries on Highway 12. The highlight of our Sonoma wine country getaway was a wine and food pairing at the St. Francis Winery. What a delicious treat and what a terrific way to learn about matching wine with food. Our full report on the St. Francis wine and food pairing.
Sonoma and the Sonoma Valley are within an hour’s driving time from San Francisco or Oakland. No matter what the time of the year, the Sonoma Valley has much to offer for wine country visitors. See more about the Sonoma Valley and its wineries – Sonoma Valley Wine Country.