Fall flavors in Sonoma County

7 Fall Flavors in Sonoma County (And Where to Find Them)

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Some aspects of autumn get a lot of attention: That crisp coolness in the air, the heady scent of pumpkin spice, the thrilling sight of deep red, orange and yellow trees. But what about the tastes of fall? From produce to baked treats and beverages, here are some of the most beloved autumn flavors we celebrate here in Sonoma County, in all their delicious seasonal glory. 

Apples

Gravenstein apples ripening in a Sonoma County orchard
Gravenstein apples ripening in a Sebastopol-area orchard

With a harvest season that spans August through November, apples are essentially at the, um, core of Fall cuisine in Sonoma County. In addition to our very own thin-skinned, early-ripening Gravenstein apples (affectionately called "Gravs") and their delicate cousin the Winterstein, area orchards grow hardier varieties like Rome Beauty, Northern Spy, Granny Smith, MacIntosh, and Fuji. 

Just a few of the apple varieties grown by Walker Apples
Just a few of the apple varieties grown by Walker Apples

To chase the sweet, crisp taste of apples this Fall, follow the Sonoma County Apple Trail to Sebastopol-area orchards like Walker ApplesApple-a-Day Ratzlaff Ranch and Gold Ridge Organic Farms. Also in Sebastopol, EARTHseed Farms invites visitors to pick apples on autumn Saturdays, while Chileno Valley Ranch in Petaluma welcomes apple pickers on Sundays throughout the season.

Double-crust Gravenstein apple pie from Mom's Apple Pie in Sebastopol
Double-crust Gravenstein apple pie from Mom's Apple Pie in Sebastopol

Many Apple Trail orchards — as well as area farmers markets — sell goodies like apple sauce, apple pies, and apple butter. A slice of the apple action can also be found at bakeries like Mom's Apple Pie in Sebastopol, which makes a double-crust Gravenstein pie from August to November. 

Ciders from Tilted Shed Ciderworks
Ciders from Tilted Shed Ciderworks 

Prefer your apples in liquid form? Visit Sonoma County cider houses such as Tilted Shed Ciderworks and Golden State Cider, which make hard ciders from locally grown apples, both harvested and foraged. Area ciders range from bone dry to sweet, and unfiltered to effervescent. 

Pears

Bartlett pears are generally picked when still green
Bartlett pears are generally picked when still green

With its sweet, honeyed bite, the yellow-and-red-skinned Bartlett pear is an autumn favorite in Sonoma County — but enjoying one requires a little strategy. Bartletts easily get mushy if left to ripen on their trees, so instead, they're picked when hard and green, roughly three weeks before they're ready. To ripen, they should be left in a dark, cool place, none of them touching. Once ripe, they'll have a perfectly sunny taste of Fall ... for all of about 24 hours. 

Buy Bartlett pears in bulk only if you plan to make something with them—otherwise, just buy a few
Buy Bartlett pears in bulk only if you plan to make something with them—otherwise, just buy a few 

If you plan to make something with them — a pear tart, baked pears, pear sauce or preserves — then go ahead and buy Bartletts in bulk. If you just want a few to munch on throughout the season, though, be sure to stagger your purchasing so that you don't end up with a whole bushel of mushy pears.

Pears aplenty at Oak Hill Farm of Sonoma
Pears aplenty at Oak Hill Farm of Sonoma

For some of the best pears in Sonoma County, visit Oak Hill Farm and its Red Barn Store in Glen Ellen, the Apple-a-Day Ratzlaff Ranch in Sebastopol, and Preston Farm & Winery in Healdsburg. Or swing by the Occidental Community Farmers Market on Fridays (through October) to try the pears from Rainbow's End Farm.  

Look for seasonal pear desserts at Flavor Bistro in Sebastopol
Look for seasonal pear desserts at Flavor Bistro in Sebastopol 

Try seasonal delights like the Pear Bruschetta and baked-pear desserts from Sebastopol's Flavor Bistro. Or for treats that spread beyond the season, try the Pear & Ginger Jam and Unsweetened Pear Butter from Petaluma's Lala's Jam Bar and Urban Farmstand, and the Egyptian Bread (made with pears, figs, and ginger) at Wild Flour Bread in Freestone. 

Persimmons

Persimmon tree in late Fall, without leaves
A Sonoma County persimmon tree in late Fall

Persimmon trees lose their leaves early in the Fall, so it's easy to spot their pendulous (and delicious) sunset-orange to ochre-yellow fruits in orchards throughout Sonoma County. 

The two main varieties of persimmons: Hachiya (left) and Fuyu (right)
The two main varieties of persimmons: Hachiya (left) and Fuyu (right) 

In Sonoma County, you'll find two varieties of persimmons: The squat, rounded Fuyu can be eaten while still firm and crisp, while the oval, elongated Hachiya should be eaten only when fully soft. When both kinds are ripe, their textures and tastes are akin to a brown-sugary cross between a mango and a plum. They can be enjoyed on their own, paired with soft cheeses, made into savory soups, and more. 

Dried persimmons at Side Road Farm
Dried persimmons at Side Road Farm

Throughout the fall, Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons can be found at almost every Sonoma County farmers market (for instance, look for Front Porch Farm at the Healdsburg Farmers Market) and especially tasty dried persimmons can be found throughout the season at Side Road Farm (3116 Westside Road, Healdsburg — next to Twomey Cellars)

Pumpkins

Grandma's Pumpkin Patch in Healdsburg
Grandma's Pumpkin Patch in Healdsburg

If you love the rich taste of pumpkin as much as we do, check out pumpkin patches in Sonoma County, such as Grandma's Pumpkin Patch in Healdsburg, Punky's Pumpkin Patch in Santa Rosa, PaPa's Pumpkin Patch in Sebastopol (set next door to Ratzlaff Ranch), and The Peter Pumpkin Patch in Petaluma. Pick a few pumpkins for making bread, soup, and/or pie, and roast and salt the seeds for snacking.

Pumpkin pie from Basque Boulangerie Cafe on Sonoma Plaza
Pumpkin pie from Basque Boulangerie Cafe on Sonoma Plaza 

Look for some of the county's best pumpkin pie at Basque Boulangerie Cafe in Sonoma, or tuck into a whole array of carb-y pumpkin delights at the Healdsburg Farmers Market Pumpkin Festival.

Pumpkin Spice Latte from Plank Coffee
Pumpkin Spice Latte from Plank Coffee

And what is Fall without a pumpkin spice latte? Check out Plank Coffee in Healdsburg and Cloverdale, or Taylor Lane in Sebastopol. 

Olives/Olive Oil

Late Fall is olive harvest time in Sonoma County 
Late Fall is olive harvest time in Sonoma County 

Olive harvest season in Sonoma County starts in late October, just as wine harvest is wrapping up. If olives will be used for oil, they're harvested early, while still green; if meant to be eaten, they're left to ripen more fully, usually turning a deeper green or purple-black. These Mediterranean delights can be enjoyed all year, but they're at their freshest in the Fall, when first milled or cured.

Several varieties of olives are commonly found in Sonoma County, and most are Italian
Several varieties of olives are commonly found in Sonoma County, many of them Italian

Varieties commonly found in Sonoma County include Leccino (sweet, spicy, and meaty); Arbequina (fruity); Pendolino (sweet then spicy, with aromas of roasted almonds and fresh grass); Casaliva (slightly fruity, a little bitter, with an olive leaf scent); and Maurino (bitter and spicy, with the scent of artichokes). Many of these varieties originated in Italy, just like Sonoma County's 19th-century grape farmers.  

Many area wineries—such as Trattore Farms—also make olive oil
Many area wineries—such as Trattore Farms—also make olive oil 

Many area wineries have their own olive mills and sell their own artisanal olive oils in their tasting rooms. Look for olives and olive oil at B.R. Cohn Winery & Olive Oil Company and Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen; McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma; and DaVero Farms and WineryJordan Vineyard & WineryPreston Farm & Winery and Trattore Farms Winery in Healdsburg.

Try the olive oil and olives from Figone's or The Olive Press, both in Sonoma
Try the olive oil and olives from Figone's or The Olive Press, both in Sonoma 

Want to skip the wine part and go right to the olives and oil? Check out Figone's Olive Oil Company and The Olive Press in Sonoma. And for the perfect olive oil pairing, be sure to slice into some Olive Bread from Basque Boulangerie Cafe on Sonoma Plaza or Wild Flour Bread in Freestone. 

Cinnamon

Close your eyes and concentrate on thoughts of Fall. Taste cinnamon on your tongue? Yup, us too. It's the most autumnal spice we can imagine!

Cinnamon Walnut Bread from Costeaux French Bakery in Healdsburg
Cinnamon Walnut Bread from Costeaux French Bakery in Healdsburg

Sonoma County loves its cozy-season cinnamon. Don't miss Costeaux French Bakery's classic Cinnamon Walnut Bread or the Cinnamon Challah from Full Circle Bakery. And at Village Bakery, you don't have to choose between the Cinnamon Twists and the Cinnamon Raisin Swirl bread — you can have both. 

Cinnamon rolls from Johnny Doughnuts
Cinnamon rolls from Johnny Doughnuts 

Start off a morning at Dierk's Parkside Cafe or Dierk's Midtown Cafe with Grandma Dierk's Pull-A-Parts, fried bread goodness dusted with plenty of cinnamon and sugar that you can share with the whole gang (or not). Or pull apart some decadent Cinnamon Rolls from Johnny Doughnuts or Red Bird Bakery

Cinna-Bun Tea from the Russian River Tea Company
Cinna-Bun Tea from Russian River Tea Company in Healdsburg

For a liquid warm-up, sip some Cinna-Bun Tea, made with cinnamon bark and chips, from Russian River Tea Company, the Cinnamon Orange Tea from Petaluma Coffee & Tea Co., or the cinnamon-y Thai Tea from Duncans Mills Tea Shop. If coffee's more your jam, treat yourself to a hot cup of joe laced with Retrograde Coffee Roasters' house-made cinnamon syrup. (You're welcome, in advance.)

Wine

Sure, this magical beverage is one of Sonoma County's top draws throughout the year, but these particular varieties all but beg to be enjoyed in Fall:

Pinot noir (like this wine from Moshin Vineyards) is the ultimate taste of Fall
Pinot noir (like this wine from Moshin Vineyards) is the ultimate taste of Fall

Pinot noir: The most-planted red in Sonoma County, light-bodied Pinot has earthy notes of ripe cherry, mushrooms, cloves, black tea, and rose petals. It's an ideal pairing for the whole Thanksgiving meal. Hundreds of Sonoma County wineries make great Pinot noir, but you could start with Joseph Swan, Rochioli, Gary Farrell, Littorai, Flowers, and Siduri

Chenin Blanc is the ultimate white for Fall
Chenin Blanc evokes a sunny Fall day in Sonoma County

Chenin Blanc: This zingy yet hearty white evokes golden apples, just-ripe pears, ginger and honey, with a grassy note of hay — which may as well describe a sunny Fall day in Sonoma County. Pair with pork chops and applesauce, squash, cheddar, or Southeast Asian cuisine. Try bottles from Leo Steen, Dry Creek Vineyard, and Aperture Cellars

Carignane (like this one from Ridge) pairs beautifully with a crisp Fall day
Carignane (like this one from Ridge) pairs beautifully with a crisp Fall day 

Carignane: Medium-bodied, rich, and smooth, with cinnamon on the nose and a palate of raspberry, cranberry, and smoked meat, pair this red wine with autumn stews, cured meats, dark-meat turkey, kombucha squash, and shitake mushrooms, adding savory herbs and exotic spices. Try bottles from Zo Wines and Ridge

Grenache: ripe red fruit meets dried herbs and spices
Grenache: tastes and aromas of ripe red fruit, dried herbs, and peppery spices

Grenache: Ripe cherry and raspberry meet notes of dried herbs and spices in this light red wine, which is best when chilled for 20 minutes. Pair with roasted delights like turkey, pork, and root veggies, and try bottles from Unti, Kokomo, and Meeker Vineyard

Cabernet Franc offers autumnal tastes and flavors of red and black fruits, and pipe tobacco
Cabernet Franc offers autumnal tastes and flavors of red and black fruits, and pipe tobacco

Cabernet Franc: This medium-bodied red wine offers flavors and aromas of red and black fruits, bell pepper, pipe tobacco, and a hint of chili. Pair it with dishes that include mushrooms, black beans, and sausages. Find bottles at area wineries such as Leo Steen, Sunce, and Alexander Valley Vineyards

Happy Fall, everyone!


Written by Melanie Wynne