The Locals-Only Guide to Sonoma Wine Country
With its endless acres of vineyards, fresh farm-to-table cuisine, small-town charm, and blissful spas, Sonoma offers the most relaxing and picturesque wine weekend getaway imaginable. New eateries and Town Square shops are making this rustic-chic paradise just as famous for its signature aesthetic as it has always been for its stunning landscapes. Bring your friends, boyfriend, or family—this wine-tasting destination is welcoming to all (all 21-year-olds and over, that is). Plus, thanks to its proximity to San Francisco, it’s an easy destination from anywhere in the country.
What: Located in a historic building a quick drive from the town center is one of Sonoma’s oldest and most wonderful hideaways. The water for its spa is from natural hot springs, and the pool has underwater speakers. But we think the best part of the Fairmont is massage therapist Maria Werth. Her strong hands and calming presence will dissolve any anxiety you bring with you to wine country.
What: El Dorado is perched on the corner of Sonoma’s idyllic town square. It features a modest yet utterly delightful pool, an award-winning restaurant serving local California cuisine, and an adorable café with some of the best fresh-squeezed orange juice we’ve ever tried. Sip wine on your balcony while listening to a live musical performance in the town center.
Who: The Carneros Inn
What: In lieu of hotel rooms, this farm-chic inn and spa has private cottages strewn across its hilltop campus. If soaking in your own outdoor cast-iron bathtub isn’t quite enough to ease you into total relaxation, the Carneros Spa specializes in hot-stone massages overlooking its rolling vineyards.
Who: Glen Ellen Star
What: French Laundry alum chef Ari Weiswasser and his wife, Erin Benziger-Weiswasser, opened Glen Ellen Star in the summer of 2012, and since then the California bistro hasn’t had a night with an empty seat. The brown-sugar maple marmalade brussels sprouts taste like they came out of Willy Wonka’s candy factory, and the tahini baked cauliflower melts in your mouth. Ordering Glen Ellen’s homemade ice cream is a must. French Laundry serves Vanilla Rum and Malt Chocolate flavors in half-pint take-away boxes, but we dare you not to finish them at the restaurant.
Who: Café La Haye
What: Zagat guide refers to this attitude-free culinary sanctuary as a “tiny gem off the Sonoma Square.” Locals keep coming back for the exquisite fare and impeccable wine pairings while in-the-know visitors are often shocked by the bounty of flavor that emerges from the “postage stamp–size” kitchen. We recommend ordering the special, as it changes daily and has never ceased to wow us.
Who: Yeti Restaurant
What: Nestled by the botanical garden of Jack London Village, Nepalese restaurant Yeti offers a divine taste of the Himalayas. Yeti’s menu is a creative fusion of Nepalese-Indian cuisine that will surely entertain your taste buds. Be sure to order the chicken tikka masala and a mango lassi to complement the spice.
Who: Chateau St. Jean
What: Wine tasting at the Chateau on a Saturday afternoon is one of our favorite things to do. Make sure to request a patio tasting and sip Chateau St. Jean’s delicious collection of reds and whites while overlooking its Instagram-worthy vineyards. The Sauvignon Blanc is truly outstanding.
What: Drive or bicycle to nearby Napa for a tennis round robin on one of Meadowood's 14 gorgeous ivy-framed courts, and then enjoy a homegrown lunch at The Grill. If you’re in the mood for a post-lunch jaunt about the lush landscape, do like Emily Weiss and wear your country whites for a good old-fashioned game of croquet.
What: Slow-brewed coffee, solar-baked chocolate chip cookies, and friendly locals are all on hand at the Friday Morning Farmers Market. Treat your taste buds to Mike the Baker’s mouthwatering clay oven–baked pretzels and bread. If you’re in the mood for a little cheese to complement Mike’s parchment- and twine-wrapped carb goodness, stop by nearby Cowgirl Creamery on the Town Square for the best triple crème of your life!