When I think of California Wine Country, the first place that pops into my head is Napa Valley. But what about Napa’s friendly neighbor, Sonoma? The Sonoma County has been growing as a ‘hipster’ wine region and is more frequently visited by millennials as the younger alternative to Napa, so my family and I decided to explore the famous and not so famous parts of Sonoma County – road trip style.
Our trip started out in a residential area of Santa Rosa. We found a tasting room at Inspiration Vineyards where we also met the owner of Sheldon Wines. It was a fun and different place to start, and for a winery we had never heard of it was really good! We then walked over to Carol Shelton Wines, the most award Zinfandel wine maker, and tried a couple of her classics while touring the production areas. Finally, we headed to the most beautiful winery I’ve EVER been to, Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville.
The grounds are almost as amazing as the wine, but pictures don’t do this place justice. The pool, changing rooms, patio area, and pool bar make it feel like an old Hollywood resort, and the cinema props inside help with that too. There are two bars to taste at downstairs, as well as an amazing rustic restaurant, and a premium tasting area upstairs that I highly recommend. After eating and tasting at Coppola, take a stroll through the vineyard, or play a game of bocce ball!
Next time I go I’m definitely bringing my swimsuit and staying a whole day, because it is worth it. It would be great for a birthday with friends or a bachelorette party too!
One thing most people don’t know about Sonoma County is that they have a significant amount of breweries! So once you’re ready for some nighttime fun and drinks, head over to one of the many great spots that are mostly locals only. We were able to check out Moonlight Brewing Co., which consisted of locals in a small tasting room with an old school brewer behind the bar. We then went to Cooperage Brewing Co. where they had plenty of creatively named beers and kombucha on tap with the Giants game playing on a wall-sized screen.
Sunday started off with breakfast at a locally recommended spot, the Spinster Sisters. I HIGHLY recommend this place for their amazing pastries, rustic breakfast foods, incredible homemade bagels, fresh vegetables, matcha, and kombucha. It was definitely a locals only joint in the middle of a residential area.
We then set out to see a bit more of the outskirts of Sonoma County and spent the rest of the day enjoying the journey. We took 101 North to River Rd and admired the most beautiful hills of Northern California. Then, out of nowhere, came Korbel Winery! Since we were on a mission to enjoy the journey, we stopped to wine taste and check out the grounds. Unlike most of Napa and Sonoma, Korbel offers free tastings (probably because they are so far out of the way).
Once we finished tasting at Korbel, we set off to see the small towns along River Rd. If we had a whole day just to spend on River Rd, I would have explored each small town and all the little shops! I honestly could see myself living in Rio Nido, Guerneville, or Monte Rio for their houses in the trees and adventurous spirit. River Rd let out at Highway 1, so we made our way south to Bodega Bay and the Bodega Bay farmers market.
We picked up fresh fish and bread at the market, which we made fish tacos with later that night, and continued south to Sonoma Coast Vineyards. Sonoma Coast Vineyards is known for their Pinot Noir, and I’m not the biggest Pinot fan so if you are a Pinot fan then definitely go! Or if you’re looking for a fun break in your road trip then also go! OR, for an even more compelling reason, if you’re a fan of amazing smelling candles I grabbed two of the best smelling ones ever here! I light them in my room every night because I’m obsessed. I’ll be making my way back to Sonoma Coast once my candles burn out.
Continuing down Highway 1, we were tempted to try the oysters at one of the many Tomales Bay oyster bars and ended up stopping at the famous Tomales Bay Oyster Company. We thought it would be fun to see the Company, but I had no idea it was a DIY oyster shop – you can rent gloves and knives and then buy and shuck your own oysters. If I were with friends and had anticipated shucking oysters that day, we probably would have stayed, but none of us wanted to put in the effort it was worth. We decided to move on and headed back down toward SF & home.
It was an amazing two days filled with good wine and good food. If you decide to take this trip as well or if you have been to any of the places I mentioned, let me know what you think! Is there anything I missed on this road trip that I should go back and see? Let me know in the comments below 🙂
Life is an adventure, so keep exploring it!