There's no better time of year to visit Sonoma Valley than in the fall. The cooler temperatures and thinning crowds are just some of the benefits of visiting during this season. If you've only got a day to visit Sonoma, we have a few suggestions for vineyards and eateries along your path. For a day trip to Sonoma Valley, we recommend starting your journey in the northern part of town, then head south down Highway 12 which cuts directly through the heart of Sonoma's city center. Assuming that vineyards are your main focus, you may want to find a designated driver or hire a driving service since there will be a lot of wine tasting throughout the day. There are many available charter services in Sonoma, such as Healdsburg area winery tours.
A Hearty Breakfast
For beginners, you'll want to start off with a healthy breakfast, and Healdsburg's in-house cafe named SHED is the place to try. Serving locally grown produce and supporting local farmers, SHED's menu includes pastries and single-origin coffees to get your day going right. They also have what they refer to as a "fermentation bar," where they serve local ciders, sodas, wines, and beers. It's never too early to start your wine tastings! SHED is open 8a.m. to 7p.m. but closed on Tuesdays.
Let the Tasting Begin
After enjoying breakfast at this inspired and delicious marketplace cafe in Northern Sonoma Valley, head down Highway 12 towards the first stop on your tour and your first vineyard tasting, Jordan Vineyards and Winery. Founded in 1976, this family-owned vineyard has been certified carbon neutral since 2009. With a continued focus on sustainability, Jordan offers Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays from the Alexander and Russian River Valleys, paying close attention to care of the land. Take a tour through their magnificent chateau, taste their acclaimed wines and olive oils, and enjoy the picturesque Sonoma Valley views on the Winery Tour & Library Tasting at only $40 per person. Once you've tasted your first wine samples and stimulated your appetite with hors d'oeuvres, head further south into the heart of Sonoma for a relaxing and filling mid-day meal.
Next, we suggest driving just 20 miles southwest to the Bohemian village of Sebastopol, where you can grab a bite to eat and explore your next vineyard: Lynmar Estate. This luxurious, yet welcoming estate is the perfect place to enjoy a locally grown and chef-prepared, light 3-course mid-day meal, including two glasses of wine, for just $50 per person. Lynmar also offers breathtaking views of their famous English-style gardens, drenched and illuminated in the Sonoma sunlight. Reservations are required for dining at Lynmar Estate so be sure to log on to the website to make one before your trip.
Out on the Town
After lunching, explore the eclectic shops in the unique and progressive town of Sebastopol. Located just a few miles southwest of Sonoma, this recently popular tourist destination will delight you at every turn. We suggest visiting one of the historical apple canneries since this city is historically known for its apple growing industry, specifically Gravenstein apples. Each year at the beginning of August, the city of Sebastopol puts on the Gravenstein Apple Fair where you can enjoy the scenery and try some of their renowned ciders. If you're looking to do some shopping, Sebastopol offers locally-owned shops, including vintage stores, such as the Aubergine Vintage Emporium. This store contains over 2,000 square feet of vintage pieces from fur coats and designer jeans to t-shirts and beyond.
Dinner is Calling
As the day begins to wind down and catch up with you, it's time to start thinking about enjoying a relaxing dinner before heading back to San Francisco or checking into your hotel. El Dorado Kitchen, located directly on Sonoma's plaza square, is open until 10 p.m. on weekends and 9 p.m. on weekdays. This eco-friendly restaurant focuses on simple, yet sophisticated locally-grown and seasonal dishes. Entitled "Summer," their entree of truffle and corn risotto golden chanterelles will leave your belly warm and full, but not overloaded. Or try the braised lamb that’s served with fennel confit and sweet peppers. For dessert, try their twist on chocolate mousse, which they serve with sweet caramel foam on a bed of airy coconut sorbet.
Now that your day trip through California wine country has ended, your senses invigorated by gourmet treats, world-renowned wine tastings, and unforgettable sightseeing, rest your head at one of these accommodating Sonoma Valley hotels. MacArthur Place Hotel and Spa, located just a 10-15 minute walk from the El Dorado kitchen, offers 64 suites, cottages, and guestrooms for a perfect end to your Sonoma day trip. Offering all the amenities of any luxury hotel, MacArthur Place's breakfast buffet, nightly wine and cheese offerings, and spa facilities, including a steam room, are just some of the reasons to stay at this magnificent hotel. Cabana suites offer plenty of indoor and outdoor space, with a cozy fireplace in every suite. Garden Spa suites highlight hydrotherapy, including a Jacuzzi with dozens of jets and a natural, outdoor rain shower. No matter what type of accommodations you're looking for, MacArthur place is the ultimate ending to your day tour through Sonoma valley.