The spring and summer holidays are upon and we decided to stay home for Memorial Day. But with 4th of July upon us, it was time for a long drive from Los Angeles. We’ve been to Napa Valley twice now and who can blame us. It’s got fine dining, bistros perfecting glazed short ribs and some of the world’s best wineries hidden off Highway 29. But what about the land to the left? Sonoma County appears to play second fiddle, seemingly always overshadowed by Napa Valley. Why? We didn’t know, but we were about to find out.
The terroir is slightly different, closer to the coast thus thriving with Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Syrah. In addition, adjacent Marin County is concentrated with well regarded cheese makers including Cowgirl Creamery and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company.
We’ve always loved the crowds in Napa. There’s a positive energy, everybody’s in a good mood, they’re friendly and unfortunately also affluent. The mid and upper-class love their wine and hotel accommodations take full advantage. It’s one the more expensive vacationing areas we frequent and rates can climb up to $700 for a room during holiday weekends. We like to keep the budget around $250 and that barely gets us above Super 8. Sonoma is not much easier on the wallet, which is why we ventured out to a vacation rental on this trip. There’s no concierge, no maid service, but we were able to snag a $200 rate at the Lomita in Sonoma. Our rental was fairly modern 1-bedroom apartment with full kitchen and patio, sundries included. Flipkey.com has many rentals listed that you can choose from and if you have four or more people; you can begin to see even better bargains.
Our initial plan was to wine taste in Sonoma Valley. Yet the more we read, the more we those plans changed. Sonoma Valley includes the cities of Sonoma, Glen Ellen, Santa Rosa and Kenwood. There’s enough wineries to keep you busy for a few days, but once we started researching the other areas of Sonoma County, we wanted to explore the wines and restaurants of Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, Sonoma Coast, Dry Creek Valley, Chalk Hill, Green Valley and Knights Valley. And what about those artisan cheese makers in nearby Marin County? Four days is sounding kind of tight now. The game plan was also to deliberately exclude the 30 minute drive to Napa Valley on this trip. We know there’s great food and wine in Napa, this trip was to find out if we could say the same about Sonoma.
Although, the city of Sonoma is an ideal hotel location in relation Sonoma Valley, the wineries are spread throughout several of the valleys in Sonoma County. In hindsight, getting a hotel in Santa Rosa or Healdsburg may have been more central to our wine tasting experience.
Cities visited: Glen Ellen, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Point Reyes, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma
Miles: 0 flight; 1,317 car; 0 train; 0 biked; 3 jogged
Length: 4 days
Biggest surprise: Scopa and both bakeries
Total attractions: 13
Cost per attraction: $46
Favorite experience: Barinaga Ranch Cheese Tour
Most overrated experience(s): One star Michelin restaurants, the girl & the fig
Top attractions: Barinaga Ranch Cheese Tour, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, Copain Winery, Hanzell Vineyards
City rankings: 1. Healdsburg, 2. Sebastopol, 3. Point Reyes, 4. Sonoma, 5. Glen Ellen, 6. Petaluma, 7. Santa Rosa
Stuff we missed or want to do next trip:
Cities – None
Attractions – Vella Cheese Company, McEvoy Ranch, Hiking / Biking in Point Reyes
Food – Willi’s Wine Bar, Andy’s Produce Market, Oysters in Point Reyes, Farmhouse Inn, Madrona Manor, Bravas Tapas, Lunch at Fremont Diner
Wineries – Peay Vineyards, Radio-Coteau, Papapietro Perry Winery, Arnot Roberts, Dehlinger Winery