Whether you’re planning your first trip to Sonoma or headed back and looking for some new recommendations, this short little day-by-day guide to wine country is something we’ve shared with many friends and coworkers. It’s a compilation from all the visits we’ve made, which has been almost once a year for over 5 years now! Since we get asked enough about where to stay and what to do, we thought this list could be helpful to any others looking for some recos.
And while we always try to hit up our favorite spots and vineyards each time we go, we also make sure to try some new spots as well so would love to hear your recommendations in the comments!
Ok! Let’s start with where to stay …
WHERE TO STAY IN SONOMA
Our favorite place to stay is in Healdsburg which is located in Sonoma county and nestled right up against the Russian River. It’s a quiet, touristy spot but has everything you’re looking for when on a vacation or taking a weekend trip.
Each time we go we get an Airbnb since we’re normally traveling with a few friends and like to be able to have a kitchen and common space together. While you’ll want to do your research and read the reviews on an Airbnb just like anywhere you’d travel, I would recommend finding a home in the bluffs/hills overlooking the Russian River. You’ll have an amazing view to enjoy a morning cup of coffee or an evening glass of wine. However, if the hotel is more your thing, h2hotel is a really cute, dog-friendly boutique hotel and is right off of Healdsburg Plaza where you can shop the shops, grab a coffee, or an ice cream cone. Speaking of ice cream, Noble Folk is our favorite ice cream spot in Healdsburg – and also a great Instagram backdrop if that’s your thing!
While Healdsburg is where we’ve stayed just about every time we’ve gone to Sonoma, anywhere in that general area is going to put you in the heart of our favorite vineyards. If you venture out of Healdsburg I recommend going more south and east, as it puts you closer to Napa if you’re also wanting to try a few spots there.
Once you’re settled, here’s our day-by-day guide that will help ensure you see the best of Sonoma as well some other attractions close by to give yourself a break from wine. While it’s hard to believe, you’re going to want that break!
OK, here we go!
- Start your morning at Jimtown Store and order yourself food for a picnic later in the day. They’ve mainly got sandwiches and salads, but you can also grab yourself some old-school candy or a homemade brownie.
- There are two tasting rooms close right by the Jimtown Store — literally minutes away. Medlock Ames (one of our faves) has a tasting room we stop at every time we go to Sonoma. Also close by (right next door to Jimtown!) is Hawkes. Here we took a private tasting in the hills up behind their main tasting room which provides a great vantage point of the vineyard; however, but I think you need a reservation for that so call ahead and ask. Otherwise you can always do the regular tasing in their tasting room without a reservation.
- After doing your morning tastings at Medlock and Hawkes, head to Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves. Here again, call ahead and get a wine cave tour booked. You can definitely enjoy the vineyard without it, but it’s a pretty cool experience to go through the caves where they keep all of their aging barrels. Our favorite things about Bella is that they have picnic blankets and tables, so once you’ve finished your tour and tasting, buy a bottle and enjoy the lunch you picked up at Jimtown Store that morning. This is probably our favorite spot in Sonoma.
- Ferrari-Carano Vineyards is not far from Bella (10 min drive). This could be a quick stop, but if you’re looking to remove one from this day, this would be the one I’d take out. But worth it if you still have the time.
- After this, make sure to stop at Quivira. This is maybe our second favorite vineyard, and a close contender for first. This vineyard touts their sustainable farming where they have flower and vegetable gardens, chickens and pigs. Really great atmosphere and really great wine. Another great Instagrammable spot.
- Book a Platypus wine tour of Sonoma. You board right in Sonoma Plaza on a small bus with about 10-12 people. Sounds awkward at first to do a tour with strangers, but by the end (and normally a few bottles later) you actually end up having so much fun with everyone and can make some really great connections. Platypus packs a lunch for you (they have gluten free options) that you can enjoy at one of the vineyard stops and they also keep bottled water on the bus to keep you hydrated throughout the day. What we loved most about this tour is that they normally stop at smaller, family-run vineyards in and around the heart of Sonoma. We didn’t have a single spot they took us that we didn’t like. You’ll get about 5 vineyards in on this tour which is plenty! Be ready to uber home or have a designated driver when you get back to the plaza.
- Book a reservation for dinner for when the tour ends. It drops you back off in Sonoma Plaza where you started so we recommend Girl & The Fig.
- You might want a break from drinking at this point, so we normally use our third day to head to the coast and walk the beach. It’s about an hour drive from the center of Healdsburg, but you drive along the Russian River through the redwoods and it’s a beautiful drive. Set your GPS to Goat Rock Beach and take the route that takes you through Guerneville. Guerneville is a sleepy, river city where people camp, kayak and tube. We’ve never done anything other than stop here for coffee on our drive to the ocean, but it’s a cute little town with much more to explore.
- If you’re looking to hike, Armstrong Woods is just north of Guerneville. You’ll see the big redwoods and there are multiple trails you can take depending on the difficulty and amount of time you want to spend hiking.
- On the way home from Armstrong or Goat Beach (or both!), you will also drive right by Korbel. We haven’t ever stopped but it’s always been on our list of something to do on another trip.
- We normally use our fourth and fifth day to hit up all the vineyards that were on our list that we couldn’t get to on the first or second day. Here I recommend finding some new places to try in a centralized location so you don’t spend your day driving and instead can spend your time drinking amazing wine.
ADDITIONAL SONOMA RECOMMENDATIONS
- Copain: I’ve only been here once when I first went to Sonoma years ago. I think when we went it was a private pick-up weekend for our friends who were members and I don’t know how often they’re open to the public so I’d call ahead on this one. But an amazing tasting room and an beautiful hilltop view of Sonoma.
- Gracianna Winery. Really cool spot. Our friends, Mark and Todd, got engaged here several years ago when we were with them. They also hosted their rehearsal party here as well. The owners are amazing and live right on the vineyard. You’ll likely meet them or their son if you do a tasting here.
- Kunde. We’re members here currently, so if you don’t make it to Kunde let us know. We have so much Kunde that we can do our own tasting with you at our house. Kidding — kind of.
PLACES TO EAT IN HEALDSBURG:
TIPS WHEN VISITING WINE COUNTRY:
- Tasting rooms close early. Typically by around 4PM. So get an earlier start if you want to hit up more that a couple in a single day.
- Tasting days, pack a small cooler full of bottled water. You’re going to want it!
- We used the app “Dryver” to hire a designated driver (car service) for the day. The great thing is that they come and drive your car for you and stay with the car the entire day. If I remember, it’s about $20/hour but 100% worth it so that everyone can drink and have fun and not worry about having a designated driver.