Sonoma Valley is the lower key, down to earth, casual sister to the more glamorous, higher maintenance, glossy Napa Valley. I’ve been wine tasting in both valleys and can attest to their rumored identities. I really like them both: the wine is amazing, the scenery gorgeous, and the passion of the people who live and work there is palpable.
Shortly after moving to the Bay area, friends of mine suggested Sonoma for a weekend wine tasting trip – who says no to that?? We did a little bit of research but not a ton so we could keep it loose and casual, which does have it’s down side in Sonoma as a lot of the wineries book up. We stayed a block off the Sonoma town square in an airbnb and wanted to limit any driving – wine tastings are available as early as 9am! So the wineries we hit were, with the exception of one, all within biking distance.
I think the last time I rode a bike around a town was in those early middle school days, and even then, I preferred roller blading. I had completely forgotten the carefree feeling of riding a bike! It’s the simple things, right? The added bonus is that in a few minutes of picking up our bikes, we were riding down lovely country roads lined with trees and wineries. Basically heaven.
A note on style in Sonoma: There must be something that makes women associate wine tasting with maxi dresses. I think it is that a maxi dress can feel effortless and strike the right tone of dressiness. I mean, there is the tendency to feel as though you should ‘dress for the occasion’ of tasting wine. Wine tasting is a sophisticated and nice event, so you should look nice. About 90% of the women we saw were wearing maxi dresses. In general I don’t have a problem with a maxi dress – and maybe skip this paragraph if you are a die hard maxi dress wearer. I do think it is difficult to find a maxi dress that looks as good as it feels: the length has to be just right, where it hits your waist has to be just right, how it hangs on your body has to be just right, etc. Don’t get me wrong… I wear them… occasionally. But there was something about all the women in maxi dresses and the vibe of Sonoma that didn’t ring in accordance. It didn’t hit the right tune for me because it seemed a little… too… Napa Valley. That being said – you will certainly be a bird of a flock if you pitch up in your favorite maxi dress.
Our trip was in October, but I think my packing list holds for spring as well. The sunshine during the day feels glorious but in the late afternoon it starts to get chilly. Sweaters and jackets are a must. We had also planned on riding bikes on our one full day there, so I stuck with pants and boots.
Here’s what I packed (2 nights):
Tops: Fringe ‘sweatshirt’ (no fleece), Layering tank, Iro sweater, Layering long sleeve, Heavy Cotton came button up – worn as a jacket, Short sleeve sweater (for evening)
Bottoms: Skinny jeans, Skinny Boyfriend Jeans
Shoes: Chloe low heels, My go-to Jimmy Choo boots
Accessories/Bags: Hat, Silk Scarf, Celine belt bag, Cross body Givenchy, Sunglasses
Outerwear: Leather jacket
What I wish I had packed: To be honest I was quite happy with my packing. Riding the bike in my boots took a few minutes to get used to – it would have been easier in my sneakers, but I wanted a boot vibe and was totally fine with the bike after I adjusted.
Here’s my don’t miss list:
- Roche Winery – Just off the town square, the wine didn’t blow my hair back, but we sat around the fire our first evening sharing a bottle and it was just so lovely.
2. Basque Boulangerie Cafe – Amazing bakery and great coffee – it was packed with locals, so we felt we had struck gold here.
3. Walt Wines – We went here on our last day (mainly because my dog’s name is Walter). The wine was amazing and the tasting experience, even though it was in town and a bit expensive, was totally worth it.
4. Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards – This is a very scenic spot and (the only one we drove to) it’s mostly bubbles – yes, please!
5. Gundelach Bundschu (Gun Bun) – Very cool/chill winery on a little lake. They also have an experience that takes you on a ride through the vineyards, alas, it was full when we tried to book. Great wine!
6. Freemont Diner – There is a lot of great food in Sonoma, but I loved this roadside diner with fried chicken and mac and cheese. Don’t miss it. It’s Sonoma all the way.
7. Biking – I was a little reluctant when we were planning this, BUT it was the best idea. The biking isn’t difficult and the countryside is so gorgeous – plus it saves the hassle of ubering everywhere or hiring a driver or having a dd… just do it.
Why not Pin and save for later???
I’ve been in SF for almost two years now and STILL haven’t been to wine country yet. How sad is that? I’ve been thinking about getting to Sonoma as a starter. Is it quieter? Or at least cheaper? Love your outfits by the way! #flyawayfriday
Hi Kat!! Sonoma is quieter and a little cheaper (I think). Since you’re local, you could just go for a day… or go during low season. It’s so beautiful in Sonoma, it really feels like a total escape from the city.
Kind of a coincidence since I am reading a magazine about attractions in Sonoma (got it on the LA Travel Show). I have never been so I am trying to learn more about the county. It looks like an area full of charm and interesting places. I have read very different opinions of Napa and Sonoma. For what I have heard, I would prefer to visit Sonoma first. #FlyAwayFriday
A coincidence!!! Sonoma and Napa are both beautiful and both offer amazing wine. I think Sonoma is more approachable and smaller, so it might be good to start with that valley.
I love Sonoma, and have always wanted to ride a bike from winery to winer, but haven’t yet! And definitely true that Spring and Fall are about the same temperature wise, remember those layers!
Riding a bike is seriously fun – you should totally try it next time!!!
Omg I LOVE Sonoma! I took a photo of that mural inside Fremont Diner too 🙂 I love that place so much we bought mugs to take home! Do you go up north often? You’re in LA right? We should collab sometime! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you again this weekend! xo
Kana!!! I split my time between San Fran and LA – I would LOVE to collab, I’ll send you an email……
How fun!!! I love your packing list!! My husband and I are thinking of going in August for our wedding anniversary so will have to refer to this!! Can’t wait to see what you share on FLyAwayFriday this weekend 🙂
Thanks Chloe – what a great destination for a wedding anniversary!!!!!