It’s easy to live the good life in Sonoma. One half of the most famous wine region in America, Sonoma County is home to at least forty wineries, top-notch restaurants, world-class shopping, and luxurious spas. If you’re looking to indulge every one of your senses, Sonoma is the place to be.
Of course, Sonoma’s most famous asset is its wine, but tasting on an empty stomach is never a good idea. So start the day with fresh-baked pastries and espresso at the Basque Boulangerie Café. Its exterior may not look impressive, but just inhale — and bite into one of their award-winning breads — and you’ll understand why this is where the locals go.
For a more substantial morning meal, consider the brunch at the girl and the fig. In addition to its quirky, all-lowercase name, this French bistro offers mouth-watering selections like stuffed brioche French toast with fruit and sweetened cream cheese.
Both restaurants are located in the Plaza- the heart of the city of Sonoma. What better way to pass the post-breakfast interlude, than a stroll and a bit of shopping?
If it’s after 11:30, stop by El Dorado Kitchen to make dinner reservations in person. Plan for a late evening meal: it’s going to be a busy day. Of course, a new outfit is the perfect complement to an elegant dinner out, so ladies, check out the designer lingerie at Sioni, perhaps accompanied by some Citizen of Humanity jeans, and try on some private-label designs at Chico’s. The cherry on top is Footcandy, home of an unbelievable variety of designer shoes and handbags. For the gentlemen, Eraldi’s is a Sonoma tradition.
With new clothes in tow, indulge your eyes with some works of art. Sonoma is home to many galleries, several of them right near the Plaza. For paintings, pottery, and glass sculpture, it has to be the North Bay Gallery or Changing Seasons. For a unique souvenir, stop by the Red Wolf Gallery and purchase a photograph of the Wine Country.
Finish off the Plaza tour with lunch at The Red Grape, which boasts art displays on the walls and artistic creations of the culinary kind on the table — fresh pastas, white and red pizzas, calzones, and panini, complimented by an outstanding local wine list.
Speaking of wine, how did we get to the afternoon of our Sonoma day without wine tasting? It’s easier than you might think, but there’s still plenty of time to take in some exceptional wineries.
It’s just a short — but beautiful — drive to Imagery Estate Winery, where fine art accompanies fine wines. Imagery commissions original works of art for their bottle labels. The original art pieces, now numbering almost two hundred, are displayed at the winery. While there, make sure to taste their white wine, Wow Oui (say it out loud to appreciate their unique sense of humor) and the flavorful Dragonsleaf Red.
Next door to Imagery is Arrowood, where tastings are offered in a New England-style farmhouse with lots of windows and a wraparound veranda. Here, you can test your taste buds, as Arrowood offers three different chardonnays and three different cabernet sauvignons. Tasting several different versions of the same varietal, or type of wine, can teach the novice oenophile (wine lover) quite a bit.
If wine-tasting is more appealing than shopping, leave the Plaza right after breakfast and drive north into Kenwood and Santa Rosa, where you can visit Chateau St. Jean and Ledson, which are equally famous for their wines and their beautiful locations (a French chateau and — no kidding — a castle).
After wine-tasting, it’s back to the city of Sonoma, to the luxurious inn and spa at MacArthur Place. Try one of their signature treatments, like the Lavender Dreams, which includes a bath, body wrap, and massage, all with lavender oil. Other treatments include the Sonoma Wine Therapy or the Adam treatment for men; couples treatments are also available.
By now, it should be check-in time. For a special occasion, reserve one of their private cottages, which have wood-burning fireplaces, hydrotherapy tubs, and private patios. For a never-to-be-repeated experience, reserve their Garden Spa Suite, which boasts an outdoor shower in a private garden — and its own personal waterfall.
Stop by the hotel’s complimentary wine and cheese buffet, but leave plenty of room for dinner at El Dorado Kitchen. Start off the meal with veal sweetbreads or steamed mussels, followed by lamb osso bucco or four cheese tortellini, all accompanied by an impressive wine selection. Finish up with chocolate mousse cake, coffee pots de crème, or even gourmet ice cream sandwiches.
Return to the cottage at MacArthur Place and curl up in front of a roaring fire with a glass of champagne from the in-room bar, knowing that there are few places in the country better suited to a day of indulgence than the Sonoma Wine Country.
What & Where:
Basque Boulangerie Café (460 First Street East, Sonoma; 707-935-7687)
the girl and the fig (110 West Spain Street, Sonoma; 707-938-3634)
Sioni (414 First Street East, Suite D, Sonoma; 707-996-1700)
Chico’s (29 East Napa Street, Sonoma; 707-933-0100)
Footcandy (452 First Street East #E, Sonoma; 707-938-3876)
Eraldi’s (475 First Street, Sonoma; 707-996-2013)
North Bay Gallery (31 East Napa Street, Sonoma; 707-996-3453
Changing Seasons (103 West Napa Street, Sonoma; 707-935-8646
Red Wolf Gallery (441 First Street West, Sonoma; 707-292-9158)
The Red Grape (529 First Street West, Sonoma; 707-996-4103)
Imagery Estate Winery (14344 Highway 12, Glen Ellen; 707-935-3000)
Arrowood Vineyards and Winery (14347 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen; 800-938-5170)
Chateau St. Jean (8555 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood; 707-833-4134)
Ledson Winery and Vineyards (7335 Sonoma Highway, Santa Rosa; 707-537-3810)
MacArthur Place (29 East MacArthur Street, Sonoma; reservations 800-722-1866; Garden Spa 707-933-3193)
El Dorado Kitchen (405 First Street West, Sonoma; 707-996-3220)