Roughly 60 miles north of San Francisco, lies Napa Valley’s folksier sibling to the west: Sonoma County. Bustling with creative culinary vigor, the area is having a hot streak with an array of impressive new restaurants taking the food scene by storm.
But Sonoma County isn’t just for hungry patrons and oenophiles. With a long list of interior and antique shops, cheese and specialty purveyors, cocktail bars and open air markets, there’s something for everyone.
The scenery isn’t bad either; it just so happens to have a backdrop of rolling vineyards and a rugged coastline.
Below are some of my favorite spots in wine country.
Located in Santa Rosa, Bird & the Bottle is a destination worthy of traveling to the city, even if just for its (very excellent) Nashville-style fried chicken. Warm hospitality from co-owners Mark and Terri Stark is part of the draw at this intimate restaurant, as is the menu of dishes skillfully prepared by Executive Chef Eric Foster at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Stark’s Steak & Seafood, nestled deeply in Santa Rosa’s trendiest part of town, is a refined neighborhood restaurant. White tablecloths, a fantastic wine list, and great service are hallmarks. Or, sit at the comfortable bar and order food from the best happy hour menu around, a favorite amongst those in the know. The best part: happy hour is Monday through Saturday from 3 to 6.
For delicious pizza, an excellent wine list, and a round of bocce outside, head to Campo Fina in Healdsburg. Another favorite is the quaint Diavola, located in the tiny town of Geyserville (if you’re not in the mood for pizza, order their amazing fish tacos). Sea Thai Bistroin Montgomery Village is a local favorite, known for its traditional (and always consistent) flavorful dishes and inventive cocktails. Ramen Gaijin in Sebastopol offers up the best ramen in the county. And for a morning caffeine jolt, head to Acre Coffee, the undisputed Sonoma County coffee shop supreme.
With so many incredible vineyards and bars in the area, it’s hard to choose a handful. Notable standouts in Sonoma County include Duke’s Spirited Cocktails in downtown Healdsburg (know for their artisanal cocktails made with locally sourced produce), Medlock Ames Winery (sustainable, biodynamic and organic), and husband-and-wife-run outfit Alley 6 Craft Distillery (devoted to making rye whiskey in small batches from an alembic copper pot).
In addition to the uber-cool Shed in Healdsburg, Sonoma County plays host to a handful of lovely clothing stores. Tamarind, owned and operated by Andrea Kenner, offers up a sophisticated selection of stylish clothing and accessories, and handcrafted leather handbags, perfect to help you achieve that wine country chic vibe during your travels. Tamarind has locations in both Sebastopol and Healdsburg. Looking Glass, another Healdsburg favorite, offers up an impressive collection of cool girl wardrobe staples, including Frame Denim, Iro, Vince, and Rag and Bone.
Also in Sebastopol is The Barlow, home to wineries, a distillery, microbreweries and boutique producers of everything from soap to furniture. Planters filled with herbs and vegetables edge newly plotted streets separating buildings clad in corrugated metal. An outdoor fire pit, bocce court and public lawns invite locals and tourists to watch, play and sip and they enjoy the cutest hipped town that ever existed. A hotel with rooftop pool is on the drawing board.
If you’re the active-type, there are few things more beautiful than a hike or bike ride through Sonoma County.
Happy Eating, Sipping & Shopping!
Thanks for reading!