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July 30, 2022
My work as a writer and entrepreneur takes me to wine regions in all corners of the globe, but no matter how many vineyards I visit, I always return to Sonoma County, which has a relaxed and unpretentious vibe and wines that are as diverse and ever-changing as the region itself. Lying 30 miles outside of San Francisco, the region has become my second home after Los Angeles.
Appointment-only and virtual tastings were the norm in 2020-21, so I was delighted to see so many of the area’s businesses, including more than 400 wineries, reopening to the public. Among my favorites are Corner 103, which offers streetside tastings of their award-winning bottles, while Aperture excels at bringing the best of Bordeaux blends to the heart of Healdsburg. Also in Healdsburg, Banshee Wines is where I go for a lively vibe and standout pinot noirs. At the 230-acre Achadinha Cheese Company, the Pacheco family are third-generation cheesemakers who offer samples of their artisan cheeses and butters made onsite. I never miss the area’s art walks, including First Fridays in the rustic town of Guerneville, where galleries, tasting rooms, and local merchants all gather each month on music-filled streets. I like to finish the day over a plate of charcuterie at The Girl and the Fig and stay in one of the chic, light-filled cottages at the family-owned Farmhouse Inn (from $735). I also love the more affordable Inn at Sonoma (from $160), with its fireplaces and private verandas.
A number of new places are opening up, too, and they’re offering more ways to become immersed in the region’s rolling terrain, bountiful produce, and wine. The new Stavrand Russian River Valley is set on a six-acre retreat in the Russian River Valley. The 21 guest rooms, shaded by redwood trees, are housed in a building that dates to 1922, and feature outdoor cedar hot tubs and cozy gas fireplaces. In Healdsburg, the family-owned Bacchus Landing debuted in September 2021 and is composed of five separate tasting rooms for small, family-owned producers, including their own Aldina Vineyards wine. Visitors can order picnic-friendly charcuterie and sandwiches at the Market, a casual, open-air restaurant located on the Mediterranean inspired, three-acre retreat. Less than a mile away, the new farm-to-table Matheson restaurant has a wall with 88 wines on self-service taps, a sushi bar led by Bay Area chef Ken Tominaga, and a menu by Sonoma chef-vintner Dustin Valette, whose dishes, such as wild king salmon paired with summer squash, are a showcase of regional flavors.
Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines fly daily nonstop flights to San Francisco from Seattle.
Kristin Braswell is travel journalist and the founder of CrushGlobal Travel. She has written pieces for Vogue, CNN, USA Today, Essence, NPR, Architectural Digest, Ebony, and the Los Angeles Times, among others.