Is Sonoma County the capital of Californian winemaking and seasonal dining? Only one way to find out.

An easy hour-long drive north from San Francisco, Sonoma County stretches from the Pacific coast to the mountains and boasts 425 wineries across 19 distinct appellations (chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir are the top picks). And whether growing grapes, farming vegetables, tending orchards or making cheese, Sonoma locals share the notion that they’re stewards of the land. When you’re not enjoying the spoils, wander among soaring redwoods, visit secluded beaches and check out the region’s charming towns.

The wineries

Fort Ross Winery, Sonoma County


It started in 1974 when Jess Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke, purchased a 32-hectare pear and walnut orchard in Lake County that they replanted with grapes. The label they created, Kendall- Jackson, became an awardwinning maker of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon (particularly the Vintner’s Reserve range). Taste them on a 90-minute estate tour, where you’ll also stroll in the culinary gardens.

Naidu Wines

Newcomer Raghni Naidu stands out not only as a female Indian immigrant vintner but also for her high-quality drops. The fruits of her labour include smooth viognier with tropical aromas and jammy pinot noir. Indulge at her Sebastopol winery while lounging by a firepit or playing bocce.

Fort Ross Vineyard

Look out to the ocean and watch the fog roll in as you sip your fruit-forward, silky pinot noir at this winery (above) in the coastal town of Jenner. Set in forests and meadows, the estate is a testament to the microclimates of Sonoma County. The tasting room offers a small bites pairing that might include goat’s cheese crostini or beef carpaccio. Soak in the scenery at a table on the deck.

The restaurants

Cyrus Restaurant, Sonoma County


Having earned two Michelin stars, Cyrus closed suddenly in 2012. More than a decade later, chef and owner Douglas Keane is back with this year-old iteration (above) that’s set in a Modernist building in Geyserville and boasts pastoral views in every direction. The Japanese-inflected tasting menu has dishes such as artichoke with sake lees and lettuce purée and lobster with avocado and Thai basil. The grand finale? A secret chocolate room.

The Matheson

Spread over three floors in Healdsburg, there’s a buzz in the air at this complex envisioned by chef and Sonoma native Dustin Valette. As well as an approachable farm-to-table restaurant, there’s a rooftop cocktail lounge and 88 wines on tap, including Valette’s own blends produced with top vintners. A love letter to the region, the menu is hyper-local yet globally inspired: risotto with mushroom, mascarpone and crisp garlic; squash with bok choy and coconut; pear with burnt honey ice-cream and Medjool date puff pastry.

Farmhouse Restaurant

Fresh energy from new chef Craig Wilmer has invigorated this eatery at the familyowned and much-loved Farmhouse Inn, tucked away in Forestville. The six-course tasting menu draws from the property’s gardens and the region’s farms. Among the rotating dishes: egg drop soup with sweet corn; tomato with mozzarella espuma and fried curry leaf; flounder with rare citrus. Kitchen waste goes to the 80 hens on site.

The stay

The Madrona, Healdsburg

Light pours in through big windows at The Madrona, a Victorian-era hotel on three hectares in Healdsburg. It has an historic legacy (some 250 antiques can be found around the property) but designer and co-owner Jay Jeffers has reimagined the estate into a modern wine-country inn. The 24 rooms and bungalows are a feast for the eyes with wallpaper by artist Kelly Ventura, upholstered headboards and mosaic-tiled bathrooms.

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SEE ALSO: 14 of the Best Things to Do in California

Image credit: Daniel Seung Lee; Fort Ross Vineyard; Kelly Puleio; Matthew Millman. 

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