With the recent approval of the Petaluma Gap as Sonoma County’s newest American Viticultural Area (AVA), the spotlight is on the city of Petaluma as a wine tasting destination.
Centered on the Petaluma River in southern Sonoma County, Petaluma is the county’s second-largest city with 57,000-plus residents, and has a history rich in food and beverages. The annual Butter & Egg Days Parade in April celebrates Petaluma’s poultry and dairying heritage, while each March, the newer California Artisan Cheese Festival brings a new generation of farmhouse cheese producers together with local wines.
Petaluma is also a big beer, and more recently, spirits town, with the world-famous Lagunitas Brewery and an enclave of craft breweries and distilleries that are generally situated in a light industrial district on the east side of the 101 freeway. Wine tasting opportunities are generally found in Petaluma’s historic downtown area, on the west side of the Petaluma River (which is really an upgraded, dredged slough, but the old docks and railroad trestle make for a picturesque stroll on the way to restaurants and shops).
Petaluma Wine Tasting in Town
Founded by a performance racing team leader and named for the main road to the adobe where General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo first planted wine grapes in the 1830s, Adobe Road pours their Sémillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other award-winning wines in the Great Petaluma Mill.
Tucked into the restored 1923 Art Deco-styled Petaluma Hotel, this husband-and-wife-owned bodega hosts guest cheese makers, silent movie nights, and pours locally sourced Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Gris.
A welcoming rustic cellar setting is the place to indulge the sweeter side of your taste buds in this port and sherry tasting room, located near the riverfront. Home of Deco chocolate-infused port.
Compare the Petaluma Gap’s rare bottlings with wines from around the world, paired with cheese and small plates at this stylish wine bar in Petaluma’s “theater district,” an inviting place to wrap up a day of touring and tasting.
Taste flights of some of the best Sonoma and Napa wine country has to offer. Incomparable open-air lounge seating offers views of Petaluma's historic clock tower with a backdrop of early 20th century architecture. Or, relax inside what has aptly been decorated as a wine cave and chat with the wine lovers behind the bar.
This large, retail bottle shop specializing in wines from all over the world, and you might find proprietor Jason Jenkins ruminating with regulars about up-and-coming Petaluma Gap wines. Plus, the 26-seat wine and tapas bar also serves local and European hand-crafted beers and small plate tapas.
Wineries in the Petaluma Area
Perched on a vine-covered knoll south of town, Linda and Hoot Smith’s little winery features estate-grown Pinot Noir right alongside their surprise hit blend of estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
On the east side of the Petaluma Gap region, Keller may offer the only wine cave tour of the region. The architecturally interesting exterior is faced with stones reclaimed from a village flooded in China's Three Gorges Dam project. Estate sparkling wine, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Rhône-style blend.
Looking out over rolling pastureland on Spring Hill Road, Iranian-American-founded Azari Vineyards typifies the Petaluma Gap region. The small, promising vineyard is planted to Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Riesling, and the wines are paired with pizza baked onsite in a garden setting.
Restaurants in Petaluma
The land of butter and eggs hosts a basketful of fine restaurants.
Petaluma’s Central Market is a spacious farm-to-table favorite. New to town, Crocodile pairs French-inspired cuisine with French and Sonoma County wines. Skipping the drive on Highway 1? Get local oysters at The Shuckery.
For more options, check our listings of all Petaluma restaurants.
Lodging in Petaluma
Baby grand piano and all, Hotel Petaluma evokes the grand days of travel and is a stylish way to stay in Petaluma. On the banks of the river, Sheraton Sonoma County Petaluma offers views to the adjacent marina and easy access to walking and birding trails in nearby Shollenberger Park. And French-inspired Metro Hotel and Café has an eclectic assortment of rooms, cottages and Airstream trailers. For more possibilities, check our listings of all Hotels, Motels & Lodges in Petaluma.
Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight.