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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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Trip Report Sonoma and Napa Valleys, in 4 parts

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Part 1

Having had a terrific time in Healdsburg and the Sonoma Valley last year, we couldn’t wait to return and broaden our explorations a bit, and so we did, in the second week of May.

We landed at SFO after dragging ourselves through the enormous thorny hedge that is air travel today and picked up a rental car, receiving a free upgrade to a small SUV, the Ford Edge. Not great for gas mileage, of course, but excellent for hauling cases of wine, we realized with glee, and it had one unforeseen nice feature: Bluetooth Sync with our iPhones, which meant we could use Google Maps’ turn-by-turn voice instructions with ease. Nice!

I also learned how to deal with the Golden Gate Bridge tolls now that all toll booths are unmanned. Instead of paying daily for the transponder in the car when were only going to need it once, we used this website to prepay:
ww.bayareafastrak.org
I did it on my phone in the car, entering the car’s license plate number and my CC information. You can also use this to pay AFTER you cross, so if you don’t have a smartphone you can handle it later.

On our way to Healdsburg we stopped in Petaluma to visit Lagunitas Brewery and Tap Room.
http://lagunitas.com
The beer garden is just delightful: kids, dogs, peeps of all ages, a good band, excellent servers and, of course, outstanding beer. We ordered two tasting flights, one dark and one light, as well as some deadly delicious nachos. A theme began to emerge: why is even the simplest darn thing tastier in CA? Our favorites were the WTF Stout, which we do occasionally see on tap in Florida, and the SF Fusion and Kolsch Etwas, both local only, waaah! Great pit stop, and necessary to restore mental health after air travel.

We then drove on to Healdsburg and checked into the Hotel Healdsburg for our second stay there. I really like this hotel, for its location, for the comfy beds, and for the full included breakfast—more on that later.
http://www.hotelhealdsburg.com/home/

We had dinner that night in Healdsburg at Barn Diva. This was not to be our favorite meal of the week, but it was good, and the space, including a very pretty garden, was lovely. The asparagus soup was memorable, and I should note that the chef will prepare a vegetarian entrée to one’s specifications. I ended up with a refined vegetarian lasagna featuring potato puree and fiddlehead ferns, tomato jam, pickled red cabbage and house made pasta.
http://www.barndiva.com

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