Motoring along patchworks of vineyards, orchards and oak trees we naturally gravitated away from the typical hotspots of Sonoma County and found ourselves drawn to the not so obvious and slightly quirky.
Napa put California on the world’s viticulture map but its fame and fortune have made its upscale and somewhat ‘snobby tourist’ mark (of course with the exception of a few James Dean like characters). Sonoma seems truer and filled with open minded traditions cultivated by people who appreciate the low-key charm.
With beautiful historic towns, boutiques, art galleries and more wine than you can possibly taste and remember; it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But rather than caving to the standard hotspots and big production wineries (they’re still worthy of a visit) why not take a different route, get off the main highway and see what you find? We had a whirl wind tour of Sonoma County and ended up with some very unusual and tasty finds.
Our tour of Sonoma County truly started when we met up with our new friend Gerald from Bpinot-Bybee Vineyards in Sebastopol. When he jumped on our facebook page offering up wine and dinner, we didn’t dare turn him down! He turned out to be a super fascinating person with loads of passion for Sebastopol and its people. Gerald gave us the local’s tour and there were some definite standouts!
The Kefiry is the most unique soda shop we have ever experienced! A couple of locals are serving up the very first live-cultured soda sold in America. It’s fermented, its water, its lactose free kefir, its tasty and beyond fascinating. Grab a Lemon Ginger Ale, pull up a seat and prepare to learn more about water than you ever imagined!
Screamin’ Mimi’s ice cream is a local staple and you won’t want to make it out of town without at least one scoop in you.
Hardcore Espresso is a sparsely held together, somewhat outdoors coffee shop that isn’t really for tourist or potentially anyone with a tidy shirt. Its cash only and one of the quirkiest coffee shops we’ve ever been too outside of burning man. If you’re in the area now you must visit NOW!!! The little shop might move locations…and we just can’t imagine it will be able to keep it’s dilapidated charm.
Renga Arts is far from your typical art gallery. They produce and sell art made from reclaimed, salvaged, and recycled materials. If Tim Burton had a comic strip about junk yard characters, this is what they would look like. If you don’t make your way to the main shop, just take a drive through the neighborhood streets and you’ll see plenty of it as yard art. It’s so cool to see a community embrace an artist like this.
This may be a tiny town of just over 200 but it has some creepy Hollywood history that makes it worth the drive. Bodega is home to the Saint Teresa of Avila Church and the Bodega schoolhouse.
The white, wooden church was built by shipbuilders in 1859 and is the oldest church in continuous use in Sonoma County. But what makes the church and the Bodega schoolhouse next door so interesting is Alfred Hitchcock’s film, The Birds. Do you remember the scary scene where all the kids were running away from the school and taking refuge in the Church?
Don’t worry; we didn’t see any crows while we were there, so I think you’re safe to visit.
With a mix of swanky digs, stylish boutiques, charming small-town stores and gorgeous countryside, Healdsburg is hard to resist. And while this may be disappointing to some, the only tastings we did in this adorable town had nothing to do with wine.
Moustache Baked Goods had us wrapped around their little whisk from the moment we caught a whiff outside the door. Gazing at our options from behind the glass and annoying other patrons with our inability to decide on a flavor, we felt the pressure and settled on the never fail choice of chocolate. We walked out of the shop taking one bite each, immediately turned around and went back to purchase two additional cupcakes. Just when we thought perfection was an unachievable goal, a few cupcakes (and a few calories) proved us wrong!
Flying Goat Coffee was just the natural progression after such indulgence. Espresso was the only hope of curing our sugar crash. The espresso is smooth, the baristas are Suave and their black gold gave us a jolt along with a false sense of metabolism that almost had us convinced to go back for another cupcake.
The town of Cloverdale is just at the tail end of Sonoma County and is a blast on a Friday afternoon. We suggest starting with a little happy hour action at Ruth McGowan’s Brewpub, then strolling along main street farmers market and enjoying the free music in the square. Sorry, we don’t have photos beyond happy hour; we kinda got lost in the moment.
Camping along The Russian River
The Russian River campground was appropriately along the Russian River and the perfect base camp for the last of our Sonoma County adventures. I would like to say that we motivated ourselves to do more than just float the river and enjoy the shade of the trees, but we didn’t.