Being a tourist in Sonoma County

It is so gorgeous in Sonoma County this time of year. The green shoots on the vines are growing before our eyes in this beautiful spring weather we are having, and everyone is counting down the days until we are out of the key time of year for potential frost issues. A little over a week is left, and then growers will feel like they are out of the woods for this vintage, at least for frost issues. More challenges lie around every corner, but that is all part of what makes farming farming.

Speaking of enjoying Sonoma County, this new post by recent visitor, journalist Paul Rubio, was just published, and even as a local, it makes me want to drop what I am doing and go be a visitor to my own back yard! He managed to cover some serious ground in his visit, and really pulled together a “best of” list for any visitor or any local. Check it out and see if you agree:

Sublime Sonoma County

by Paul Rubio

Napa County generates a lot of global buzz, but neighboring Sonoma County ( is hardly the “Rhoda” of wine country. Less gimmicky than its celebrated neighbor, Sonoma County offers a mom-and-pop approach to experiencing wine country, heavy on the artisanal wineries and light on the pre-packaged tour buses. In addition to its (literally) intoxicating world of vineyards, Sonoma County flaunts the landscapes of storybooks – miles of rugged rock-hewn coastline, towering Redwood Trees, and picturesque sleepy towns along the Russian River, each one more charming than the next. Unconventional eateries and roadhouse restaurants rock the farm-to-table movement, often cultivating products on-site and serving up some experiential eats and of course, perfectly matched wines. To top it off, the northernmost of the San Francisco Bay counties is super gay-friendly, even by California standards…and that’s saying a lot!

The journey through Sonoma usually begins in Santa Rosa, the county’s largest city, just over an hour from San Francisco. Santa Rosa’s gentrified historic Railroad Square is the heart and soul of Sonoma Valley’s foodie scene, with design-driven restaurants like Petite Syrah (707.545.6900,, dishing out succulent “urban wine country dining” and old school coffee shops like A’Roma Roasters, where the personalities of patrons run stronger than the brews.

Fans of the famed cartoonist Charles Shultz rejoice in the artist’s tangible legacies adorning his former hometown, snapping Twit-pics with dozens of life-sized Peanuts statues that are just about everywhere. Stumbling distance from the bars, the century-old, certified National Trust Historic Hotel of America, Hotel La Rose (707.579.3200; commingles elegance and comfort in both its cozy historic building and the residential-style Carriage House. Flashing forward from 1907 realness to fifties fabulousness, the Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa (707.545.8530; goes no holds barred on the kitsch and camp factor, a low-rise circa 1950s motel splendidly refitted with all the trappings of a modern resort (its gargantuan rotating, pink neon Flamingo still well intact). While Santa Rosa has no gay bars per se, gay presence is beautifully integrated into downtown’s bar scene, with a GLBT vibe most obvious at the cocktail lounge Belvedere, a short drive from downtown.

With tours originating in Railroad Square, Ace it Bike Tours (707.688.4063; is the superlative way to dive – or shall I say bike – head first into Sonoma’s scintillating wine country. Oenophile and outdoor enthusiast Frieda Lewis leads small groups through nature trails and country roads for an unforgettable day of biking and wine tasting. Traversing over 18 miles along the Santa Rosa Creek and vineyard-clad rolling hills, Frieda’s 5 hour bike tour stops at several artisanal producers, such as Pellegrini and Hook & Ladder, where the group receives bespoke tours of the distilleries and sensationally fun private tastings. The wineries roll out the red carpet for the fabulous Frieda and friends, offering 15-20% discount on purchases and pours so heavy, you’ll have to shy away from a glass or two!

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One Response to “Being a tourist in Sonoma County”

  1. Sonoma Hotels May 15, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    Paul Rubio’s article is really good especially for any traveler that has never been to Sonoma before. By reading it, you certainly get a good insight of the interesting places to visit while on vacation in this charming destination.

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