The beauty of a wine bar is that it offers intriguing choices — exclusive or elusive wines, paired with light dishes designed to enhance the chosen vintages.
And, as in most things associated with wine and food, Sonoma County wine bars lead the way with varied selections presented with delightful ambiance. Here's a quick guide to a few of Sonoma County's best wine bars.
La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge, Petaluma
Sip and taste the good life at this Petaluma wine bar, which advertises that it accepts only about 10 percent of the more than 1,000 wines it tries each year. It carries an extensive and perpetually revolving selection of local and international wines for tasting, sipping, and purchase by the half-carafe and the bottle. Custom flights of three-ounce pours allow you to sample a wide variety of vintages.
Created to match the wine list, the menu of light and tasty dishes is also extensive, and changes on a regular basis. Choices typically include a selection of artisan cheeses from around the world, served with fresh French bread, fruit, and nuts; homemade soup of the day; salads with fresh local ingredients; innovative pasta and pizza; and more.
Lo Dolce Vita provides a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere in which to sample a rich variety of wines and food, served by a knowledgeable staff.
La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge, 151 Petaluma Blvd. South, Suite 117, Petaluma, 707-763-6363
The sleek, minimalist design in this wine lounge blends seamlessly with the historic nuances and mission-style architecture of this storied Sonoma Valley resort.
In this relaxed but luxurious setting, you can choose from more than 50 wines by the glass from handpicked local and international wineries, including cult favorites like Screaming Eagle, Kamen, and Dom Perignon Brut.
The tantalizing small plate menu features items such as steamed mussels with white wine and crème fraiche, "grown-up" mac & cheese with lobster and truffles, escargot, Dungeness crab quesadilla, and much more.
And the name of this lounge? It refers to the 38th parallel north, the circle of latitude that crosses Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia, the Pacific, the Atlantic, and North America. This imaginary east-west circle encompasses a temperate climate, and some of the world's most iconic wine regions, including Sonoma County.
38° North Lounge at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, 100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma, 707-938-9000
Spicy Vines, Healdsburg
Although strictly speaking it's not a wine bar, this fun and stylish tasting room offers wine by the glass, as a curated flight, paired with small bites, or as craft wine cocktails. The small bites menu includes items like the Fresh Smoked Salmon Crostini Board, a Charcuterie Board, Goat Cheese Mousse and Strawberry Wine Compote, and Grilled Prosciutto and Pesto Panini. And from 7-10 p.m. on Saturdays, the Saturday Night Jive session offers an intimate live music experience where guests are invited to lounge, listen, and sip. Make reservations at least 24 hours in advance if you want dinner with the show.
Spicy Vines, 441 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-927-1065
Sigh Champagne Bar, Sonoma
This "bubbly bar" serves Champagne, sparkling and still wine, and beer, all by the glass, flight or bottle. The name Sigh refers to the sound that a sparkling wine should make when being opened, as opposed to the iconic “pop.” From everyday favorites to elegant, true French grower Champagnes, Sigh offers a rotating list of more than 25 bottles from all over the world, and owner Jayme Powers is known for teaching customers how to use a saber sword to open a Champagne bottle. The setting features a large oval bar, booths, and glamorous touches of luxury in a casual setting. Guests must be 21 or older.
Sigh Champagne Bar, 120 W. Napa St., Sonoma, 707-996-2444
In-Store Wine Bars
Several Sonoma County wine shops also include a wine bar. Consider stopping in and checking these out.
Gourmet Au Bay, Bodega Bay
Enjoy waterfront views and go “wine surfing” by sipping glasses of wine served up on a mini surfboard in this coastal shop featuring award-winning California wines. It also pours three beers on tap. Since 1995, Gourmet au Bay has kept locals and visitors well quaffed, with an impressive collection of local wines hand-selected from Sonoma County wineries. There are rules: Each wine must be boutique, produced in 1,000 cases or less, and designated 90-plus points or bear a gold medal award.
The coastal wood-oven cuisine is unlike anything else in town. The menu changes daily, featuring a selection of flatbread pizzas and dishes like baked brie, wood-oven-roasted wild salmon with roasted brussel sprouts, crab cakes, or wood-roasted Prince Edward Island mussels with white wine garlic broth. Guests can also grab a bottle to-go for their own picnics, filling their food baskets with gourmet cheeses and charcuterie from the on-site gift shop and deli.
Gourmet au Bay, 1412 Bay Flat Road, Bodega Bay, 707-875-9875 (the kitchen is closed Tuesday and Wednesday, but the bar is open)
Sonoma Wine Shop, Sonoma, and
La Bodega Kitchen, Sebastopol
This wine-and-dine club operates two locations open to the public, in Sonoma and Sebastopol. The wines are sourced from ultra-small California wineries, and the food is made from scratch using local and organic ingredients; gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options are available.
Located in the 1891 Pinelli building on the historic Sonoma Plaza, the Sonoma Wine Shop offers wines from more than 100 small wineries and over 80 local cheeses, Thursday to Sunday.
In Sebastopol, in addition to wines by the glass, La Bodega Kitchen is open for dinner and Sunday brunch, Thursday to Monday, with a menu that changes daily. Chef Rick Vargas creates fresh Italian pastas and country French entreés, and the housemade organic pasta is made with local Petaluma organic eggs and truly intense California gourmet cheeses. The menu also features Mediterranean foods, and the housemade pita is crafted with organic flour, California honey, and fresh milk.
Sonoma Wine Shop, 412 First St. E., Sonoma, 707-996-1230
La Bodega Kitchen, 2295 Gravestein Highway S., Sebastopol, 707-827-1832
Vine & Barrel Wines, Petaluma
Specializing in wines from all over the world, this large retail bottle shop also operates a 26-seat wine-and-tapas bar on the weekends. It stocks more than 600 Sonoma County and international wines, including many from the new Petaluma Gap wine region and a highly regard assortment of Pinot Noir. It also serves local and European hand-crafted beers. Special quarterly tasting events feature as many as 30 wineries pouring a region or varietal, and Friday evenings it hosts a musical open mic session.
Vine & Barrel Wines, 113 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-765-1112
Written by Patricia Lynn Henley