By Ted Loos
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.
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.
Sonoma Music Festival This annual three-day celebration takes over the Field of Dreams in downtown Sonoma. John Fogertyand Andy Velo will headline.
Fort Ross–Seaview Harvest Festival The daylong party at Fort Ross Historic State Park includes apple picking, a wine tasting, and an à la carte lunch with pairings.
Seghesio Family Vineyards Venom Release Party The Seghesios will celebrate the 2013 Venom, a Sangiovese made from 106-year-old vines, by pouring their top vintages.
Pinot on the River Limited-production Pinot Noirs from all over the West Coast get the star treatment at this festival, which features seminars, tastings, and tours.
Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon Sweat off your hangover by running (er, walking?) for 13 miles through the vineyard-lined Alexander and Dry Creek valleys.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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