Everything You Need to Know About Sonoma County This Season

Lord Snort, Soda Rock Winery

Sonoma County, located only 30 miles north of San Francisco, is home to more than 400 wineries, 100 plus organic farms, and 50 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, in addition to countless other breweries, distilleries, and restaurants. Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming season in Sonoma County.

Wineries

Sonoma Sneakaway – Available through mid-April: guests can find "Sonoma Sneakaway" deals on lodging, wine tasting, dining, tours, and other attractions. 

Soda Rock Winery – Last November, Soda Rock Winery welcomed its newest resident, Lord Snort, a 12-ton metal sculpture of a galloping mechanical boar. The 20-foot-tall, 30-foot-long boar was created by Sonoma County sculptor Bryan Tedrick as was commissioned by Ken Wilson of Wilson Artisan Wineries. It took more than 1,000 hours to create, and was first showcased at the Burning Man festival in Nevada in August 2016. Lord Snort can spin around 360 degrees on his pedestal, and his head also nods up and down. Soda Rock is one of nine boutique Northern California wineries owned by Wilson Artisan Wineries. 

Guerrero Fernandez Winery – The winery’s Windsor tasting room opened in December, and is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday; appointments are also available. The opening comes 12 years after Martin Guerrero and Olga Fernandez founded their own label, which specialized in handcrafted, small lots of red wines. The high school sweethearts married in 1985, moved to Sonoma County, and have been working in the wine industry since. 

Breweries

Grav South Brew Co. – Award-winning home brewer Greg Rasmussen and business partner Corinne Barclay have opened their own brewery in Cotati, CA. Barclay has won more than 150 medals in home brewing competitions in the past 10 years. Both Rasmussen and Barclay’s grandfathers were Gravenstein apple farmers and the brewery is located on the southern part of the Gravenstein Highway, hence the Grav South name. The brewery will have 16 taps: eight of their own beers, eight from local craft brewery start-ups. The food menu will have a variety of pub fare. On Thursdays, the weekly special will be house-made pozole, alternating between a red and green style weekly. 

Sonoma Springs Brewing – Two of Sonoma Springs Brewing Company’s award-winning beers are available for retail in 22-ounce bombers. Consumers can find the brews in the taproom as well as Bay Area retailers. Sonoma Springs Brewing has its sights on Los Angeles and San Diego in the near future. The available beers are the Sonoma Springs Kolsch, the brewery’s most popular beer, and the Subliminal Gold IPA, the brewery’s best-selling West Coast-style IPA. Additional beers are also in the plans to be sold in retail. 

Barrel Brothers Brewing Company – Brothers-in-law Wesley Deal and Daniel Weber, as well as their father-in-law Tom Sather have opened Barrel Brothers Brewing Company in Windsor. A few of their current beers include Dark Sarcasm Porter, Naughty Hops IPA, and Blonde Voyage, a Belgian cream ale. The brewery uses sustainable practices, including donating its spent grain to local farmers as feed, and trucking its wastewater to local farms to fertilize mulch piles. The microbrewery taproom is open 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, and 1 to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Their beers can be found on tap and in bottles throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area. 

Brewsters Beer Garden – Now accepting guests, Brewsters Beer Garden has 32 beers on tap, a full bar, and a 350-seat full-service, open-aired canopy restaurant and patio garden. The Petaluma facility has an enormous custom iron piece by prominent Bay Area sculptor Bryan Tedrick and a rooftop garden. Other amenities include a bocce ball court, a children’s play area, and a live music stage, all centered around a central fire pit. The rotating beer selection comes from local craft breweries, and the menu by executive chef Chris Beerman mixes traditional Southern Carolina barbeque cuisine with a fresh Northern California flare. The bar also has a selection of Napa and Sonoma County wines. 

Moonlight Brewing Co.Moonlight Brewing Co. in Santa Rose has opened their taproom. Founded in 1992, the brewery uses traditional processes to brew six standard styles plus two or three special releases. Moonlight’s beers are not available in bottles or cans but can be found on tap in the San Francisco North Bay Area plus few more distant places. 

Distilleries

Young & Yonder SpiritsYoung & Yonder Spirits is now handcrafting vodka and gin in Cloverdale. After a decade in banking and finance, Josh Opatz turned to his current role as master distiller. With an MFA in graphic design and experience in public relations, advertising, and design, Sarah Fiske is now Young & Yonder’s graphic designer and lead of marketing. The distillery’s Armont vodka is distilled six times then purified using multiple filtration techniques. And its Harbor Of Broken Souls gin takes a classic and builds upon it with an enticing mix of flavors and botanicals. Tours and tastings are offered Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Griffo Distillery – Guests can enjoy handcrafted cocktails, guided spirit tastings, and tours of the grain-to-glass production facility in the new tasting room at the award-winning, small-batch Griffo Distillery in Petaluma. The cocktail bar is located within the 6,000-square-foot distillery. Griffo’s Scott Street Gin, a light London-style gin, just won a 2016 Gold Medal at the SF International Spirits Competition. Owners and husband-and-wife Michael and Jenny Griffo, with a physics doctorate at their back, are dedicated to uniting craft and science to create precise, complex, and delicious spirits.

Prohibition Spirits DistilleryProhibition Spirits Distillery has added a tasting room in its Cornerstone Sonoma distillery. The family-run micro-distillery produces more than two dozen high-quality spirits in small batches, including whisky, rum, gin, vodka, brandy, bourbon, and Limoncello. In addition to the new tasting room, the distillery is open on select dates for a behind-the-scenes look and and tastings. Cornerstone Sonoma also includes boutique shops, tasting rooms, gardens, and Sunset magazine’s Outdoor Kitchen and Test Gardens. 

Restaurants & Eateries

Single Thread –The recently opened 55-seat fine-dining restaurant, SingleThread Farm - Restaurant - Inn in Healdsburg, offers an 11-course customizable tasting menu. The concept is kaiseki, elaborate multicourse meals crafted as art, and donabe, rustic clay pot cooking. Owners Kyle and Katina Connaughton also own a five-acre farm property and created a 3,000-square-foot rooftop garden above the restaurant. Restaurant tables can be requested up to three months in advance and can be reserved through Tock.com. The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. 

CocoaPlanet – Guests can enjoy both chocolate and chocolate-inspired cuisine at the new CocoaPlanet Factory and Tasting Room, just a few blocks from the historic Sonoma Plaza in the town of Sonoma. This modern French café’s plates and desserts highlight or complement CocoaPlanet chocolates. Founded on the idea that chocolate should be less sugary, allowing for more interesting but not overwhelming flavors, CocoaPlanet chocolates have patented “Pearls of Flavor.” This innovation suspends drops of filling (“pearls”) within a chocolate disc, creating a balance of flavors for a better experience.  All ingredients are 100 percent natural, GMO-free, and gluten-free tested.

Coppola’s Werowocomoco Café – Inspired by native chef Loretta Oden, Francis Ford Coppola, who consulted with Virginia tribes on using the Werowocomoco name, created a council of advisors that mainly includes Native Americans to make a menu highlighting Native ingredients. The café’s signature fry-bread tacos are made with acorn flour, with a choice of toppings that includes bison, chicken, beef, and seasonal vegetables. Other menu items include bison burgers or ribs, cedar-plank salmon, venison chili, and cactus salad, with ingredients sourced from Native peoples whenever possible, and offers preferential hiring to local tribe members. 

Best of Burma – Travelers can enjoy authentic Burmese cuisine for both lunch and dinner at the new Best of Burma cuisine in Santa Rosa. The diversity of its population and its central location means that the cuisine, of what’s now called Myanmar, fuses Chinese, Indian, and Thai influences. Popular menu items include Tea Leaf Salad, Coconut Curry Soup, and Lamb Kebat. The Santa Rosa site is the second location for Best of Burma; the original restaurant is in San Rafael, in Marin County. 

Bright Bear Bakery – The new Bright Bear Bakery in Petaluma is plating fresh baked goods for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. Fresh delights include cream-filled cronuts, a cross between a croissant and donut, cream-cheese Danishes, and cranberry scones. 

Starting From Scratch – Longtime Sonoma County caterers Greg and Tammy Long are now serving breakfast and lunch on weekdays at their new Starting From Scratch Café in Santa Rosa. The tiny eatery offers omelets, biscuits and gravy, breakfast sandwiches, salads, burgers, sandwiches, soups, and wraps. 

Enjoy The Whole Pie – Under the motto “Sharing Optional,” The Whole Pie in Santa Rosa makes both savory and sweet pies – whole, by the slice, or as a hand pie. Sweet options include: The Sweet Tooth hand pie, filled with butterscotch pudding with a dash of curry; the Work Horse, made with rich dark chocolate pudding with a sweet glaze; and the Chatter Box with jammy berry filling in a peanut butter crust. Savory pies include: Bull Headed (braised beef and roasted veggies in a red wine gravy); Lone Wolf (beer-braised short ribs and onions with a mashed potato top); and Farm Girl (portobello mushrooms, pine nuts, and spinach in an earthy sauce). Pies change seasonally, randomly, and sometimes upon request. 

Trading Post BakeryThe Trading Post Bakery has opened The Post dining room. Trading Post has been producing artisan breads for the past year-plus using a stone-hearth oven. It also sells fresh, local produce and eggs, and other market items. Dinner at The Post is available Wednesday through Sunday. Executive chef Erick Johnson crafted the menu, which has grilled pork chops, poached salmon, cowboy cut rib eye steak, and house-ground burgers. 

Hippizzazz – Organic ingredients and innovative recipes come together in traditional and deep-dish forms at Hippizzazz pizzeria in Sebastopol. The menu also includes salads, fresh breads, appetizers, and desserts, and everything is gourmet and made in-house. Pizza selections vary from traditional favorites, like pepperoni or sausage, to innovative options, like roasted potato, Thai chicken, or Carnitos de Jalisco (slow roasted pork, pico, queso fresca). Hippizzazz opens at 11 a.m. and closes at midnight on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, and at 2 a.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; it’s closed Tuesdays. 

Slamburger – Locally sourced beef, lamb, bison, and vegetarian patties are just a few of the choices for organic burgers and sandwiches at the new Slamburger in Petaluma. The family-focused, fast-casual restaurant’s menu consists of non-GMO, locally grown organic foods, which includes grass-fed lamb, chicken, and turkey, and wild salmon, among others. Hot dog options include bacon wrapped, a corn dog, a falafel dog, and a fajita dog. The menu also includes house-made vegetarian patties, salads, a variety of fries, onion rings, Cajun Brussel sprouts, beer-battered asparagus, milkshakes, beer, and wine. 

Zosia Café & Kitchen – Guests can enjoy Eastern European breakfast and lunch offerings at the new Zosia Café & Kitchen in Graton. Zosia serves up house-made traditional Polish crepes, Ukrainian borscht soup, Polish pierogi, cabbage rolls, and Siberian pelmeni (pork and beef dumplings). Daily specials like traditional Polish sauerkraut stew will also be on the manu. The morning “hangover” special consists of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg, and gravy. 

Ginochio’s Kitchen – In Bodega Bay, owners Patty, Paul, and Alicia Ginochio have opened a breakfast and lunch café. Veteran Italian food and on-site barbecue caterers, the family is now offering fresh-baked pastries and bread, meat smoking in the indoor smoker, and pasta sauces simmering in a casual setting. The café even has cooking classes and private chef dinners. 

Vineyard Oaks Estate Tea house

Lodging

The HB Experience – Travelers staying in Healdsburg can opt to stay in homes fully equipped for real living with plenty of amenities. Owner Mike Little The HB Experience the company to meet a need for top-quality vacation rentals. 

Ace It Bike Tours – For travelers looking for a cozy option, they can stay in a charming 1950s cottage within walking distance of parks, restaurants, shops, and live entertainment. The now-available vacation rental through Ace It Bike Tours is located in Santa Rosa. The cottage includes a full kitchen, two bedrooms with queen beds, a full bathroom, and a living room with a sofa sleeper. The garden has a large deck with a barbeque, a gazebo, a water fountain, and a detached studio offering extra space and privacy. Guests renting the Ace It Cottage get a discount on the company’s bicycle tours, which are available for all levels of riders. 

Russian River Vacation Homes – The 10-acre Vineyard Oaks Estate is the latest listing at Russian River Vacation Homes in Guerneville, in the Russian River Valley. This luxury estate is within walking distance of Miramar Estate Vineyards and Winery. Local spas like Osmosis are just a short drive away; or guests can bring the spa to them with the estate’s traditional Japanese bath and teahouse next to the pond. There’s also a gourmet kitchen and acres of outdoor space. 

Tours

Wine Country Walking ToursWine Country Walking Tours is giving travelers the chance to meet chefs, winemakers, and culinary artisans on the Meet the Healdsburg Tastemakers tour. This four-hour tour offers a variety of interactive, hands-on experiences in the kitchens, restaurants, tasting rooms, and food companies of Healdsburg. Itineraries will vary depending on the season. 

Pure Luxury TransportationPure Luxury Transportation recently received six stylish and sophisticated Lincoln Continentals, with plans to expand its fleet to 15 of the vehicles. Clients will be able to relax while a professional Pure Luxury chauffeur takes them to their destinations in comfort and safety. Pure Luxury offers one of the largest chauffeured fleets in California. 

Tastemaker Tour of Healdsburg – Businesses in Healdsburg worked together to create a Tastemaker Tour that lets guests discover the town’s distinctive Wine Country ambiance and lifestyle. The five-and-a-half-hour tour starts with an insider look at Dragonfly Floral, a six-acre working organic flower farm. The next stop is Relish Culinary Adventures, where tour guests will be welcomed with a customized artisan appetizer, and will create and enjoy a meal using fresh local seasonal ingredients. 
 
Events

Restaurant Week – The eighth annual Sonoma County Restaurant Week will be held March 6-12. Participating restaurants will present their food at even-better prices. There are no tickets or passes required.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden – The internationally acclaimed Quarryhill Botanical Garden celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. Events for 2017 include Quarryhill’s 30th Anniversary Wild Collections, Expeditions for Education Fundraiser in May, and the 30th Anniversary Summer Lecture Series starting July 8 with Jared Diamond, author of National Geographic: Guns, Germs and Steel. Founded in 1987, Quarryhill (open daily, 9 a.m.- 4 p.m.) is dedicated to advancing the conservation, study, and cultivation of the flora of Asia. The 25-acre botanical garden includes more than 20,000 plants grown from seeds that were wild-collected in East Asia. Many of the plant species face extinction as a result of habitat loss in their native regions.

IPA 10K & Beer Invitational – The inaugural IPA 10K & Beer Mile Invitational debuts Saturday, April 15, 2017 at The Barlow in Sebastopol. The event kicks off at 7:55 a.m. with a “runner’s toast” beer shot, sponsored by Crooked Goat Brewing, and continues with a beer and music festival along McKinley Street. The 10K race (6.2 miles) starts at 8 a.m. Runners start and finish at The Barlow, a culinary, arts, and shopping center. The beer and music festival will be open to runners and their guests from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and to the public from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. From noon to 1 p.m., competitors in the Beer Mile Invitational will try to outrun and outdrink each other: Each athlete chugs a beer, presents the empty can upside down over his or her head, and sprints off on a quarter-mile lap. Repeat this four times. The current Beer Mile world record stands at 4 minutes, 34.35 seconds, held by Corey Bellemore of Canada. 
 
For additional information, visit www.sonomacounty.com.