Sonoma Wine Country for Food Lovers 2-Day Itinerary
There are so many reasons to visit Sonoma County — the ocean, the vineyards, the redwoods, the charming towns — but let's not kid ourselves, we know many visitors make the pilgrimage to our little piece of paradise just for the food.
And who could blame them? Our big-name food stars could form a small constellation, our farm-to-fork dining options are growing as quickly as our culinary reputation, and our strong agricultural roots are proudly showing. A visitor here could easily spend months eating his or her way through hundreds of local menus.
Luckily, we've pared it down for you to a more manageable two days. Coming right up, a tour of the best eats Sonoma County has to offer, from gastronomic hot spots to mom-and-pop bakeshops, and everything in between.
Sample beers and cheeses on local tours, dig into some serious Italian, and meet the makers at a foodie and artisan center.
Rise & Dine
The resort offers not only legendarily luxurious rooms, but also a culinary hot spot in its on-site Santé restaurant, with its locavore dinner menu. In the morning, enjoy lemon pancakes, farmer’s omelets, or Dungeness crab Benedict. Each night, you can drop into the lobby to taste local wines.
On the more casual side, a stay at the Sonoma Creek Inn is a cozy, budget-friendly way to wake up in the heart of wine country. Right next door you’ll find the Creekside Café, a local favorite for home-style meals for breakfast and lunch.
And if you’re lucky enough to be in town on a Sunday morning, make your way over to The Girl and the Fig for brunch. A favorite of glossy food mags for its “country food with French passion,” this restaurant's brunch menu is a hit with locals for plates like baked eggs provençal and breakfast tartine.
Any day of the week is a perfect time for a breakfast of waffles, yogurt parfaits, espresso, and pain au chocolat over at the Sunflower Caffé. And for sweet, flaky breakfasts on the run, you can’t go wrong with a pastry from Basque Boulangerie Café.
Back to the Land
From Sonoma, follow Highway 12 East and then Highway 116 West to Petaluma. Though Petaluma’s recently become the epitome of country chic, with a boutique-laden downtown district and a cluster of hip restaurants, this town’s still in touch with the agricultural roots that once earned it the nickname “egg capital of the world.” The seamless marriage of farms and frills means that today, Petaluma’s the perfect place for a unique food adventure.
Tara Firma Farms produces grass-fed beef and pastured poultry and pork, and offers free visitor tours on Saturdays and Sundays. You’ll witness a “fully operational example of what sustainable farming looks like.” Its farm store is open daily.
Green String Farm has long been an influential player in sustainable farming, focusing on assisting natural processes that help grow healthy fruits and vegetables. The farm store is open daily, year-round; in addition to whatever delicious fruits and vegetables are in season (they post a list online), it always offers fresh eggs (you can walk over and see the chickens who laid them), preserves, organic honey, and Red Bluff beef and pork.
The Achadinha Cheese Co. offers farm tours and cheese making classes. Achadinha is a family-operated ranch where they milk their cows and goats and then make their own farmstead cheeses, along with raising beef cows, pigs, sheep, horses, and chickens.
And from about Easter through Halloween, you can take a farm tour (reservations required) of McClelland's Dairy, known for its artisan butter and its seasonal pumpkin patch. Watch cows being milked in the parlor and milk a cow by hand on the traditional farm tour.
If your ideal end-of-tour treat is a little more adult in nature, opt to explore Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewery, which offers free tours every day of the week. The brewery’s IPAs, pale ales, pilsners, and a dozen other year-round and seasonal beers have put Petaluma on the map with beer aficionados at home and far afield.
California Meets Italy
Feeling more casual? Even the pizza here in Sonoma County inspires fanatical followings. For classic deep-dish at its best, don’t miss Old Chicago Pizza.
Made With Love
There’s a new destination for all things food over in Sebastopol, about 25 miles west of Petaluma on Highway 116. The Barlow is a commercial center with a concept: Connecting customers not only with quality products, but with the people who make them as well.
Drop by Spirit Works Distillery for a tour showing how their handcrafted gin and whiskey goes “from grain to glass.” If wine’s more your taste, check out the Pax Wines tasting room at the Barlow. And there are three choices at The Barlow for beer lovers: Woodfour Brewing, Crooked Goat Brewing, and Seismic Brewing Company.
Farm to Fork
Brace yourself for dinner: The Barlow’s got plenty on offer. Don’t let the name of the Woodfour Brewing Company fool you: this place gives brewpub fare an up-market twist with items like roasted beets, crudo of California king salmon, and braised oxtail on the menu and its own beers on tap. Folks come here to enjoy coffee porter or sour farmhouse ale alongside pork belly with sunchokes and Asian pears.
And Barrio Fresca Cocina Mexicana offers mouthwatering Mexican-style street food crafted with organic seasonal ingredients and a gourmet edge, served in a relaxed, paper plate kind of setting.
If you’ve managed to leave room for dessert, walk over to Screamin’ Mimi’s, a western Sonoma County mainstay that makes fresh ice cream daily. Mimi’s has 300 recipes in its canon, but we recommend you end your night on a chocolaty note with a scoop of their legendary Deep Dark Secret.
Before you drift off into your inevitable food coma, make your way to one of the area's charming B&Bs and inns. Enjoy timeless serenity and views of the garden, pond, and scenic vineyard at the Pearlessence Vineyard Inn. A 20-minute drive west will take you to Occidental, where the Inn at Occidental specializes in luxurious rooms with whimsical touches. Food fanatics should ask for the “Kitchen Cupboard” room, decorated with antique cooking utensils.
Take your breakfast among the redwoods, learn to cook like a local, and dine in style in the capital of Wine Country chic.
Main Street Munchies
Be sure to take a post-breakfast wander down Occidental’s main street; marvel at the redwoods and hills surrounding the little town; and check our list of 5 Fun Things to Do in Occidental before hopping back in the car.
Less than 20 minutes northeast of Occidental, the village of Forestville is a foodie paradise among the trees. Backyard is the hot table of the moment, and for good reason: The menu of dishes sourced (appropriately) right from Sonoma County’s backyard changes almost daily. Sit down for lunch and you may be in for anything from pork sausage flat breads, to tempeh Rubens, to chevre mac n’ cheese, to homemade kimchi.
A Taste of Wine Country
A 20-minute drive north of Forestville you’ll find Healdsburg. This epicenter of Sonoma County’s Wine Country is a town obsessed — with food, with wine, with living well. The town’s blend of all three has met with great success and much media fanfare, making Healdsburg a fitting last stop on your tour.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to eat again just yet. Instead, whet your appetite with a cooking lesson or demonstration at Relish Culinary Adventures, which promises to teach you how to cook like a Wine Country local. Most classes end with a full meal of the featured dishes, paired with carefully matched local beers or wines.
Of course, there’s no need to take a class in order to enjoy Healdsburg’s biggest draw: the wine. This town boasts a huge number of tasting rooms, letting you stroll and sip your way around the historic town square.
Cap off your Wine Country food adventure with a truly memorable meal at Healdsburg’s Madrona Manor Wine Country Inn & Restaurant. Big-time publications including Michelin and Zagat have praised the restaurant at this luxury inn for its “new California” cuisine served by candlelight. Compose your ideal meal by choosing from dishes such as Japanese mackerel, local urchin, pumpkin risotto, and venison, or splurge on a five-course menu with cheese and wine pairings.
You can also spice things up with a dinner of traditional Spanish tapas at Bravas Bar de Tapas; or go sustainable with swordfish, chevre-honey-and-lavender croquettes, and Sonoma duck at hyper-local Barndiva.
Vintage Inns, Vineyard Views
Make your last night in Sonoma County unforgettable with a stay at the elegant and exclusive Madrona Manor. For a more intimate B&B stay, check into the Raford Inn. The stunning 19th-century manor house overlooks vineyards and redwoods just 15 minutes from Healdsburg’s town square.
Eat Your Heart Out
If your Wine Country food tour has only left you hungry for more, you’re in luck: Sonoma County boasts enough world-class restaurants to keep your stomach happy for a lifetime.
In the little town of Geyserville, you’ll find a trio of fabulous Italian restaurants: family-run Catelli’s, homemade-salumi-centric Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, and Rustic, a restaurant featuring director Francis Ford Coppola’s favorite Italian dishes located at his eponymous winery.
To the west, look to small, coastal towns offering food so good, it may even distract you from your table’s jaw-dropping ocean views. In Jenner, watch the sunset over sea bass or filet mignon at the River’s End Restaurant & Inn. In Bodega Bay, don’t miss seafood plucked straight from the sea and served in a cozy, neighborhood setting at Terrapin Creek Café.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet