Best Restaurants and Picnic Spots with a View: Sunsets, Vineyards and the Ocean

Sonoma Coast Picnic
Sonoma Coast Picnic
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Dining in Sonoma County comes with more than great food and wines; it also comes with stunning views. Experience an unforgettable sunset over the Pacific Ocean, or dine al fresco above hillside vineyards, or under towering redwood trees.

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Whether you pack a picnic from one of dozens of delis and markets, or make reservations at a fabulous restaurant, Sonoma County boasts amazing dining vistas that will fit any budget. Here are several ideas to get you started.

Gorgeous Picnic Vistas

On a clear day you can see forever, and most days are clear at the South Lake Trailhead at Lake Sonoma . This overlook area is off Stewarts Point-Skaggs Spring Road (southwest of the Visitors Center & Fish Hatchery, 333 Skaggs Springs Road, Geyserville, 707-431-4533). The trailhead has nice picnic areas with great views of Lake Sonoma in one direction and Dry Creek Valley in the other. On your way, make a stop at the Dry Creek General Store (3495 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-4171), a popular place for lunch for locals and visitors.

Enjoy your lunch on the Vista Terrace at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards (23555 Highway 121, aka Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-933-1917), in the picturesque Carneros region at the southern end of the Sonoma Valley. Gaze out over sun-drenched estate vineyards while sipping a glass of sparkling wine, perfect with savory Spanish and local cheeses, meats, and other delicacies all available from the tasting room. Or, with a minimum purchase of wine, you can bring your own picnic. Suggested stops to pick up lunch makings include Cornerstone Sonoma (23570 Highway 121, Sonoma) or the Carneros Deli (23001 Arnold Drive, Sonoma).

Another great picnic option in the Carneros region is Viansa Winery & Marketplace (25200 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-935-4703). Perfect for larger families and groups, this winery offers a well-stocked deli with an extensive assortment of fabulous salads, deli meats, artisan breads, pastries and wine, which you can enjoy on the large terrace overlooking the valley. Parking is ample.

And up in Santa Rosa, Paradise Ridge Winery (4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-528-9643) is known for having one of the most beautiful views in Sonoma County. Every Wednesday beginning in spring, the public is invited to bring a picnic and enjoy Paradise Ridge wines while watching spectacular sunsets from the winery’s expansive veranda and beautiful poetry terrace. Some nearby places to get your picnic are Pearson & Co. (2500 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-570-3700) or Chloe's French Café (3883 Airway Drive, Suite 145, Santa Rosa, CA 95403). Not interested in bringing a picnic? A food truck will be selling dinners at the winery; perfect to kick back and relax.

Scenic Restaurant Options

If you prefer to dine out, here are three restaurants with stunning views.

For an awe-inspiring ocean view, go to River's End Restaurant & Inn (11048 Coast Highway 1, Jenner, 707-865-2484), on the coast in Jenner. Perched on a bluff overlooking the mouth of the Russian River where it enters the Pacific Ocean, River's End serves up delicious lunches and dinners with beautiful vistas, but offers especially spectacular views at sunset. During the day, it's often possible to watch seal pups play and sleep on the beach below. Chef Martin Recoder serves up unique and eclectic menus, internationally influenced but using local Sonoma County food products.

Going inland, enjoy spectacular views of the Alexander Valley countryside from the outdoor patio at the Quail Run Buffet at the River Rock Casino (3250 Highway 128, Geyserville, 707-847-2777). Located on the Dry Creek Rancheria of Pomo Indians, the restaurant overlooks sweeping views of vineyards quilting their way to the river, along the valley’s rugged mountain edge. Depending on the day and time, Quail Ridge offers a variety of full-course moderately-priced buffets — Asian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Italian, and American.

Nearby, Rustic (300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, 707-857-1485) at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery offers fabulous vineyard views in a relaxing winery resort atmosphere. Sit outside on the patio and watch the sunset over the gentle rolling hills of the Alexander Valley while sipping wines from one of Hollywood's famous directors, and dining on cuisine that embraces both international and traditional Italian dishes, with an emphasis on family-style cooking and seasonal ingredients.

This is just a quick sampling of how to pair wonderful food with amazing views in Sonoma County. Need more ideas? Browse our extensive Sonoma County listings for more wineries and restaurants, or find your favorite picnic spot at one of over 50 state and regional parks in Sonoma County. 

 

Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez

 

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