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Sonoma Valley is the choice for holiday travelers looking for the perfect escape with fabulous dining, world-class wine, beautiful scenery, historic sites and shopping in small boutiques and from local artists.
Just an hour north of the East Bay, Sonoma Valley’s vineyards, small towns and open spaces are a world away. And if you haven’t been to Sonoma Valley recently, winter is a perfect time to rediscover the “Valley of the Moon” and enjoy the bright cheer and warm lights of the holidays. On your way up, stop by one of the two Visitors Centers — one at Viansa Sonoma Winery and the other in the historic Sonoma Plaza — to get free maps and guides and the latest information on where to hike, eat and stay.
Why visit now?
December and January are the quieter periods in Sonoma Valley, and the winemakers, chefs and farmers are ready to answer your questions and recommend their favorites. The fall rain has washed the hillsides in green early this year, and the Sonoma Plaza — an 8-acre park in the middle of the city of Sonoma — is lit with thousands of brilliant lights. During the daylight hours, take a trip back in time at the Mission church and the Sonoma Historic State Park next door.
Heading up the Valley, the area known as The Springs is abuzz with new restaurants, while Glen Ellen and Kenwood are quiet towns surrounded by vineyards and regional parks and the mountains that define the valley. For those looking to get out on the trails, be sure to check out this guide to Sonoma Valley hiking and biking.
Tasting in Sonoma Valley
There are more than 100 wineries to choose from in Sonoma Valley, from sprawling estates overlooking the wetlands, to mountain vineyards to pleasant tasting rooms in a small town. Some new places to taste include:
Caddis Wines, just steps away from the Sonoma Plaza on East Napa Street. This cozy and intimate location is the perfect spot for showcasing their premier, small-production wines. Owned by Courtney and Chris Sorensen, Caddis offers small-town hospitality with world-class wines.
Sosie Wines are graced with California sun and a little French soul. Rich in fruit but fresh and bright in acidity, these graceful charmers are easy to love. Find Sosie’s new tasting room in Vine Alley, just off the Sonoma Plaza.
La Prenda’s new tasting room is located off of First Street West, a stone’s throw from the Plaza in downtown Sonoma. Chic and airy, this space highlights the beauty of their wines. La Prenda is best known for farming superior grapes and selling them to high-profile wineries, but now they have started their own label.
Wine Snob* Winery is Glen Ellen’s newest gem! Crafting wines that are approachable yet elegant, made from organic and sustainably grown grapes, this winery shows you that you don’t have to be a snob to enjoy good wine.
Dining in Sonoma Valley
The farmers, cheesemakers and chefs of Sonoma Valley have helped make the region a top food destination in the country. The Friday morning farmers market is the place to find locally grown produce (like Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen) and baked goods; while cheesemaker Sheana Davis of The Epicurean Connection offers cheese and cooking classes on the weekends as well as for groups and events .
Some new dining options in Sonoma Valley include:
Taub Family Outpost opened after two years of extensive renovations on a historic 1910 colonial style-bank building. This gorgeous space, located at the corner of First Street West and West Napa Street in downtown Sonoma, is always a hub of activity. From their marketplace and restaurant to their hidden, late-night speakeasy upstairs, Taub prides itself on delicious local fare, served with style.
Valley Bar + Bottle, just next door to Taub Family Outpost is another newcomer. Known for their high-end farm-to-table fare, limited menu (served family-style) and fabulous wine list, there’s a European experience eating here, with all the panache and no pretense.
Harvey’s Gourmet Donut Bar is the latest sensation, on the “El Paseo” alley, just off First Street East. Harvey is a longtime and beloved Sonoman, who has set the valley alight with his delicious, homemade mini-donuts, served hot and fresh to order. Having been located on the West side of town for years, Harvey and his family have added to their locations, offering up their tasty treats, day and night. Watch your donuts being made with his one-of-a-kind mini-donut machine! The coffee drinks- espresso and lattes and more are perfect complements to the sweet treats.
Sleeping in Sonoma Valley
Of course you can visit Sonoma Valley for the day, but savvy travelers know that a mid-week getaway to Sonoma means you can get the best rates at amazing accommodations. Some places to stay include:
MacArthur Place Hotel and Spa is a cozy and intimate resort set in the heart of Sonoma, walking distance to the historic Plaza. The 64 luxurious rooms include touches like private patios, outdoor showers, and fireplaces while the food program is anchored by Layla, the see-and-be-seen restaurant and bar offering healthy, organic Mediterranean-style cuisine.
The Lodge at Sonoma Resort and Spa just underwent a years-long renovation that brought in major upgrades to the rooms and lobby and pool area, as well as the Michael Mina restaurant Wit & Wisdom. In addition to the ideal location for small meetings and events, the Lodge is a great getaway for a quick trip to wine country. Use one of their free bicycles to cruise around during your stay.
The Gaige House is tucked away in the tiny town of Glen Ellen, down the street from a French bakery and a state park. The inn features thoughtfully appointed rooms with a modern, Asian flair. Set along Calabazas Creek, it includes an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub accented with calming fountains, a yoga enclave, and private zen gardens.
Let’s go to Sonoma