Girls Getaway to Sonoma Valley
Food, wine, travel, and adventure await on a girls' getaway to the lush Sonoma Valley, tucked between two mountain ranges on the eastern edge of Sonoma County.
The goal is to pack in as much as possible into a few days, while still keeping things relaxing. A great alternative to driving is booking a private limo or mini-bus with Pure Luxury, Beau Wine Tours or other sightseeing companies.
Start with brunch at Sunflower Caffe in downtown Sonoma, for coffee and delicious pastries, or a more complete meal with dishes like a Buttermilk Belgian Waffle (also available gluten free) or the California Sandwich with folded eggs, avocado crush, bacon, chevre goat cheese spread, brioche bun, and dressed arugula. Eat out front in the sidewalk tables and watch the world walk by, or in the garden courtyard, sitting beneath vine-laden trellises, in a cozy nook next to the fountain.
The Sonoma Plaza brims with shops, tasting rooms, and restaurants, as well as a rich slice of history. It's easy to spend many happy hours exploring, stopping at such places as Walt Wines, set in a charming cottage and known for its stellar Pacific Coast-sourced Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. For other possibilities, check out our Guide to Wine Tasting in Sonoma.
For a bit of indulgence, visit the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, located in Boyes Hot Springs just outside the town of Sonoma. This spectacular, state-of-the-art spa spans 40,000 square feet across a rotunda, 36 treatment rooms, and indoor and outdoor pools. Guests come from all around the world to experience the baths, fed by the resort's own ancient source of natural thermal waters. Pamper yourself with a 60-minute Crushed Cabernet Scrub or a soothing massage. The signature bathing ritual is included with every visit, featuring an exfoliating shower, two mineral water soaking pools, herbal steam, dry sauna, and cool down showers.
For dinner, head to the quaint town of Glen Ellen, just ten minutes north. Dinner will be at Glen Ellen Star, where chef Ari Weiswasser packs all 24 seats nightly for his gorgeous California-Mediterranean cuisine that celebrates a fire-fed wood oven.
The menu changes frequently with the seasons, but favorites include wood roasted heirloom baby carrots smothered in Oaxacan mole and topped with sesame seed brittle; spring pea soup dolloped with ricotta gnudi and mint; wood oven roasted lamb meatballs atop couscous, red charmoula and preserved lemon; and homemade salted peanut butter ice cream for dessert.
Breakfast will be at El Molino Central, a stylish taqueria just a few blocks from the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. El Molino owner Karen Taylor Waikiki is known for her best-selling Primavera tamales sold at farmers' markets, and for the stone-ground corn she makes into masa for tortillas and tamales.
You can watch as staffers take organic heirloom corn kernels soaked in water and grind them with an authentic stone wheel. The resulting crisp, thick tortilla chips are the base of the marvelous guajillo chile chilaquiles, smothered in soft-scrambled Field of Greens eggs, roasted tomato and chipotle salsa and refried black beans.
Then it's off to Jack London State Historic Park and its 1,400 scenic acres in the hillside above Glen Ellen, for a hike or horseback ride. You can also venture amid the magnificent ruins of the author's would-be-mansion, visit the Londons' gravesites, and learn more about this famous author and adventurer and his wife in the recently remodeled House of Happy Walls Museum.
Benziger Family Winery awaits right next door. Enjoy the full experience by taking the Biodynamic Vineyard Tram Tour for a 45-minute journey through the grapevines, a visit to the fermentation facility and crush pad, and a stop at the barrel caves, all capped by a wine tasting.
Lunch beckons, and we'll gather at Ram's Gate Winery in Carneros at the south end of the valley, for the Seasonal Pairings, a food and wine matching experience. Chef Stacey Combs offers five beautiful courses (including ingredients from the hilltop winery's own garden) paired with single-vineyard wines. The experience includes a tour of the property, including the barrel rooms and a short hike down to the lake.
From Ram's Gate, you can stretch your legs and go bird watching in the wide open spaces at San Pablo Bay National Refuge. Or, if retail therapy is more your cup of tea, check out the unique shops at Cornerstone Sonoma. While there, visit Sunset Magazine's Test Gardens and Outdoor Kitchen, and stroll through a series of gallery-style gardens showcasing innovative designs from the world's finest landscape architects and designers.
It's time for dinner, and a last hurrah before heading back home. Return to the northern edge of the valley to the village of Kenwood, where Tips Roadside serves farm-to-fork Wine Country comfort food inspired by southern cuisine. Owners Andrew and Susie Pryfogle also own two Tri Tip Trolleys that have been serving delicious tri tip sandwiches and other goodies at local farmers markets and events since 2009. The menu at their bricks-and-mortar restaurant includes gluten-free fried chicken and a vegetarian 'true grits' dish, as well as a grass-fed burger, a slab of bacon and short ribs, and other hearty choices. Dessert options include authentic New Orleans beignets with Meyer lemon dipping sauce.
Or, check out Salt & Stone, also in Kenwood, where owners David and Diane LaMonica have created a casual-chic global California eatery and oyster bar. For dinner, chef Arturo Guzman sends out fare such as sourdough crusted Petrale sole with mascarpone gold potato risotto, braised Swiss chard, baby carrots, and caper beurre blanc, or rib eye with duck fat fingerling potatoes, local mushrooms, cipollini onion, broccolini, garlic paint, burgundy reduction, and Shaft's Bleu butter. And oysters are a big deal here, in a variety of preparations including raw, spicy ceviche with habanero, Maitre'd with parsley, garlic, onions, and butter, or casino with bacon, leeks, red pepper, and manchego.
And before you know it, it will be time to plan another great girls getaway.
For more ideas, check out our Girls Getaway to Healdsburg, 7 Great Restaurants for a Girls' Getaway in Sonoma County, and Girls Getaway to Sonoma County 3 Day Itinerary.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet