Sonoma’s roots go deep—and they spread wide. Padres poked the first vines into the dirt at Mission San Francisco de Solano in 1824. Today, 200 wineries spread over a dozen appellations and 1,500 square miles. Tour the stunning countryside and find out why Sonoma has always been such a grand place for wine (and food). Experience the delights of pairing wine with local foods, and learn about the latest techniques for pressing the most flavor from Sonoma’s toasty inland weather varietals and those varietals cooled by fog and ocean breezes.
In the 1850s, California wines were syrupy products from Mission grapes. Agoston Haraszthy knew the state could do better. He founded Buena Vista and began planting the varieties that anchor California’s modern wine industry. Learn more about his legacy and taste why the Carneros region is ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Trip Time: 3 days
Five minutes away, check out some of California’s most historic buildings—among them Mission San Francisco de Solano —centered around the lawns and spreading trees of Sonoma Plaza.
On the ground floor of the 19th-century Sonoma Hotel on the plaza, restaurateur Sondra Bernstein will captivate you with Provençal-style roast chicken, artisan cheese plates, and grilled fig salad (in season) at the girl and the fig .
Follow State 12 north from Sonoma to the community of Glen Ellen and a taste of the 20th century. Love California’s quintessential big, buttery, oaky Chardonnays? Then visit Arrowood Vineyards & Winery .
Continue up State 12 past small communities and wineries. When you reach Santa Rosa, load up on maps and more recommendations at the California Welcome Center .
For a look at cutting-edge winery practices, head north on U.S. 101 outside chic but casual Healdsburg to Ridge Vineyards . The winery’s Lytton Springs tasting room, in the Dry Creek region, incorporates eco-friendly construction, solar panels, and computer-controlled temperature regulation. Lytton Springs is Ridge’s Zinfandel-focused branch.
In the Alexander Valley just east of Healdsburg on State 128, Americana-filled Jimtown Store , circa 1895, is the place to stop for sublime sandwiches, salads, and possibly the world’s best chocolate pudding. Eat on the patio, or buy lunch to go. At Alexander Valley Vineyards , a couple of miles east on State 128, the grounds and gardens around Cyrus Alexander’s restored adobe house make a beautiful setting for a picnic.
Healdsburg is your starting point for exploring the Russian River area. Before you leave town, swing by Dry Creek General Store , established in 1881, for picnic fixings. Sandwiches run the gamut from meat loaf to prosciutto with fresh mozzarella.
But don’t dive into that picnic just yet, because a few miles south of Healdsburg off U.S. 101 you’ll want to whet your appetite with the food-and-wine pairings at J Vineyards & Winery . The winery’s original sparkler has been joined by very good—and still—Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris.
Retrace your route to Healdsburg, then head south on Westside Road to Davis Bynum Winery . The winery has an innovative permaculture garden open by appointment. The Pinots, from grapes grown organically at various Russian River vineyards, are invariably interesting.
The real old-timers in this region aren’t the vines—they’re the trees. Stretch your legs—and neck—at Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve , 805 acres of towering coast redwoods alongside the Russian River.
Girl and Fig
110 W Spain St
Sonoma, CA 95476-5696
650 Lytton Springs Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448-9653
6706 Highway 128
Healdsburg, CA 95448-9634