Sonoma Wine Country is truly a paradise for those who desire the finer things in life. As one of California’s premier wine regions, you simply can’t leave this foodie haven without sampling some delicious dishes and drinks. That said there’s, even more, to enjoy in diverse and exciting Sonoma Wine Country. Here are the top 10 things you must do, see, and taste in any of your epicurean tours of Sonoma:
Things you must do and see in Sonoma County
Before you sample the delicious dishes and drinks of Sonoma County, you should set out and experience the attractions the region has to offer.
#1: Watch whales at Bodega Head
It’s not just foodie visitors who love the delights of Sonoma County’s coastline. It’s also a fabulous spot for watching migrating whales, which are drawn to the warm waters and plentiful food supply.
For the best chance of spotting these incredible mammals in the wild, visit Bodega Head between January and May. They can often be spotted from the coast, but are best observed from the deck out a boat out in the ocean.
#2: Go on safari
Yes, you read that right – Sonoma County is one of the best places in the United States to head out on a wildlife safari, complete with the animals of the savannah.
In Santa Rosa, you’ll find the Safari West Wildlife Preserve, a huge swathe of land that’s home to over 700 animals that are mostly native to Africa. Head out in a jeep and spot lions, zebras, giraffes and gazelles in conditions very close to their natural habitats.
#3: Soak up nostalgia at the Peanuts museum
They are some of the world’s most famous comic strip characters – that’s Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang. Believe it or not, they were created in Sonoma County!
In fact, creator Charles Schultz lived in Sonoma County for more than four decades – so it’s only fitting that it’s home to the Peanuts museum. Check it out, and feel the nostalgia of this iconic comic strip that ran from 1950 to 2000.
#4: Admire fine art
Sonoma Wine Country is a playground for those who enjoy the finer things in life – such as the traditional arts. The region boasts many excellent galleries and studios where you can admire works by well-known artists and well as up-and-coming talents.
Some unique experiences include the beautiful sculpture trail between Geyserville and Cloverdale, as well as the open studio event that occurs in the town of Guerneville between 3pm and 8pm on the first Friday of every month.
#5: Visit the Village within a village
Many visitors to Sonoma County overlook one of the region’s premier shopping centers, the Montgomery Village Shopping Center. Located within Santa Rosa, this “village within a village” boasts one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants, styled in the aesthetically pleasing ‘town and country’ architecture.
Designed as an open-air shopping center, Montgomery Village has a little bit of everything to offer, including family-owned shops, local businesses, art galleries, gourmet restaurants, and universally loved clothing outfitters. Located just off of Montgomery Drive and Farmer’s Lane in Santa Rosa, Montgomery Village Shopping Center is the perfect place to spend your afternoon or early evening.
Things you must taste in Sonoma Wine Country
Get ready for your taste buds to be tempted and tantalized by what’s on offer in Sonoma Wine Country. Here are five things you can’t leave the region without tasting.
#6: Enjoy the brilliant wine
It goes without saying that you’ll need to leave plenty of time in your itinerary for enjoying some of the region’s premier wine.
Sonoma Wine Country boasts not one but sixteen separate wine regions, or appellations, for you to enjoy. Some of the most famous include the Alexander Valley AVA, Russian River Valley and Sonoma Valley – but all of them are sure to delight your taste buds.
There’s an incredible selection of vineyards and cellar to choose from. In particular, visiting some of the historic producers like Buena Vista Winery, California’s oldest vineyard, is a true delight. Be sure to grab an extra bottle to take home (Yes, you can bring wine back*).
#7: Experiment with wine pairings
Many sommeliers swear that wine should be tasted alone, so as not to influence the flavor. However, there is a lot to be said about tasting different combinations of wine and produce, so as to get an idea for how different tastes can go together and complement one another.
Many Sonoma Wine Country producers agree with this sentiment, and as a result there are many delightful pairing experiences on offer. From wines paired with cheese and chocolate, to accompanying small bites (like what’s on offer at Jordan Vineyard & Winery), Sonoma Wine Country is a true gastronomic experience.
#8: Explore the breweries and distilleries
It’s not all about the wine in Sonoma County. A number of established and up-and-coming breweries are releasing phenomenal beer and cider. There’s even a Sonoma County Craft Beverage Map that will take you past many well-known producers such as Russian River Brewing Company.
For something with a little more kick, Sonoma Wine Country also offers more than a dozen distilleries. Don’t miss Prohibition Spirits, known for their incredible range of Italian-inspired limoncello, as well as classics like gin and vodka.
#9: Purchase small goods and farm produce
With its rolling hills and wide-open space, Sonoma County is the perfect backdrop for absolutely delectable small goods and farm produce. Even better, you can meet the producers and sample some of the delicious goods offered.
There’s even a Farm Trail that will wind you through the beautiful countryside and to the doorstep of the region’s best producers. Be sure to bring your appetite so you can sample plenty of amazing cheeses and more.
#10: Experience farm (and sea) to table restaurant dining
It’s no surprise that the cities and towns of Sonoma County boast numerous high-quality dining options. Food and wine are, after all, a region-wide passion.
There are so many excellent choices it’s hard to decide, but Michelin-starred Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant is elegant and timeless, yet approachable. Embodying the farm-to-table ethos, the produce is exquisite and most locally sourced. For something more casual, Downtown Bakery & Creamery in charming Healdsburg is sure to impress without breaking the bank.
Thanks to Sonoma County’s long swathe of coast, seafood is another highlight here. Seafood Chowder is a particular favorite – there’s even a festival dedicated to the dish in January. The region is also famous for delicious crabs, which can be bought fresh from the sea or whipped up into mouth-watering dishes.