Wine not? Sonoma County, CA

How can you visit California and not visit the gorgeous wine tasting region? As part of a three week honeymoon tour of California, we spent two nights in Healdsburg, a city in northern Sonoma. I’d looked at both Napa Valley and Sonoma when comparing accommodation in the wine regions of California, but found the prices to be more reasonable in Sonoma.

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After four fantastic days in San Francisco, we made our way north to Sonoma via Sausalito, a pretty seaside city located across the Golden Gate strait from San Francisco, in Marin County. We’d been advised to rent bikes from San Francisco and catch the ferry across to Sausalito before cycling back across the Golden Gate Bridge towards the city (which there were plenty of people doing), but ran out of time to do this during our stay in San Francisco. We collected our rental car from San Francisco and headed out across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge for our next adventure. This was the first cloudy day that we’d experienced and we were glad to have seen the bridge in all its glory in the sunshine earlier in the week. Once you’ve exited the US-101 at exit 444, the roads spiral down into Sausalito, past the cliff-side houses. There are several carparks where you can pay to park close to the main street and the marina. Sausalito provides the perfect spot to admire the view back across the water to San Francisco. We wandered along Bridgeway, the city’s central street and ate lunch and ice creams whilst admiring the view across the water, accompanied by the sun which finally decided to make an appearance.

We arrived in Healdsburg late afternoon, with just enough time for a quick lounge by the pool before heading out for the evening. Our hotel was located a short five minutes drive from Healdsburg centre. That evening we ate in Bravas, a tapas restaurant which served the most delicious Spanish small plates. The restaurant itself was in the ‘back yard’ of the building, surrounded by fairy lights hung from the trees. It was a really pretty setting with a great atmosphere and fantastic food – I would highly recommend.

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We spent the following day touring a selection of Sonoma’s wineries with Wine Country Journeys, a company which organises small group tours of family-run wineries. We were collected promptly in the morning by our guide, Jerry, joining three other couples on the minibus. Jerry was very friendly and knowledgeable and gave us a great history of wine country while driving between stops. We visited four wineries in total, as well as a local deli shop to purchase some lunch, which we ate outside at one of the wineries.

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Our first stop (& my favourite by far) was J. Rickard’s winery, set in the most beautiful countryside. Our wine tasting session was set outside under the shade of large trees, overlooking the vineyard and rolling green hills of Sonoma. We sampled a selection of wines, along with cheeses and breads. It was a really informative session, learning all about the grapes that are grown, as well as the fermentation process. We even got to taste wine during its various stages of fermentation. After our tasting, we were given a tour of the vineyard itself, as well as the underground wine cellar, home to hundreds of wine-filled barrels.

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We spent the rest of the morning visiting David Coffaro and Kokomo Wineries, two more unique wineries with excellent selections of wine. After purchasing sandwiches from a local shop, Jerry drove us to Pedroncelli, our final destination of the day. We ate outside in the sun before trying our final wines of the afternoon.  Wine Country Journeys made the day a very relaxed and enjoyable experience and we wouldn’t hesitate to use them again. We weren’t pressured to buy extra wine (although we did purchase a couple of bottles from J Rickard’s), making it an even more relaxed day. Overall, it was a fantastic day, filled with glorious weather, beautiful scenery and of course, lots of wine!

We dined at Scopa on our last night in Healdsburg and enjoyed another lovely meal, made even better by the couple at the next table secretly paying our bill for us as they left! An unexpected random act of kindness, which made our time in Healdsburg even more special.

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