What do you do when you have a 2-week long business trip to Northern California? You obviously spend the weekend in Sonoma – duh!
I am sure most of you are sick of hearing about our wine country trips, but that isn’t going to stop me from talking about it. No trip is ever the same and we do something different every time we go. We always learn something new. There are, however, a couple of things that always remain the same: the weather being perfect and the wine being flawless.
We went into this trip with almost zero plans and zero reservations. We only made one winery reservation for Friday afternoon/evening because we knew we needed one to get in.
Alex flew in Friday afternoon, and we actually went up to Rams Gate Winery. It is one of the closest wineries to San Francisco, so I knew it would be easy to drive up there after work on Friday. Plus, they are open till 6 PM (later than most wineries stay open)! It was a gorgeous property – the views were absolutely breathtaking.
We each tasted two Chardonnays and two Pinot Noirs. All of their wines were fabulous. I am not a big Pinot drinker, but after this trip, I think I may have a new feeling about it.
Overall, we had a great experience at Rams Gate, and I would highly recommend it if you are in the Sonoma area.
For dinner on Friday, we tried the Panama Hotel and Restaurant since we were staying in Marin. Several of my co-workers spoke highly of this place, so I knew we had to try it.
The Panama Hotel was absolutely incredible, and it was the cutest little restaurant. Alex and I were sitting outside at dinner and wondering how the weather was so perfect. There was no wind, no humidity and it was probably 70-75 degrees. I wish I could live in that kind of climate every day!
We indulged in 4 different dishes – our favorites were the pumpkin raviolis and the Panama Sundae. Yum!
On Saturday morning, I woke up and did an Orangetheory class in preparation for all the wine tastings. I am pretty sure I only burned off 2-3 glasses of wine, but hey, at least I did something 🙂
Our first winery stop of the day was Gloria Ferrer. We got there right at 10 AM. It was a really smart move to get there early because by the time we left around 11:15 AM, there was a long wait to get in! #SummerTravel
We first discovered Gloria Ferrer back in December, and we knew we had to go back. The views are incredible and who doesn’t want a little bubbly first thing in the morning?!
We stopped to get a quick bite for lunch after Gloria Ferrer. This was the only let down of the trip. We were supposed to go to Molina Central, but there was a problem with their kitchen, so we ended up going to the other Mexican restaurant across the street. It wasn’t anything worth talking about it, so I will leave it at that.
After lunch, we went to Ledson. We have driven past this winery numerous times, but we never stopped in. I knew nothing about their wines, but we decided to try it out because of the views. I mean, it’s pretty hard to beat!
My expectations were super low when it came to the tasting because again, I knew nothing. I was pleasantly surprised by their wines. They had a huge variety of wines – everything from Pinot to Cabernet to Chardonnay. We tried it all and ended up buying a bottle of Cabernet for dinner.
After Ledson, we headed up north to Alexander Valley Vineyards. We have been to this winery several times and it is one of our favorites. They make some amazing zinfandels and a really great Bordeaux blend (Cyrus). We also love that Alexander Valley has a pug named Dexter. Alex had never met Dexter, so we were thrilled when Dexter came out to say hi. I think we will end up with a pug of our own someday.
Another really great thing about Alexander Valley Vineyards is that you can get a free tasting! They also have a reserve tasting for only $10. You aren’t going to get the crazy views like Ledson, but their wines are amazing and affordable.
We had time to stop at one more on Saturday, so we drove over to Dry Creek Vineyard. We are actually wine club members at Dry Creek, so the tasting was free for us. We joined their club back in April of 2016 when we first stumbled across this winery. Dry Creek makes some amazing zinfandels and also some killer cabernets.
The guy pouring us wine was super helpful and knowledgeable in all of their wines. He was probably one of the best hosts we had all day. If you are in the Dry Creek area, please go to this winery. Similar to Alexander Valley, they make great wines for an affordable price.
After finishing up at Dry Creek, we went to check-in at our Bed and Breakfast in Healdsburg. We always stay at Bella Villa Messina. We love it because of the proximity to downtown Healdsburg and several wineries. Also, they make a great breakfast in the morning and you always get bacon!
This cute yellow truck was parked out front of the B&B, so I thought I would share that. Alex was obsessed!
For dinner, we went to our usual spot – Dry Creek Kitchen. We have been to this restaurant more times than I can count! Their food is amazing and the service is always outstanding. Another reason we keep coming back is because of no corkage fees. This is huge. You can bring 2 bottles of any Sonoma wine to dinner for free. I am always blown away by this. Take advantage of this deal or else you will end up paying 50% a mark-up on the wines.
Dry Creek Kitchen has an outstanding tasting menu, so I would highly recommend that if you go. This time, we both ordered steaks – it was delicious.
After dinner, we went to the hotel bar/lounge next door and listened to live jazz music. I believe it is called Hotel Healdsburg. It was so much fun! We had a few too many after dinner drinks, but hey……when in Rome! Thank God for Uber.
Moving on to Sunday…..
We were planning to hit up a couple wineries in Healdsburg Sunday morning, but after the late night on Saturday, we were not in the mood for more wine. We can’t rebound like we used to when we were in our early 20s!
Instead, we decided we were going to head out to the Sonoma Coast. The route we took had us going right past Korbel Winery, so we did decide to stop in for a quick champagne taste. Korbel is known for cheap champagne, so I was a bit skeptical of the visit. However, as soon as we drove up to the winery, I was blown away by the views and the property.
I mean, check out those redwoods! It was breathtaking.
We quickly walked around the winery and did a free champagne tasting. We tried about 5 different champagnes – I was surprised because they were all pretty good and drinkable. Again, this isn’t your high-end Veuve Clicquot, so don’t go in expecting that. Overall, I thought the wines were very good for being so cheap. The most interesting wine we tried there was their Rouge – it is sparkling red wine – something I hadn’t had before!
After Korbel, we kept driving along the road parallel to the Russian River and ended up in Jenner, CA. I had no idea that Jenner was such a small town. Under 200 people live there! Someone had told us about a cute little coffee shop in Jenner – Cafe Aquatica – so decided we gave it a try. Apparently, other people knew about it as well because it was packed. They had everything from coffee to baked goods to sandwiches. They even had a little band playing outside.
After making a quick pit stop in Jenner, we drove south to Bodega Bay for lunch. We were given a few restaurant recommendations from our B&B, and we ended up trying Lucas Wharf. We sat outside on the bay and watched the fisherman as they came into the dock. It was a little chilly, but it was so neat to take in all of the scenery outside.
Alex ordered fish & chips, and I had some shrimp and grilled veggies. It was the perfect little lunch on the bay.
After lunch, we stumbled over to Sonoma Coast Vineyards. It was literally next door to the restaurant, so it was super convenient!
I had never heard anything about this winery, but we learned they mostly have Chardonnay and Pinot Noir due to the cooler climate of their vineyards. They grow their grapes west of the Russian River Valley, so they aren’t getting the heat you typically see in Napa and Sonoma.
I really enjoyed their Pinot Noir, especially the Freestone Pinot Noir.
We ended up getting a glass of the Freestone Pinot Noir to enjoy on their patio overlooking the bay.
We had a really relaxing time at Sonoma Coast Vineyards. It was a very different experience than the typical wine tasting in Napa, so I would recommend doing this if you want something unique.
After SCV, we headed down to Petaluma. Alex and I both really wanted to go to a brewery while we were in the area, so went to Lagunitas. We love their IPA, so I was really excited to try some of their other brews.
This was a really fun brewery. They had mostly outdoor seating, which makes sense since the weather is almost always perfect. When we went on a Sunday afternoon, they had a live band performing as well. We could tell that it was mostly a local scene and most people brought their dogs along. I was actually a little surprised that there were so many locals, but I guess a lot of Bay Area tourists don’t make their way up to Petaluma.
You can order flights or beers by the pint. You can also fill up a growler full of beer – tons of people were doing that. They also have a small food menu where you can order the typical bar food like nachos, fries, etc.
After we finished up at the brewery, we headed back to Marin to get dinner. Alex took the red-eye back home that night, so we didn’t do a ton Sunday night before dropping him off at SFO.
So, I think that basically sums up what we did with our un-planned Sonoma weekend! It was fun, and I am so glad we tried several new things. We had been dying to go to the coast, so I am happy we made that a priority on this trip.
If you didn’t care to read all of the above, I put a brief summary below of which wineries we went to and how much they cost. I really don’t have anything negative to say about any of the wineries, so give them a try if you are ever in the Sonoma County.
Summary of Wineries and Prices
- Gloria Ferrer
- Flights range from $25-$25
- Glasses range from $7-$20
- $20-$30 per tasting
- Alexander Valley Vineyards
- Reserve Tasting for $10
- Dry Creek Vineyard
- $15 per tasting
*Note – You can always split tastings.
Let me know if you have any additional questions about Sonoma or Wine Country in general. Also, be sure to check out my other posts – they are super helpful when planning your first Napa or Sonoma trip!
- Napa Guide for Beginners
- Two Perfect Days in Napa
- Wine Country Weekend – Sonoma
- Two Perfect Days in Sonoma
Anyways, cheers to the next trip! I have a feeling we will be back soon.