Lush, green rolling hills sit along the Pacific just North of San Francisco. Dotted with wine communities of adorable small towns and lines of vineyards, this area evokes the feeling that you’re in Provence or perhaps Tuscany.
On a recent weekend trip with girlfriends, we wine tasted our way through Sonoma and I was so in love with the place I put together some of our favorite vineyards and restaurants.
Arriving in Sonoma on a Friday evening I suggest, making dinner reservations at The Girl and the Fig, off the square in Sonoma. It’s delicious food, in a vibrant atmosphere make for an enjoyable evening. The space is intimate and their antique bar makes you feel as if you’re in France. As they say it’s “country food with a French passion”. The menu is seasonal and their Rhone-Alone winelist is well worth boasting over. I tried the rose wine flight, for only $12 and loved it.Not to mention, her cookbook is wonderful.
For Saturday, this was our day to wine taste. I suggest hiring a driver, unless you have someone who is a DD or there isn’t a plan to drink much (ha, right). I prefer a private driver, split with friends, instead of a formal wine tour or bus tour. This allows you to make your day. We made reservations at our first two stops, which albeit nice to confirm, isn’t required.
Ideally, you go to three to four wineries because anything else becomes a bit much, and it allows for you to be leisurely at each winery.
Next we went to Arrowhead Vineyards (pictured above). Founded in 1986 by Richard Arrowood and Alis Arowood who gained a well-known winemaking reputation, as the first winemaker of Chateau St. Jean, producing some of the first single vineyard wines from California.
Next we went to Imagery Winery which is great for stopping in casually and the tasting room is large.
It’s nice to be leisurely, and not rush. You can enjoy your tasting, perhaps do a little shopping, or my favorite preference which is to purchase your favorite bottle (from the tasting) and roam the grounds or sit outside in the sun overlooking the vineyard.
As we made our way back into the square, there are plenty of wineries that have their tasting rooms right off the quaint square. We stopped into Sigh for a champagne and bubbles tasting and also went to Hawkes to enjoy their 2009 Cab. The tasting rooms off the square are so plentiful, you could just spend a whole day walking around there (but then you would miss the beautiful vineyards).
Each place has a unique story and it’s clear, that there are so many wineries it’s hard to even make a dent.
To wind down your weekend trip, we went to brunch at The Fremont Diner. I couldn’t believe how adorable it was.
Infamous for locals and visitors alike, it’s a small historic diner on the side of the road. Famous for the southern food like fried oysters, pie and cheesy grits, they don’t take reservations so first come first serve (it’s worth the wait). I love how they bring out your water in mason jars, the coffee is small batch and brought in a French press for you and their hash browns are potato “cakes” filled with lemon and parsley.
Final Wine Tasting Tips:
- Don’t be afraid to spit. It’s common and when tasting all day, probably necessary.
- Bring snacks and water. I brought some that came handy in my purse, and for our ride.
- If you’re hiring a driver, don’t forget to bring the tunes and a playlist.
- It’s nice to tip your tasting room staff, but it isn’t mandatory. It’s a nice gesture (we did at each stop) and typically, when you buy a bottle the tasting fee is waived.
- Saying “I’m going to Sonoma” is ambiguous; people often mean Sonoma County which is fairly large. We were literally in Sonoma, the town, but we tasted all around the county which has so much to offer and great little towns. In general, Sonoma is a lot more laid back than Napa, and honestly, was right up my alley.
- When tasting, it’s best not to wear heavy cologne, perfume or lotions. It affects the tasting experience, not only for you, but others.
- Bring many layers. Sonoma weather changes with much frequency.
- If you don’t plan to drink a lot, it’s okay to share tastings with another person and can be cost effective.
- Bring a cooler to keep your purchases of wine cool in the car, as you make stops.