One of our favorite weekend trips is visiting wine country in Northern California, and we just got back from a recent visit, so I’m still dreaming of the beautiful views, relaxing vibes and all of the delicious wine and food! We head up there several times a year and usually get an Airbnb in Sonoma County. It’s a quick and easy flight from San Diego to Sacramento or Santa Rosa – both of which are an easy drive to Sonoma and Napa. While we usually visit wineries in both Sonoma and Napa, we typically spend most of our time in the Sonoma area, since we love the more laid back vibe there. Generally speaking, Napa is a bit flashier, more expensive, and requires a bit more advanced planning since many of the wineries there require reservations. We usually make reservations at a couple of wineries in Napa and spend the rest of the weekend popping into a mix of new and familiar wineries in Sonoma. It’s easy to visit both in one weekend since Sonoma and Napa Valley are neighbors, and it’s fun to mix it up. Both areas are beautiful, have amazing wine, and tons of great restaurants. Even if you aren’t super in to wine, it’s still a great area to visit since many of the wineries have beautiful grounds that are fun to explore and relax in, and it’s fun to walk around Sonoma square and check out the little shops.
We usually rent a car to get from the airport to Sonoma, then use Uber to get around once we’re there, so that way we can drink wine and not worry about having a designated driver. We’ve also rented bikes from a shop close to Sonoma square; riding to a few wineries nearby (the bike shop gave us a map with a suggested route). Both Sonoma County and Napa Valley are really large areas, so I’d recommend choosing wineries that are relatively close to each other, to avoid spending 30 minutes to an hour driving from one stop to the next. You can just pick an area (based on one winery you know you want to visit) and do some research on other wineries in the same area, or you can just wing it – stopping in any winery you drive past that catches your eye. Sonoma is particularly friendly for people that don’t have a plan, since most wineries don’t require reservations and it’s hard to go wrong. We usually plan out one day based on wineries we know we don’t want to miss, making reservations at the ones that require it. For the other day, we’ll usually have one winery in mind, then stop at other places we see long the way. We’re not wine experts by any means, so we often choose wineries based on overall vibe rather than just seeking out the “best” wines. After all, what makes the “best” wine totally depends on your personal tastes!
Here are some of our favorite places:
Glen Ellen Star – casual dinner spot with great food in the adorable little town of Glen Ellen
The Girl and the Fig – great food with a charming outdoor patio right on Sonoma square (breakfast, lunch & dinner)
El Molino Central – excellent Mexican food in an adorably colorful spot, making for the perfect lunch stop between wineries
Oso – great tapas style food right on Sonoma square
Landmark – great Pinot Noirs, beautiful garden area with lots of shade, plus bocce ball and corn hole
Chateau St Jean – beautiful grounds that make a lovely spot for a little picnic
Nicholson Ranch – beautiful views and excellent Pinots, as well as a great Syrah
Scribe – hip spot with stunning views and fun snacks paired with your wine tasting (make a reservation well in advance, as they do get booked up)
Caymus – lovely grounds and a delicious Cab
Frog’s Leap – beautiful gardens, easy to pair with a visit to Caymus since they are neighbors
Inglenook – impressive estate with excellent red wines (get the Rubicon – it’s a special treat!)
Sweet Scoops Ice Cream – adorable little shop with delicious homemade ice cream on Sonoma square
Vella Cheese Co – stop by and grab all the makings for a little picnic to take to a winery or the park in Sonoma square (they are usually happy to slice up the cheese and meats for you if they aren’t too busy)
There are literally thousands of other amazing wineries and restaurants in the area, so this is just a tiny sample, but these are spots that we return to again and again.
We hope you enjoy!
XOXO – Liv & Mar