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Hidden Wine Country Town of Occidental


Written by:

Joe Becerra

Last updated:

Healdsburg, Sonoma, Windsor, and Santa Rosa are the hot wine towns of Sonoma County wine country. If you like less hubbub, more solitude, and less wine snobbery, try visiting the town of Occidental. 

Occidental is in the Russian River Valley wine appellation, about 30 minutes west of Santa Rosa, CA.  Occidental is secluded, but in just a short distance there are many exciting activities that await the traveler. The scenery is breathtaking, with lovely rows of vineyards flanked by the magnificent Coastal Redwood Trees. 

There many attractions in Occidental but two restaurants, the Union Hotel and Negri’s Italian Dinners, draw many locals and tourists. It has been a long tradition for vacationers along the Russian River resort area to have dinner at one or both of these restaurants during their vacation stay. The Union Hotel has been serving up dinners since 1897, and Negri’s started in 1943.

Wine Country Getaway to Occidental – Details

Grove of Old Redwoods just outside of Occidental

How to get to Occidental

From San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, take Highway 116 from Highway 101 in Rohnert Park. We are going the back roads here, where you can discover so many excellent wineries and cozy restaurants. Sebastopol is a fun town, but for this trip stop in Graton for lunch. Two places not to miss for lunch, Underwood Bar and Bistro or the Willow Wood Market. Both are local favorites and often winemakers will dine for lunch here. Underwood Bar and Bistro has a varied menu and the Willow Wood Market Cafe focuses on hot sandwiches. Wineries in the area are Red Car, Merry Edwards, Dutton, and Marimar Estate.  See Occidental Map below.

Where to stay in Occidental

The Inn at Occidental

Dining in Occidental

Carmelized onions and arugula pizza at Hazel’s

Things are busy in Occidental, but the restaurants are not yet back to pre-pandemic operations. As of our visit, June 14th and 15th, the Union Hotel and Negri’s restaurants are open only on weekends. Hazel’s is also a good option, serving wood fire pizza and other main dishes. They are open Wednesday to Sunday. On one night of our stay, we bought deli sandwiches and side salads at the Bohemian Market and ate on the patio at the Inn. In Graton, Sebastopol, and Guerneville, there are more restaurant options, but you have to drive along the windy roads to get there and back. Stay safe and eat in Occidental.

Wineries to visit

This area is very much Pinot Noir and Chardonnay country. In and around Graton are terrific wineries. Follow this Wine Route. – Remember COVID has changed the way wineries take visitors. Even though things have re-opened, wineries are opting for reservations, with few drop-in visits offered. You need to plan in advance to taste wine. Our favorites in this locality are Merry Edwards, Lynmar. and Marimar Estate. If you are looking for other whites and reds, the Dry Creek Valley Wine Trail is 30 minutes away.

Vineyards at Miramar Estate – notice the Redwood Trees at the top of the vines

Other Activities

The Redwoods – view, hike, and enjoy

Drive any of the backroads from Occidental and you will see amazing groves of Coastal Redwoods. One close by hike is the Grove of Old Redwoods. From Occidental, take Coleman Valley Road to Joy Road and then a right on Fitzpatrick Lane. It is 1.4 miles on Fitzpatrick Lane to the parking lot and entrance is on the right. The hike is short but the beauty is stunning. This ancient grove of Redwoods will clear your mind and rejuvenate your spirit. If you love the Redwoods, this is an area not to be missed.

A beautiful and peaceful area near Occidental

Drive to Bodega Bay or Jenner by the Sea

Bodega Bay is a wonderful playground for visitors. There are great restaurants, art galleries, fishing, kayaking and much more. From Occidental take the Bodega Highway to this beautiful area. The ride is spectacular and only 20 minutes away.

Jenner is the spot where the Russian River empties into the Pacific Ocean. Highway 1 has fantastic ocean views, plus several spots to enter the beach areas. About 12 miles ahead is Fort Ross State Park. Back in the day, Fort Ross was a Russian trading village. On the windy road to reach the Park, there’s a turnoff to Fort Ross Vinyard, about 2 miles up the hill. Reservations are required.

To get to Jenner from Occidental, take the Bohemian Highway to Monte Rio. Turn onto Highway 116 heading west to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, either going or coming, stop in the old lumber milling town of Duncans Mills. The population is only 175, but the interesting shops are a bonanza for boutique shoppers looking for unique items.

Cool shopping in Duncans Mills

Russian River Beaches

During the summer months, the Russian River beaches attract sun-bathers, swimmers, and fishing. Two close by beaches from Occidental are the Monte Rio Community Beach and in Guerneville, Johnson’s Beach. If you need fishing advice, head to King’s Sport and Tackle in Guerneville. King’s is an institution in the Russian River. They also rent kayaks and other outdoor equipment.

More Photos

Handy Map of the Occidental Area

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.