Only 55 miles north of San Francisco lies the sun-wrapped, million-acre land of plenty, Sonoma County. Here, you will discover rivers, lakes and ocean, redwood forests, art galleries, bike tours, hiking, hot-air ballooning, unique shops and of course, wineries. With more than 300 wineries to choose from, it behooves you to do your homework. Focus on favorite cabs, zins, pinots and other varietals and be sure to check first with wine tasting rooms to see if you need a reservation. You may be asked if you speak Sonoma, a curious, Ogden Nash-ish language not to be found in Webster’s.
Sonomads: n, people who love to wander aimlessly around Sonoma.
Forkscrew: n, a multi-purpose utensil aiding in food and wine tasting.
Corkhopping: v, savoring wine tasting at the ubiquitous wineries.
Epicurious: n, adventurous eaters sampling Sonoma’s many restaurants.
We lucked into the Tuesday late-afternoon Valley of the Moon Farmer’s Market in the town of Sonoma, open from May through October. Like stepping into a Norman Rockwell painting, this town fair is set on the expansive lawn in front of the flag-topped City Hall, bringing together a diversity of food, art, music and people of every age and ethnicity, all gathered around picnic tables and blankets.
Dinner around the corner in the quirky Girl & the Fig began with an incredible fromage selection: a local Laura Chenel Chevre, a goat cheese in the French style and another local Bellwether Farms Pepato, a sheep’s milk cheese studded with whole peppercorns. Other nearby restaurants— all small-town tiny and cozy—include: El Dorado Kitchen, don’t miss the truffle fries; Harvest Moon Café, their outdoor Wednesday night movieseries is fun; Café la Haye, for minimalist décor, colorful salads and vegetables with character; La Salette, for contemporary Portugese cuisine.
Sonoma’s treasure chest includes many B&Bs, charming inns and hotels right near the town: Ledson Hotel is right on the town square; MacArthur Place on an historic estate; and The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa a bit farther out. About 10 miles north, located in the midst of vineyards, oak groves and walnut orchards in the Valley of the Moon, is Kenwood Inn and Spa…but you might as well have travelled to Tuscany! Once you arrive, you won’t want to leave. We didn’t, and were perfectly happy to stay put and be “dolce far niente”…or literally as the Italians say, sweet doing nothing. Well, we did take a swim in the soothing, saline pool, meandered through the courtyard and terraces, studied the flowers spilling over fountains and waterfalls, lay prone in anticipation of a massage in the treetop aerie overlooking the pool and savored a pinot noir from Hop Kiln Winery, a sister property of the Inn, and a fireside dinner of rustic Italian cuisine topped off with a waiting chocolate goodie on our pillow. It was a rough day. Every need is quietly taken care of for you here. Karl Bruno, the manager, told me, “Everyone who works here, from housekeeping to chef, must also serve as a concierge.” An interesting concept and it works.
Here’s to wining and dining! Here’s to sweet nothings! Here’s to Sonoma County! Cheers!