Wine Tasting in Sonoma County is wonderful no matter how you do it, but there’s something to be said about enjoying the adventure without a car. The benefits include savoring all those wonderful wines then not having to drive, of course, but also the extra-relaxed pace that chauffeured and ambulatory tasting brings.
It’s so easy to do, too, with the myriad of travel options in Wine Country, ranging from car-hires, to bikes, to horse drawn carriages, to the new SMART train, and, of course, your own trusty feet.
Arrive at Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport (STS) in Santa Rosa, and take the free shuttle to The Hilton Garden Inn Sonoma County Airport hotel. This is a beautiful oasis, complete with a pond and fountain, rose gardens, a pool, fitness center, and rooms/suites outfitted with Garden Sleep System beds, sitting areas with ottoman, flat screen HD televisions, complimentary internet, and home-style amenities like a microwave, coffee maker and refrigerator. Thursday and Friday evenings, there are complimentary wine tastings from Sonoma County wineries, too. Other hotels nearby include Vintners Inn, Farmhouse Inn, Fountaingrove Inn, Holiday Inn Express Windsor, Hampton Inn & Suites Windsor, or take a look at all hotels in Sonoma County.
Then take a taxi or ride sharing service nine miles north to the Healdsburg Plaza in downtown Healdsburg. (Another option is to take a taxi or ride sharing service directly from the airport to the lovely, Tuscan-design Dry Creek Inn, right on the edge of downtown Healdsburg. Yes, it’s a Best Western, but value doesn’t mean skimping, with superb amenities like pools, hot tubs, in-room fireplaces, and complimentary wine tastings.)
You can easily spend the entire day in this gracious town, strolling among dozens of wine tasting rooms, plus boutiques, antique stores, cafes, art galleries, candy stores, bakeries, bars, tea lounges, and even high end pet “lifestyle” salons.
Just a few of the tempting tasting rooms include Ferrari-Carano's Seasons of the Vineyard Wine Shop on Plaza Street (wine, charming home decor and chocolates!), the pet friendly, ultra-boutique Topel Winery-Tasting Room on Matheson Street, and Hirsch Winery & Vineyards on Front Street for fabulous Pinot Noirs.
At The Flight Deck on Center Street, you can enjoy dozens of wines from a variety of Sonoma County wineries, including guided flights hosted by expert local wine guides.
You can also rent a bike, to pedal short scenic jaunts to destinations like the famous Seghesio Family Vineyards on Grove Street, the surf-themed Longboard Vineyards on Fitch Street, and Pezzi King on Hudson Street. Wine Country Bikes and Spoke Folk Cyclery are two great rental options.
Before, during and after wine tasting, it’s important to keep yourself fed and hydrated with good, old-fashioned water. Healdsburg is home to dozens of excellent restaurants, ranging from casual to high-end.
So stop often to nibble and feast, on the mouthwatering artisanal sausages, fries and milkshakes at The Wurst, on the succulent Yucatan pork tacos at Mateo’s Cocina Latina, with the divine wood fired pizzas at Campo Fina (plan a round of bocce ball here, too), and a full dinner at the authentic Agave Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar (hint: the Enmoladas are divine, bringing Oaxacan style enchiladas stuffed with Mary's shredded chicken, smothered in mole de Oaxaca and scatted in queso fresco alongside rice and black beans).
Tuck in to the hot cooked-to-order breakfast in The Hilton’s Garden Grille & Bar, or the complimentary breakfast at Dry Creek Inn.
Your options today are many, thanks to Sonoma County’s abundant guided tour options, most with door-to-door service available. Besides offering convenient ways to explore, your guide will have recommendations on whatever you're looking for, such as wineries with spectacular gardens, beautiful art collections, or simply a focus on spectacular Pinot Noir.
The touring company specialist will listen carefully to your desires, and put together a day that matches your dreams. As you cruise along the byways of Sonoma County, your driver can also answer questions about the sights you see, the wineries you visit, and the wines that interest you.
Pure Luxury Tours is one of Sonoma County’s top rated companies, operating one of California’s largest chauffeured fleets, ranging from hybrid sedans, Lincoln Navigators, and stretch limos to 56-passenger motor coaches. It offers everything from two-person excursions to customized private outings for large corporate groups.
Or perhaps you want to visit by bike. Sonoma Valley Bike Tours offers partial day or one-day tours, with a relaxed trip of three to six miles between winery stops, lunch, and bonuses like learning about the vineyard growth cycle and local farming practices. Other fine companies include Wine Country Bikes, Ace It! Bike Tours, and Getaway Adventure's Velo ‘n’ Vino Bike Tour.
Think about going old school, as well, with a Wine Tasting Tour by Horse & Carriage.
Cody and Cheyenne are big, beautiful blond tour guides – and okay, they are Belgian draft horses, but they still love flirting with their guests.
The ride is slow and smooth, in a wagon outfitted with padded seats and a shade top, on a five-mile tour through rural Healdsburg, featuring stops at top wineries like Soda Rock, White Oak, Hanna, and the dark, gorgeous caves of Alexander Valley Vineyards winery.
The horses can stroll through the actual vineyards, letting you out for barrel tasting, cave tours and chats with the winemakers (who will want to pet the horses), while your coachman guide shares local lore and insider’s tips. Nibble a Wine Country picnic along the way, like crusty baguettes, artisan cheeses, herbed meats, assorted olives, French chocolate truffles and organic strawberries, plus wine if you choose.
Did you know that you can also travel from one town along the main corridor in Sonoma County to another on the new SMART train? Check out the Guide to exploring Sonoma County by SMART train