California’s wine country is ready to welcome visitors after October’s devastating fires. Roads are reopened and air quality is better – and businesses want you there! You may have heard that already.. but I want to emphasize that the holidays are such a nice time to explore the rustically beautiful region.
There is no shortage of festive decor here.. and I find Sonoma more intimate than its neighbor Napa – with wineries and boutiques inviting you in from the cold, ripe air… and a good assortment of wineries that offer a personal experience.
If you’ve always wondered about which wineries or restaurants to visit, I have consulted with locals and wine professionals for some suggestions.
I am not a wine expert by any means, but just love the stuff, and prefer to visit the smaller wineries that don’t produce many bottles, so you taste wines you might not be able to find anywhere else. (Great gifts!!) You can get some high quality wines, from grapes grown right on the estate, as opposed to wineries that buy grapes from all over.
But what is really special, is that it’s not a mob scene at these smaller wineries because tasting is usually by reservation only. Therefore, you can meet the winemakers, and get so much more attention.
The larger wineries can get a bit like Disneyland with limos pulling up and large crowds.
But for the most part, many are all handsomely decorated, so you will enjoy the spirit no matter where you go,
Here are some that some locals say “get it right.”
SCRIBE WINERY – a new generation of winemakers have made this a hip haunt. Founded by two young brothers in 2007.
MADRONE ESTATE, VALLEY OF THE MOON WINERY – Make sure to reserve the bocce courts! http://www.valleyofthemoonwinery.com/Portfolio/Madrone-Vineyard-Estate-Series
HAMEL FAMILY – A place to sit and enjoy the beautiful scenery from the deck while sipping your wine. AND – a big thank you for thinking of families – If you must bring your kids, Hamel offers kids “juice” tastings so they don’t feel left out 😉 (Photo from Gould Evans architect) http://hamelfamilywines.com/
BELTANE RANCH – A vineyard, winery, garden, and orchard! It is known for its Savignon Blanc and Zin – all sustainably grown. And..there is a B&B on the premises, but it won’t be reopening until January 2018, although reservations are being taken now. http://beltaneranch.com/
RAM’S GATE WINERY – If you read my blog, you know this is one of my favorites.
The design is absolutely gorgeous with a long Calacatta marble bar and a lovely patio. Oh and I like the wine too http://ramsgatewinery.com/
DONUM ESTATE: Winemaking is not the only art here… the sculpture collection itself is Instagrammable. The stunning pieces make an inspiring statement in the vineyards. The wines? Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. (Photos from winecountry.com) http://www.thedonumestate.com/
KAMEN ESTATE WINES– Sleek and modern, it offers two wine flights for tasting. http://kamenwines.com/
And one of my favorite places – THE ADOBE – an historic building right off of Sonoma’s square…
It is one of the town’s few remaining buildings from California’s Mexican period.The interiors are a such a splashy contrast to the significant adobe exterior!
Reservations are required for a tasting of Three Sticks wines, or a food pairing or even a private lunch in a chic dining area. Coming here is a unique experience that blends the best of Sonoma’s heritage, with the youthful energy of it’s present. http://www.threestickswines.com/adobe/
FREEMAN WINERY – These wines have received international acclaim and are on the most discriminating wine lists. https://www.freemanwinery.com/
And.. if you can’t make it to Sonoma wine country , you can always support the businesses by joining these wineries’ wine clubs so you can purchase them without visiting.
Beyond the wineries… There is great hiking in Jack London State Historic Park -it was so close to the fires, but thankfully spared. If you are a reader, you will enjoy learning about the White Fang author and seeing artifacts from his life that are located in the park.
In terms of restaurants., my favorite is The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma Square . Some of the tastiest food you will find.
Glen Ellen Star in the quaint town of Glen Ellen is a local’s favorite.
El Dorado Kitchen right on the square is another classic.
Here is a link for holiday activities in Sonoma: https://www.sonoma.com/blog/the-2017-guide-to-sonoma-countys-best-holiday-happenings/
I often feel a little frivolous writing about travel… but this is a nice opportunity to showcase a place that needs the business. So many of the people there lost homes. and need their jobs that are fueled in large part by tourism. It is a special place that is worthy of our support.