Sep 27, 2017 | Sonoma | A Taste Of | Bill McIntosh
A Day in Sonoma - Things to Do
Sonoma Valley is a beautiful paradise of hills and valleys, picturesque towns, and gourmet tastes and sensations.
Sonoma Valley is in Northern California just north of San Francisco, and west of Napa Valley. The town of Sonoma, which as at the heart of the valley is roughly an hour and forty five minutes from the San Francisco Airport (SFO). 101 runs north-south up the western side of the valley from Petaluma through Santa Rosa and eventually to Healdsburg.
Sonoma has been an important part of the history of California. Sonoma first begain as part of Father Junipero Serra's chain of missions he created. The Mission San francisco Solano de Sonoma was the most northern and final mission he established. Another significant event in the history of the state was that the California Bear Flag was first raised in Sonoma as part of the Bear Flag Revolt, which eventually lead to California becoming the 31st state four years later(1).
Sonoma is a memorable weekend of escape all on its own. If you have a day or two to visit, here are some points of interest for you to do in Sonoma:
Sonoma is meant to be explored and then sipped. There are beautiful hikes that can help you work up an appetite in the morning for the food and wine to come in the afternoon. A great place to start and fuel up is the Glen Ellen Village Market. They open bright and early at 5AM daily. Grab some breakfast sandwiches and enjoy them at their picnic tables out back or take them with you for later. All their sandwiches use organically grown local ingredients. Glen Ellen is also great for picking up food for a picnic lunch later on. At the back counter the have fresh salads and yummy paninis. It is a great way to get the day started!
Hiking in Sonoma
Now that you have some fuel in your belly it is time to use it. We have a couple of hiking options for you that are very near to Glen Ellen. Nothing like some morning exercise to take in the beauty of Sonoma and get your appetite up for more to come in the afternoon.
The first hiking option we have for you is Skyline Wilderness Park which is located in the hills that border Sonoma on one side and Napa on the other.
It's possible to find great hiking conditions all year round and you couldn't find a prettier place than the hills of Skyline Wilderness Park. There is a 7.4 mile trail that goes in a circular loop guide provides a circuitous loop. Along the way, you will soak in oak forests, grassland fields, lakes and mountain tops. Overall there are about 25 miles of trails. If you looking for something a little more strenuous, take the trail to the summit of Bald Mountain. It is only 2.8 miles and the views are worth it!
Another less hilly but no less beautiful option is to take a hike at Jack London Historic Park, also very close to Glen Ellen.
Jack London Park is a massive reserve of 1400 acres. There are over 29 miles of trails across 1400 acres for you to choose from(2). You can see the stunning views and the historic buildings from the time when famous writer/adventurer Jack London called this his home. There is lots to do and to see in this park. If hiking is not your thing, bring your bike or go on horseback ride among the gigantic oaks, by the lake, and through the vineyard. The House of Happy Walls contains Jack London memorabilia from all his travels. You can also see the ruins of Wolf House, the dream mansion on the property that was destroyed by a fire.
Now that your appetite is back, we have some lucnh options for you. One option is to have your lunch following your morning hike (after having picked up your lunch at the Glen Ellen Village Market). Another yummy option is lunch at Sonoma's Best Market Cafe Cottages.
This Cafe can serve two purposes: First, it is a great place for lunch. It's reputation is built on it's sandwiches, salads, soups, and featured dishes including a butternut squash tamale and a full rack of baby back ribs.
Second, this is also a grocery, making it an excellent spot to stock up on supplies such as artisan cheeses and crackers that you may want later while visiting wineries. And if you are coffee lover, don't forget to grab a Blue Bottle coffee.
You have finished an active morning and have now refueled for a more leisurely afternoon. While there are lots of wineries to choose from, here are a couple for you to consider or at least start with.
Located in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains, one of the most highly-regarded makers of Zinfandel in Sonoma is the Ravenswood Winery.
Learn the inner-workings of The Ravenswood Winery by going on one of its full tours of its estate vineyard and cellar. After the tour enjoy their cosy tasting room open daily from 10am-4:30pm. Even better, they offer artisanal cheese and other snacks to go with your wine. For the full winery tour, make sure you reserve ahead of time.
Another beautiful place to go wine tasting is the Gundlach Bundschu Winery. No appointment is necessary, you can purchase a bottle, and then sit at picnic table by the man-made lake. Gundlach Bundschu has been growing grapes on this property since 1858. Also, they offer cave tours that you will need to book in advance. It is a special and memorable place.
After taking in an afternoon of wine tasting, head up to the beautiful town of Healdsburg and dine on seasonal Northern California cuisine at Dry Creek Kitchen.
The center of Healdsburg is a tree-lined plaza. It is this location where chef Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen brings together gourmet cooking and local wines. (Or you can bring your own wine from the day and you can have that for dinner for a corkage fee).
Dry Creek uses local ingredients and has mouth-watering options on the menu including diver scallops with fennel in a flaky pastry shell and smoked duck breast with Pinot Noir-braised cabbage. Huge floor-to-ceiling windows open onto a vine-covered patio.
Be sure to get a reservation in advance!
If that sounds too much and you are ready to head home, grab a quick bite of classic Mexican at the El Molino Central.
Grab one more Blue Bottle coffee here and try the Chilaquiles Merida (roasted tomato and chipotle salsa with soft-scrambled Field of Greens eggs).
If you can't make it to Sonoma, but still want a taste, try or send one of our Sonoma-inspired Gift Baskets.
Finally, if driving is your thing, consider taking the Point Reyes-Petaluma road to get to or leave Sonoma. It runs from Petaluma to Point Reyes Station and is one of the prettiest drives in America. It will take you less than an hour, and you should defintiely consider stopping at the French Marin Cheese Factory, which is about half way through the drive. Point Reyes offers up its own taste sensation, beautiful beaches, and incredible wildlife and part of the Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes is over 1800 acres on the Pacific Ocean with incredible beaches, views, and animal life. 45% of North American birds can be found in the park(3). You can watch whales swim by, see elephant seals, and catch a glimpse of the local Elk. It is a day to remember.
1. Sonoma Valley Wine - www.sonomavalleywine.com
2. Jack Londeon State Historic Park - www.jacklondonpark.com
3. National Park Service - www.nps.gov/pore/index.htm