For our first anniversary, we found ourselves in Bordeaux. That's because we found ourselves living in France for six months. As we toured the famed French wine region, B said, "It's just crazy that we're visiting Bordeaux before California wine country."
Well, that's because apparently the good Lord was saving Sonoma Valley for our second anniversary. Who knew? I guess when you meet your spouse at a wine festival, anniversaries tend to center around that kind of thing.
Sonoma is a dream. The town itself is adorable and completely walkable; the only time we used our rental car was to drive to a brewery about an hour away and some wineries outside of town. And the food? I mean, in retrospect I guess it makes sense. People who are wine enthusiasts typically tend to be foodies as well. But the cuisine was phenomenal, and reasonably priced.
And the countryside. Don't even get me started. It. Was. Stunning. If I can't be in France, then visiting California wine country is a fine alternative. We were especially impressed with Sonoma because one of our wine tour guides told us that the area prides itself on being farming- and vineyard-oriented, and building permits for anything else are difficult to obtain. They want to keep it pastoral and unspoiled, and I absolutely love that.
So here's what we recommend in Sonoma, along with some photos. Enjoy, and if you're planning a trip and want some more advice, don't hesitate to use the contact form to reach me!
E & B
P.S. - This is a long post with a lot of information - you've been warned!
where we stayed
Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn // Those of you who have been following the blog for a while know that when it comes to accommodations we look for a place that's centrally located, clean, and affordable - not necessarily swanky. This hit all our markers. It wasn't fancy by a long shot, but the staff was incredibly helpful, free breakfast was served every day, and there was a really nice pool/hot tub/sauna area for relaxing in the evenings, which were cool in April. It's also right across the street from a Whole Foods if you need any supplies, and it's within easy walking distance to the main town square where most restaurants are located. We couldn't have asked for better.
where to drink
Get comfy, and possibly pour yourself a nice glass of wine, because this might take a while...
where we ate
OSO // A tapas-style restaurant, OSO had some seriously good food. We shared the ceviche, the beet salad and the grilled bread, and holy hell. We haven't had ceviche that good since we were in Costa Rica on our honeymoon. The beets and bread were excellent, also. Three tapas was more than enough for the two of us, and we left very satisfied. The only weird thing is that this restaurant doesn't have a full liquor license, but they do have a few liquors available. I recommend sticking to wine.
HopMonk Tavern // B found this restaurant, which had a ton of beers on tap, including their own HopMonk brand. But the food wasn't your standard bar food. We split a roasted artichoke (oh. my. God), tavern samosas, and a quinoa salad. I still fantasize about that artichoke. We sat outside in their gorgeous courtyard and had a really nice meal. I wish one of these would open in Greenville - HopMonk, I'm in love.
B&V Whiskey Bar & Grille // Also not your standard bar fare. I ordered some amazing gnocchi (though never as good as EdiHouse), and B got the beet salad, and we kind of split them. Both were excellent, but the passion fruit panna cotta for dessert - I love panna cotta and I love passion fruit-flavored stuff, so that was a massive win. And as bonus points, the restaurant allowed dogs in it...so at the table next to us was a massive but freakishly well behaved German Shepherd named Schatze (sp?), which means "sweetheart" in German. Dogs + good food? I'm happy.
The Girl and the Fig // They catered our box lunch on our Grapeline wine tour, and it was wonderful. I got a portabello mushroom sandwich with goat cheese and roasted red peppers, and B got some kind of roast beef sandwich. It was served with delicious pasta salad and a to-die-for chocolate chunk and sea salt cookie. Oh, heavens. We didn't actually eat at the restaurant, but I can imagine it's good, also.
La Cucina at VJB // In addition to the winery, VJB featured a pizza restaurant, a candy/chocolate shop, and a "cucina" or kitchen. We purchased some meats and cheeses, along with some artichokes and other antipasti-type things, and had a picnic at their outdoor tables. It reminded me of Italy in the nicest way, and it was really convenient because it's at the winery - no extra stop required.
Russian River Brewing Company // We didn't necessarily plan to eat here, but 20 beers - even samples - will kind of cause you to need some food. We split the veggie sandwich and a bag of garlic potato chips and it was amazing. We drank lots of water, and when we got back to Sonoma we took quite a nap.
how we toured
We went on two organized wine tours. Both went to four wineries and both included all tasting fees. The biggest difference is whether you want a private tour for a little more money or whether you are okay with a group tour. If you look at the Bordeaux, Champagne, and Tuscany blog posts, you'll see that we are beyond find with group tours, but if you're not, rest assured there are options for you.
Sonoma Wine Tours // This was a private tour we went on with B's parents, led by a lady named Soussan. The wineries we went to were great - we especially loved Lasseter Family Farms. The third winery was a bit of a dud, but overall it was a great tour and it was a treat to have the private attention, especially at Lasseter Family Vineyards.
Grapeline Wine Tours // When, at stop number 2, the winemaker refers to your driver as "The Famous Driver of Troubled Women" or "The Troubled Driver of Famous Women," you know you're in for it. We were on a bus with 9 other people, and we had a great time. The wineries were roughly of the same quality as the private tour, with number 3 still being a dud (what is it with the 3s?). We made plenty of new friends, because in our experience, nothing bonds people better than wine. Maybe someone should suggest this for world peace?
more photographic evidence