A Weekender’s Guide to Savoring Sonoma Valley

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  • on OCTOBER 5, 2021
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A Weekender’s Guide to Savoring Sonoma Valley

By Susan Williams October 5, 2021

A short 45-minute drive from San Francisco, on the southern end of Sonoma County, sits Sonoma Valley, a 17-mile stretch of Wine Country full of premium wineries, luxury lodging, and picturesque vineyard settings.

Venturing into the heart of Sonoma Valley’s historic towns of Sonoma, Glen Ellen, and Kenwood, visitors will find more than just a weekend escape amongst the vines. They’ll discover a way of life.

Sonoma Valley invites travelers to take pause, relishing in the same pleasures locals have always savored. Be it a patch of picnic-worthy grass, the Mediterranean climate and blue skies, the citrus, pomegranate, and fig trees, or the perfection of a freshly-harvested heirloom tomato paired with a splash of local olive oil and pinch of salt, Sonoma Valley is a place that exalts the mundane, reminding travelers that good company, pleasant atmosphere, and simple, quality food and wine deserve to be celebrated daily.


Olea Hotel
Courtyard at Olea Hotel in Glen Ellen. Photo courtesy of Olea Hotel

To maximize a short visit to Sonoma Valley, you may want to make the city of Sonoma, the largest and most popular of the region’s small towns, your home base.

A blend of old and new, the Ledson Hotel celebrates the grandeur and ornate style of early 19th century Sonoma, coupled with the efficiencies and modern comforts of today. Comprised of six opulent suites, each with a private balcony overlooking downtown Sonoma, a stately fireplace, and romantic whirlpool tub, this boutique hotel also offers wine tastings daily inside the lobby’s Zina Lounge tasting room. To delve deeper into this family’s portfolio, visit Ledson Winery in Kenwood, a magnificent castle flanked by breathtaking vineyards just north of town on Highway 12, offering an array of annual events and tasting experiences.

For a more interactive stay in Sonoma, set your sights on Seven Branches Venue & Inn, part of Ramekins Culinary School. Located just a few blocks west of the Sonoma Plaza, this multi-purpose Wine Country destination offers luxurious lodging in their six French Country-style suites, cooking classes featuring the best of Sonoma Valley’s seasonal bounty, and a courteous staff ready to point you toward the best vineyards.

If a quieter stay away from downtown Sonoma is what you’re after, look no further than the Olea Hotel. Located in the quaint town of Glen Ellen, this picturesque boutique hotel features well-appointed contemporary rooms and cottages tucked into the hillside. An on-site pool, complimentary gourmet multi-course breakfasts, and welcoming hospitality make a stay here memorable.

And on the north end of the Valley, in Kenwood, is the relaxing haven that is the Kenwood Inn & Spa. This romantic Mediterranean-style inn and spa sits on two-and-a-half acres, surrounded by vineyards and lushly-landscaped gardens, where inviting rooms, gourmet breakfasts for two, and a variety of tranquil spa experiences make this zen-like inn an appealing place to launch your weekend.


Lou’s Luncheonette
Photo courtesy of Lou’s Luncheonette

Before setting off to explore the vineyards, stop into Sonoma’s Best for cheeses, sandwiches, and Wine Country-inspired gifts to bring home. This gourmet shop and deli also has an extensive selection of local wines, in case you want to skip the winery tour in favor of a picnic in the Sonoma Plaza.

For fast, casual comfort food, Lou’s Luncheonette (formerly Boxcar) hits the spot. This Southern-inspired diner off Highway 121 dishes up the classics, like pimiento cheese, deviled eggs, hush puppies, and spicy fried chicken sandwiches, as well as barbeque favorites like brisket and pulled pork. Don’t miss washing it all down with a malt or buttermilk molasses milkshake for the full experience.

Northern California meets Tuscany at the Depot Hotel Restaurant. Tucked away a few blocks north of Sonoma Plaza, this family-owned trattoria sits at the site of Sonoma’s historic 1870’s train depot and fills its garden courtyard with revelers clinking glasses, swapping stories from their favorite winery tours, and indulging in rustic Italian fare under the stars.

Known for their wood-roasted mains and pizzas, Glen Ellen Star has been a foodie’s favorite since opening in 2012, where local and seasonal ingredients take center stage. And for those looking for Wine Country comfort food, with a New Orleans twist, visit the Tri Tip Trolley’s brick and mortar, Tips Roadside, situated in Kenwood. The open kitchen offers brunch, “sips and bits,” and dinner, serving popular items like beignets, shrimp and grits, and crispy oysters, along with their famous tri-tip bites.


Patz & Hall
Photo courtesy of Patz & Hall

Ideal for toasting special occasions or kicking off a wine tasting weekend out in the vineyards, Sonoma’s newly-revamped Champagne bar, SIGH, is a festive place to start. Named one of Travel & Leisure‘s top 25 bars in the country, this glam bubbles lounge offers visitors a one-of-a-kind Sonoma County experience. Serving sparkling wines by the tasting flight, glass, or bottle, SIGH is much like a flute of the finest Champagne: glitzy on the outside, but crafted for a lasting impression.

Around the corner, in a nod to Sonoma’s farming days of yore, Rancho Maria keeps things simple and focused on what their family does best: zinfandel and petite sirah from their vineyards in Sonoma County’s famed Dry Creek Valley. Enjoy a flight of their velvety reds inside their “Old Sonoma” style tasting room on the plaza’s west side, then head to WALT’s Sonoma tasting room, which is open daily for tastings of premium pinot noir and chardonnay. Try the chocolate pairing for something a little different.

Just outside of town is Patz & Hall, long known for their acclaimed chardonnay, pinot noir, and sparkling wines. Stop by for a seated tasting of current release and library wines, or spring for the decadent sparkling wine and caviar experience.

Lastly, be sure to venture to the family-owned Benziger Winery during your weekend in Sonoma Valley. Discover the green farming practices behind their distinctive wines during the 90-minute tram tour of the winery’s breathtaking Biodynamic vineyards, which includes a tasting of six limited-production wines.