How To Have The Perfect Vacation in Sonoma

How To Have The Perfect Vacation in Sonoma
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By Ted Loos

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

No longer in the shadow of Napa, the gorgeously laid-back California county is booming with new restaurants, inns, and tasting rooms that are giving travelers a fresh reason to visit.

A tasting at Three Sticks at the Adobe.
Wildly Simple/Courtesy of Three Sticks at the Adobe
A tasting at Three Sticks at the Adobe.

How to Spend October in Sonoma

October is peak harvest season, which means there are plenty of activities and events happening all over Sonoma. Here are our favorites.

October 7–9

Sonoma Music FestivalThis annual three-day celebration takes over the Field of Dreams in downtown Sonoma. John Fogertyand Andy Velo will headline.

October 15

Fort Ross–Seaview Harvest FestivalThe daylong party at Fort Ross Historic State Park includes apple picking, a wine tasting, and an à la carte lunch with pairings.

October 22

Seghesio Family Vineyards Venom Release PartyThe Seghesios will celebrate the 2013 Venom, a Sangiovese made from 106-year-old vines, by pouring their top vintages.

October 23

Pinot on the RiverLimited-production Pinot Noirs from all over the West Coast get the star treatment at this festival, which features seminars, tastings, and tours.

October 29

Healdsburg Wine Country Half MarathonSweat off your hangover by running (er, walking?) for 13 miles through the vineyard-lined Alexander and Dry Creek valleys.

Hotel Healdsburg.
Paul Dwyer/Courtesy of Hotel Healdsburg
Hotel Healdsburg.

Best Wineries

If Sonoma had a Facebook status, it would probably be: “It’s (slightly) complicated.” The county is more than twice the size of Napa and home to 17 distinct appellations, or AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). A geography lesson on the main regions will help you budget your time and pick where to stay.

Alexander Valley

This mountainous AVA follows the path of the Russian River, which flows from Mendocino County to the town of Healdsburg on the valley’s southern edge. Gravelly soil means that Cabernet Sauvignon is king.

Must-visit wineries: Silver Oak is known for Cabs with sweet oak accents. At Jordan Winery, the Cabs have a velvety texture.

Dry Creek Valley

You’re in Sonoma’s big-sky country, a rural appellation with zero stoplights and plenty of wide-open spaces. Zinfandel, the grape that Sonoma does better and in much bigger quantity than almost anywhere else in the world, rules the roost.

Must-visit wineries: Make a beeline for Mauritson Wines and Ridge Vineyards for their well-balanced Zins.

Russian River Valley

Low-lying and forested, this AVA, which also incorporates Green Valley, has roads lined with redwoods and emerging food towns like Guerneville and Sebastopol. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive here.

Must-visit winery: Emeritus Vineyards makes fruity, fresh Pinots.

The strong cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean is felt everywhere in these two appellations, where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the main attractions.

Must-visit winery: Littorai focuses on biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Sonoma Valley

This narrow, 17-mile-long valley is home to the quaint town of Sonoma, more than 100 wineries, and Jack London Historic State Park. Wine-wise, it’s incredibly versatile, with just the right hot and cool spots for growing Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay.

Must-visit wineries: For Burgundian-style Chardonnay, visit Hanzell Vineyards; for robust Zinfandel, it’s Ravenswood all the way.

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