Known for its laid-back atmosphere and elegant Pinots, Merlots and sparkling wines, the Sonoma Valley is the perfect weekend escape. As it’s 40 miles north of San Francisco, a rental car is essential - especially in the cooler season. But if you’re visiting in the warmer months, you’ll definitely want to consider renting some bikes. It’s perfection.
For those who don’t have a designated driver and want to partake in tastings at the myriad of vineyards, some groups reserve limousines or hire drivers for the day. This is the way to go especially with the rolling hills, lack of street signs and my inclination to go to the grapes (rather than their tasting rooms located in the more convenient Plaza) in locations that offer a different kind of experience.
We stayed at MacArthur Place, a delightful boutique resort centrally located blocks away from Sonoma Plaza. It has stand-alone cottages that are wonderfully quiet, peaceful, fire place lit and low key. (I knew not to compare it to my previous weekends in Napa with it’s more upscale lodging and hospitality options, but this place fit the more casual, farm vibe of Sonoma.)
Our days were spent exploring the vineyards, cellars, caves and tasting rooms of Sonoma Valley, which technically spans from the Pacific all the way to the edge of the Napa Valley. Meandering down scenic roads that trace the Russian River all the way west to the coastline offered views for days and air that was sublimely fragrant and fresh. Magnificent rolling green hills that nourish the long rows of vines will instantly inspire you to take in the serenity and splendor of this region. The contrasting vibrant yellow mustard plants dotting the mountain sides in between the rows of vines and slivers of mylar tied to the top of the branches to deter the birds, made the countryside sparkle on an unseasonably warm and dry February day.
The vineyards we toured (listed below) were all lovely and worth the drive, but my personal favorites were B. Wise Vineyards and Kamen Estate Wines. For a region not particularly known for its cabernets, I found some gems at these two wineries. Also, I highly recommend going in autumn when the foliage is breathtaking and the crowds are minimal. That being said, I have also heard of many spectacular summer celebrations there. In any season, it’s #OnlyJoy in the Sonoma Valley.