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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Visiting the Wine Country on the Cheap

It's easy enough for a couple to spend over $100/day on tasting, plus wine purchases on top of that. Then there's over $150/night for a hotel, $75 for dinner and pretty soon it's real money!  How can you do it for less? This is written for Sonoma County, but much of the following will work anywhere.

Lodging

Camping at the coast (bring a jacket)
Camping, hostels, AirBnB, and so on are alternatives anywhere you go. Anything with a shared bath will be cheaper. If you live in a desirable area maybe a home swap. Off-season midweek is also less expensive if you're away from business hotels.

Specifically for Sonoma County, if you stay away from the trendy wine country towns of Healdsburg and Sonoma you will save. Petaluma, Rohnert Park, and Santa Rosa are your best bets for less expensive lodging and restaurants. Santa Rosa, being the largest city, has more options for cheap rooms. Also, there are cottages out along the Russian River, but some can be funky. There are numerous campgrounds throughout the county.

Food

Mexican food in Healdsburg
Mexican taquerias and food trucks are on the cheap end. They are plentiful and usually very good. There's a pretty good selection of local breakfast places, oriental food, and burger joints. For lunch consider a loaf of local bread and some cheese while you're out touring.

For decent, but semi-cheap eats, try Cafe Scooteria, La Casa, Red Grape, or the Sunflower Cafe in the town of Sonoma.  In Healdsburg, Baci Cafe, Downtown Bakery & Creamery, Kabob and Tandoori, Healdsburg Bar & Grill, the Wurst Restaurant, or one of the many taquerias. There are plenty of choices in Santa Rosa: diners, burger joints, sandwich places, noodle houses, and taco joints.

From SonomaMag.com, the best burritos in the county. Superburger, Santa Rosa, and Mike's at the Crossroads, Cotati, are generally considered the best burger spots. There are a couple In 'N Out Burgers, also.

Wine Tasting

There are several winery tasting rooms still offering complimentary tasting while others have free or 2-for-1 tasting coupons. The local winery association for northern Sonoma County (doesn't include Sonoma Valley) is the Wine Road where you can look up wineries with complimentary tastings. For anywhere you're going you can Google for "free tastings" and "tasting coupons." Hotels will often have wine tasting coupons.
Friday free music in Cloverdale

Free Activities

The coastal beaches have free access as does Armstrong Redwoods. For gardens try Cornerstone, Ferrari-Carano and Korbel wineries. Korbel has free tours. During the summer months various towns have weekly free outdoor concerts.

Other Wine Areas

The more popular wine destinations, such as Napa Valley, will be the most expensive. Some of northern California's lesser-known, but still high quality areas, such as Mendocino and Amador Counties will be less expensive (though lodging on the Mendocino Coast can be expensive).