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Sonoma Wine Country for Food Lovers 2-Day Itinerary

Madrona Manor in Healdsburg

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There are so many reasons to visit Sonoma County: the ocean, the vineyards, the redwoods, the charming towns. But let’s not kid ourselves, we know many visitors make the pilgrimage to our little piece of paradise just for the food.

And who could blame them? Our big-name food stars could form a small constellation, our farm-to-fork dining options are growing as quickly as our culinary reputation, and our strong agricultural roots are proudly showing. A visitor here could easily spend months eating his or her way through hundreds of local menus.

Luckily, we’ve pared it down for you to a more manageable two days. Coming right up, a tour of the best eats Sonoma County has to offer, from gastronomic hot spots to mom-and-pop bakeshops, and everything in between. 

Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.

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Sample beers and cheeses on local tours, dig into some serious Italian, and meet the makers at a new foodie place.

Rise & Dine

You can get a head start on your foodie tour by waking up this morning at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa in Sonoma.

The resort offers not only legendarily luxurious rooms, but also a culinary hot spot in its on-site Santé restaurant, which has earned a coveted Michelin star for its locavore dinner menu. In the morning, enoy lemon pancakes, farmer’s omelets, or Dungeness crab benedict. Each night, you can drop into the lobby to taste local wines.

On the more casual side, a stay at the Sonoma Creek Inn is a cozy, budget-friendly way to wake up in the heart of wine country. Right next door you’ll find the Creekside Café, a local favorite for home-style meals for breakfast and lunch.

And if you’re lucky enough to be in town on a Sunday morning, make your way over to The Girl and the Fig for brunch. A favorite of glossy food mags for its “country food with French passion,” this restaurant's brunch menu is a hit with locals for plates like baked eggs provençal and breakfast tartine.

Any day of the week is a perfect time for a breakfast of waffles, yogurt parfaits, espresso, and pain au chocolat over at the Sunflower Caffé. And for sweet, flaky breakfasts on the run, you can’t go wrong with a modern American pastry from Crisp Bakeshop.

Back to the Land

From Sonoma, follow Highway 12 East and then Highway 116 West to Petaluma. Though Petaluma’s recently become the epitome of country chic, with a boutique-laden downtown district and a cluster of hip restaurants, this town’s still in touch with the agricultural roots that once earned it the nickname “egg capital of the world.” The seamless marriage of farms and frills means that today, Petaluma’s the perfect place for a unique food adventure.

Downtown, you won’t want to miss The Seed Bank. Not that you could if you tried: It’s located in the beautiful, 1920s Sonoma County Bank building, a grand presence in Petaluma’s quaint shopping district. Inside, you’ll find more than 1,200 varieties of natural, non-GMO heirloom seeds to make your garden back home pop with Sonoma County flavor.

About a 10-minute walk away on Western Avenue, the Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Co. and Petaluma Creamery offers 45-minute creamery tours by reservation only for groups of 10 or more. It’s the perfect way to walk off your breakfast while working up your appetite for samples of organic, homestead cheese.

And from about Easter through Halloween, you can  take a farm tour (reservations required) of McClelland's Dairy, known for its artisan butter and its seasonal pumpkin patch. Watch cows being milked in the parlor and milk a cow by hand.

 If your ideal end-of-tour treat is a little more adult in nature, opt to explore Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewery, offering free tours every day of the week. The brewery’s IPAs, pale ales, pilsners, and a dozen other year-round and seasonal beers have put Petaluma on the map with beer aficionados at home and far afield.

California Meets Italy

In downtown Petaluma, think Italian for lunch. You can’t go wrong at Risibisi or Sugo Trattoria, both elegant-rustic establishments with authentic paninis, pastas, and salads on the menu.

Feeling more casual? Even the pizza here in Sonoma County inspires fanatical followings. For classic deep-dish at its best, don’t miss Old Chicago Pizza. Over at Rosso Pizzeria, they take the slow food movement so seriously they even make their own mozzarella.

Made With Love

There’s a new destination for all things food over in Sebastopol, about 25 miles west of Petaluma on Highway 116. The Barlow is a commercial center with a concept: Connecting customers not only with quality products, but with the people who make them as well.

Stop by Taylor Maid Farms to learn how coffee is roasted on-site (book three weeks in advance for a guided tour), or stop in for a tour of Spirit Works Distillery to find out how their handcrafted gin and whiskey goes “from grain to glass.”

If wine’s more your taste, stop by MacPhailMarimar Estate, or Wind Gap Wines, all of which have tasting rooms at the Barlow. 

Farm to Fork

Brace yourself for dinner: The Barlow’s got plenty on offer. Serious foodies will want to nab a table at zazu kitchen + farm, the acclaimed restaurant of chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart. Zazu takes the concept of “farm to table” to heart, with a mini-farm in the backyard, and bacon and salumi made on-site.

Just across the street, don’t let the name of the Woodfour Brewing Company fool you: this brewery and restaurant is not a place for overcooked burgers and soggy fries. Instead, folks come here to enjoy coffee porter or sour farmhouse ale alongside pork belly with sunchokes and Asian pears.

Sweet Dreams

If you’ve managed to leave room for dessert, walk over to Screamin’ Mimi’s, a western Sonoma County mainstay that makes fresh ice cream daily. Mimi’s has 300 recipes in its canon, but we recommend you end your night on a chocolaty note with a scoop of their legendary Deep Dark Secret.

Before you drift off into your inevitable food coma, make your way to one of Sebastopol’s charming B&Bs. Sneak off to a forest hideaway at the Avalon Luxury B&B, or enjoy timeless serenity and views of the garden, pond, and scenic vineyard at the Pearlessence Vineyard Inn.

A 20-minute drive west will take you to Occidental, where the Inn at Occidental specializes in luxurious rooms with whimsical touches. Food fanatics should ask for the “Kitchen Cupboard” room, decorated with antique cooking utensils.

 

Take your breakfast among the redwoods, learn to cook like a local, and dine in style in the capital of Wine Country chic.

Main Street Munchies

Many of Sonoma County’s inns are known for the exceptional, locally sourced breakfasts they serve to guests in the morning. But if you’re eager to hit the road early, head west for a destination breakfast.

In the redwood-hemmed hamlet of Occidental, the Howard Station Café has quickly become a local favorite for corned beef hash, homemade granola, blueberry-cornmeal pancakes, and gluten-free waffles.

Be sure to take a post-breakfast wander down Occidental’s main street; marvel at the redwoods and hills surrounding the little town; and check our list of 5 Fun Things to Do in Occidental before hopping back in the car.

Backyard Dining

Less than 20 minutes northeast of Occidental, the village of Forestville is a foodie paradise among the trees. Backyard is the hot table of the moment, and for good reason: The menu of dishes sourced (appropriately) right from Sonoma County’s backyard changes almost daily. Sit down for lunch and you may be in for anything from pork sausage flat breads, to tempeh Rubens, to chevre mac n’ cheese, to homemade kimchi.

A Taste of Wine Country

A 20-minute drive north of Forestville you’ll find Healdsburg. This epicenter of Sonoma County’s Wine Country is a town obsessed — with food, with wine, with living well. The town’s blend of all three has met with great success and much media fanfare, making Healdsburg a fitting last stop on your tour.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to eat again just yet. Instead, whet your appetite with a cooking lesson or demonstration at Relish, which promises to teach you how to cook like a Wine Country local. Most classes end with a full meal of the featured dishes, paired with carefully matched local beers or wines.

Of course, there’s no need to take a class in order to enjoy Healdsburg’s biggest draw: the wine. This town boasts a huge number of tasting rooms, letting you stroll and sip your way around the historic town square.

Culinary Stars

Cap off your Wine Country food adventure with a truly memorable meal at Healdsburg’s Madrona Manor. Big-time publications including Michelin and Zagat have praised the restaurant at this luxury inn for its “new California” cuisine served by candlelight. Compose your ideal meal by choosing from dishes such as Japanese mackerel, local urchin, pumpkin risotto, and venison, or splurge on a five-course menu with cheese and wine pairings.

You can also spice things up with a dinner of traditional Spanish tapas at Bravas Bar de Tapas; or go sustainable with swordfish, chevre-honey-and-lavender croquettes, and Sonoma duck at hyper-local Barndiva.

Vintage Inns, Vineyard Views

Make your last night in Sonoma County unforgettable with a stay at the elegant and exclusive Madrona Manor. For a more intimate B&B stay, check into the Raford Inn. The stunning 19th-century manor house overlooks vineyards and redwoods just 15 minutes from Healdsburg’s town square.

Eat Your Heart Out

If your Wine Country food tour has only left you hungry for more, you’re in luck: Sonoma County boasts enough world-class restaurants to keep your stomach happy for a lifetime.

In the little town of Geyserville, you’ll find a trio of fabulous Italian restaurants: family-run Catelli’s, homemade-salumi-centric Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, and Rustic, a restaurant featuring director Francis Ford Coppola’s favorite Italian dishes located at his eponymous winery.

To the west, look to small, coastal towns offering food so good, it may even distract you from your table’s jaw-dropping ocean views. In Jenner, watch the sunset over sea bass or filet mignon at the River’s End Restaurant & Inn. In Bodega Bay, don’t miss Michelin-starred cuisine in a cozy, neighborhood setting at Terrapin Creek Café

Craving even more? Be sure to check out our round-ups of Sonoma County’s Michelin stars and culinary highlights.

Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet