Spending the holidays in Sonoma Wine Country promises great fun. Wineries are decked out for the holidays, and many magical events and activities await visitors of all ages. With shopping, sipping, skating and more, here are a few ways to celebrate. You'll find more current festivals and events on our Sonoma County Calendar of Events.
“Holidays in Healdsburg” Tour (Nov. 2015-Jan., 2016)
This gathering from Wine Country Walking Tours is so popular that it’s now become an annual event (call for exact seasonal tour dates). At the heart is a four-hour guided Fine Wine and Foodie Walking Tour beginning at the festive tree lit Healdsburg Plaza, voted as one of the Top 10 Plazas in America according to Travel & Leisure. Then, you stroll the decorated tree lined streets throughout downtown, stopping at restaurants, tasting rooms and boutiques to savor freshly baked artisan breads, delicious chocolates and Ports, warm holiday spiced teas and delectable bites paired with wines all along the way.
Holiday in Carneros (Nov. 21 & 22, 2015)
Deck the halls with lots of wine, at this annual event showcasing more than 20 wineries hosting festive open houses. More than just tastings, each destination offers unique food and wine pairings, live music, arts and craft shows, and insider specials like barrel, reserve, library and new release tastings. This is a great time to stock up on holiday meal wines and gifts, with event-only pricing on retail purchases, too. Plan your weekend around a variety of experiences, ranging from larger properties like Cline Cellars or Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, to boutique stops like Ceja Vineyards or Tin Barn Vineyards.
Celebrate Thanksgiving on the Coast (Nov. 26, 2015)
Pretend you’re a Pilgrim, landing at Plymouth Rock, as you enjoy a turkey feast at Bay View Restaurant in Bodega Bay. An elaborate a la carte menu celebrates the season with appetizer specialties like Dungeness crab and parsnip bisque, or butternut squash and ricotta ravioli in sage butter sauce. Entrees tempt with roasted turkey with savory apple and prune stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, acorn squash and sweet potatoes with maple syrup and green beans; or Black Angus filet mignon and lobster with Béarnaise sauce, mashed potatoes and sautéed baby organic spinach. Dessert is that all-American staple of pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream, among other selections. Prices vary, with discounts for children.
The Fanciest Thanksgiving (Nov. 26, 2015)
Madrona Manor knows how to put on holiday feast, and how. Michelin-star executive chef Jesse Mallgren wows each year with a six-course menu that includes delicacies like Osetra caviar, crab soup with smoked potatoes and seaweed butter, pumpkin white truffle risotto, and slow roasted turkey with all kinds of adornments such as pearl onions with black truffles, celery root, chervil and pain perdu.
Feast Like a Thanksgiving King (Nov. 26, 2015)
The elaborate buffet menu from chefs Bruno Tison and Andrew Cain goes on for two pages at Santé at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. Against a backdrop of live music., you’ll enjoy table after table of appetizers like house made pâté de campagne wrapped in Hobbs applewood smoked bacon; house made terrine of Liberty duck and organic pork in pastry; charcuterie; local and artisan cheeses; and caviar blinis. There are salads, soups, and the showstoppers - carving stations featuring roasted all natural Diestel free range slow roasted turkey with black truffle panade, brioche and sage stuffing, turkey giblet gravy and cranberry sauce; and Niman Ranch prime rib of beef with horseradish cream sauce.
A Yucatan Thanksgiving (Nov. 26, 2015)
Healdsburg chef Mateo Granados draws from his Yucatan heritage, adds some French finesse, then powers it all up with the best boutique Sonoma ingredients. So an annual holiday meal at his Mateo’s Cocina Latina is like non-other, resplendent as a prix-fixe with choices like an appetizer of White Crane greens and local Dungeness crab salad with Crispy Drakes Bay oyster and spicy mayonnaise, or Dungeness crab casserole with wild mushrooms and Meyer lemon-soy cream sauce over Costeaux Bakery ciabatta. Entrees might be Relleno Blanco de Pavo of Diestel Farm turkey, hard boiled egg centered embutido, white gravy “Mayan K’ol,”Soda Rock Farm tomato sofrito and baked Calasparra rice, or oven roasted Fort Bragg albacore tuna with Napa cabbage, bacon and braising cream sauce. Wrap it up with a blue corn taco filled with 3 Twins vanilla ice cream, seasonal fruit salsa and sea salt.
Heart of Sonoma Valley Holiday Open House (Nov. 27 and 28, 2015)
The Heart of Sonoma Valley Holiday Open House is an annual favorite, showcasing more than two dozen wineries across Santa Rosa, Glen Ellen, Kenwood and Sonoma. This year’s gathering from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days offers special wine tastings, the opportunity to meet winemakers, mingling in caves and cellars, and a great time to stock up on your favorite wines for the holidays. Most wineries throw out the stops, presenting live music, nibbles, and special pricing for purchases.
Family Fun Weekend (Nov. 27 and 28, 2015)
The Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa is fun all year long, but this weekend is even more whimsical, as cartoonist and storyteller Joe Wos performs his magical “Once Upon a Toon” skits. Kids of all ages can take part in cartoon workshops with Wos throughout the weekend, too.
Korbel Holiday Shopping Spree Weekend (Dec. 4-6, 2015)
Guerneville’s Korbel Champagne Cellars is known for its elaborate gift shop, gourmet deli and gardens, and gift packs like the popular combo of 3 bottles of Korbel Champagne, 2 Champagne flutes, and a box of Champagne truffles. Through the three-day spree, the winery will offer special sales, Christmas carolers from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and an appearance by Santa Claus from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Skate Around a Tree at Snoopy's Home Ice (Dec. 5, 2015)
Snoopy’s Home Ice in Santa Rosa is great for skating and a snack at the Warm Puppy Café. And the annual tree lighting festival and skating exhibition makes it even more a blast, with complimentary hot cider and sugar cookies.
See Snowmen (Dec. 6, 2015)
The annual Lighting of the Snowmen once turned into the launching of the snowmen, when the plastic characters were hurled across the highway by a slingshot into a vineyard. Another time, they were blown from a cannon. But it’s all in fun, for the hundreds grinning fellows set up at Cornerstone shops and garden center in Sonoma. Gather at 3 p.m. for a performance by the Sonoma Conservatory of Dance, pictures with Santa, classic holiday films in the Olive Grove Cinema, traditional German beer garden complete with men in lederhosen, gingerbread men to decorate, hot chocolate, face-painting by Popo the Clown, an assortment of kids' holiday crafts and games, grab-bag gifts, wacky holiday games, yummy savories, cotton candy, popcorn balls and, of course, to learn what will happen to the snowmen this time around.
Have a Dickens of a Christmas (14 performances starting Dec. 10, 2015 and continuing through Christmas Day)
The Dickens Dinners are a highlight of the year at Madrona Manor, when carolers wander the dining rooms, dressed in period clothing of Olde 19th Century England, and The 12th Night Singers pause for private a-cappella serenades of “Jingle Bells” (complete with theatrical cracks for the whips) and breathtaking hymns. Even more delicious: Michelin-star executive chef Jesse Mallgren prepares a five-course celebration of new and old holiday traditions, paired with wines.
Feast Like a Christmas King (Dec. 25, 2015)
Santé at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa puts together one of the most elaborate Christmas dinners to be found, in a lavish buffet made even more elegant with live music. The menu from chefs Bruno Tison and Andrew Cain goes on for two pages, with table after table of appetizers like house made pâté de campagne wrapped in Hobbs applewood smoked bacon; house made terrine of Liberty duck and organic pork in pastry; charcuterie; local and artisan cheeses; and caviar blinis. There are salads, soups, and the showstoppers - carving stations featuring roasted all natural goose with spiced cranberry, apple and raisin relish; Niman Ranch beef tenderloin Wellington with mushrooms duxelle and sauce financière; and roasted marinated leg of venison with sauce poivrade. Other temptations include braised veal sweetbreads, roasted lamb shoulder à la Provençale, and dozens of hand-crafted desserts from pastry chef Dave Blom.
Take a Hike (all winter long)
The Armstrong Redwoods State National Reserve spans 805-acres, in lush groves of 500 to 2,000 year-old trees towering to 350 feet (that’s taller than a football field is long). Breathe deep and savor the velvety quiet and solitude; the massive trees are often shrouded in mystical fog with swords of sunlight piercing through. For one of the easiest way to navigate, take the mile-and-a-half long round trip Pioneer Nature Trail over mostly flat terrain. Tip: dogs are not allowed on trails, though they can join you in the developed picnic areas.
Find more things to do over the holidays on the Sonoma County's calendar of events.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.