The Best of Sonoma Valley
These are my personal recommendations for the best places for
products and services in the Sonoma Valley. Suggestions for additions or
changes are certainly welcome,
but I reserve the right to select which I highlight based on my own
experiences and opinions. I do not accept any compensation for appearing
on this list.
- If you want to go to all of the usual touristy wineries, you don't need
to pay anyone to squire you around -- just go for it. But if you want something
off the beaten path, and truly special, then contact Tom Evola of Tom's Secret Winery Tours. He tracks down small, special wineries that
you likely won't find otherwise.
- Barking Dog Coffee
Roasters - A Sonoma Valley original, there are now two locations --
one near downtown in the MarketPlace Shopping Center at 201 West Napa,
and one up Highway 12 in Boyes Hot Springs, still only steps away from
the hole-in-the-wall where it got its start. The Barking Dog in Boyes
Hot Springs often hosts cheap or free entertainment on weekend evenings,
ranging from incredible local talent to open mic nights. And the coffee
Basque Boulangerie - Highlighted in one of my One Perfect Day in the Sonoma Valley accounts,
this spot is great for coffee and something to go with it any time
of the day. Be sure to grab a sidewalk table to watch the world go
Caffé - Across the Plaza from the Basque Boulangerie,
the Sunflower is also a local favorite and it sports a wonderful
garden in the back where you can enjoy your cappucino in lovely
- Chocolate Cow - Also located on the Plaza, a short distance
walkway at 452 1st Street East that holds several stores, the Chocolate
Cow has been
what seems like forever.
So if you're after a Sonoma original, this is it.
- Michoacana Natural Ice Cream
This is the favorite ice cream place of those who live in "The Springs" area
of Sonoma Valley -- up valley from the town of Sonoma. Get your cup or cone and sit on one of the benches out front and watch the world go by on Highway 12.
- The Annex Wine Bar is like hanging out in your living
room with your friends. Open for food and music Wednesday-Saturday, this
is a favorite spot with the locals. Run by the ever-friendly Margie Brooke,
she offers a limited food menu which we don't mind at all since whatever is on
offer is fantastic. Wines by the glass or the bottle and beer on tap as well
as non-alcoholic options are available. Pull up a comfy chair, plop down on one of the couches,
or hangout on the patio beside the fire. It's your call.
Your classic brewpub, with locally brewed beer and
pub grub. The outdoor patio is awesome in the summer, but is enclosed in
the winter for the comfort of patrons.
- Murphy's Irish Pub - This
long-time local watering
hole is a
sure bet for good music and good times Friday - Sunday, and a sure
bet for a cozy neighborhood Irish pub all the other times.
- Up the valley a short way from downtown Sonoma is Rossi's 1906 Smokehouse and Dancehall and the name
says it all. Here expect to get the best barbecue in the Valley and dance
the night away on the large dance floor. The patio is one of the favorite
spots for locals to hang out in the summer.
- Sonoma Speakeasy and American Music Hall is a must-see for
anyone who like New Orleans style jazz. Our very own "Sonoma Satchmo", the proprietor,
can often be heard singing with the band.
- Swiss Hotel - The
Swiss is a great hang-out spot,
with their outdoor tables that look out onto the Plaza where you can
watch the world go by. A favorite with locals, so good luck at getting a
- Sonoma Cheese
Factory - Highlighted in one of my One Perfect Day in the Sonoma Valley accounts,
it's hard to beat this place for deli sandwiches as well as an
amazing array of comestibles with which to fill the picnic basket.
Positioned right on the Plaza, it is only a short stroll across the
street from picnic tables under the trees or expansive lawns upon which
you can spread your blanket.
Our locally owned and operated Sonoma
(and Glen Ellen) Market is an excellent choice for packing a
a wide array of both pre-packaged foods as well as freshly
entrees and sides you can pack into containers for the basket. The
produce is exceptional. Plus, you won't find friendlier people
anywhere. One of my favorite places to shop.
- Whole Foods
Market - Just a block off the Plaza,
Whole Foods not only has the full range of supermarket goods but also a
rich array of deli salads, prepared entrees, and some of the best sushi
in town. Plus, it's mostly organic.
The Great Outdoors
- The Sonoma Overlook Trail
This is one of my favorite hikes, and I do it several times a week. You can see some of my photos of it to whet your appetite. And the really great thing is that it is so close to downtown Sonoma that you can walk there.
- Jack London State Park
Jack London chose the Sonoma Valley to farm and build his home. When you visit, you will know why. If you are lucky
enough to be here in the summer, don't miss one of the Transcendence Theatre productions. I mean, srsly.
Valley Regional Park
This park has something for everyone.
First there is a dog park -- a fenced area for your dog to run. Then
picnic tables under the oaks, with a view of the mountain range that separates
Sonoma Valley from Napa Valley. Plus trails -- from a wide paved trail that doubles as a road to dirt trails that criss-cross the area and even lead into the village of Glen Ellen. Like I said, something for everyone.
- Sugarloaf Ridge
Sugarloaf Ridge is not far from the valley
floor in Kenwood. It has awesome picnic spots (see the picture to the
right, although that particular spot requires a hike), and if you are
really adventurous, you can hike all the way to the top of Bald Mountain
and have views of Sonoma Valley, Napa Valley, and the Bay Area that are
impossible to get anywhere else.
girl & the fig bar - The bar of this popular
restaurant in the Sonoma Hotel right on the plaza (Northwest corner) is
a relaxing and comfortable place for a quiet drink as well as a nosh if
you're so inclined. And if you are into Rhone wines, then look no
further. This is definitely your place. But the full bar will be happy
to pour you something else to your liking as well.
Bar at MacArthur Place - When I want a quiet
my wife, especially a martini, my first stop is the bar at Saddles
Restaurant, MacArthur Place..
Sans TV, but often with live music, the low-key vibe and, yes, the
saddles to sit on (this must be seen, if not actually experienced) make
it a must for those looking for something relaxing but different. You
won't regret it. If you do, I'll want to know about it, and why.