Let’s be honest: it’s hard to not have an amazing weekend in Sonoma County any time of year. With temperate weather, stunning scenery, and plenty of great wine to be had, you’re sure to have a wonderful experience no matter when you visit. However, there’s something extra special about the fall season in Sonoma. Not only is the entire valley abuzz with the spirit of harvest, but the landscape displays a dazzling array of autumn colors that is downright beautiful.
Whether you choose to partake in Sonoma’s numerous harvest-related celebrations, would prefer to spend your time eating copious amounts of fall produce, or are simply looking to get cozy with a glass of wine in your hotel room, here’s our guide to making the most of a fall weekend in Sonoma County.
From early September through mid-November, fall in Sonoma is synonymous with harvest, with grapes being picked then crushed for the year’s vintage. It’s a busy time for those in the vineyard and the cellar, but luckily you don’t need to be a winemaker to experience the harvest season first-hand.
Many wineries offer their own harvest festivals and events, including festive parties, vineyard hikes, grape stomps, and opportunities to see the winemaking process in action. Just note that some winery events are open to the public and some are for wine club members only. To experience one of the biggest harvest events in the area, head to the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, held in early October at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. This annual tradition — now in its 45th year — offers attendees plenty of opportunities to eat, drink, and celebrate the season over the course of two days. If you go, don’t miss watching the World Championship Grape Stomp, a lively competition where the winners will receive a monetary prize and, of course, bragging rights to be called World Champions.
A visit to Wine Country during the fall season means you’ll likely witness vineyard workers picking grapes, but it’s also a prime time for farmers to harvest the season’s newest crops. And, since the majority of Sonoma County’s restaurants live by the farm-to-table philosophy, you can bet that Sonoma’s chefs are making the most of the changing seasons. Expect menus to reflect what’s freshest and in-season, highlighting such fruits and vegetables as figs, pears, apples, dates, squash, brussel sprouts, and eggplant, to name a few.
For a taste of Sonoma’s bounty, head to the elegant Farmhouse Inn in Forestville for innovative Californian / Mediterranean cuisine inspired by what grows on nearby farms, and even by what’s growing on the inn’s surrounding ranch. At the Three Michelin Star SingleThread Restaurant in Healdsburg, the eleven-course menu changes daily to highlight the flavors of Sonoma County — some of which is grown on their own farm. Also in Healdsburg is Barndiva, where their motto of “eat the view” translates into fresh, vibrant dishes featuring ingredients grown locally. In Sonoma, the girl and the fig has been drawing locals and tourists since 1997 for French-inspired country food that highlights ingredients from the region, and it does not disappoint.
Sonoma has no shortage of worthy wineries to visit, from smaller, family-owned gems to larger wineries with a wide variety of tasting options. Regardless of which ones you choose to visit, you can count on Sonoma’s wineries to over deliver in welcoming hospitality, world-class wine, and splendid views of rolling hills of vineyards. Fall is an especially magical time of year for wine tasting, when you can sip your wines while admiring the vineyard foliage as it turns from green to gold, orange to red.
At the family-owned Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen, make time for the 45-minute Biodynamic Vineyard Tram Tour, which offers a closer look at the picturesque vineyards as you learn about the winery’s dedication to Biodynamic, organic, and sustainable vineyard practices. For sweeping views of the Russian River Valley, schedule an appointment at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, where the floor-to-ceiling windows in their tasting salon make it easy to admire the region as you sip. Their Exploration Tour and Tasting includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the winemaking facility, as well. At Jordan Vineyards & Winery near Healdsburg, a visit to the French-inspired château is a treat during autumn, when the ivy-covered building displays brilliant shades of fall. Even more, the winery just launched a new Château Block Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Tasting, which features a seated tasting with pairings at the edge of their six-acre hilltop vineyard.
When thinking about what to wear during a fall weekend in Sonoma, it’s best to first consider the weather this time of year. Most of Sonoma County enjoys a mild climate year-round, but keep in mind that the weather can vary greatly in the fall depending on whether you’re on the coast or further inland.
In October, inland areas can still see sunshine-filled days stay in the low to mid-70s, but things do cool off at night to reveal temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Come November, average temperatures stay around 60 degrees during the day and nighttime temperatures can dip into the 30s. On the coast, expect to find cool maritime fog in the morning, which usually gives way to California sunshine mid-day, but it can sometimes stay cool throughout the day.
Needless to say, layers are key when visiting Sonoma County in the fall. Don’t forget your sunglasses or hat, as that California sunshine is still prevalent throughout most of the region, and be sure to pack your boots or closed toed shoes for walking around the vineyards. Most restaurants and wineries embrace Wine Country casual attire, but do bring something a little dressier as a few of Sonoma’s nicer restaurants encourage collared shirts or slacks.
If the perfect fall getaway includes visions of a comfortable guest room and drinking red wine beside a fire, then these Sonoma County hotels and inns will make those dreams a reality.
North of Jenner along the Sonoma Coast, Timber Cove Resort bridges modern amenities with rustic charm. Inside each of the 46 guest rooms, you’ll find record players, nest-operated fireplaces, and yoga mats, while the expansive Great Room has an outdoor area with billiards, fire pits, and views of the rugged coastline — the essentials for a relaxing stay on the Sonoma Coast.
Further inland in the town of Glen Ellen, the boutique Olea Hotel charms with a year-round pool (heated spring through fall), hot tub, gourmet breakfasts, and luxury amenities like heated floors in each of the guest rooms. Post up next to the fire pit with your complimentary wine (served all afternoon) and enjoy the serenity of the hotel’s peaceful setting.
At the Inn at Sonoma, A Four Sisters Inn near the Sonoma Plaza, all rooms feature in-room fireplaces and plush beds for an extra cozy stay. A full breakfast, afternoon wine and appetizers, and freshly baked cookies sweeten the deal, plus it’s all conveniently located within steps of Sonoma’s shops and restaurants.