Wine grapes may not grow on the rock cliffs that line the Pacific Coast of Bodega Bay, a charming Sonoma County fishing village, and seagulls are more common than vineyard hawks, but that doesn’t mean a wine lover risks going thirsty.
Bodega Bay restaurants feature primarily local wines, plus the town is home to both a gem of a wine store/wine bar and a winery tasting room specializing in top-quality cold-climate coastal vintages.
Since 1995, Gourmet au Bay on Highway 1 has kept locals and visitors well quaffed, with an impressive collection of local wines hand-selected from Sonoma County wineries. There are two rules: Each wine must be boutique, produced in 1,000 cases or less, and designated 90-plus points or bear a gold medal award.
In a salute to the shop’s seaside location, instead of simple tastings, guests embark on “wine surfing,” where they choose three wines from the daily menu, and receive two-ounce pours placed on a little wooden surfboard. Wines can be sipped on the weather-protected deck overlooking the bay, and paired with an optional cheese and cracker plate.
When you find the wines you favor, you can purchase a full glass or a bottle, and in nice, neighborly touch, the store owners Bob and Sissy Blanchard will point you to area restaurants that waive their corkage fee for customers bearing Gourmet au Bay bottles.
Many guests also grab a bottle to-go for their own picnics, filling their food baskets with gourmet cheeses and charcuterie from the on-site gift shop and deli. Sometimes the taco truck parks there, too.
Here’s another local secret: Periodically, the wine store hosts its own dinners, such a Saturday night burger feasts, and “Feature a Farm” dinners, where purveyors like Salmon Creek Ranch are celebrated in full menus such as heirloom Jenner tomatoes in apple cider reduction, crispy duck sausage wrapped duck eggs, salmon chowder, duck fat fries, and crispy duck confit. Cheers!
Gourmet au Bay 913 Highway 1, Bodega Bay, 707-875-9875, open daily 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday (closes an hour earlier in late fall and winter months).
And don't miss the other opportunity for wine tasting in Bodega Bay: the Sonoma Coast Vineyards tasting room. This luxury brand handcrafts exceptional wines from a unique cold-climate growing area west of the Russian River Valley and a mere five miles from the Pacific Ocean. Utilizing the wealth and expertise of master wine maker Anthony Austin, SCV is best known for producing top-quality coastal wines such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah.
SCV works closely with a small group of ambitious growers in partnership efforts to produce wines of exceptional complexity, expressing their true varietal and terroir characteristics. Its tasting room in Bodega Bay offers two experiences: drop-in tasting at the wine bar or (by reservation only) privately hosted tastings in the Wine's on the Edge Club Room.
Sonoma Coast Vineyards 555 S. Highway 1, Bodega Bay, 707-921-2860; tasting room open daily 10:30 a.m. to seasonal closing times.