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Three Perfect Days: Sonoma

Long considered Napa Valley’s sleepy cousin, Sonoma is ripe with vineyards and rugged valleys that are now just tame enough to conquer.

Author Sarah Horne


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DAY TWO | Pack your bags, albeit reluctantly, and check out. Before you hit the road in your ragtop, stop for coffee and a buttery croissant at Healdsburg’s Flying Goat Coffee 1, where the potent brew is taken ever so seriously.

Begin your leisurely drive down Westside Road, stopping in at the Hop Kiln Winery 2 to see the striking landmark 100-year-old hop kiln building, which now houses the winery’s tasting rooms. Take in the historic photos of the laborers of old, a reminder of when Sonoma was best known for its plum trees. Snag some of Hop Kiln’s zinfandel-infused grainy mustard, and you’re on your way.

Cruise into Graton (not too fast, or you’ll miss it) and settle in for succulent Drakes Bay oysters on the half shell and a side of roasted blue potatoes at Underwood 3, a cool bistro that’s doing its part to transform what was a “rough little apple cannery town” into an urbane yet rustic destination for food and wine aficionados.

Drive north and check into a luxurious barn room at the Farmhouse Inn 4, where sister-and-brother owners Catherine and Joe Bartolomei have created a stylish Russian River Valley idyll. Ask the concierge to set up a visit to the pleasantly rickety American Wine Building 5 in Forestville to check out the work of the vintners behind Arnot-Roberts and Wind Gap wines, two local labels that have earned the seal of approval of the inn’s in-house master sommelier, Geoff Kruth.

After chatting with the winemakers about their modern take on traditional barrelmaking and wine-stomping (and meeting the curious winery dog), head back to the Farmhouse and take a dip in the pool. Then stop by reception and help yourself to the “bath bar,” a complimentary array of salt scrubs and milk baths, and have a soak in the tub. You’ve earned it.

As the sun hangs low in the sky, hit the road for a low-key dinner at Zazu 6, an old-fashioned roadhouse-turned-carnivore’s-delight. Start with a selection of the Black Pig Salumi and move on to a hand-thrown MacBryde Farm fig pizza and a tasting flight of Russian River Valley pinot noir, the region’s celebrity grape.

Head back to the inn and inhale the cool night air, the scent of the fragrant herb garden and the rich, silty river in the distance. It will clear your head. It’s perfect sleeping weather.

6 Responses to “Three Perfect Days: Sonoma”

  1. Shana Ray Says:
    January 2nd, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    It is truly a wonderful place to visit (and live) and there is more to Sonoma than simply wine tasting, which you captured here perfectly! Great description of the area.

  2. Alana Gentry Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Headsburg is my favorite town in Sonoma County. Two other completely different regions (45 minutes from Healdsburg) is Kenwood (Kunde Winery is there) and Sonoma, the town. The town of Sonoma has been called “the island” by the locals, it’s the place with the quirky characters. Healdsburg is full of friendly, fun types.

  3. Grace Hoffman Says:
    January 13th, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    I’m from Iowa but when I visit Northern California, Healdsburg is my favorite place to visit! I can’t recommend it and the Dry Creek Valley area enough! I’ve made so many great friends and visited so many beautiful places. Michel-Schlumberger is awesome! I was just there last Summer and hiked their vineyards! Just spectacular!

  4. Simon Kitchen-Dunn Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    If you would like to live the dream why not doing perched above the Alexander Valley on Chalk Hill Road on 17.5 secluded acres at the end of a country lane.

  5. Sonoma William Says:
    February 23rd, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Great article. Good picks on wineries. So many more gems not mentioned though, make sure you come spend 2-3 days and explore fully!

  6. Lisa Villarini Says:
    March 14th, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Healdsburg is definately the best of the best of Sonoma County-You got it right with Lime Stone the perfect shop to take home special one of a kind items like the wine label tray made from local somoma wineries and right next door is the best restaurant Dry Creek Kitchen-food is exceptional and service was top notch!

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