Many moons ago, my friend Lianne was in town from NYC/Austin/the world and said she wanted to go eat oysters and drink wine and basically be spectacular and live the good life that California is famous for. Along with our friend Jessica, we piled into a ZipCar and I took them on what I should patent as my very own "Townie Tour," where I take visitors to my favorite hotspots outside of San Francisco. We had one of the more epic day outings I've had in recent years as we bopped around Marin from one bucolic setting to the next.
One day after I got back from my SE Asia travels, Jessica announced that she'd be moving to London. Once I got over my initial bummed-out-ness (and realized that one less friend in SF now meant one more person to visit in London, hopefully with a decent sofa!), I knew the only way to celebrate her departure was with another epic outing to check out more of the glories north of The City.
I'd like to think of this itinerary as the perfect way to cover off on some of the best things Sonoma has to offer: the rolling golden fields and farms, gorgeous, rugged coastline, a glimpse into country life, and, of course, wine.
We started our morning at Matanzas Creek Winery, located in the beautiful Bennett Valley region of Sonoma. Here, we indulged in their wine and cheese tasting; $25 for 5 wines paired with absolutely incredible cheeses (I think I may have preferred the cheese to the wine).
From there, we stopped off at a local deli Lazzani's for delicious sandwiches (I mean, you need to eat some real food if you're out doing a bunch of wine tasting, even if you aren't the designated driver), then drove through the rolling golden hills of Sonoma to the outskirts of Santa Rosa to stop by Hook & Ladder Winery. If Matanzas Creek is upscale and lovely, Hook & Ladder evokes a more down-to-earth charm. It's set amidst groves of vineyards in a little old firehouse and the vibe here is akin to its wines: laidback, casual, even neighborly. Here, we chatted with locals who stop by every Saturday to enjoy a glass of wine or two while watching their cute dog run around on the lawn.
Our last wine stop for the day was for something even better than wine — champagne! When I noticed the famous Korbel Champagne Cellars was located on a road that took us through Guerneville and eventually out to the coast, I knew it would make the perfect third spot to check out. We drove from the farmland to the forest, watching the landscape shift from golden and flat to hilly and covered in trees, following the graceful curves of the Russian River along the way.
At Korbel we enjoyed a few sips of champagne (which, amazingly, are still free!), then hopped in the car for the rest of the day: a drive out to Jenner on Route 116, then a stretch down Highway 1 to Bodega Bay. In Bodega, we followed signs to find the church used in Alfred Hitchcock's famous horror movie The Birds, then took Valley Ford Road back to Petaluma, where we hopped on 101 to head back to San Francisco, filled with grateful appreciation for all the beauty and life and loveliness that California has to offer.