Even way before we moved to the US, a trip to the Wine Country in California has always been on my bucket list. Not that I’m a wine connoisseur (I’m far from being one!), but the thought of sipping wine in such beautiful settings on a sunny day makes my heart jump in excitement.
Last weekend we finally rented a car and headed to Sonoma Valley. We picked Sonoma instead of Napa as our first destination in the wine country because we heard it’s less crowded and it has more of a simple & rustic feel to it (We will definitely be visiting Napa Valley soon so I’ll let you know if this is true).
In this post, I thought I’d share some tips on how to plan a trip to Sonoma Valley and the actual itinerary we went for – which, if I may say so, was truly amazing!
Advanced planning is a must
Making the effort to pick the wineries you want to visit as well as lunch & dinner spots can be very overwhelming (so.many.options!) but it is really the best thing you can do to ensure you enjoy your visit and maximize your time there.
Grab a pen & paper and spend 1-2 hours doing some research to shortlist the wineries you want to visit. In my case, I read a couple of blogs and for every winery that was recommended, I made sure to go to each website as well as Google Maps and see actual pictures and reviews. I also checked the location, and clicked on nearby wineries to see if I could start creating a route. For a day trip, I suggest you pick 4 wineries (and two more as a back up).
One important thing in terms of shortlisting wineries is being clear on your purpose. Are you interested in taking a winery tour or just in drinking? Do you care about the views rather than the wine? Having some sort of criteria of your own will make it easier for you to pick your faves. In our case, we had already been on wine cellar tours before so our priority was delicious wine + gorgeous setting.
No matter how much you plan, sometimes (well, most times) things can change when you are actually there. For us, it was arriving to our lunch spot only to find out that all tables were booked out so we had to settle for a bar seat, and having to skip one winery because the parking lot was full. Don’t let that disappoint you, instead go with the flow. Again, going back to planning, it is good to have a plan B in case you encounter these situations.
Bring sun protection
Needless to say, it can get really hot in Sonoma so make sure you bring the essentials: hat, sunglasses and sunscreen! It will make your trip more comfortable and keep you protected from sun damage. It sounds obvious, but so easy to forget about this!
We arrived to Sonoma Valley at around 10am and our first stop was Gloria Ferrer. This winery has stunning views of the valley from above (the tasting area is on a high terrace). We were so surprised that by 10:30, it was almost full house!
Gloria Ferrer is originally owned by a Spanish family and specializes in sparkling wine (my fave!). I went for the Demi-Sec which was delicious. So much so, we bought a bottle back home.
At about 11:30am, we decided to head to our lunch spot. I was intrigued to try The girl and the fig, a California-French bistro in downtown Sonoma. So glad we did because the food we had was beyond delicious and the service so friendly. Highly recommended.
After a satisfying lunch, we continued our winery tour. Next stop was Gundlach Bundschu, one of the oldest wineries in the area. This place was definitely more casual and rustic than Gloria Ferrer. The price of the wines was also slightly higher so we skipped wine here and enjoyed the beautiful grounds instead. What I love about this winery is that they have a public picnic area: you just have to buy a bottle of wine and the table is all yours for as long as you want.
Scribe Winery, which is next door, is also a great place to visit. Unfortunately for us, the parking lot was full so we couldn’t try the wine but I read great reviews about this winery.
By then, it was already almost 3pm (time flies when you’re having fun!) so decided to head to our last destination in our itinerary: Chateau St Jean. This place is a bit further out (25min drive from Sonoma City) but it was worth visiting. The estate, the gardens and the winery had a level of old school charm we did not experience at any of the other wineries we toured across Sonoma.
Hope this post helps you plan your trip to Sonoma Valley. Whatever itinerary you go for, you’ll have a blast that’s for sure!
Thanks for reading,
P.S. check out the vlog we made on this day:
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