The beauty of a wine bar is that it offers intriguing choices — exclusive or elusive wines, paired with light dishes designed to enhance the chosen vintages. And, as in most things associated with wine and food, Sonoma County wine bars lead the way with varied selections presented with delightful ambiance.
While a few restaurants add "and Wine Bar" to their name because of their relatively extensive wine lists, industry experts say a true wine lounge offers an extensive list of wines by the bottle, glass, and taste (typically in two- or three-ounce pours), and the list of wines changes on a regular basis. The best wine bars also design menus of small dishes of tasty treats that pair well with their offerings.
A wine bar provides the opportunity to explore wines from off the beaten track or renowned vintages you've always wanted to try, in proper crystal stemware, served by knowledgeable staff who can discuss your choices and options.
And where better to enjoy the wine bar experience than in Sonoma County, which has raised food and wine tasting to an art form? Here's a quick guide to a few of Sonoma County's best wine bars.
38° North Lounge at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn
The sleek, minimalist design in this wine lounge blends seamlessly with the historic nuances and mission-style architecture of this storied Sonoma Valley resort.
In this relaxed but luxurious setting, you can choose from more than 50 wines by the glass from handpicked local and international wineries, including cult favorites like Screaming Eagle, Kamen, and Dom Perignon Brut.
Under the direction of executive chef Bruno Tison and chef de cuisine Andrew Cain, the tantalizing small plate menu features items such as cabernet-braised beef, "grown-up" mac & cheese with lobster and truffles, smoked rabbit, and much more
And the name of this lounge? It refers to the 38th parallel north, the circle of latitude that crosses Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia, the Pacific, the Atlantic, and North America. This imaginary east-west circle encompasses a temperate climate, and some of the world's most iconic wine regions, including Sonoma County.
38° North Lounge at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, 100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma, 707-938-9000
La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge
Sip and taste the good life at this Petaluma wine bar, which advertises that it accepts only about 10 percent of the more than 1,000 wines it tries each year. It carries an extensive and perpetually revolving selection of local and international wines for tasting, sipping, and purchase by the half-carafe and the bottle. Custom flights of three-ounce pours allow you to sample a wide variety of vintages.
Created to match the wine list, the menu of light and tasty dishes is also extensive, and changes on a regular basis. Choices typically include a selection of artisan cheeses from around the world, served with fresh French bread, fruit, and nuts; homemade soup of the day; salads with fresh local ingredients; innovative pasta and pizza; and more.
Lo Dolce Vita provides a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere in which to sample a rich variety of wines and food, served by a knowledgeable staff.
La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge, 151 Petaluma Blvd. South, Suite 117, Petaluma, 707-763-6363
Enjoy a quick bite or linger over an enchanting glass of wine in this classic roadhouse setting that captures the casual, laid-back nature of the Sonoma Wine Country. Outdoor seating is available — a perfect choice to appreciate Sonoma County's wonderful climate and its delicious bounty.
The extensive list of local and international wines is available by the glass, bottle, or in two-ounce tastes. The seasonal menu always includes a few classic dishes, and features a wide variety of international small plates, both familiar and innovative. Inventive and interesting gluten-free and vegetarian options are available.
Willi's Wine Bar, 4404 Old Redwood Highway, Santa Rosa, 707-526-3096
In-Store Wine Bars
Several Sonoma County wine shops also include a wine bar. Consider stopping in and checking out:
- Gourmet Au Bay in Bodega Bay. Enjoy waterfront views and sip glasses of wine served up on a mini surfboard in this coastal shop featuring award-winning California wines. The small plates menu features wood oven-fired flatbreads and seafood.
- Sonoma Wine Shop & Club La Bodega Kitchen is a wine-and-dine club with locations in both Sonoma (housed in an 1891 building on the Sonoma Plaza) and Sebastopol. The wines are sourced from ultra-small California wineries, and the food is made from scratch using local and organic ingredients; gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options are available.
- Vine & Barrel Wines in Petaluma is a small, comfy shop that stocks more than 600 Sonoma County and international wines, and operates a full wine bar on weekends. Nibbles are available from an onsite deli. Monthly events typically highlight wines from more than 30 wineries, paired with delicious food.
Written by Patricia Lynn Henley