First Timers Guide to Sonoma

A lot of people debate Napa or Sonoma, while they are very similar Sonoma has a more country laid back feel. Both places will offer beautiful vineyard views and world class wines but it really just boils down to what type of experience you are in search of!

When to Visit

Just like Napa there really is no bad time of year to visit – it’s great all year but each season offers something slightly different. The high season is typically between late spring through late fall, with a peak in late summer. In the summer you’ll be treated to brilliant sunny days and warm temps. Winter is considered the quiet season. During the winter you’ll find lower hotel prices and less crowds. In winter the weather can be damp and cold, but it’s the perfect excuse to curl up with a glass of red next to the fireplace.

Getting There

The easiest and likely most expensive way to get to Sonoma is to fly directly into the Sonoma County Airport. From there you would need to hire a driver to take you into town as they do not have car rental options. The most cost effective way would be to fly into San Francisco International Airport (SFO) or Oakland International Airport (OAK). From these two airports you can rent a car and drive to Sonoma. The drive will take you about an hour ten to an hour and half depending on the airport. Please keep in mind that if you are traveling during city rush hour this could take much longer, so plan your flights accordingly to save yourself the headache!

Where to Stay

  1. Fairmont Sonoma – we stayed at the Fairmont Sonoma in their vineyard suite and it was so nice! The rooms were big with large balconies and it had a working fireplace! We’re always down for rooms with fireplaces – even in the summertime it just makes them so much more cozy.
  1. Airbnb – Another option we would recommend looking into is an airbnb because although we loved the Fairmont it wasn’t exactly next door to where most of the wineries are located. Airbnb would allow for you to find places closer to the wineries you’re planning on visiting.

Getting Around

When wine tasting in Sonoma we would recommend hiring a driver either black car or sprinter van to get from winery to winery. The reason for this is that depending on the winery your cell service may be shotty. If you do plan on using Uber to get around the wineries we’d recommend not planning a full day of back to back tastings. We heard from a few people they recommend calling your Uber or Lyft when you show up for the tasting because it can sometimes take a couple hours for them to get to you. We’re always big fans of a black car service to drive you around and recommend it if you can’t rely on anyone in your group to remain sober. Another option is to have a DD in your group to drive you around (what we did this last time!) – we will say the pours in Sonoma are definitely heavy compared to Napa in our experiences so it has to be someone who will truly stay sober.

For the rest of your day getting about town Uber and Lyft are both great options – we’re sure you do this already but make sure you price them against each other because their prices can vary significantly from each other for the same ride.

Where to Eat

  1. Catelli’s – You guys. We loved this place. We saw it on DDD and knew it had to be on our list to try. This is a great spot for dinner if you are in the Healdsburg area wine tasting (or staying). It’s homemade Italian food and everything on the menu is delicious. We did a family style dinner where we ordered a few appetizers, four entrees and desserts and then just shared them all across the table. Get the burrata appetizer- it is so dang good with the arugula salad, grilled bread and prosciutto. As for the entrees – you really can’t go wrong with any of them but we loved the cheese ravioli in the butter sauce. And for dessert you have to get the affogato, it’s a true Italian restaurant you’d be remiss not to (also pretty sure one of our husbands decided he was having this for breakfast instead of coffee everyday 😂 – but in all seriousness it was that good.)
  2. Girl and the Fig – Okay so if you haven’t noticed from our instagram or other blog posts we’re major foodies. We love food just as much as we love wine and this place was 💯. We started with three different appetizers – all of which were fantastic. The Fig Royale was quite delicious if you’re feeling up to a cocktail after a day of wine drinking as well! The Wild Flounder Meunière was something to write home about for entrees – perfectly cooked fish, delicious lemon caper brown butter sauce, mashed potatoes and spinach – it was fantastic and will definitely be ordering it again.
  3. Basque Boulangerie – Breakfast spot 🎉 This place would be great for just getting a croissant and cappuccino. The chocolate croissant was really yummy – especially when you take it to go and snack on it after a couple glasses of wine. The coffee was a solid option for those of you who are like us and love that little caffeine boost in the morning, two of us got the cappuccino and one of us an espresso all of us were happy with them! The breakfast sandwiches were quite large and filling. Fair warning though – the avocado toast has hard boiled egg on it (not poached like we thought 🙈)

Wineries to Visit

Now comes the fun part of planning, picking the wineries to visit! Check out our Healdsburg Winery Guide for a few suggestions.

Trying to decide between Napa and Sonoma? Check out our take on both here.

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