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10 Things to Do Indoors in Wine Country in Winter

Fritz Winery

Sonoma County boasts year-round good weather, because even when it’s a bit rainy and chilly, sunshine is usually just around the corner. Still, there are days when the indoors beckon. And we’ve got plenty of ways to entertain, whether your taste is in music, fine wine, dining, or, all of them together.

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts

Celebrate the sound of music at this Santa Rosa venue, plus dance, theater, comedy, family activities, and arts education programs. The non-profit center was completely renovated in 2013 in a world-class update, and hosts performances of everything from demonstrations by Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, to the rowdy humor of Dave Chappelle, to the spectacular theatrics of the Golden Dragon Acrobats touring from China.

The Green Music Center

Debuted in late 2012 at Sonoma State University, and it’s still one of the hottest tickets in town for a long list of remarkable performers. The state-of-the-art theater, concert hall and lawn performance space brings to life such stars as The Silk Road Ensemble, Lyle Lovett, and Philharmonia Baroque. There’s an on-site restaurant with white cloth service, and you’ve got to love that the center has a recital hall named after the Peanuts character Schroeder in honor of Jeannie and Charles M. Schulz's contributions to the university and ties to the community.

The Barlow

There’s a treasure trove of shopping, wine tasting and dining at this 220,000-square-foot, $23.5 million culinary and art center set in a former apple cannery property at the southeastern entrance to Sebastopol. Can you say Zazu Kitchen + Farm, from chef/owner/Next Iron Chef contender Duskie Estes and her husband/butcher John Stewart? How about Woodfour Brewing Company, an on-site brewery and gastropub with delights like maitake mushrooms dressed in 63° farm egg, purple barley and black garlic soubise, or braised pork belly with sunchoke, Asian pear, sunflower and pickled mustard? Tamarind brings boutique women’s clothing, there are several artisan wine tasting rooms, Taylor Maid Farms coffee roastery, Spirit Works Distillery for handcrafted gin and whiskey, and so much more.

Graton Resort & Casino

The flashy 340,000 square foot destination is heaven for fashionable gamblers and foodies alike, thanks to a dizzying array of games played in luxurious surroundings and fabulous restaurants. Here are the stats: 3,000 slot and video poker games. 144 table games, like blackjack, baccarat and Pai Gow poker. An 18-table poker room. A high limit table game room with private salons. A high limit slots room, with $300 pulls. Enjoy casual dining in three full restaurants: gourmet Italian at Tony's of North Beach; dry-aged beef and seafood at 630 Park Steakhouse; and classic American and Mediterranean cuisine at the Daily Grill. Or check out the eight eateries in the casino's Marketplace, offering sandwiches, pizza, burgers, sushi, tacos, barbecue, and more.

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

You can see the elegant Mission style tower from Sonoma Hwy., and within awaits another treasure. The wine and food tasting offers a wonderful five-course meal from new chef Bryan Jones, bringing an assortment of dishes to pair with hand-selected artisan wines. The dishes change daily to reflect seasonal markets, but some temptations might include pan seared day boat scallops with bacon-onion-maitake mushroom marmalade, sunchoke purée, Brussels sprouts and Asian pear alongside Estate Cuvée Blanc from Sonoma Valley; plus roasted Liberty Duck breast cassoulet with fresh shelling bean ragout, duck confit, Antohi peppers, fennel, haricot verts and huckleberry gastrique alongside Zinfandel from Bacchi Vineyard in Russian River Valley. The presentation is fine dining, but the mood is relaxed and friendly, enjoyed at a communal table with stunning views of gardens and vineyards.

Fritz Underground Winery

If you’re going to be indoors, why not go deep? Some wineries have caves, but here, the entire operation is buried underground, dug into a remote hillside on the edge of Dry Creek Valley. Built in 1979, it spans three stories showcasing a gentle, gravity-flow winemaking process and “bubble” architecture with windows that look like sunglasses peeking out of a grassy rise. Enjoy the specialties of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, plus Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon either under the earth or on a sunny patio, and if you show up on a weekend, you can make an appointment for a tour of the entire subterranean architecture.

Relish Culinary Adventures

Owner Donna del Rey brings together talented chefs and fabulous cuisine at her state-of-the-art Healdsburg center. Classes and culinary events focus on a variety of topics, such as DIY canning, wild mushroom foraging, cheese making, and ethnic cuisines; private cooking lessons are available.Often, the classes include working with the actual farmers, cheese makers, and other food artisans, and whatever the event, the goal is the same – get everyone involved, and having a terrific time while they learn. Chop those onions, whisk that cream, blend that butter, stuff those chickens and enjoy a few sips of great Sonoma wine along the way. Relish caters to adults, but also to children, with specialty classes designed for the little ones.

Valette

The rustic, charming interior welcomes you in, for a warm, delicious cocoon retreat. Former Dry Creek Kitchen talent Dustin Valette is rocking the food world in this former Zin restaurant space, bringing in crowds for his contemporary Cal-global cooking and a sexy, reclaimed wood-trimmed, open kitchen ambience. Reservations are recommended to score a table laden with seasonally (and often weekly) changing dishes like slow cooked celeriac soup with toasted pistachios, yellow beet tartare and goat cheese meringue, or crispy skin local sable fish with MIX garden bok choy, roasted ginger dashi, toasted soba noodles and spicy kimchee purée. Be sure to start with hand crafted charcuterie from the custom-made curing case, and if you’re feeling adventurous, tuck into the “Trust Me” menu where Valette sends out a multi-course feast of his daily picks.

Kenwood Inn and Spa

Blink and you might miss the boutique hotel shrouded by ivy, roses and trees on a gentle Sonoma hillside. It’s an exclusive retreat, with just 29 rooms priced up to $800 a night. But here’s a secret: even us everyday folk can indulge in pampering at the elegant, intimate spa tucked next to the restaurant. Pad softly up the jagged stone walkways past the private hot tubs, and discover what was the first Vinotherapie center to open in the United States. Treatments showcasing the anti-aging properties of grape-derived extracts are specialties, such as a wine bath and wine wrap. Lotions and oils will have you positively melting, custom made with red wine extracts, Chardonnay and Riesling oils, fruit pulp, seeds and herbs. Here is a delicious extra, too – your spa visit grants you access to the Cal-cuisine restaurant, normally reserved exclusively for overnight resort guests.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Warm your very soul at one of Wine Country’s iconic destinations, the spectacular, state-of-the-art Willow Stream spa that spans 40,000-square-feet across a rotunda, 36 treatment rooms and indoor and outdoor pools. Guests come from all around the world to experience the baths, fed by the resort’s own ancient source of natural thermal waters rich with 24 trace minerals. You can actually feel the earth’s healing and relaxation powers flowing from the springs 1,100 feet directly beneath the Inn. The waters rise at 135 degrees, and are so vital they have to be cooled for guest use. The signature Bathing Ritual is a must and is included with every visit, featuring an exfoliating shower, two mineral water soaking pools, herbal steam, dry sauna, and cool down showers.

Here are some other great ideas: Best Winter Getaway to Wine Country Itinerary

Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.