Sonoma County is laid back, brilliant, gorgeous, mystical, steeped in history, and she knows how to laugh. She is wine country with nothing to prove. Following are the main regions in Sonoma. Explore each region and decide which appeals most to you.
Recommended Towns: Sonoma, Glen Ellen & Kenwood
The Sonoma Plaza, built in a gentler age that did not include many residents, tourists, or vehicles can feel zoo-like on summer weekends. Still…there is a magic in the plaza that is magnetic. And, if you want to head out of town, you simply have to drive a few miles and you are in one of the most abundantly blessed places on the earth. The Valley of the Moon. Jack London, world traveler and prolific writer, stopped in his tracks when he came upon Glen Ellen, just a few miles outside of Sonoma. Here his wandering ended, and it was then he started calling himself “a sailor on horseback.” Sonoma Valley is fecund, ripe, and sensuous. The buttery colors of light love this place, spilling over the old water wheel and roadhouse in Glen Ellen. Farther up the highway you’ll come upon Kenwood and Sugarloaf Park, offering a view of the entire Bay. This is truly a magical area that must be experienced at least once.
- More information and Recommended Places to Visit in Sonoma Valley
Imagine this: You’ve set the clock back 50 or 60 years and drive through the Carneros region in a gray-green Studebaker pickup. You see cattle and sheep. Tall grasses wave in the breezes off the San Pablo Bay. You may have just attended the annual Sonoma Rodeo. Orchards, grazing, and small farms…this was a picture-perfect area. Here’s the good news: Vineyards have replaced many of the orchards, but it is still picture-perfect and it still has the feel of Old California.On the northern edge of the San Francisco Bay, the Carneros region rises gently from the wetlands and salty marshes. The soft green hills are the stuff of dreams.
- More Information and Recommended Places to Visit in Carneros Region
Russian River Valley
Recommended Towns: Guerneville, Monte Rio, Rio Nido, Duncan Mills
Touring through the Russian River Valley? If you’re looking for a slice of ancient solace, turn north off the main drag in Guerneville, follow the signs to Armstrong Grove, and head for the hills. Within minutes after leaving quirky Guerneville, you’ll enter a majestic grove of old-growth redwoods. This is the forest primeval, a living experience of the Russian River area before commerce and logging arrived in the 19th century.
Bring a picnic and a bottle of wine. Let yourself slip into the cool arms of an era gone for almost 1,000 years. That’s how old many of these trees are. Notice that redwoods grow in families. The tallest may protect the 200-year-old upstarts. We don’t know the dynamics of their family life! We do know the very oldest coastal redwoods are 2,000 years old and, towering over the others, may stand as high as 350 feet.
The redwood pockets of Sonoma County are temperate rainforests. But, just up the hill and out of their realm, you may find yourself beneath a buttery, hot sun. When you visit these loving giants, dress in layers and prepare to breathe. Their scent is the stuff of dreams. And, prepare to listen to the passing of time as it walks amid these venerable trees.
- More Information and Recommended Places to Visit in the Russian River Valley
Dry Creek Valley
Recommended Towns: Healdsburg
Healdsburg is at the southern end of Dry Creek. During the summer expect live music, dancing, food, or art in the plaza. You’ll find a huge number of tasting rooms downtown, many pouring wines from the smaller Dry Creek wineries that are off the beaten path. Now, tearyourself away from the plaza and get into the rustic charm and long views of Dry Creek. Even the air smells different there… The northern end of the valley is hot, but Lake Sonoma is just up the hill and it’s a great place to cool off. As you wander through the valley to the lake, you’ll pass funky barns, lovely vineyards, and small wineries. Some are run by fairly eccentric characters… Enjoy yourself!
- More Information and Recommended Places to Visit in Dry Creek Valley
Recommended Towns: Geyserville
Give yourself time to get into the character of the Alexander Valley. You’ll lose out if you whiz by on Highway 101! Get off the freeway in Geyserville and meander along highway 128, a lovely country road. Despite repeated attempts to make Geyserville the newest wine country destination, it remains a sleepy town graced with old Victorians and avast underground supply of hot water. This valley is a stunning corner of Sonoma County and home to more than 40 wineries, each producing distinctive wines. 20 miles long, the Alexander Valley stretches north to Cloverdale. The northernmost appellation in Sonoma, its temperatures soar the highest.
- More Information and Recommended Places to Visit in Alexander Valley