Share this story

by
Published: 

What’s New in Sonoma County Summer 2022

Summertime has arrived in Sonoma County and it’s time to rejoice! Bright and fresh, the season inspires rejuvenation and growth, a renewal of the mind, a deepening of the soul, and life opening up. Summer in Sonoma County has a nice ring to it; green vineyards carpet the rolling hills, shirtsleeves, and sundresses at a myriad of events, longer, warmer days to enjoy a glass of rose, and sunsets over the Pacific. The pandemic highlighted the importance of restorative, sustainable travel for healing, wellness, and human connection. It’s a fact that travel builds appreciation, empathy, relationships, and opens our eyes to new perspectives.

Whether you’re in need of relaxation, eager to experience some of Mother Nature’s best work, or explore iconic vineyards, Sonoma County is a one-stop destination for a memorable summer season. As travelers hit the open road or take to the sky, we recommend these turnkey intentional itineraries that may very well inspire travelers looking to plan their next Sonoma County vacation. 

New on the Wellbeing Scene

Vintners Resort Garden Tours, Santa Rosa

Situated on 92 acres of vineyards, Vintners Resort is an intimate, 78-room luxury, California certified green hotel, located in the heart of Sonoma County wine country.

Explore the luxurious gardens and vineyards at Vintners Resort with one of Sonoma County’s most knowledgeable gardening experts, Garden Manager, Chris Connell. Visitors can dig deep into the soil’s history and Chris’ knowledge of growing delicious produce, gorgeous flowers, and sustainable gardening practices. Bring your gardening questions and dilemmas; Chris is happy to share his expertise.

Vintners Resort 2-hour Garden Tours must be booked by appointment with at least 14 days advance notice. The resort can accommodate groups of up to 4 on the tour. The memorable experience begins with a glass of sparkling wine and a fresh Amuse Bouche from the garden. The tour concludes with a picnic lunch in Vintners Resort vineyard, made from many of the same ingredients participants tasted during their journey. For Garden Tour reservations, email [email protected], or call 707-575-7350.

Settle Down at Sundown, Sonoma Regional Parks

Living a busy, frantic life? Feeling tense? Come unwind and immerse yourself in Sonoma County where Mother Nature does her best work. Every other Monday through August enjoy a unique park experience that will leave you feeling grounded and rejuvenated. A new summer series, “Settle Down at Sundown” focuses on outdoor wellness and relaxation exercises like mindfulness walks, journaling, stretching, and deep breathing at twilight. Various parks throughout Sonoma County include the Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail, Ragle Ranch Regional Park, Tolay Lake Regional Park, Doran Beach Regional Park, Pinnacle Gulch Coastal Access, and Helen Putnam Regional Park. Program registration is required.

New on the Stewardship Scene

A Cleaner Coast

Sonoma and neighboring counties - Marin and Mendocino - have launched a coordinated campaign to provide visitor education and outreach to reduce the amount of litter and waste in coastal regions and watersheds through a three-County memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the non-profit organization Leave No Trace. The ongoing partnership includes coordination with federal and state agencies, federally recognized tribes, non-federally recognized tribes, local jurisdictions, land managers, Sonoma County Tourism, and other community-based groups across all three counties.

California Coastal beaches and public parks are experiencing rises in visitation year over year as important outlets for mental and physical health. Over 10 million people annually visit the California coastline and adjacent communities across Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. Even more staggering, over 55,000 pounds of trash were picked up from the sensitive coastal environment across the three counties last year alone. Trash causes major impacts on the enjoyment of creeks, bays, and the ocean, and creates significant impacts on aquatic life and habitat in those waters; trash eventually enters the global ocean ecosystem, where plastic persists in the environment for hundreds of years—if not forever.

As the county’s destination stewardship organization, Sonoma County Tourism was instrumental in bringing the Leave No Trace organization into the partnership conversation with the three counties. Sonoma County Tourism has worked with Leave No Trace since April 2021.

Through its Seven Principles, Leave No Trace provides a framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors.

Sonoma County Regional Parks River Shuttle

Sonoma County residents and visitors looking to swim, float or play at two of Sonoma County’s most popular Russian River beaches can avoid the likelihood of full parking lots by taking the Sonoma County Regional Parks River Shuttle this summer.

Shuttle service is available on weekends and holidays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., through Labor Day Weekend, Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. Shuttles depart every 30 minutes from Tom Schopflin Fields on Old Redwood Highway in Santa Rosa and travel to Steelhead Beach Regional Park and Sunset Beach River Park in Forestville.

The shuttle service is part of a larger effort to lessen summer traffic impacts at Steelhead and Sunset beaches, where lots often fill by mid-morning. As a low-cost alternative to individual car trips, the shuttle improves beach access on busy Saturdays and Sundays, while alleviating traffic congestion and parking impacts in river neighborhoods by encouraging visitors to leave their cars in Santa Rosa.

The shuttle features three new, 39-seat, ADA-accessible, low-emission vans. Shuttles will adhere to all required COVID safety protocols. Passengers can access the river for recreation at either beach. They may carry deflated rafts and tubes on the shuttle and blow them up at a free inflation station at Steelhead Beach.

Shuttle tickets are available at russianrivershuttle.mytrakk.com.

New in Lodging

Dawn Ranch, Guerneville

Situated on the banks of the Russian River in Guerneville, the historic Dawn Ranch has played host to vacationers from San Francisco and around the globe since opening in 1905. From its beginnings as a dining hall with tented cabins to taking the title of the first gay destination resort in Sonoma County Wine Country, Dawn Ranch’s towering redwoods have borne witness to it all. Known as a wedding venue until 2019, the property has reopened as a full-service luxury resort for the first time in 3 years.

The 15-acre riverfront resort also features cabins, bungalows, and the restaurant Agriculture Public House. Dawn Ranch’s on-site kitchen garden provides fresh herbs and vegetables to the restaurant, which is open to guests and locals alike. The bar offers an extensive wine list with products from local vineyards, besides local craft beers and specialty cocktails.

Besides wedding and event spaces for up to 300 guests, live music can be enjoyed on the resort’s main lawn as well as a range of activities including yoga and meditation, sunset wine tastings, creative workshops, and bird watching. Complimentary bicycles, kayaks, and paddle boards are also available.

Upcoming Hotel Openings

The Sea Ranch Lodge, Sea Ranch

The iconic 53-acre property, The Sea Ranch Lodge, has opened the doors to its culinary and artisanal offerings after a multi-million-dollar renovation. Distinctive architecture, uninhibited ocean views, bold supergraphics, shared open space, and meditative tranquility — these were the beginnings of The Sea Ranch, a beacon of Modernism on the Northern California coast stretching along 10 miles of the Pacific Coastline, showing an enduring commitment to environmental stewardship and community service. Designed by a small group of Bay Area architects and designers in the early 1960s, the development was envisioned as a progressive, inclusive community, guided by the idealistic principles of good design, economy of space, and harmony with the natural environment.

The Dining Room delivers a rugged refined dining experience complimented by stunning panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and a menu celebrating fresh local harvests. The Bar + Lounge offers a cozy social environment with fireside cocktails and small bites. The Café serves health-conscious breakfast and lunch, and at The General Store, there are treasures crafted by local makers and a selection of literature highlighting the history and culture of The Sea Ranch. 

New in the Dining Scene

The Madrona Restaurant, Healdsburg

The new owners of The Madrona have reimagined the charming Victorian home and divided it into intimate salons, parlors, lounges, a bar, and a spectacular terrace, and each space has its own vibrant personality rich in antiques, busy wallpaper, eclectic art, and dramatic chandeliers. The main dining room feels like you’re sitting in an elegant candy box, for example, framed with lemon-yellow walls and capped with rectangle frames inlaid with a black and white print. A space-age chandelier is made of cotton candy-pink glass balls clinging to metal rods.

Guests can wander the pristine property, sipping wine or cocktails as they go. The gorgeous gardens (updated now to great splendor and culinary plantings) are visitor-friendly, including little seating nooks here and there, plus pop-up mobile bars for more drinks and snacks.

The new Madrona ownership asked longtime Executive Chef Jesse Mallgren to stay on board, recognizing that he is the talent who earned the restaurant a coveted Michelin star for 13 years. Chef Mallgren simplified the menu, even though he’s now pampered by an expansive new kitchen outfitted with all the bells and whistles. Unlike the prix-fixe menu of the past, the new Madrona restaurant features seasonal produce in shareable plates inspired by the chef’s global travels. Instead of fancy dinner menus gussied up with entertainment like a sundae prepared tableside with liquid nitrogen-churned ice cream, guests are offered a collection of 11 starters/shareable plates and five entrees.

Little Saint, Healdsburg

Little Saint is an entirely plant-based restaurant headed up by the SingleThread power couple, Kyle and Katina Connaughton — and now the cavernous former SHED space houses a coffee bar, cafe, wine shop, and market has been dubbed Little Saint Provisions.

Little Saint’s 100 percent plant-based menu is built around produce grown at both Little Saint and SingleThread farms, showcased in dishes like potato and green garlic soup with lovage and caraway oil. Shareable plates from chef de cuisine Bryan Oliver include mokum carrots and shaved red cabbage with crunchy rice and sunflower sprouts or cauliflower biryani for two made with golden raisins, fried onions, and dried rose petals. On a drink menu from Matthew Seigel guests will find both spirit-based and non-alcoholic options. With sustainability in mind, the bar offers “closed loop cocktails,” and drinks created to minimize waste used across the restaurant and bar. Beyond the food and drink offerings, Little Saint is also positioned to become a community arts destination hosting weekly live music, book signings, film screenings, and more.

Kivelstadt Cellars and Winegarten, Sonoma

After a lengthy renovation, Sonoma’s Kivelstadt Cellars has reopened with Chef Jennifer McMurry (formerly of Dillon Beach Coastal Kitchen and Viola Restaurant) at the helm. Located at the intersection of Highway 12 and Broadway in Schellville, just south of the town of Sonoma, the space has been transformed into a sprawling wine garden, restaurant, and showcase for its namesake winery. “Hidden gem” is apropos for this secret Sonoma County experience where kids can roam, dogs have their own menu and there’s a tasting lounge for summertime sippers like KC Labs Gravignon Blanc, made with sauvignon blanc and Gravenstein apples; Sparkling Chenin Blanc (light and bubbly); and Twice Removed Rosé.

McMurry’s airy, seasonal menu includes burrata and sugar snap peas; peach and corn salsa that was a standout at Dillon Beach; peach and mozzarella sandwich with bacon; or the weekend brunch board with avocado, egg salad, hummus, and grilled toast from Santa Rosa’s Goguette bakery. Vegan sweet potato tacos dorado and a mushroom Cubano sandwich will satisfy meatless diners.

Kancha, Santa Rosa

Restaurant veteran and owner Angel Cayllahua (Roka Akor, La Mar SF) has opened Kancha Champagne Bar & Tapas on 4th Street in Downtown Santa Rosa. Cayllahua has created a wine list with an extensive selection of Champagne and other bubbly drinks from around the world, along with wine and beer to pair with Peruvian and Japanese small bites meant for sharing. Fresh oysters, seared scallops with passion fruit leche de tigre, crab cakes, ceviches, lomo saltado empanadas, octopus causa, charcuterie platters and a “very adult mac and cheese” with huancaina (a mild yellow chile and cheese sauce) are featured on the menu.

Soon to Open Restaurants

Goldfinch, Sebastopol

Goldfinch will be headed by Nick Izzarelli, formerly with Stark Reality Restaurants and currently the food and beverage director at The Livery on Main Street. Wood-fired, locally sourced, and sustainable fare will be the focus at Goldfinch, which will also offer creative plant-based dishes with seafood and meats as sides, as well as an excellent selection of both new and old-world wines. Goldfinch ownership boasts a combined industry experience of over 100 years and plans to charm their guests in a beautiful setting and nourish their souls with rustic healthy and exciting food.

Acme Burger, the popular Cotati restaurant from Chef Todd Kniess, is slated to open a third location late summer/early fall with plans for a collaborative effort on the same property as Crooked Goat’s new Petaluma Taproom, providing food for the taproom and operating independently. Kniess, who spent years in upscale Bay Area dining spots, opened Acme Burger in 2019, bringing his experience with local ingredients and sophisticated flavors to a fast-casual concept. 

Pacific Rim-Influenced Restaurants Opening Soon

Kapu Bar, Petaluma

Kapu Bar, a restaurant full of island-themed embellishments, is set to open in fall 2022. Kapu, a Hawaiian word meaning “forbidden,” is part of the adventurous vibe of the bar, with an entrance that looks like a cave of cooled lava, hand-carved wooden totems on every surface, and a million other details in the interior. The build-out of the restaurant will include a private Captain’s Room full of south seas charm, the larger Silk Room with a 20-foot dancing dragon and antique pachinko games, and the main tiki-hut bar, semi-enclosed dining huts, and an outdoor patio. Kapu will include a full menu, most likely a modern fusion of flavors from the Pacific Rim, though the menu is still in development.

Oyster, The Barlow, Sebastopol

Oyster is coming to The Barlow in Sebastopol. Oyster is founded on two main principles: “the (delicious) culinary pairing of oysters and champagne, and a commitment to the profound environmental benefits of sustainable aquaculture,” The concept is being presented by the team behind nearby Sushi Kosho. Oyster will feature a raw bar and a menu of other shellfish-inspired items. They will also have a bubble-forward beverage list showcasing champagnes and sparkling wines from Sonoma County.

Accolades

The Michelin Guide announced 17 Bay Area additions to its California selections of top-notch restaurants, including The Matheson, that says Chef Dustin Valette's latest venture an ode to Healdsburg’s micro-seasonal ingredients, "never takes the focus away from the menu that weaves seasonal products with California flair and Mediterranean elements."  Establishments such as The Matheson are highlighted as “New” on guide.michelin.com to help food lovers enjoy new discoveries before the annual announcement of Bib Gourmands and Stars this fall.

New Sonoma County AVA

Wineries located in the cool coastal reaches of Sonoma County now can feature “West Sonoma Coast” on their labels, with the addition of a new American Viticultural Area (AVA) to the wine industry landscape. West Sonoma Coast is the 19th AVA in Sonoma County. Some background: AVAs are grape-growing areas with boundaries designated by the federal government. A wine’s AVA is often listed on its label and can be a marketing tool for wineries. For a new AVA to be approved, petitioners must prove their region is a territory worthy of distinction in terms of its soil, climate, and topography.

With grapes first planted in West Sonoma Coast in 1817, wine growers contended that their region is unique because of the fog that rolls in from the nearby Pacific Ocean. The result, they said, are wines that deliver elegance equivalent to their Burgundian counterparts in Europe, wines that are both lower in alcohol and higher in acidity. The West Sonoma Coast AVA is a subset of the already-existing Sonoma Coast AVA and covers 141,800 acres, including 1,000 planted grapevines. It encompasses land east of the Pacific Ocean, south of the Mendocino County border, north of the Petaluma Gap AVA, and west of the Russian River AVA.

New in Spirits

Elk Fence Distillery, Santa Rosa

After years of patience and determination, Santa Rosa's first craft distillery, Elk Fence Distillery, and its tasting room are now open.

Elk Fence produces three core spirits, including whiskey, gin, and vodka. Briny Deep, an American single malt whiskey, is made with local barley sourced from Admiral Malts in Alameda and Grizzly Malts in Rohnert Park. Aged for two years in new American white oak from Minnesota, it’s delightfully drinkable for such a young expression.  White Elk is a barley-based vodka that could stand on its own with just ice and a twist of lemon. Distilled only twice, the spirit retains a subtle sweetness with a hint of malt. Fir Top is a botanical gin made of juniper, coriander, tangerine, and grapefruit from San Francisco Herb Co. It’s fresh, citrusy, and destined for a gin and tonic with Fever-Tree tonic.

It took 3 years for owners Scott Woodson and Gail Coppinger to build the distillery, forging ahead with determination throughout the process. Now, after years of delay, the Elk Fence tasting room is open for tastings, tours, and select artisan cocktails.

The tasting room is a pair cleverly transformed a tired office space adjacent to the distillery into a cozy bar beaming with character. Every object here has a story to tell, from the old-growth redwood bar dating to the 1800s, to the upright antique Steinway piano rescued from a basement to the dark and dreamy wall art obtained at flea markets throughout the state. Tastings include a complimentary tour, with additional bottles available for purchase.

On certain days, Woodson whips up one or more of his inventive cocktails, like the popular Elksicle, with Fir Top gin, fresh tangerine juice, lemon, and apricot liqueur.

Looking forward, Coppinger and Woodson want Elk Fence Distillery to be a Santa Rosa gathering spot, where people can listen to music or learn more about the art of distilling.

New in Airline Service

aha! Airlines, Sonoma County

aha! Airlines (an acronym for “air-hotel-adventure”), a leisure carrier operated by ExpressJet, launches daily nonstop service beginning July 14 between its hub at Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) and the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (STS). aha! Airlines will provide service to STS using the Embraer ERJ145 regional jet aircraft which comfortably holds 50 passengers.

aha! Airlines also features a program that allows passengers to check wine at no extra cost. Guests flying to RNO from what the airline describes as “amazing wine destinations” in California (think Sonoma County) may participate. Passengers aged 21 and older are allowed to check one case of wine weighing up to 50 pounds. Wine bottles must be unopened and packaged in a shipper box with protective padding, inserts and labels. The program runs through Nov. 30.

Events and Festivals

From the return of dozens of festivals to culinary exploration to live entertainment, there are plenty of reasons to escape to Sonoma County to relax, refresh, recharge, and enjoy this summer.

Epicurean-focused events like the Bodega Bay Seafood, Art and Wine Festival (Aug. 27-28), and the Sonoma County Wine Auction (Sept. 15-16) highlight the rich and diverse bounty of Sonoma County.

Sonoma County welcomes back live music after a 2-year hiatus, featuring the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series (July through September), the Petaluma Music Festival (August 6), Summer Nights on the Green in Windsor (June through September), and the Summer on the Square music series (June through August) in Downtown Santa Rosa. Those looking for a more avant-garde experience can check out the Cotati Accordion Festival, a multi-generational accordion extravaganza (August 20-21), or Rivertown Revival, a music and arts festival on the banks of the Petaluma River (July 23-24).

Also making a return this summer is Gay Wine Weekend, presented by Out in the Vineyard. The three day-weekend (July 15-17) is full of LGBTQ events celebrating world-class wine, culinary offerings, music, dancing, and more in Sonoma County. Another annual LGBTQ favorite – Lazy Bear Week – takes place in Guerneville August 1-8. Activities include pools, hikes, barbecues, wine tours, shows, dances, feasts, and bonfires.

Great cultural events also include the Gravenstein Apple Fair (August 13-14), and Art in the Redwoods Festival (August 18-21).

New in Visitor Services

More Intentional Itineraries, Sonoma County

Sonoma County Tourism has added to its roster of intentional itineraries for experiential vacations by creating several new curated travel itineraries. The intentional itineraries, designed in part by wellness experts, offer visitors the opportunity to transform wellbeing into actually being well.

The newest intentional itineraries include “Love and Laughtercurated by experts Brian and Johnathan of The Gay Beards. This is the ideal trip for a friends’ getaway or couples’ escape. Make your cheeks hurt from laughter and thrills as you experience sweeping views, leisure-filled afternoons, and maybe even try something new.

In Sonoma County, there is beauty and magic in every detail, and this trip, titled “Experience Gratitudegives you time to appreciate each one. Fill your spirit with limitless gratitude on this two-day trip with moments of mindfulness built right in. This intentional itinerary was designed by Mikah Meyer, travel expert, speaker, and gratitude advocate.

This summer, Sonoma County has taken all the guesswork out of traveling with intention and is transforming the abstract concept of wellbeing-focused travel into self-care.

California Welcome Center Reopens, Santa Rosa

The California Welcome Center (CWC) in Santa Rosa’s historic Old Railroad Square, operated by the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber/Visit Santa Rosa, is set to reopen its doors on July 1st.

The knowledgeable, on-site staff provides information on all there is to see, do, eat, drink, hike, bike, and explore in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, including personalized recommendations, local maps, and brochures on restaurants, wineries, breweries, and attractions throughout the area.

During the month of July, the CWC will be open from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm daily. Beginning in August, regular hours will expand to Wednesday through Saturday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

The CWC is also a restored train depot from the 1900s and features the Northwestern Pacific train museum with artifacts and an interactive train display. The CWC also serves as a popular stop on the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) line.

###

About Sonoma County Tourism

Sonoma County Tourism (SCT) is the region’s official Destination Stewardship Organization. Through a multi-channel sales and marketing program, the organization promotes Sonoma County as a global visitor and meetings destination, where diversity thrives, and everyone is welcome. Leveraging the region’s unmatched assets, wine, culinary, wellness, and sustainability continue to define its character. Visitors spent $1.97 billion in Sonoma County in 2021, a 58% increase over 2020 and employed 17,640 Sonoma Countians, a gain of 8.3% over 2020 hospitality job levels. Post-pandemic, SCT will work with partner businesses to rebuild the tourism economy, regain critical revenue, and re-establish a vibrant workforce. For more information, visit www.sonomacounty.com.

Media contacts:

Birgitt Vaughan, Director, Public Relations
Chris Vomvolakis, Senior Manager, Consumer Public Relations
[email protected]

For high-resolution images of Sonoma County, visit our Media Request Page.

Follow us on social: InstagramFacebookTwitter , and LinkedIn