Discover Sonoma County’s Scenic Backroads Like a Vintage Race Car Driver

Tool through Sonoma County in a vintage car — Photo by Everett Lederer

Sonoma County is well known for its scenic backroads, snaking over mountains, around bucolic farms, ranches and endless vineyards, then out to the Russian River and the glorious Pacific Ocean. Spectacular views abound, and one of the best ways to take it all in is with a race car.

A vintage race car, to be exact, such as the 1958 Porsche Speedster owned by Dave and Natalie Hagan of Calistoga. Or the 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider owned by Charles and Gail McCabe of Napa. Or any of the more than two dozen classic motorcars owned by enthusiasts who travel to Wine Country for each spring’s Napa Valley 750 road rally.

Vintage race car in the Napa Valley 750 rally - Photo by Everett Lederer
Vintage race car in the Napa Valley 750 road rally — Photo by Everett Lederer

(It’s called the Napa Valley rally to designate the tour’s host resort, Harvest Inn in St. Helena, but it also covers Sonoma and Mendocino counties, as well as a jaunt into Davis in the Sacramento Valley region).

The Napa Valley 750 team has mapped out a detailed course for a single-day adventure through Sonoma County. The tour begins in St. Helena, traveling through Calistoga, Santa Rosa, Forestville, Occidental, Freestone, Valley Ford, Tomales, Marshall, Pt. Reyes Station, Olema, Petaluma and Sonoma. Find the a map of the route here — — and read on for Sonoma County pit stops. 

Santa Rosa/Larkfield-Wikiup

Cappuccino from Blue Beagle Coffee
Cappuccino from Blue Beagle Coffee in Santa Rosa’s Larkfield-Wikiup area

As you motor down Mark West Springs Road, pull off for a killer beverage at Blue Beagle Coffee. The small, artsy shop stocks a delicious assortment of hot and iced brews, teas, and milk alternatives like soy, almond, breve and hemp. 540 Larkfield Center, Larkfield-Wikiup, 707-535-0776


Delightful sundries at A La Heart in Forestville
Some of the delightful sundries at A La Heart in Forestville

Shop for delightful sundries at the charming A la Heart café and marketplace stocked with locally made goodies like gluten-free breads from Mama Mel’s of Petaluma, Volo Chocolate of Windsor, Comet Corn organic popcorn of Santa Rosa, Iced Sunshine Coffee of Forestville, and Revive Kombucha of Petaluma, plus many local cheeses, artsy toys, candles, cookbooks, jams, lotions, and so much more. 6490 Mirabel Road, Forestville, 707-527-7555, 


Boho Bowl from The Altamont General Store
Boho Bowl from The Altamont General Store

The Altamont General Store is a lovely place for lunch, tempting with picture-perfect sandwiches such as heritage walnut-finished pork topped in melty Havarti, slaw, pickled onions and kimchi sauce on a banh mi roll, or beautiful bowls like the Boho of stewed French lentils, Koda Farms kokuho rice and organic brown rice, charred cabbage, marinated carrots, Beet Generation lettuce mix, pickled beets, kraut and chimichurri. 3703 Main Street, Occidental, 707-874-6053


Freestone Artisan Cheese in Freestone
Freestone Artisan Cheese in Freestone

Freestone has a population of just 32, but it’s home to the marvelous Freestone Artisan Cheese, where owner Omar Mueller showcases spectacular cheesemakers from Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Mendocino counties. Taste samples to find your favorites, then round out your purchase with locally made products like Sebastopol olive oil, kefir water sodas, kvass, pickled mushrooms, jams, honey and charcuterie. 380 Bohemian Hwy., Freestone, 707-874-1030

Valley Ford

Valley Ford Market in Valley Ford
Valley Ford Market in Valley Ford

Blink and you’ll miss this mini-town. But check out the family-owned Valley Ford Market, which caters to farmers and ranchers, and visitors looking for staples like plumbing fixtures and fishing tackle but also an extensive selection of local wines, housemade beef jerky that’s more like luscious steak, and a mish-mash of old-school décor that reminds you that, yes, you are in the middle of a rural community dating back to the 1870s. 14400 Highway 1, Valley Ford, 707-876-3245


Baker Heirloom Seed Company's Seed Bank in downtown Petaluma
Baker Heirloom Seed Company’s Seed Bank in downtown Petaluma 

If you love gardening and heritage produce, you’ll adore Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company’s Seed Bank in the historic Petaluma Downtown District. It brims with plantable treasures you’ll rarely find, such as the sweet, rich, and fruity Swiss heirloom Gniff carrots, the renowned Bernier Farms certified organic seed garlic, and many varieties of Agastache, a deliciously fragrant herb that makes wonderful tea with its showy flowers that are also a favorite of butterflies and bees. 110 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, 707-773-1336


El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen on Sonoma Plaza
El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen on Sonoma Plaza

The Napa Valley 750 group wraps things up at the upscale El Dorado Kitchen for appetizers and fancy mocktails garnished in edible flowers, and that’s a great choice. But plan some extra time to explore the entire Sonoma Plaza that El Dorado flanks. Laid out in 1835 by Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, founder of Sonoma, the 8-acre plaza is the largest in California and rimmed with dozens of boutiques, wine tasting rooms, restaurants and art galleries. 453 First St. E., Sonoma, 707-996-1090

Written by Carey Sweet

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