What wine pairs best with smoked salmon and Alfred Hitchcock? You can only find out in the Sonoma Valley, where the terroir is just a little bit different.
Spend a Night in the Wild West
Sonoma was gold rush country before it was wine country, and the region’s downtown plaza still has many of its original buildings. Everything here has the romantic look of the Old West — only with slightly more Range Rovers and chef-driven restaurants.
For an Architectural Digest version of 19th-century life, spend a night among the El Dorado Hotel’s Spanish tile, exposed beams and modern amenities before heading out in the morning to prospect for Pinot Grigio in neighboring vineyards.
Visit the Italian Countryside
Back when wine country thought it had to be Italian to make its mark; Viansa recreated an Italian villa among Sonoma’s rolling hills.
If you’ve been looking for a place to Eat, Pray, Love on a budget, have a glass on the winding terrace or under the hanging grapes of the pergola, taste a flight among the frescoes in their tasting room, or rent a private booth on the terrace overlooking the vineyard and wetlands below.
But the wine here is pure Sonoma, featuring pinot, chardonnay, and varietals that grow best in the region at a price point that will allow you to taste every grape.
Feel Like An Extra on the Set of Gilmore Girls
Spend just a few minutes in Santa Rosa and you’ll start to get the feeling that you’ve been here before — and you have, via your couch. The quaint town square, colorful craftsmen houses and quirky town characters all give off a vibe worthy of its own adorable script.
The best place to take it all in is from a window seat at Criminal Baking Co. & Noshery, a tiny cooler-than-thou eatery staring lemon bars with translucent browned-butter crust worthy of a detour between vineyards. Or try The Naked Pig for some of the best brunch in the region.
Become an Olive Oil Truther
One bite of the complex, full-bodied flavors at B.R. Cohn‘s olive oil tasting and you’ll realize that olive oil and wine have much more in common than you’ve been led to believe. Here the flavors change with the seasons, bringing a unique character to each that they pair artfully in their olive oil pairing.
And, at a vineyard that is bold enough to pair cabernet with cashew butter, lime olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar, the delightful surprises never stop coming.
You can buy everything from the tasting in the gift shop on the property. Bring a tote — you’ll want to buy enough to last you until your next trip back, and a few to share when you tell your friends why you’ve stopped buying the grocery store shelf stuff.
Re-enact a Scene from The Birds
This region was one of Hitchcock’s favorites, and he filmed a scene from The Birds next to The Tides, one of the best markets in the region. Bring a bottle of your favorite chardonnay, buy a pound of smoked salmon, and pair them on the patio while keeping an eye on the growing crowd of seagulls perched nearby.
For more of the best things to do in California wine country, visit Fodor's.