Living and working in Sonoma County offers many benefits; one of which is that we get do all the things the press write about as being a “must do on your next visit to California’s wine country". It's no secret that summer is an amazing time of year to visit wine country and only next to harvest in terms of things to do and general excitement . Here's a few summer perks we enjoy every day : Farmers’ markets, floating on the river, Music on the Green, and an all time favorite; dining al fresco with wine and friends. The Farmhouse Inn concierge team is often asked what we would do for a perfect day in the wine country. Fear not- we’ve done it before and are excited to share the wonders of life in Sonoma County with our guests.
If you’re anything like us, the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning is “where is my coffee?”
A great start to the perfect day in Sonoma would be a visit to one of the great independent bakeries found all over the county. Up in Healdsburg a local favorite is Downtown Bakery - small, unassuming, always packed with locals, they offer up some delicious pastries as well as larger breakfast plates. They can be busy so you might grab a cup of coffee at Flying Goat one block over in case there is a bit of a wait at the bakery.
Starting out in the Sebastopol or Bodega Bay direction? Do not miss Wild Flour Bakery in Freestone. The heavenly aromas of freshly baked pastries and breads float up the Bohemian Highway. This is such a popular spot you might just follow the traffic (or your nose) - there's not much else they could be going to. Just ask any local for directions- it's in a tiny, tiny town but is worth a special trip. The coffee served here will perk you up immediately.
You can't go wrong with anything at either bakery; but at Downtown you might try the sticky buns or donut muffins (no joke, that’s a real thing). At Wild Flour try their Fugase and they make this cinnamon roll (you have to see it- it's the size of a football). Purchase a baguette to take with you- you’ll be needing it later.
Coffee and pastries must be worked off; time for a walk or hike at one of our local parks. Just outside of Healdsburg is Riverfront Regional Park- with a very easy two mile loop around a lake nestled in the redwoods. It is incredibly picturesque and just across the road from Copain Winery. (It is flat so no need for hiking boots.) Further west is the Sonoma Coast with your choice of state beaches. A couple of our favorite coastal parks are Bodega Head or Goat Rock Beach. Goat Rock is in Jenner - it's a pretty drive all the way- with lots of different trail options and close to the Highway 1 and 116 exchange.
Perhaps you are in the mood for a walk/hike in the redwoods at Armstrong Redwood Park in Guerneville. (It's like walking in a cathedral.) Incredibly popular with locals and visitors alike; it's our version of Muir Woods outside of San Francisco but without so many people. There are many different levels of hiking and walking trails at Armstrong so check with the Park Rangers to find out which would best suit you. Set aside at least an hour or so for your morning walk- you have to burn off at least a bit of that donut muffin.
By this time the wineries should be open- note that it is much better to visit them early in the day as your palate is fresher and the afternoons tend to be the busiest time of day for the tasting rooms. Sonoma County has over 300 wineries to choose from so there is an option for everybody. We prefer the smaller, boutique style wineries (of which we have many) that are not quite as well known and maybe not yet on the tourist map. Appointments may be required but with advance notice we would be glad to help you with arrangements.
If you are searching out some terrific Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays then Russian River Valley is where you’ll want to be (Home base: Farmhouse Inn, perhaps?). Our favorites in the area include Gary Farrell (we love the Terrace Tasting as a first appointment), Porter Creek and Iron Horse.
If you a fan of bigger reds Alexander Valley is where Cabernet is king. We love Garden Creek- small, run by a husband/wife team and easily some of the best Cabernets in Sonoma County. Other Alexander Valley wineries on our favorites list are Medlock Ames and Stonestreet.
Be safe; it is a good idea to limit your tasting to 2-3 wineries if you don’t have a designated driver. Drink lots of water and try to eat small bites along the way (you'll get through the day in much better shape). And don't be afraid to use the dump bucket. Gary Farrell offers guests a cheese plate with an advance reservation or you can purchase snacks at Medlock Ames. If you fall in love with a wine buy a bottle or two (and a wine key and glasses if you didn’t bring them with you); you'll need them for a picnic lunch on the Russian River.
The best places to buy picnic supplies are at the many small markets scattered throughout Sonoma County. The Big Bottom Market in Guerneville is a great stop on the way to the Sonoma Coast or the redwoods. If you’re in Dry Creek Valley try the Dry Creek General Store. And if you’re in Alexander Valley drop by the Jimtown Store. Some of our favorite picnic items include local jams and cheeses, prosciutto, a baguette and of course, a good bottle of wine.
Let's find a beach - remember the Russian River flows from the top of Sonoma County in Cloverdale down through Geyserville and Healdsburg before heading west and out towards the coast.
Dry Creek is fed by Lake Sonoma and cuts through the center of the Russian River Valley. It is harder to find beaches along Dry Creek as many of the wineries border it and it is private land - do your research ahead of time if you’ll be opting for Dry Creek. Most public beaches will have trash cans on-site but save your bags just in case they don’t. Borrow a blanket from your hotel-Farmhouse Inn has these on hand for this very purpose (also come in handy if you are attending any of our many music events).
After a hard day relaxing Sonoma County style it might be hard to find the motivation to head out to dinner. You might just opt to stay in with leftovers from lunch and another bottle of wine. (Tough choice though - there are also many excellent restaurants you don't want to miss.) If you’re lucky enough to be somewhere with an outdoor space, then enjoying your evening outside is the perfect way to end the day.
This is just one day in Sonoma’s wine country; for more ideas and recommendations contact your concierge at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see photos of our latest jaunts around Sonoma be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.