How to Spend October in Sonoma
Sonoma Coast and Fort Ross–Seaview
The strong cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean is felt everywhere in these two appellations, where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the main attractions.
Must-visit winery: Littorai focuses on biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
This narrow, 17-mile-long valley is home to the quaint town of Sonoma, more than 100 wineries, and Jack London Historic State Park. Wine-wise, it’s incredibly versatile, with just the right hot and cool spots for growing Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay.
A tasting at Three Sticks at the Adobe.Wildly Simple/Courtesy of Three Sticks at the Adobe
Best Tasting Rooms
With most tasting rooms, you can be in and out in under an hour. But these standout spots are worth lingering over.
Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery is the only tasting room in the Fort Ross–Seaview AVA. And though it’s an adventurous drive up twisty roads to get here, your rewards include jaw-dropping Pacific Ocean views and crystal-clear-tasting Pinot Noirs. Sit on the deck, enjoy a charcuterie board, and watch the fog roll in.
Located in the Barlow, Sebastopol’s popular mini-mall and market, Wind Gap draws a young, groovy clientele, with Edith Piaf on the stereo and reclaimed-wood paneling. But it’s also serious about its wine, offering bottlings of rare grapes (Trousseau Gris, anyone?) along with crowd-pleasing Chardonnays. Want (lots of) vino to go? Buy one of their reffillable growlers.
Three Sticks at the Adobe is the first-class experience the county has been missing. Set in an adobe building redone by society decorator Ken Fulk, this by-appointment-only spot in downtown Sonoma offers four- or seven-flight tastings. You can also book a three-course, $200 per person private lunch.
Hotel Healdsburg.Paul Dwyer/Courtesy of Hotel Healdsburg
Sonoma’s hotel scene ranges widely, with luxurious digs and cheap and cheerful spots equally beloved. Each of these five has a distinct vibe.
Talk of the Town
Location, location, location: people flock to the 56-room Hotel Healdsburg, which is still going strong after 15 years, because it’s right on the town square (so you can have that third glass of wine and still walk home after a dinner out). And then there are the amenities: a gym, a pool, and co-owner Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen. doubles from $429.
The Foodie Hideaway
Chef-owner Kyle Connaughton describes his new Healdsburg venture, Single Thread Farms, as a “restaurant with rooms, not a hotel.” Connaughton and his wife, Katina, the head farmer on the property, have created 11-course menus ($225) that spotlight ingredients grown on site. The AvroKO-designed rooms all have fireplaces. doubles from $600.
The Time Warp
Set in the heart of Sonoma Valley, Beltane Ranch is a family-owned, working ranch from 1892, with five simple rooms in the main house and an adjacent cottage. Nothing beats watching the sunset from the front porch or strolling the grounds, which include poppy-filled gardens and olive orchards. Breakfast eggs come from the property. from $185.
The Outdoor Gem
AutoCamp, a two-month-old campground in the heart of the Russian River Valley, gives the glamping trend a distinct twist. It features 24 shiny, customized Airstream trailers and 10 stylish tents surrounding a reception pavilion. Each suite has a barbecue pit and a campfire, and the river is accessible from the property. from $175.
Hands-down Sonoma’s most luxurious property, the Farmhouse Inn is perfectly located on the way to and from many top Russian River wineries, and offers 25 rooms in soothing tones of cream and white. The recently renovated spa uses ingredients harvested on site, including herbs and apples (try a Body Melt with alfalfa, lavender, and chamomile poultices). doubles from $695.
Valette restaurant, in Healdsburg.Chris Hardy/Courtesy of Valette
Dinner Spots to Suit Your Mood
Is It Date Night?
Reserve a table for two at Valette.
It’s only a year old, but chef Dustin Valette’s restaurant is arguably the best in Healdsburg. His food is both precise and playful — witness the English pea fondue and the delicious Australian versus American lamb duo, a contest with no losers. You can also dive in to smart local wine offerings, like a Radio-Coteau Syrah Las Colinas 2013. entrées $25–$37.
Are You Partying With A Group?
Do it up at Barndiva.
The dishes at this lively Healdsburg spot are locally sourced, expertly executed classics such as crispy duck-leg confit. Sipping cocktails like the gin-based Funny Face might result in you ordering the BD frites — maybe the best crinkle-cut fries in the world. entrées $28–$42.
Is It All About The Wine?
Sip at Willi’s Wine Bar.
An upbeat Santa Rosa roadhouse, Willi’s offers flights like “I Love Sonoma County Wines,” which spotlights three glasses of hard-to-find local vino, including the Croix Pinot Noir Narrow Gauge Russian River 2014. The bar food is stellar, too: try the foie gras poppers and mushroom-soup shooters. small plates $5–$16.