Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Valley At-A-Glance

Sonoma Valley, also known as the Valley of the Moon, is about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco and about a half-hour’s drive from either the Sonoma County Airport to the northwest or the town of Napa to the east. Some 17 miles in length, the valley is bounded by the outskirts of Santa Rosa on the north, San Pablo Bay on the south, the Mayacamas Mountains to the west, and the Sonoma Mountains to the east.

Home to about 75 wineries, Sonoma Valley is a complete wine tourism destination unto itself. Its three principal towns—Kenwood, Glen Ellen and the town of Sonoma—feature excellent B&B and full-service hotel (including spa) accommodations as well as many restaurants highly regarded for casual and fine dining. Sonoma Valley is the birthplace of the California wine industry with vineyards dating to the early 1800s. The region’s winemaking reputation is built on robust red wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Meritage blends, among others. But Sonoma Valley vintners produce over 25 varieties of wine in all, so—no matter what your palate’s preference—you are likely to find wines that please here.

Travel-Wise Tip: Sonoma Valley and the Healdsburg area (including Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys) are the main wine regions of Sonoma County. From the town of Sonoma to Healdsburg is about 40 miles and, in usual driving conditions, driving time is about an hour. While it is certainly possible to tour the Healdsburg area through day trips from a base in Sonoma Valley, it is not advisable. It is far better to devote two or three days to each area and to reserve accommodations close to where you’ll be touring. Visiting the Wine Country is all about relaxing and enjoying the wine and lifestyle amenities of the different regions you visit. That becomes difficult if a significant portion of your day is spent driving.

Top Picks For Wine Tasting

There are many more wineries in Sonoma Valley than most people have time to visit. Researching the wineries you could visit to choose the ones you will visit can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. Here are our recommendations for wineries that deserve a spot on your itinerary. To be sure, there are plenty of other good wineries in Sonoma Valley, but you cannot go wrong choosing from this list:

  • Chateau St. Jean, 8555 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood; 707-833-4134. Stunning. The gardens of this winery’s dreamlike setting offer visitors the feeling of having traveled to the Mediterranean. World-class wines and a well stocked charcuterie make this the perfect picnic spot.
  • Cline Cellars, 24737 Arnold Drive, Sonoma; 707-940-4000. You know this brand, and you’d never imagine it comes from this laid-back winery. The tasting room is in an 1850s farmhouse. There are aviaries and a museum of California missions. Some wines may be familiar, but others may surprise you.
  • Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, 24724 Arnold Drive, Sonoma; 866-522-8693. Yes, this is the same Jacuzzi, the family whose name is synonymous with luxury whirlpool spas. And what a job they’ve done with their winery–a spectacular Italian villa–and their wines, which celebrate the family’s heritage. You’ll be sorry if you miss this one!
  • Kenwood Vineyards, 9592 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood; 707-833-5891. This facility and staff behind this familiar wine label are unexpectedly rustic and friendly. There’s nothing corporate about this 22-acre estate with its tasting room in the barn—just an authentic Wine Country experience.
  • Ledson Winery & Vineyards, 7335 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood; 707-537-3810. You have to see this 16,000 square foot French-Normandy “castle” to believe it. Tour the winery, stroll the grounds, and taste some of the best wines in Sonoma Valley.
  • Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery, 389 Fourth Street East, Sonoma; 800-888-5532. This legendary winery has been making fine wines at the current location for well over 100 years. Get a first-hand sense of history while tasting outstanding wines, many available only at the winery.
  • Valley of the Moon, 777 Madrone Road, Glen Ellen; 707-939-4500. This landmark winery marries a rich history dating to 1860 with state-of-the-art wine production and Italian artisan packaging. The etched bottles are gift-worthy, but you’ll be tempted to keep the wine for yourself. Here’s one final suggestion for a great stop that’s not technically in Sonoma Valley, but nearby and definitely worth a visit. It’s on your way to Sonoma Valley if you’re coming up from San Franciso via the Golden Gate Bridge, and only about 20 minutes from downtown Sonoma if you’re already there.

Where To Dine

Here are some of the restaurants we consider to be among the best in Sonoma Valley. Please see our Top Restaurants page for a more comprehensive listing of highly rated restaurants in Sonoma Valley.

Breakfast:
  • Basque Boulangerie Café, 460 First Street East, Sonoma; 707-935-7687. A great place to find locals early in the morning talking to neighbors, reading the paper and grabbing a cup of coffee with a pastry.
  • Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar, 1325 Broadway (in The Lodge at Sonoma), Sonoma; 707-931-2042. For heartier fare, this venue prides itself on a creative menu with ingredients from Sonoma County farms, ranches and dairies.
Lunch:
  • Café Citti, 9049 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood; 707-833-2690. This wonderful, casual neighborhood restaurant offers consistently good Italian food including a good variety of pastas.
  • The Girl & The Fig, 110 West Spain Street, Sonoma; 707-938-3634. Seasonal, Provencal-inspired cuisine features garden vegetables, herbs, and an abundance of creativity.
Dinner:
  • Café La Haye, 140 East Napa St, Sonoma; 707-935-5994. Restaurant critic Michael Bauer calls this small and intimate eatery “one of those rare restaurants in which you know the moment you walk in the door, you’re going to have a good time … Simple food prepared to perfection … excellent service”.
  • Harvest Moon Café, 487 First St West (West Napa Street), Sonoma; 707-933-8160. This is another smallish venue, so avail yourself of the outdoor seating when the weather and your mood are conducive. Regarded by many locals as one of the best restaurants in Sonoma. California-Mediterranean cuisine.
  • The Fig Café, 13690 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen; 707-938-2130. Part of The Girl and The Fig family of boutique restaurants, this bustling off-the-path bistro toward the north end of the valley features excellent country French cuisine.

Beyond Wine Tasting

Here are some services that may make your stay in Sonoma Valley more enjoyable:

Bicycle Rentals & Tours

  • Sonoma Valley Bike Tours, 520 Broadway, Sonoma; 707-996-2453. Complete cycling vacations, guided tours, self-guided tours, bicycle rentals.
Limousine Tours & Transportation

Spas

  • Massage Envy, 452 First St. E. Sonoma, Sonoma; 707-938-7404

 

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