Finally, after months—years!—of challenging times for the hospitality businesses in California’s Sonoma County, 2022 was a true breath of fresh air with record tourism numbers in the spring and early summer, as people ventured out to enjoy all of the best reasons to wake up every day in Wine Country: amazing wineries, restaurants, and lodging.
And while locals and visitors will always be able to eat, drink, and stay at their go-to favorites, there were some notable openings last year that may inspire anyone looking for an excuse to put a trip to Sonoma County on their calendar during 2023. Here are just a few of them:
While not a lot of brand new lodging opened in Sonoma County in the last year (Napa Valley saw more new hotels), there were some stunning renovations that completely transformed hotel properties and charming inns from totally out-of-date to very of-the-moment. The Stavrand Russian River Valley in Guerneville (formerly the Applewood Inn) still sits on a historic piece of Northern California property surrounded by a redwood grove, but now the luxury boutique hotel, which opened in February of 2022, has 21 modern rooms across three buildings, many with freestanding soaking tubs or outdoor cedar hot tubs. The property also has fantastic resort amenities, including a pool and hot tub, bicycles and kayaks, lawn games, and a restaurant with meals centered around the culinary garden that is only available to guests. And though the Stavrand doesn’t have a spa, they do offer rejuvenating massages either in your room or under the serenity of the redwoods.
Also in Guerneville, Dawn Ranch, a 1905 resort, reopened in late April 2022 after flooding in 2019 forced its closure. The 53 cabins have been redesigned for maximum rustic-meets-luxe California comfort (Frete towels, Le Labo toiletries, a small Smeg refrigerator), and the expansive riverfront property with redwoods, a babbling creek, a working orchard, and lots of walking paths is very much meant to be explored by resort guests. The restaurant, Agriculture Public House, is a true Sonoma County farm-to-table experience that can be enjoyed in the dining room or on the outdoor deck.
The Madrona (formerly The Madrona Manor) in Healdsburg also had new life breathed into it by Jay Jeffers, interior designer and co-owner with his business partner Cory Schisler. The bones of the 1881-era mansion are still very much present, but now the space is much more vibrant and airy, with dramatic moments at every turn. Hotel amenities include access to Vanmoof electric bikes, a swimming pool surrounded by lush foliage, a gorgeous lounge to enjoy late-night cocktails, and 24-hour concierge service. As for the beloved restaurant, The Madrona’s longtime executive chef, Jesse Mallgren, remains with a new menu of food that is decadent but approachable, featuring ingredients from the estate’s garden, plus a bar menu for those who want to experience what The Madrona is all about without the hefty price tag.
The restaurant at Farmhouse Inn has long been known for taking its guests on a Sonoma County culinary journey full of exceptional cuisine, but at a fairly hefty price of $300 per person if the wine pairings are included. It’s a worthwhile splurge, but as of the summer of 2022, the luxury inn has a more casual sister restaurant, FARMSTAND, an all-day a la carte dining destination featuring farm-driven Northern California cuisine, with the highlights being any of the vegetable dishes and the wood-fired pizzas, best enjoyed on the outdoor deck if the Sonoma weather cooperates (which, it usually does). And since the meal is so affordable, now you can splurge on one of Farmhouse Inn’s luxurious spa treatments.
Other notable Sonoma County restaurant openings (or reopenings, as it were, for this first one) include Cyrus, the Geyserville fine dining destination, which shuttered over a decade ago and has already earned a Michelin star just three months after reopening in September. For those looking for a more casual, but still delightful experience, Oyster, a Parisian-inspired cafe at The Barlow in Sebastopol, has brought smiles to diners since the restaurant opened with a bubbles and oyster-centric menu (get them raw, baked, and fried) last fall. Also in Sebastopol, Piala, Sonoma County’s first Georgian restaurant, opened in November with a menu focused on natural wines and Georgian flavors and techniques.
Animo, in the town of Sonoma, debuted to immediate fanfare in the spring of 2022 thanks to its unique menu of Basque-Korean food. And though it just recently opened, Luma Bar & Eatery, a new riverfront restaurant in Petaluma from Jazmine Lalicker, co-founder and owner of the Shuckery and Oyster Girls, is already setting out to change people’s minds about what it means to eat a plant-based diet, even for those who aren’t vegan or vegetarian—something diners are going to start seeing a lot more of, especially in California.
If there’s one thing that is never in short supply in Sonoma Valley, it’s fantastic wine and gorgeous wineries, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t always room for new experiences, which is what one will find at The Donum Estate’s new Vertical Panorama Pavilion, a tasting space at the art-centric winery where guests enjoy a holistic sensory experience beneath 832 colored laminated glass panels with panoramic views of the vineyard. Keeping with the idea that tasting wine is about more than just what’s in the glass, Bannister Wines opened a new “tasting lounge and art gallery” in a historic bank building in Geyserville, and Brooks Note Winery opened a stylish tasting room in downtown Petaluma with lounge seating, wines by the flight or glass, and entertainment in the form of yoga classes, sip and paint classes, and live music.
Sure, people go to California Wine Country for, well, wine, but even the most dedicated oenophile sometimes needs a break from all of the wineries to enjoy an adult beverage in the form of beer or cocktails. When that craving hits, Sonoma has a few new spots to check out. Third Pig Bar in downtown Sebastopol offers seasonal cocktails, a rotating tap list, and even a couple of spirit-free drinks for those who want to enjoy a drink without imbibing. Lo & Behold Bar and Kitchen in Healdsburg, from two of the creative minds behind Duke’s, opened in the restaurant space that was formerly Mateo’s Cocina Latina and offers patrons a large open-air patio upon which to enjoy their craft “farm-to-glass” cocktails, many of which are made with fresh local produce and several of which can be served in a large format for six.
And for those looking to get the party going late night in Sonoma (something that isn’t always the easiest thing to do in Wine Country), The Flamingo Resort, the vibrant mid-century-modern hotel property in Santa Rosa, opened Vintage Space—“a retro-futuristic music lounge hosting a cosmic array of live music, dancing, DJs, and special events.”
Whether you want to explore more Sonoma wineries for new wine tasting adventures, discover restaurants at which to dine on delicious farm-to-table cuisine, or spend more cozy spa weekends at picturesque inns and hotels, Sonoma County has it all. And you can be sure that 2023 will only bring more exciting openings and changes, thereby ensuring you always have an excuse to visit.