Sonoma County boasts 50-plus miles of coastline, 15 AVAs (distinct wine growing regions) and 300 wineries. Now, direct flights to Santa Rosa make it easy to get there, and spring —when the vineyards are budding—is a beautiful and uncrowded time to visit
Wine country hotels don’t get much better than the modern yet cozy Hotel Healdsburg (hotelhealdsburg.com). The central location across from the town’s historic square (25 Matheson Street) is walking distance to great shopping, restaurants, and tasting rooms. Accomodations feature simple Zen décor with Tibetan rugs and teak platform beds. The daily harvest breakfast goes way beyond continental and includes an omelet bar and homemade pastries. The hotel also offers a sleek pool, spa, and complimentary beach cruisers. Added bonus: Chef Charlie Parker’s Annual Pigs and Pinot event is March 22–23 and includes an Iron Chef-style competition and a March Madness-inspired Pinot tasting. The event, which sells out every year, promises to be delicious and hilarious—comedian Mario Cantone, of Sex and the City fame, is hosting (pigsandpinot.com). If you prefer a hotel with Old World charm, the 16-room Relais & Chateaux Hotel Les Mars, also in Healdsburg, looks like a French mansion and features 17th- and 18th-century antiques, four-poster beds, and Italian linens (27 North Street, hotellesmars.com). The intimate Duchamp Hotel is a minimalist lover’s dream and has six contemporary cottages with modern furnishings, private patios, and a mod pool (421 Foss Street, duchamphotel.com).
With hardly any employees over the age of 35, Scribe (2300 Napa Road, scribewinery.com) is a winery for a new generation. The office and tasting room are located in a simple house painted black, with a wall of wine barrels for décor. Tastings of silky Pinot and bright whites like a dry Riesling are poured at picnic tables set amongst twisty oaks overlooking the vineyard, and on chilly afternoons guests are offered Pendleton blankets for warmth. A century-old hacienda still stands on the property (word is, it operated as a speakeasy and hideout for bootleggers during Prohibition). Co-owner Andrew Mariani plans to turn it into a tasting room and inn. Meantime, he will visit San Diego for a wine tasting event at Cucina Urbana on April 20 (cucinaurbana.com). Hilltop modern farmhouse-style winery and tasting room Copain has one of the best views of the Russian River Valley. The word is out about their picnic lunch offering from Chloe’s French Café. Make reservations well ahead of time and enjoy with Copain wine pairings (7800 Eastside Road, copainwines.com). The Medlock Ames tasting room in a former general store boasts an eco-modern vibe with walls made of reclaimed wood, but the highlight is the dimly lit Prohibition-style bar in the back where bartenders mix craft cocktails with herbs from the garden (3487 Alexander Valley Road, medlockames.com). Located in a former apple cannery, The Barlow celebrated its soft opening in bohemian Sebastopol in January. The 222,000-square-foot artisan marketplace is home to a variety of producers, from bakers to coffee roasters, who make and sell their products on the spot (200 Morris Street, thebarlow.net). Sonoma County restaurants are delicious and unpretentious. Campo Fina is the new, more casual offering from the people behind the beloved Healdsburg Italian restaurant Scopa (330 Healdsburg Avenue, campo-fina.com). Go for red wine-braised short ribs or wood-fired oven pizza like the Salsiccia—housemade sausage, mozzarella, caramelized onion, and black kale. Yucatán-influenced Mateo’s Cocina Latina in Healdsburg is a nice change from more decadent wine country fare. Don’t miss the life-altering olive oil guacamole with crispy pumpkin seed crackers, and if it’s warm enough, snag a seat on the garden patio (214 Healdsburg Avenue, mateoscocinalatina.com). The popular The Girl and the Fig is French by way of Sonoma (110 West Spain Street, thegirlandthefig.com) and The Fremont Diner uses local ingredients to put a fresh spin on diner classics, like a ham biscuit with quince jam (2698 Fremont Drive, thefremontdiner.com).
Sonoma County’s quiet country roads are built for biking and wine tasting. Rent road bikes in Healdsburg at Spoke Folk Cyclery (spokefolk.com). We like West Dry Creek Road’s gently rolling hills and boutique wineries. Grab sandwiches and ready-made salads at the historic Dry Creek General Store (drycreekgeneralstore1881.com) before heading west on Lambert Bridge Road to West Dry Creek. If you can make it, you won’t regret checking out Bella Vineyards (bellawinery.com), a family-owned winery with wine caves, a wide range of reds, and picnic tables for lunching (about 22 miles round-trip).