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  • Marla

8 Tips for Planning a Trip to Sonoma Wine Country

Trip to Sonoma Wine Country

Sonoma County, California is one of our favorite wine regions. Located just 30 miles north of San Francisco, it’s the largest wine producer in Northern California, with more than 425 wineries, almost 60.000 acres of vineyards, and 18 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Plus it’s pretty chill despite producing some of the best wines in the world.

But frankly, a lot of the resources about the region appear to be sponsored content or advertisements for some of the more commercial wineries, which isn’t overly helpful to someone planning a visit. Here is what we’ve learned over the years on how to plan a trip to Sonoma wine country.

1. Have a Game Plan

This is one wine region where it pays to map out your visit at least to some extent. Since the wineries vary, read articles (like this one!) to research which wineries and varietals you’d like to try and create an itinerary. The official Sonoma County tourism guide can also give you some ideas. We suggest clustering visits to wineries that are near each other each day to cut down on travel time.

2. Make Reservations

It’s a best practice to make appointments for wine tastings in Sonoma wine country, particularly if you know you want to visit a particular winery or tasting room. Some wineries are reservation-only, which is more common now than pre-pandemic. Other wineries will try to accommodate walk-ins, but can’t guarantee it.

3. Leave Room for Spontaneity

We try not to overbook our days so that we can take advantage of a local’s recommendation or a find we stumble upon. That’s how we ended up at several wonderful places, such as family-owned Pedroncelli Winery in Geyserville and Siduri Wine Bar and Tasting Room in the town of Healdsburg.

4. Eat Some Seafood

Since Sonoma County borders the Pacific Ocean, it’s a great place to check out the local seafood. If you can get to the coast, one standout we recommend is Spud Point Crab Company in Bodega Bay, a tiny shack right on the water. If you’re in Healdsburg, try Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar, right off the central Plaza.

Trip to Sonoma Wine Country
The Dungeness crab salad at Willi’s

5. Go When it’s Less Crowded

If you can swing it, try to visit Sonoma wine country during the week when it’s less busy. You’ll have a more personal wine tasting experience and better opportunities to interact with your hosts that way. We also prefer morning visits; sometimes we’re the only visitors and get personalized attention. For instance, since we were the only people in Mauritson, we were treated to a private tour of the cellar.

6. Splurge on a Blow Out Wine Tasting Experience

One way to make life-long memories is to indulge in a one-of-a-kind wine tasting. Several wineries in Sonoma wine country provide these more unusual experiences. For instance, we really liked Chalk Hill’s wine tasting coupled with a Hummer tour of the estate, and Ferrari-Carano’s wine tasting in its stunning wine cellar. Also consider signing up for one of the experiences offered by Jordan Winery.

Trip to Sonoma Wine Country
The castle at Ferarri-Carano

7. Take in at Least One Outstanding View

There’s something special about sipping wine while enjoying a breathtaking sight. However, it’s not that easy to find out which wineries have them. Several wineries that we can attest provide bucolic, photo-worthy scenes include Copain Wines, MacRostie Winery, and Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery.

Trip to Sonoma Wine Country
Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery

8. Don’t Underestimate a Less Pretentious Tasting Room

Some of the best wines come from wineries that have not invested in fancy tasting spaces. One of our favorite finds is Carol Shelton Wines, which at last check was still pouring excellent wine for a very good value out of a business park. We also recommend Papapietro Perry, which shares an industrial-looking location with several other wineries.

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