Despite life in Wine Country looking a lot different in 2020, we have been pleased to see a small flurry of business openings. To say that 2020 was a challenge for Sonoma County businesses is an understatement, but if there’s something that is still true about Wine Country this past year and every year, it’s that it is just as enticing today as ever before.
Especially for food and wine lovers seeking a destination that offers world renowned cuisine and wines, beautiful scenery, a laid back vibe, and a wealth of socially distant-friendly outdoor spaces in which to enjoy it all in. Here are the top new places to eat, drink, and stay in Sonoma County this year.
Please note: Sonoma County is currently under a stay-at-home order. Non-essential travel is prohibited until furter notice, but hotels are accepting reservations for future stays. Please visit our pandemic news page for more information and updates.
Courtesy of Wit & Wisdom
The most recent fine dining restaurant arrival in Sonoma is Michael Mina’s new Wine Country restaurant, Wit & Wisdom. Recently opened up (in mid September) in the old Lodge at Sonoma restaurant space, Wit and Wisdom is Mina’s first Sonoma County (and Wine Country) restaurant. And, like everything Mina touches, this restaurant has spun a formerly charming but somewhat tired space into elegant Wine Country dining gold. Everything from the shining and polished, modern yet airy open-dining room and kitchen (populated by impeccably clean, crisp, and professional chefs and staff) to the charming, expansive yet intimate feeling al fresco dining areas, the flawlessly executed dishes (which implement locally-sourced cheese, seafood, meat, and produce whenever possible), and the extensive and well thought out wine list, the guest and dining experience at Wit and Wisdom is truly unparalleled.
Courtesy of Blue Ridge Kitchen
Over in West Sonoma County, Sebastopol‘s Blue Ridge Kitchen opened its doors last summer to plenty of eager foodies who’d been awaiting a scaled up, seated restaurant dining option in The Barlow. Some might have thought that opening up a new fine dining restaurant during a pandemic was an exercise in folly, but for Blue Ridge Kitchen and The Barlow in general, the sudden necessary switch for restaurants from indoor to outdoor dining put them in the perfect position to attract even more people to this outdoor artisan food and craft beverage market wonderland, which offers ample covered outdoor seating.
Trout Salad, Courtesy of Blue Ridge Kitchen
Originally billed as ‘California comfort food with a Southern drawl,’ BRK’s food is on par with some of the best fine dining restaurants in the region. With insanely delicious and well executed dishes like their hickory smoked Mount Lassen trout salad, Blue Ridge Cioppino, and creamy cauliflower soup with white truffle oil, cream, pomegranate, and fried sage, BRK’s menu is anything but typical.
Several other notable Sonoma County restaurant openings include Valley Bar and Bottle in Sonoma, which opened in early July, Grata Italian Eatery in Windsor, and Folktable (at Cornerstone Sonoma), which just recently opened its doors.
Courtesy of Valley Bar and Bottle
Valley Bar and Bottle, which moved into Harvest Moon’s old restaurant space on the Sonoma Plaza, is a neighborhood restaurant, wine bar, and bottle shop serving ‘California home cooking — simple food driven by seasonal produce’ and is focused on selling wines from producers that are organic and/or biodynamic and that practice regenerative and traditional agricultural practices.
Grata Italian Eatery, located just off the Town Green in Windsor, serves Italian-style comfort food in a casual, inviting setting. Locals’ favorite dishes include Grata’s prosciutto bruschetta, ziti in pork sugo, and a ‘Grata burrata’ plate. The restaurant’s ‘Grata Family Meal’ take-out offering (which serves 4-6) has also been a big hit.
Food at Folktable, Courtesy of Folktable
Folktable, the newest addition to the Sonoma’s Best Hospitality Group’s local business and restaurant empire, only officially opened last month, but has been hosting pop-ups in the Cornerstone Sonoma Sunset Test Kitchen for the past few months while waiting to open. The restaurant is headed by Executive Chef Casey Thompson, best known for her appearance on the third season of Top Chef where she earned the title of ‘Fan Favorite.’ Folktable’s inaugural menu features take-out friendly comfort food dishes with a gourmet twist, like Black Truffle Chicken Handpies, Beef Tartare on Hashbrowns, and Hot-Pepper Honey Fried Chicken.
Tasting at Region, Courtesy of Region
Another fantastic new arrival at The Barlow over the past six months is Region Wine Bar, a unique Sonoma focused wine bar that features a collection of wine from 25 boutique and/or quintessential Sonoma County wine producers, equalling a total of 50 wines (or more) that guests can taste all in one place. Region’s mission is to offer the largest selection of Sonoma County wines that are available to taste in Wine Country, therefore connecting guests with a variety of boutique, lesser known, and unique wines they might never get to try elsewhere.
After two years of planning and design, the recent completion and opening of Aperture Cellar‘s new architecturally stunning winery and hospitality center on a 42-acre and historic vineyard site (off of Redwood Highway in Healdsburg), has been a welcome addition to the region. Winemaker and Proprietor Jesse Katz has made a name for himself over the past 15 years, developing a cult following. Katz’s winemaking technique and style is credited to his experience working at some of the top wineries in the world, including but not limited to Pétrus, Screaming Eagle, and Robert Foley. Aperture’s mission has always been to find the top cool-climate spots in California where Bordeaux varietals can thrive, and to source from these vineyards. The new Aperture Cellars winery and hospitality center are a joint venture between Jesse and his father, Andy Katz, a renowned photographer, that facilitates the intermingling of wine and art, the duo’s greatest passions.
Aperture Cellars, Courtesy of Aperture
BloodRoot in Healdsburg is a new venture spearheaded by Noah and Kelly Dorrance of Reeve Wines. This unique business is a collaboration between esteemed winemakers with great vineyard sourcing who have come together to make well-crafted, value-minded wines, sourced from benchmark vineyards throughout the most respected wine growing regions in California. BloodRoot’s new tasting room, which opened in fall, is situated in downtown Healdsburg. Despite not having planned to open during a pandemic, the business quickly made the move to set up a comfortable outdoor covered tasting and seating area.
Guest room patio at Montage Healdsburg, Courtesy of Montage
The newest luxury hotel addition to Sonoma County is the Montage Healdsburg, which officially started receiving guests in mid-December. This high-end resort property lies in the heart of Sonoma’s Wine Country, just a short distance from downtown Healdsburg. Montage Healdsburg features 130 bungalow-style guestrooms, including 34 suites, located on a stunning 258-acre retreat surrounded by historic groves and vine-covered hills. As it is at all Montage resorts, culinary art is a key ingredient and this passion will be evident at their Healdsburg locale, where a heritage of extraordinary cuisine is rich with inspiration. The resort’s on-property dining will honor the flavors of the region, featuring a signature restaurant, lobby lounge, poolside bar and grill, and treehouse-inspired private dining room.
Sonoma Canopy Tours Treehouses, Courtesy of Sonoma Canopy Tours
Looking for something a bit more adventurous? Sonoma Canopy Tours in Occidental launched their new overnight Treehouse Adventures in October. Spend the afternoon ziplining through giant redwoods then stay the night nestled into your eco-friendly (battery powered with compost toilets) treetop bungalow. Rappel back down to ‘basecamp’ from your lodging in the morning. The Treehouse Adventure experience includes fourteen zip-lines, eight sky bridges, and a rappel back down to the forest floor. Tours also include a guided hike and gourmet dinner and breakfast.
In spring 2021, Sonoma County native, Chef Dustin Valette, and partner, Craig Ramsey, will unveil The Matheson, a three-story restaurant, bar, and wine destination set in the heart of Healdsburg overlooking the town square. Other planned Healdsburg business openings include Quail & Condor, a neighborhood bakery run by locals Melissa Yanc and Sean McGaughey, and Little Saint, a community gathering place and non-profit 501(c) business that will serve as an extension of Saint Joseph’s Arts Foundation in San Francisco, which has taken over the SHED building in downtown Healdsburg.