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Geyserville Tour Itinerary

Enjoy a country breakfast each morning at Hope Merril House B&B in Geyserville.

An hour’s drive north from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, Geyserville — perched along the Russian River, where it’s surrounded by miles of vineyards and overlooked by distant mountains — provides the perfect Sonoma Wine Country getaway escape.

But that’s been true from the tiny town’s earliest days. Back in 1847, when Geyserville was still part of the huge Rancho Tzabaco Mexican land grant, a series of fumaroles, hot springs and steam vents were discovered nearby. Eventually this collection of geological features came to be known as “The Geysers.”

Within a few years the Geysers was attracting tourists (among many famous visitors of the day: Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan). A nearby settlement sprang up to provide meals, overnight accommodations, and other services; it eventually took the name of Geyserville.

By the turn of the century Geyserville possessed a block-long downtown with a saloon, a hotel, a post office, a blacksmith shop, and a store, along with handsome Victorian homes and many modest bungalows.

Today Geyserville looks much the same as it did more than a century ago, retaining most of the same buildings. The town boasts only one stop sign, with nary a gas station in sight.

But make no mistake: this is not your great-grandparents’ Geyserville. Today the town offers a hip vibe in a comfortable, laid-back kind of way. You’ll find excellent boutique accommodations, top-notch dining, many fun things to do, and some of the best wineries in California, in the Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley wine regions of Sonoma County.

Everybody meets over coffee at Geyserville Mud Café (21001 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, 707-237-1771), smack in the middle of the one-block “downtown.” Nod to the locals, make your way to a comfy stool at the bar, order a Mexican Mayan Mocha or a Daily Drip with a Depth Charge, and get primed for an active day. Hungry? Danish pastries are fresh from Costeaux French Bakery in nearby Healdsburg.

It’s only a few blocks or so long, but “downtown” Geyserville has plenty going on. Take a tour of exotic birds and cats (not to mention a “visit” to ancient Egypt!) at the unique Isis Oasis Retreat Center and Animal Sancutary. Or, buy some Dan Post cowboy boots, a pair of Rock & Roll cowgirl jeans, or a western chap and vest set for the kids at Bosworth & Son General Mercantile. You might also browse for art at Linda Schroeter Fine Art (by appointment only) and find the perfect vintage piece to haul back home at the Vintage Home Collective.

And of course you can sample wines downtown. Try family-owned (and family-run) Meeker Vineyard and Ramazzotti Wines; sample wines from five surrounding viticultural areas at Route 128 Winery; or delve into Bordeaux-style blends at Mercury Geyserville (which shares a tasting room with Ramazzotti).

For other unique tasting opportunities, drive south along Geyserville Avenue for one mile. Merge onto US-101 South toward San Francisco. In one-third of a mile, take exit 509 for Independence Lane and turn right. Independence Lane becomes Souverain Road, which ends at Francis Ford Coppola Winery (300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, 707-857-1471).

Film director Coppola completed one of his great productions with this Alexander Valley winery resort, which he described as a “wine wonderland.” Located on the site of the former Chateau Souverain Winery, the facility was influenced by Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens amusement park. The wide-ranging valley views will take your breath away. Attractions here — most are family-friendly — include a wine-tasting bar, two restaurants, two connected swimming pools bordered by European-style cabins with showers, a sunbathing terrace, a movie gallery, a performing arts pavilion, and a park with game tables and bocce courts.

Throughout you’ll find Coppola’s movie memorabilia, including his Oscars, Marlon Brando’s desk from The Godfather, and the 1948 Tucker Sedan used in the movie Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Go swimming, enjoy a tasting, take a tour, and stay alert for a glimpse of the director himself.

Next up is the Pedroncelli Winery (1220 Canyon Road, Geyserville, 707-857-3531). Owned and operated by the Pedroncelli family since 1927, this winery stayed open during prohibition by selling grapes to home winemakers (it was legal to make a small amount of wine for personal use). Consistent award-winners over many decades, Pedroncelli wines are made from sustainably farmed grapes. It’s not unusual to be served by a family member in the tasting room. which is the oldest tasting room in the Dry Creek Valley. 

Lodging Suggestions

Surrounded by mountains and vineyards, the AAA three-diamond Geyserville Inn (21714 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, 707-857-4343) provides the warm hospitality you’d expect from an excellent country inn but doesn’t stint on modern comfort and luxury.

You’ll find spacious rooms in the Inn’s main building, many with fireplaces. Balconies or patios offer sweeping views; each room has featherbeds, thick towels, Fretté bathrobes, and down comforters. Suites — all on the second floor in their own building — have hardwood floors, 360-degree views, two balconies, Jacuzzi tubs, and many other amenities.

Built in the late 19th century from redwood, the stunning Eastlake-style Victorian at the Hope-Merrill House Bed & Breakfast Inn (21253 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, 800-825-4233) is listed on the Sonoma County Landmarks Register for its architectural and historic significance.

Thanks to extensive restoration, the original Lincrusta-Walton wainscoting — once covered over with plasterboard — can now be seen. Each room features dazzling multi-layered wallpapers created by designer Bruce Bradbury and silk-screened by hand. Bedrooms vary in size, with each decorated in authentic Victorian furnishings, but all have a private bath, queen-sized bed, and much more.

One of the delights in staying here is the fabulous breakfast (included in the price). Served on a richly-decorated table, it always includes home-made breads, pastries and jams, as well as a made-that-morning egg specialty accompanied by sausage or other breakfast meat.

Restaurant Suggestions

Born in Nevada but schooled in his Italian grandmother’s kitchen, chef Dino Bugica blends the best of California ingredients with traditional old-country dishes at Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria (21021 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, 707-814-0111). Housed in a century-old brick building with beautiful wooden floors, the atmosphere here is elegantly casual, convivial, and fun.

And the food! The rustic menu changes daily, featuring carefully sourced meats, fish, and produce from local farms, ranches, and fisheries. Sample menu items include: Grilled Asparagus Salad (with fried egg, crispy pork belly, arugula, truffled pecorino, and lemon vinaigrette); Tagliatelle with Local Rabbit Sugo (with green garlic, wild mushrooms, olives, mascarpone, and rosemary); Local Chestnut Gnocchi (with leeks, kale, snap peas, pea shoots, asparagus, and bay scallops); Chicken Picatta (half a Rocky Jr. chicken cooked under a brick with roasted potatoes, turnips, parsnips, fennel, and puntarelle); and maybe a Diavola pizza thrown in for good measure (roasted red peppers, provolone, arugula, and homemade meatballs with pine nuts and raisins).

And there are typically about three dozen other choices equally tempting, along with an exceptional wine list that features local wines made from Italian varietals, and a large number of imported Italian wines.

Step into a page of Geyserville history at Catelli's (21047 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, 707-857-3471). First opened in 1936, Santi and Virginia Catelli’s restaurant was called The Rex. (The original sign was commissioned but unclaimed, and the local sign maker gave them a deal, hence the name.) The family retired for a while from the restaurant business, then in 2010, the third generation reopened the restaurant

Sister-and-brother team Domenica and Nicholas Catelli have culinary credentials beyond being raised in the family business. Both are talented chefs: Domenica is a recurring judge on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America, and Nicholas managed Guy Fieri’s restaurants, Johnny Garlic’s and Tex Wasabi, for years.

Credentials are fine, but it’s the food that will keep you coming back for more. Menu items are built around what’s in season in Sonoma County. The Domenica Sauce is a flavorful marinara that makes nearly anything on the menu just that much better. Give the rabbit ravioli a try.

The outdoor area is a dining favorite, looking like an upscale patio with a dash of nightclub. Make sure to request the patio when making reservations. 

Lake Sonoma

There's much more to enjoy both in and around Geyserville. If you follow the sculpture trail you'll discover more than 35 pieces of public art in both Geyserville and the nearby town of Cloverdale; download a sculpture trail map online or pick up a paper copy at the chamber of commerce or other stores in either town.

If a bit of gambling appeals, visit River Rock Casino (3250 Highway 128, Geyserville, 707-857-2777), with more than 1,200 slot machines from 1-cent to $100, 18 game tables including MiniBaccarat and Blackjack, an exclusive high limit area, and non-smoking areas for both slots and tables.

Or if you prefer to explore the gorgeous landscape surrounding Geyserville, order a picnic lunch to bring with you and head to the hills. A great place to start is at the Lake Sonoma Visitors Center and Fish Hatchery (3333 Skaggs Springs Road, Geyserville, 707-431-4533).

Nestled into a valley overlooked by mountains, Lake Sonoma (see photo) is surrounded by world-famous vineyards. Created by the construction of Warm Springs Dam by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1983, the lake provides for flood control, irrigation and recreation. When full, the lake’s surface area exceeds 2,700 acres and offers 50 miles of shoreline.

Lake Sonoma is the perfect setting for a diversity of recreational activities. You’ll find secluded coves for serene boating and fishing (the lake is stocked); defined areas for while water-skiing and jet skis; boat and canoe rentals; an archery field; a public boat ramp and full-service marina; miles of hiking; swimming; a fish hatchery; and a visitor’s center.