TOP 5 FOR SONOMA:
- Beach walking along the rugged Sonoma coast
- Hiking in Muir Woods
- Wine tasting at one of the many many gorgeous wineries
- Wine tasting – again
- Enjoying life in general 🙂
Picking up a rental car in San Francisco and heading across the Golden Gate Bridge will take you into a new world; leaving the fog and entering the sun-soaked wine country, where everything moves slower and life is meant to be enjoyed. A friend and I bought a Groupon Getaway deal for Sonoma Hotel, which included a two-night stay, daily breakfast, $50 spa credit, and two welcome glasses of champagne. The hotel was GORGEOUS – the main building includes the dining room- tastefully painted in muted pastels with huge windows letting lots of light in. It also includes a reading room up a spiral staircase- one of my goals in life is to one day own a gorgeous sunny reading room with window seats, oversized ultra-comfortable chairs, and a skylight. This fit the bill. Jealous. The rooms are spread across the property- we passed the sauna, garden, and hot tub on the way to ours. Things were looking pretty good. And our room was not disappointing- beautiful king sized bed, upscale-rustic décor (whitewashed furniture etc.), soaker tub, huge stone-tiled bathroom. . . I could go on for days! My friend and I were feeling thoroughly pampered when we put on the robes provided in the closet and enjoyed our complimentary champagne 🙂
Sonoma county is gorgeous- wild & windy beaches, which on a sunny day are a great place to walk can also be bracingly chilling if it’s cloudy or raining. Luckily our weather was the former and we enjoyed a beach walk after breakfast. Breakfast at the hotel, by the way, was as good as expected – Fresh tomato, basil, & bocconcini salad, a wide variety of fresh fruit, fig & sundried tomato frittata, hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, croissants, mini muffins, scones, bagels, toast, fresh juice, great coffee. . . we were feeling very spoiled indeed. After the beach, we departed for Hartford Family Winery around 10:30 and arrived for opening at 11 AM. The informative sommelier gave us many details about the regional wines, and our tasting included 3 Pinot Noirs and 3 Chardonnays – having never been a Chardonnay fan I was wary but 2/3 here were actually quite lovely. The sommelier was also nice enough to give us a coupon for complimentary champagne tasting at the nearby Iron Horse Vineyards, which we gladly accepted. Iron Horse was a very cool vineyard- the tasting “room” was outdoors, on a hill overlooking the grape vines down the valley. We had a fantastic time trying $85 bottles of champagne – who wouldn’t? All the people we met were incredibly friendly & welcoming; the Sommalier even invited us to his Fourth of July party the next evening- sadly we had to decline since we would be back in the city.
Other sites to enjoy around the region include Sausolito – a funky town which is perfect for a coffee stop and wander along the waterfront. Muir Woods offers some beautiful hikes but be warned – it is generally CRAZY busy here in high season, so your hike we also include a hike from where you can find a parking spot miles away to the actual trailhead. But you will be rewarded with picturesque viewpoints above the forest and over the bay.
Another regional specialty is the cheese – a perfect match for wine 🙂 Our helpful friend at Iron Horse directed us to a nearby cheese factory- we found ourselves 20 minutes later on an unmarked country road beside a barn, and a small building with a tiny sign which read “Cheese Factory”. I guess we were in the right place? We entered the building, lacking any obvious human presence but housing hundreds of wheels of cheese. Eventually a smiling young girl came prancing out of the back and called for Grandma. Grandma came out and asked “how much?” We motioned a rough wedge shape with our hands, and she cut us a rather monstrous wedge of cheese, wrapped it in paper, and said “four dollars”. We looked at each other in astonishment – $4 for roughly 2 lbs of cheese seemed like a reasonable deal. We paid the money and left in a hurry, just like the IKEA commercial where you know you paid too little for something and need to get the heck out of there. START THE CAR!
Overall, an awesome trip. Now I just need to convert from geologist to soil scientist and work at a vineyard!