This year we decided we wanted to explore a city/state that we hadn't really spent in any time in and California seemed to be the perfect fit. We could have a bit of city, country and wilderness! So we decided to fly to San Francisco, rent a car and drive to Sonoma then road trip up the coast for about 6 hours to the Redwood National Park. The whole trip was amazing and completely different from our past vacations, which only meant that we learned a few things along the way especially about Sonoma.
I won't go into all the details about San Fran because there are hundreds of to to-do lists on the internet including our special guest Local Loves post here, but I will give you a few of my favorites. My two favorite experiences that we truly fell upon were Hayes Valley and Saru Sushi Bar. We were checking out a few different shops and slowly meandered up and down some serious hills and found the cutest neighborhood - Hayes Valley including a completely relaxed beer garden with beer from Germany, large picnic tables and cozy wool blankets for the night chill. While we were there we learned about Saru Sushi Bar in Noe Valley from some locals. We waited two hours for dinner in this tiny restaurant, but it was probably the best meal we had in San Fran and in our top 3 for the whole trip! I highly recommend the Watermelon roll, but honestly you can't go wrong. It was well worth the wait if you like sushi!
When we arrived in Sonoma, we hadn't really done much research except to find an Airbnb that was relatively close to the square, other than that our plans were to casually taste wine, lie by the pool and enjoy the sunshine. Our first stop was the Sonoma square were we enjoyed breakfast, shops and eventually wine tastings. There were two places I highly recommend in the square - Pangloss Cellars and The Girl and the Fig. Pangloss is where we discovered what we liked and didn't like. We spent at least two hours there chatting with Logan about what we did and didn't like while he continued to bring glasses of wine for us to try. Not only was it a beautiful space, but we learned an incredible amount. Logan gave us multiple recommendations in the area based off what we liked. The entire experience was one of my favorites of the entire trip - it was just so personal, yet relaxed that both Tyler and I fully enjoyed ourselves. If the day couldn't get any better, we went to The Girl and the Fig for dinner where we sat at the bar and had more personalized service with both food and drink. The whole day was just perfect, and I would do it all over again! Below are a few of my First-Timer Tips and a list of the places we checked out after our Pangloss experience and what we thought!
If you don't mind sharing, I highly recommend sharing a tasting. Your money will go farther and you will really enjoy each wine instead of trying to drink every sip.
Take locals recommendations. It is how we found all our favorite spots!
Don't be in a rush, although California lifestyle makes that a bit hard to do.
Pack picnics and snacks and bring them along to wineries to enjoy amongst good wine and scenery. Otherwise it adds up quick!
Find the type of wine you like early on and then go from there. Don't spend time in an area if you aren't a fan of the wine.
Go during the week when things are a bit quieter and you can really chat with the locals.
Enjoy Sonoma's Farmer's Market on Tuesday night where you can enjoy a local bottle of wine, try out various food vendors and listen to live music while having a picnic.
Meadowcroft may have been one of my favorite places we visited in Sonoma. It wasn't a very large tasting room, but it was nestled amongst Cornerstone, a small marketplace filled with shops, wineries and restaurants. The wine was amazing, we had a tour with the owner of the local vineyards and I couldn't help but love the branding. Not only did we have a memorable, personalized experience, but we really enjoyed all the wine and at the end of the day we were woo'd to join the wine club! I can't wait for our first shipment! If you are in Sonoma, I would put this place on your list especially if you enjoy a good Pinot Noir.
One of our last stops before heading north was Iron Horse Winery where we ended on a high note with some amazing sparkling wine, view and company. The vibe was rustic elegance and they pulled it off beautifully. It was a bit off the beaten path and well worth it. We didn't join the club, but we bought our favorite sparkling and enjoyed it over some delicious pizza in the Redwoods after our 10 mile hike - the perfect ending to a vacation if I do say so myself. So if you like sparkling, I highly recommend it!
Overall, it was one amazing trip and I highly recommend taking some time to explore the west coast. The people, views and experience are some to remember for sure!