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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Touring Sonoma County

Geography

To the west is the Pacific, to the east Napa County, north is Mendocino County, south is Marin County then San Francisco.

Planning a wine trip

If you've been to Napa forget what you know about visiting the wine country. Sonoma County is more spread out and less crowded. If you have certain areas you wish to visit you should plan where you stay accordingly.

The Big City: Santa Rosa, pop. 140,000.

"Cute" small towns: Sonoma to the south; Healdsburg to the north. Both will be more expensive to stay and eat it because you have to pay for cuteness.

Wine appellations: Carneros to the south known for sparkling, chardonnay and pinot. Just north of Carneros is Sonoma Valley. The town of Sonoma is between. The Russian River area is west of Santa Rosa. Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys are near Healdsburg.
These wine regions are spread out so that it's best to concentrate on one area of the county in a given day. For instance, the driving time between a winery in Carneros and one in Dry Creek is well over an hour.

The wineries

Most of the ones open to the public are open daily from late morning to late afternoon. There are a few in urban areas in Sonoma, Santa Rosa and especially Healdsburg. There are over a dozen tasting rooms within an easy walk in Healdsburg.

Non-wine stuff to do

The Pacific Coast. The water is cold, and dangerous in many places. It can be quite windy and cold at the coast regardless of how warm it may be inland.

Armstrong Redwoods. An old growth redwood forest near Gureneville (it's pronounced "gurn-vil" not "gurnie-vil." If you've never been in an old redwood forest you should go.

Shopping: Healdsburg and Sonoma.

Beer (hey, you can't drink wine all the time): One brewpub in Healdsburg; one in Sebastopol; two in Santa Rosa.

Fairs: If you time it right there's the Sonoma-Marin Fair, the Sonoma County Fair and the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.

Charles Schultz Museum, Santa Rosa: The life works of the guy who wrote the Peanuts comic strip.