A 'Slow' Weekend in Sonoma County
Whether you’re a disciple of Slow Food or uninitiated, you’ve likely witnessed the effects of this grassroots global movement. Launched in the 1980s, Slow Food began as a protest to the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant near revered archaeological ruins in Italy. Since then, Slow Food philosophy has spread to more than 160 countries, with regional chapters reinforcing the importance of eating thoughtfully and ethically.
According to the group’s manifesto, Slow Food aims to “prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.”
In the United States alone, there are more than 200 chapters of Slow Food, including Slow Food Sonoma County North and Slow Food Russian River. In parallel, an affiliated Slow Wine community has emerged to encourage environmentally sound viticulture, wine education, and responsible consumption. Experience the best of Slow Food and Wine with this weekend itinerary in Sonoma County, which highlights select establishments that have earned the organization’s “Snail of Approval.”
Starting in downtown Petaluma, make a pit stop at Lunchette, with its well-stocked case of fresh, local snacks and grab-and-go items packaged in eco-friendly containers. As the brainchild of Joel Baecker and Naomi Crawford, both alumni of such hallowed Bay Area kitchens as Chez Panisse, Lunchette was founded with a mission of paying respectable living wages and supporting local farmers – producing zero waste along the way. Sample snacks like jerky or nuts, or try a takeaway meal like trout salad, kimchi grainbowl, or fresh-baked pizza.
What better way to get oriented to the Sonoma County food and wine scene than with an expert guide? For more than 15 years, Relish Culinary Adventures has led classes and tours introducing curious travelers to the best farms and producers in the region, earning five-star reviews along the way. Take a cooking class with a prominent chef, embark on a mushroom foraging expedition, or learn to make your own cheese.
As the day winds down, head over to Bannister Wines, where you’ll find an elegant tasting room and gallery set in a converted bank vault. Classic Pinot Noir, distinctive Italian varietal wines, and skin-fermented Riesling all comprise a compelling tasting menu. Wines are thoughtfully crafted by Brook Bannister, a retired furniture maker now carrying on the family wine legacy: His mother is industry pioneer Marty Bannister, renowned for her remarkable leadership in enology in the late 20th century.
Afterward, pop next door to Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, a community gathering place beloved by locals and tourists alike. Trained in Italy, chef Dino Bugica offers authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas, house-cured salumi, antipasti, and local cheeses. Try the spaghetti with pork cheek ragu, or the mind-blowing “Dictator” pizza, featuring marinated short rib, kimchi, and serrano chilis.
Fuel up with a hearty breakfast at Americana Cafe, a bustling diner on Railroad Square in Santa Rosa. As a sister establishment to perennial favorite Estero Cafe, Americana consistently sources ingredients from local vendors and whips up every delicious meal from scratch. Dig into sourdough French toast, chilaquiles, or other tempting options. In addition to a cup of fresh-roasted coffee, consider indulging in a hibiscus mimosa, classic bloody mary, or other brunch cocktail.
While you’re in Santa Rosa, stop by Kendall-Jackson Estate to tour the lush culinary and sensory gardens, which provide fruit, vegetables, and herbs to restaurants across the region.
In the nearby town of Sonoma, you’ll find a number of wine producers that have earned the Slow Wine Snail of Approval, including Hanzell Vineyards. Founded in 1953, Hanzell is situated on an idyllic property tucked at the southern foot of the Mayacamas Mountains. Along with six different sustainably farmed vineyards, the winery is home to pigs, chickens, geese, and a host of other farm animals that create a balanced and healthy ecosystem. The setting is serene, and Hanzell’s classic wines beautifully reflect a taste of the region.
Close the day with a meal at Valley Bar + Bottle, which, while not officially part of the Slow Food Guide, showcases an array of local Slow favorites. As the town’s official 2021 Earth Day Honoree, this wildly popular restaurant, centrally located on the Sonoma Plaza, demonstrates commitment to sustainability at every turn. On its rotating menu, feast on produce from local farms, and look for Slow Wine producers like Raft Wine and Winery Sixteen 600.
Kick off the day at Troubadour, where you’ll find a mouth-watering selection of baked goods and some of the best espresso drinks in Healdsburg. Later in the day, Troubadour also offers an exquisitely prepared French-inspired menu. An alum of the exalted Single Thread Farm & Inn (also a Slow Food selection), Chef Sean McGaughey co-founded the restaurant with his wife Melissa Yanc, who together also run Quail and Condor Bakery.
With any luck, it’ll be a beautiful day for a picnic! Pack a basket at Maison Porcella in Windsor, where you’ll find specialty charcuterie and paté made in-house, along with savory pastries, salads, cheeses, and accouterments. (Maison Porcella also offers a full dinner menu that’s well worth considering.) Prior to launching the shop with his wife Maud, Marc-Henri Jean-Baptiste trained around the world – from Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, to a high-end butcher shop in Belgium and an esteemed Alain Ducasse restaurant in Monaco, France.
As a final destination, head to Quivira Vineyards and Winery, which has consistently raised the bar for environmental awareness with a holistic approach. Through certified organic farming, the winery integrates such practices as composting wine grape pomace, cover-cropping in the vineyard, and encouraging biodiversity by welcoming honeybees and chickens on the property. The owners have worked for the conservation of the nearby creek, and maintain a solar electric system to supply renewable power. Try the winery’s bold reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, refreshing whites like Sauvignon Blanc, or a nicely balanced Rosé.
Still hungry? For the ultimate “Slow” experience, extend your stay in Sonoma County and get the most out of your precious time away. Find other Slow Food businesses here, and don’t miss these “Slow” food trucks, bakeries, and more in Sonoma County.
Discover California wineries in Slow Wine Guide here.
Written by Amy Bess Cook