Itinerary: Savor Culinary Delights in Sonoma County
Savor one of California's top food and wine destinations, where you'll find renowned farm-to-table fare and premium wines. Treat your taste buds to a feast in Sonoma County, where 'farm to table' is not a trend, it's simply how we eat each and every day.
And culinary adventures in Sonoma County are not limited to dining together. Visit artisan cheese makers, and learn about their craft while sampling their wares. Stroll through local farmers markets, chatting with folks who grew what they're selling. Take a cooking class, and learn to whip up wonderful Wine Country dishes like a local.
Begin in Petaluma in southern Sonoma County, where Jim and Donna Pacheco’s 900 goats graze year-round in pastures at the Pacheco Family Dairy. (The goats’ diet is supplemented with alfalfa and brewers’ grain from local breweries.) The Pachecos also raise cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, chickens, and ducks, and handcraft farm cheeses under the Achadinha Cheese Company label. Take a traditional ranch tour that includes the cheese plant, milking parlor, the goats, and, of course, cheese tasting.
Also in Petaluma, McClelland’s Dairy is a third-generation family farm that specializes in European-style organic artisan butter; farm tours are offered seasonally, by appointment. To visit cheese makers and farmers throughout Sonoma County, consult The California Cheese Trail in Sonoma County and Farm Tours are Delicious Adventures. Be sure to check out historic downtown Petaluma, where impressive iron front and Victorian buildings are home to acclaimed restaurants and cafés, and an intriguing mix of boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, and tasting rooms.
Next, head east to the Sonoma Valley, where the town of Sonoma centers on a lush eight-acre plaza. Visit nearby historic sites in Sonoma State Historic Park, including California’s last and northernmost mission, and then browse the boutiques, galleries, wine tasting rooms, and delicious restaurants that ring the plaza. Nearby, Ramekins Culinary School offers culinary classes focusing on the essence of Wine Country living — fresh foods, fabulous wines, and good company.
Heading farther northwest, Santa Rosa is home to a wide variety of top restaurants, as well as a growing collection of craft breweries and brewpubs, including the legendary Russian River Brewing Company, where fans form long lines each year for its amazingly popular Pliny the Younger release.
And farther north, Healdsburg is a wine and culinary epicenter nestled along the Russian River. Named one of “America’s Most Beautiful Town Squares,” Healdsburg’s downtown plaza hosts free concerts and other community festivities. It’s surrounded by a delightful mix of specialty shops and antique stores and an amazing variety of restaurants and eateries, as well as some two dozen art galleries. Enjoy a one-of-a-kind food experience with Relish Culinary Adventures, which offers cooking classes, tours, and other creative events both in its culinary center in downtown Healdsburg and in captivating rural settings.
Get a true taste of Sonoma County by dining in one of its more than 600 restaurants and eateries. Here’s a quick look at some of the most celebrated options — those that earned Michelin stars for 2019. Kyle and Katina Connaughton spent more than two years carefully crafting every detail of their SingleThread Farms Restaurant & Inn in Healdsburg before welcoming their first diners in late 2016. That dedication paid off when SingleThread earned two Michelin Stars in 2018, and three Michelin Stars in 2019. Reservations are a must for the 11-course customized tasting meal, based on the Japanese concepts of Kaiseki — elaborate multicourse meals crafted as art — and donabe — rustic clay pot cooking. The menus change daily, but can include delicacies like black cod Fukkura-san (donabe style) with root vegetables, cabbage, charred onion, and walnut-nori pesto.
Owned by siblings and fifth-generation Sonoma County farmers Catherine and Joe Bartolomei, Farmhouse Inn in Forestville has earned a Michelin Star for its farm-to-table Cal-Mediterranean menu every year for more than a dozen years. The smallest detail is carefully orchestrated in an elegant, white-tablecloth setting. That’s combined with a warm, friendly atmosphere, reflected by playful menu items like the signature Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit, which includes a petite roasted rack, a loin cut into thick coins then wrapped in applewood-smoked back, and leg confit draped in velvety whole-grain mustard sauce.
Chef Jesse Mallgren crafts modern menus inspired by the estate gardens, and they’re presented with impeccable service in the five intimate, candlelit dining rooms at Madrona Manor Wine Country Inn & Restaurant. This elegant and exclusive restaurant in a classic 1881 Victorian mansion has earned a Michelin Star each and every year for the last decade. Compose your ideal meal by choosing from dishes like Japanese mackerel, local urchin, pumpkin risotto, and venison, or pamper yourself with the five-course menu with cheese and wine pairings.
Wine and food pairings let you savor two of Sonoma County’s delicious products, in a way that enhances them both. Here’s a quick overview of a few of the options. OpenTable twice named the seated, multi-course Wine & Food Pairing at St. Francis Winery & Vineyards as America’s Best Restaurant. Chef Trevor Eliason expertly pairs hand-selected Artisan Collection wines with delectable small plates. Offered at a horseshoe-shaped bar in an elegant annex to the tasting room, each seating is hosted by one of the winery’s friendly wine experts.
For the complete vineyard dining experience, don’t miss the Farm-to-Table Dinner Series at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens. Held from May to October, this monthly open-air feast features a family-style dinner experience based on the day’s harvest from the estate’s gardens and the bounty of local food purveyors, all designed to pair beautifully with Kendall-Jackson estate wines.
Farmhouse Inn offers 25 luxurious accommodations with country-chic décor, sublime furnishings, and outstanding services. The tranquil six-acre property includes a luxury spa, a pool area with hot tub, out door fire pits for s’mores, and beautiful gardens. The entire experience is framed by the Bartolomei family’s five-generation connection to the local wine and farming community.
Perched on the banks of the Petaluma River, the 183-room Sheraton Sonoma Wine Country offers resort-like accommodations, with stylish décor and Sheraton Signature Beds.
Or set up your adventure headquarters in the Tuscan-style Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Sonoma Wine Country, with 245 spacious guest rooms and an elegant selection of suites, on a property surrounded by two 18-hole PGA Certified championship golf courses.
For even more privacy and culinary delights, rent a Wine Country villa from BeautifulPlaces Luxury Vacation Rentals, and let their concierge service stock it with your favorite foods. They can also arrange for a private chef to create anything from a simple family meal to an intimate Sunday brunch for two, or an elaborate food and wine pairing feast.