By Jeremy Bryant
I recently had the opportunity to head out to Sonoma Valley in Northern California to experience wine country. Sonoma is about 15 miles West of Napa just off California State Route 121 nestled in the rolling of the Valley of the Moon.
Driving through wine country is like driving in a dream. It’s breathtakingly beautiful to see vineyards draped across the hillsides. The wine country’s rolling hills are magnificent and the area is cultured and serene. The Mediterranean climate is perfect for growing grapes. During the warmer summer months and harvest time in the fall, the colors pop and leave impressions in your mind for weeks after. Driving down the two-lane roads passing wineries, roadside fruit stands and charming shops, I finally arrived at Sonoma Plaza.
Sonoma Plaza is the central plaza from which the town of Sonoma is centered. It’s just what you imagine when you think of a small town: Boutique shops and restaurants line the plaza square. Sonoma was once the capitol of the short-lived California Republic. History buffs can tour the Spanish mission, nineteenth-century barracks and historical landmark buildings which are located behind the plaza.
After admiring the plaza, I had the pleasure of attending a winery tour. Winery tours are the leading tourist attraction for wine country. With over 250 wineries to choose from in Sonoma Valley alone, wine is everywhere! The most common varieties are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir, though the area is also known for its Merlot and Zinfandel. The wine tours can vary, but most involve some history about the vineyard and wine making process. Oh, and don’t forget the tasting too. Travelers can enjoy Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or other popular wines while roaming the grounds. At the end of the tour, hit the souvenir shops for your favorite bottle, right from the source!
After a full day of drinking wines and touring the town, rest and relaxation are in store. There are plenty of quaint and stylish hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and vacation rental homes to choose from, all within walking distance of Downtown Sonoma. Enjoy a spa visit at one of the many local spas where you can rest and rejuvenate before heading home.
To get to Sonoma Valley, travelers can fly into Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland or directly into Napa. It’s only about an hour drive from San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento to Sonoma, so you may want to rent a car.