The Sonoma County of my childhood was a bucolic area smattered with little towns here and there. And it remains so. The landscape is horses, cows, sheep, chickens. There are mountains, redwoods, vineyards, a dramatic coastline, rivers and lakes all in one county. Back in my the day, Sonoma County was a harmonious mix of ranchers, farmers and hippies. It was a place where teenagers really did cruise the main streets on Friday nights after American football games. In fact, many of the cruising scenes from the movie American Graffiti were filmed in Sonoma County. A tight knit community, it was not uncommon for your friend's parent to be your teacher, counselor, principal, doctor, dentist, etc. and you almost always knew someone who was showing livestock at the county fair. It was a place where everyone in town knew what everyone else was doing, and, there was a safety in that feeling.
The area and towns have grown over the years, but fortunately the small town feel and sense of community has remained.
I have not returned to live in Sonoma County since I left at 18, but we visited it multiple times a year before moving abroad. And it is safe to say that I left a huge part of my heart there.
As horrible as the photos are for people in general, they were gut wrenching for me. I was looking at them and envisioning each place in my mind's eye. I was thinking of my friends who were in the middle of it all, packing up, evacuating, watching as their communities burned. As one friend put it, there was a thin grey layer covering everything; bits of our childhood and the homes of family and friends. The stories slowly emerged of people's experiences. Then, photos of destruction and burned pets. Too many stories of dead and missing people. My heart was breaking.
In the wake of the fires, as I knew they would, the community has come together. People are offering up their spare rooms, their back yards, their hot showers, their clothes and goods, food and money to the victims.
Here are some things to do on your trip:
1. Wine tasting. Home to over 100 hundred wineries there is something for the wine enthusiast or those who know nothing about wine and are interested in learning about wine for the first time. You can find all the information you need here to plan your wine tasting trip: www.sonomacounty.com/sonoma-listings/wineries.
There are also countless little towns with charming squares, cafes, restaurants, shops and Victorian architecture to explore. Sonoma, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Bodega, Glen Ellen, Guerneville . . . the list goes on and on. www.sonomacounty.com/sonoma-county-cities.
Much like the myriad of wineries, Sonoma County has a myriad of restaurants to choose from. Sonoma County is a food lovers paradise. There are sooo many top quality restaurants in one county that I cannot list them all here. Suffice to say, that chefs proudly use fresh, local produce, fish, dairy and meat and offer incredibly high quality and delicious food in all price ranges.
In addition to an amazing taqueria, one can find three restaurants awarded the coveted Michelin star in Sonoma County. Michelin sends anonymous judges out to judge food based on quality, technique, personality and consistency. The judges then award 1 - 3 stars with 3 stars being the top prize. Truth be told, even one star is a prized distinction for any restaurant. In 2016, The Michelin Guide San Francisco, Bay Area & Wine Country awarded the following restaurants one star each.
7871 River Road
Forestville, Ca 95436
1001 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Terrapin Creek Cafe
1580 Eastshore Road
Bodega Bay, CA 94923
Not only is Sonoma County home to 3 Michelin starred restaurants, there are additional restaurants which Michelin deemed worthy of listing in the Michelin Bib Gourmand list. The Bib Gourmand list the best restaurants that serve two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included). The restaurants were:
Geyserville: Diavola Pizzeria + Salumi
Glen Ellen: Glen Ellen Star
Healdsburg: Bravas, Chalkboard, Healdsburg SHED
Santa Rosa: Bistro 29, Monti’s Rotisserie
Sebastopol: Ramen Gaijin
Also not to be missed:
21047 Geyserville Avenue
Geyserville, CA 95441
This family run staple of Sonoma County originally opened in 1936 by Italian immigrants Santi and Virginia Catelli, Catelli’s has a rich history with the local community, where generations of families have eaten, celebrated, and created memories throughout their lives. The menu features ingredients from local and organic farmers as well as over 100 local wines.
The Girl & The Fig
110 W Spain St
Sonoma, CA 95476
A Francophile's dream, The Girl and The Fig, is a French inspired bistro. The food is locally sourced and seasonal. Restaurateur Sondra Bernstein developed the menu using the French concept of plats du jour, or the “plate of the day.” In English parlance, we would call the plat du jour, the "special of the day." At the Girl & The Fig, the plat du jour is offered as a three-course meal, with an appetizer, an entree and cheese or dessert to finish.
For more information:
Sonoma County offers visitors a range of activities from luxurious spa vacations to outdoor adventures. If there is an activity that you want to participate in, Sonoma County has it on offer.
Spas, hot air ballooning, bike riding - one can do a wine or brewery tour by bike, canopy tours, hiking
river rafting, boating, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, ocean charters and fishing, crabbing, abalone hunting, sailing, segway tours, golfing, horse back riding, bird watching, open air Jeep tours, vintage and bi-plane rides or just a simple walk on the beach.
The Schultz family were generous and beloved members of the community. Schulz had a long association with ice sports (both figure skating and ice hockey featured prominently in his cartoons) and in Santa Rosa, Schultz owned the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, which opened in 1969 and featured a snack bar called "The Warm Puppy."
The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa opened on August 17, 2002, two blocks away from his former studio, celebrating his life's work and the art of cartooning. Also, you can see a bronze statue of Charlie Brown and Snoopy in Depot Park in downtown Santa Rosa.
The museum is worth visiting and offers a history about the Peanuts comic strip that is unknown to most people. Fascinating stuff.
There are so many unique shops in Sonoma County. Everything - art, ceramics, speciality food, housewares, antiques. Again, too many to list, but here are a few one should not miss.
One store that I recommend is Gin'Gilli's Vintage Home. Located in Geyserville it is a vintage shop with a '40's, '50's & '60's flair. They have antiques as well as a bit of new sprinkled in and the way that they have curated the shop, one can see how to effortlessly blend the old and new. They are also big on repurposed and reimagined items which I like. Less stuff in landfills is good for all of us. They have lots of one of a kind handmade items as well, i.e. aprons, jewelry, pot holders, etc. Think Paris flea market - It is worth a visit.
Gin'Gilli's Vintage Home
21079 Geyserville Avenue, Suite E
Geyserville, CA 95441
The Petaluma Seed Bank
199 Petaluma Blvd North
Petaluma, CA 94952-2904
Patrick's of Bodega Bay Salt Water Taffy
915 Hwy. 1
Bodega Bay, CA 94923
7380 Occidental Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Visit the Sonoma County tourist website for more information.
Dear Sonoma County and all of its residents,
I am not with you physically, but I am with you. Stay strong. I am proud of all of you. My heart is with you.
***Please note that most of the photos here are not my own and where taken from the internet. Where I could locate the photographer or owner, I cited them. If any of the photos are yours, please let me know and I will add your photo credit.