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Sonoma Travel Guide

12 Delicious New Experiences in Sonoma

Courtesy of Dutton-Goldfield Winery

While Sonoma’s claim to fame is wine, the region’s latest crop of farm-to-fork fare—from a drive-thru restaurant from an organic-foods pioneer to a food-centric complex lined with eateries—is just as layered with ingenuity. From the hip, bustling plaza in Healdsburg to tasting rooms on postcard-perfect landscapes across the valley, here are must-stops for every foodie’s palate. Whether you crave a juicy Pinot Noir or crisp Chardonnay (just two grapes that thrive here), or a food experience to blow up your social-media feeds, it’s all here. There’s even a new bakery with serious cred (the France-born pastry chef trained under an El Bulli chef).

By Kristine Hansen

Kathryn MacDonald
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MacRostie Winery & Vineyards

In March, MacRostie Winery & Vineyards—a boutique winery putting out amazing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines—debuted its glam Estate House. Now, visitors to the winery just outside of Healdsburg in the Russian River Valley can arrive daily (between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.; reservations encouraged) and plunk down on the patio of this designer-y home, which overlooks the winery’s 13 acres of vineyards, and taste through one of three flights of wine ($15-$25). On chilly days, a sectional sofa and Scandinavian-style dining sets await inside the house.

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Courtesy of Dutton-Goldfield Winery
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Dutton-Goldfield Winery

A lot of tasting rooms offer food pairings but what makes Dutton-Goldfield Winery’s different is its commitment to local foods. New as of last year, the “Beast & Pinot” experience ($40, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, fall to spring only) skillfully matches four of the Sebastopol winery’s Pinot Noirs (which retail from $58-$72 a piece) with a charcuterie crafted from Sonoma County meats. Meat lovers, you don’t have to choose: you get salmon rillette, sopressata (pig), lamb salami and smoked duck breast.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Courtesy of Amy's Drive Thru
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Amy’s Drive Thru

Amy's (yep, the feel-good, frozen-foods company with an organic bent) brought relief to an unusually hot summer with its organic, vegan milkshakes, just one of the many to-go items at Amy’s Drive-Thru in Rohnert Park. Of note: this is the country’s first all-organic drive-thru eatery. Even the décor is an improvement over traditional fast-food joints: think beach-chic meets eco-friendly. Fortunately, the grease and lots of melted cheese remains: would you like a double veggie-patty burger, broccoli cheddar mac ’n cheese, or cheese pizza with a milled-sunflower-seed crust?

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Courtesy of Valette
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When chef Dustin Valette jumped ship at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen—on the ground floor of Hotel Healdsburg—hearts sank. Now, the hottest dinner reservation in town is on the other side of the square, at the spot (Valette) he owns with his brother, Aaron Garzini. Specializing in charcuterie and a dish Valette was famous for at his previous gig (day-boat scallops en croûte), you can also sit down for a cocktail at the bar (which is an artful slab of redwood). Food is wildly inventive, like the duck breast crusted with cacao nibs.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Courtesy of Joseph Jewell Wines
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Joseph Jewell Wines

Joseph Jewell Wines' new tasting room in downtown Forestville—in the Russian River Valley—brings the nine-year-old winery full circle. Snug in tiny-but-charming Forestville, the bar is tucked behind a repurposed sheet of metal and in front of salvaged wood panels. Open only since the summer, swinging by the tasting room serves as a nice introduction to these high-scoring wines (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zin—all crafted from Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley fruit) earning accolades from critics, like the 95 points given to its Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from Wine & Spirits Magazine.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Douglas Friedman
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Three Stick Wines

The streets spilling off of Sonoma’s adorable plaza are lined with bungalows and adobe-style structures. Some, like Three Stick Wines' tasting room, which debuted last year, are open for drooling. Step into the tasting room—by appointment only—and you’re greeted with a mix of modern and native art/sculptures in every nook, and a fantastic meditative garden space. It’s the result of an extensive renovation of the property (Vallejo-Casteñada Adobe, built in 1842). Rock-star winemaker Bob Cabral—who cut his chops at Williams Selyem—sources only the best fruit, from storied appellations like Gap’s Crown Estate Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Courtesy of Pascaline
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Every wine region needs a bakery putting out flaky, buttery croissants and other delicacies. In Sonoma County that spot is Pascaline Gourmet, a new bakery in Sebastopol with a pastry chef/founder (Celine Plano) who hails from France and baked at Michelin-starred restaurants as well as The Peninsula Chicago and The Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. She counts El Bulli’s Albert Adria among her teachers. It opened in July, with Celine’s husband Chef Didier Ageorges also working in the kitchen.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Karin Cole
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The Barlow

On the grounds of what was once an apple-production plant in downtown Sebastopol has emerged a cool concept, a sort of neighborhood just for foodies. At The Barlow you can find a curated collection of craft breweries, winery tasting rooms, farm-to-table restaurants (like Zazu Kitchen + Farm, where bacon is the main thrust thanks to hubby-wife owners Duskie Estes, a “Next Iron Chef” alum, and John Stewart), and an ice-cream place called Sub Zero where your chosen flavor is made to order (and even some Etsy-esque boutiques selling clothing and home décor). It’s all within four blocks.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Erik Almas
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Pangloss Cellars

Occupying a corner space on Sonoma’s adorable plaza, Pangloss Cellars' new tasting lounge popped up in late September. (It used to be in Glen Ellen, inside a former general store.) Winemaker Erich Bradley’s wines are the result of careful sourcing from mountaintop organic vineyards. What’s neat is that you can only buy these wines (including the “Tenacity” blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel) through the tasting room and only a few local restaurants. Once inside, there is a large room and two private areas, behind red-velvet curtains. Five tastes of wine costs $20 or you can splurge on a glass ($10-$18) or even a food-paired experience ($25-$50), for lots of variety.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Loren Hansen
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The Bird & the Bottle

Stark Reality Restaurants is a heavy hitter in Sonoma County’s restaurant scene (with places like Bravas Bar de Tapas and Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar within its portfolio) and The Bird & the Bottle in Santa Rosa is the latest, open since September. The culinary focus is all over the map (that’s a good thing) with inspiration stemming from Asian dishes (the BBQ’d octopus one example), Jewish comfort foods (like BBQ’d bone-marrow schmear) and Southern indulgences (such as pickled Gulf shrimp and cheesy grits), with much of the fare prepared in a wood-fired grill and launched into both small and large plates alike.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Michael Woolsey for Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
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Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards

When it’s a warm day in Sonoma, the last place you want to be is indoors. That’s the idea behind famed sparkling-wine producer Gloria Ferrer’s new tasting room, open since May inside its visitor center, where the expansive Vista Terrace overlooks vineyards in the Carneros region as well as San Pablo Bay. (On cool days the terrace is open, too, thanks to heaters.) Even better than sipping through a flight of bubbly ($18-$30) is that you can order edibles like a charcuterie plate ($12-$20) as well as cheese plates ($12-$22) marrying local and Spanish selections.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Drew Kelly
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During the summer, Barndiva opened BD bar&bistro inside its Gallery Bar, just off the square in downtown Healdsburg. While you might mistake it for a boho spot in Paris with the mismatched, shabby-chic furnishings, high ceilings, art hung on the walls (and for sale), and vintage place settings, that’s in perfect pitch for family-style, three-course Classic French Country Suppers ($39-$47) each Sunday evening. Or, drop in on Wednesday through Sunday nights for a classic cocktail or wine by the glass (celebrating Sonoma County producers).

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide