Escape to the Vineyards of Sonoma

When it comes to wine, California is home to some of the best wineries in the U.S. Napa County may be a popular destination for wine lovers and tourist, but its neighboring city Sonoma Valley has a unique feel and many small wineries worth checking out. This week’s adventure will cover Sonoma’s hangout spots, restaurants and wineries.

Downtown Sonoma

First we’ll start with the heart of Sonoma. If you’re a first time visitor, make sure you visit the plaza. This 8.5-acre plaza is no walk in the park; it’s the largest plaza in California. Here you’ll find a fish pond, a rose garden, city hall and much more. The plaza is also surrounded with several historic buildings from the 1800s, restaurants and wine tasting room.

If you have some time on your schedule, check out Charles Creek Vineyard. For just $5, you can try 5 different wines. And don’t be surprised if your wine glass is a littler fuller than usual – they don’t skimp out on the wine servings here.

Another great local spot in downtown Sonoma is Roche Winery. It’s a cozy bungalow with an outdoor patio that overlooks the plaza. Guests here love the atmosphere and the prices. For $5, guests can try anywhere from 6 to 9 different wines.

If you want a break from tasting wines, head over to the Chocolate Cow. This shop is known for their handmade chocolate and gelato.

Great Eats

If you’ve built up an appetite after a day of wine tasting, you may want to check out Sunflower Caffé, located in downtown Sonoma. This restaurant is famous for its lamb burgers with an African twist and smoke duck sandwich. In fact, the food is so tasty Food Network star Guy Fieri featured the restaurant in his show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”

Another great restaurant is El Dorado Kitchen located right next to Sunflower Caffé. Many Yelpers praised the truffle fries and the mussels. However, dinner here can set you back about $100 a couple.

Now if you’re looking for breakfast, you should check out Creekside Café. It’s about a 7 minute drive from the plaza, but it’s a great spot where the locals hangout. I would recommend the French toast or chicken fried steak.

Must Try Wineries

If you love the bubbly champagne, you should make a stop atGloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards. As you pull into the winery, you’ll notice rows of grapes stretching over two miles. Now the menu here is a bit different than other wineries. Rather than just paying and sampling, you order off a menu and the champagne is brought to your table. A glass of bubbly starts at $5, or you could take a 30-minute tour for $10, which includes wine tasting. Even if you decide to skip on the tour, you should head out to the patio where you can oversee the beautiful vineyards.

Now if you’re looking for wine, food and shopping, you won’t have to drive too far after leaving Gloria Ferrer’s estate. A true gem situated just across the road from Gloria Ferrer, Cornerstone Sonoma is a lot of different things to a lot of different people, including gardens – showcasing 22+ architectural gardens created by the top landscape architects and designers from around the world. Open seven days a week, Garden admission is free of charge. Visitors to Cornerstone will enjoy a unique blend of design and gift shops, art and sculpture galleries, a gourmet café with outdoor dining and two premium wine tasting rooms set amidst the beautiful Sonoma Valley landscape.

Next on the list is Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. This winery has a striking resemblance to Italy. The beautiful villa has a warm welcoming once you walk in. On the right hand side you’ll notice the Olive Press, an olive oil tasting room and a gift shop. To the left is the wine tasting room, where you can taste 5 wines for free.

You might be able to catch a few events on your trip, so just make sure you check the wineries’ web sites before visiting. Sometimes they have deals, or food tasting to complement the wine.

Stay tuned for next week, when we head to Carmel, on the coast of California