There’s really no bad time to visit Northern California wine country, because each season brings with it a special reason for going there. But Spring is something special. There is so much to see and do when you visit Sonoma County in the Spring. As if any of us needs a reason to visit!
Of course there is the wine. Some of the best wine in the world comes from Sonoma County. And then there is the award-winning food, featuring cuisine that has its own take on sustainable sourcing and farm-raised ingredients prepared with love. The views of rolling hills, with vineyards lining the back country roads for miles. Friendly livestock grazing in green pastures. Deep blue ocean waves breaking on rugged shorelines dotted with seabirds and the occasional beachcomber.
Yes, there are lots of reasons to visit Sonoma County in the Spring.
Spring Renews the Soul in Sonoma County
I grew up not too many miles from Sonoma County, across the San Francisco Bay in a little town called Orinda. My family had property in Mendocino, and we would drive up there a couple of times a year through Sonoma County. Along the drive, there were always favorite roadside stops at various junctures. I remember even as a kid being so enamored with the vineyards, the friendly people, the down-home vibe and the freshly prepared foods.
Now as an adult, that feeling has only increased for me. I am more than ever in love with this special place. We had a chance to visit Sonoma County in the Spring, although perhaps at a different scale than when I was a kid. Still, Spring is a special time to be in Sonoma County.
Visit Sonoma County in Spring
We had just three days here – so much to do and so little time. When I have the chance and the pace of life allows it, we will plan an extended stay in Sonoma County for several weeks. There are so many things to do in Sonoma County that we have a hard time deciding on a three-day itinerary. Still, I will do my best to share some of the awesome experiences visitors can have here during the springtime.
Best Places to Visit in Sonoma County
Follow the Cheese Trail
Sonoma County is known for more than its award-winning wines. There are a great many green grassy pastures here, with cows, sheep and goats giving milk to make delicious cheeses. In fact, there are so many dairies and creameries making cheese here that they published an official Sonoma County Cheese Trail Map. We visited several creameries, and purchased some tangy cheese at Joe Matos Cheese Factory along with a sourdough baguette to eat in the car as a snack on our drive. We even got to say hello to a cow or two along the way.
Wine Tasting in Sonoma
It’s hard to visit Sonoma County without tasting some of the locally produced wines. Many Sonoma County wineries in the area grow their own grapes, tend their own vineyards, and bottle their own juice. There are too many favorites for me to name them all here (there are some 425+ wineries in the area). Suffice to say the range of options is worthy of consideration for anyone who drinks wine. For a grand experience, visit Rodney Strong or the caves at Gloria Ferrer for a little bubbly. Or maybe a starry-eyed day at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery compound in Geyserville. We loved the pinot noir from Walt Wines, and there are many, many others.
You can get a Sonoma County winery map here and decide the best Sonoma wineries to visit for yourself.
Interesting fact: Since 2019 all vineyards are certified sustainable in Sonoma County, making it the most sustainable wine region in the world.
Comb the Coast of Sonoma County
Sonoma County is really quite large, stretching from the San Francisco Bay northwest to the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific coastline is rugged, colorful and full of beautiful flora and fauna. Visit Sonoma County in the Spring to see acres and acres of bright orange poppies blooming like carpets across the green hills, along with other vibrant wildflowers.
Along the beach, scour the sand for shells and sea glass, or watch the birds soar abovehead and the dolphins play and jump a few yards off the shore. Jenner-by-the-Sea is a great place to stop and take it all in, hike, picnic or just watch the plein air painters capturing images of the views.
My family brought me here from the time I was a little kid, and we hunted for shells on the beaches and picked wildflowers on the hills. Jenner is a very special and beautiful coastal spot, located where the Russian River meets the sea.
Dine on Delectable Dishes
It’s hard to get a bad meal in Sonoma County, and here are a few of our best Sonoma restaurants. Every direction you turn, there is a sweet little cafe serving up delectable housemade croissants with fresh blackberry jam. Or a roadside burger joint where ladies dripping in diamonds spill ketchup next to leather-clad motorcycle gangs.
We loved our meal at the iconic Girl at the Fig, where the mussels and frites were every bit as good as Paris. Maybe better. Spud Point Crab Company is famous for serving up fresh crab rolls while you’re gazing at fishing boats docked nearby in Bodega Bay.
Even the sandwiches we picked up at the little operation called Big Bottom Market by the Russian River in Guerneville were spectacular. (Curried Chicken on Brioche with currants and cashews; Roasted Turkey on French with havarti, garlic aioli and jalapeño jam!) One place we wanted to hit but didn’t have time? Valley Ford Cheese Company for some delicious cheese and homemade soft-serve ice cream that people travel miles to slurp in a variety of flavors. Another reason to visit Sonoma County in the Spring!
You simply cannot go wrong with restaurant choices in Sonoma County.
Hike Along the Russian River
Sonoma County hiking options are aplenty. On the road towards the coast sits the quaint little riverfront town of Guerneville. Historic downtown streetscapes meet kayak-topped Subarus here, where the redwoods spill down the mountains towards the banks of the Russian River. It’s a lovely drive along winding roads to get here, crossing bridges and spying peaceful meadows along the way.
In town, grab a sandwich and some water and hike along the river trails for a bit. There are plenty of secluded nooks and crannies to relax over a nice picnic and dangle your toes in the water. When we visited here the Springtime sun was warm enough to make us drowsy, watching the water slowly move by while the butterflies and birds fly from flower to tree to flower. It was almost idyllic.
For the more adventurous, you can rent kayaks, tubes and other fun floating things to play in the river. Organized rafting tours are readily available, such as Rivers Edge Kayak & Canoe or Russian River Adventures. Some folks even bring an extra tube to float their ice chest, so cold drinks can be readily available while floating past the vineyards and redwood forests.
Breathe Deeply in the Redwoods
Speaking of redwood forests, visit Sonoma County in the Spring to see these giant trees at their brightest and most beautiful. The early morning fog and dew wets the red bark of the trees, making the raw sienna colors stand out. At the same time, the new growth of ferns and other forest plants beneath the trees are at their most vibrant green. All together, the beauty of these forests is so spectacular. I mean, where else can you range from the hot sun of vineyards to the deep shade of redwood-covered mountains to the rocky Pacific Coast within just a few miles of each other?
This and so many other things combine in making Sonoma County one of the most beautiful – and natural – places in the world.
Where to Stay
We loved our stay at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn in downtown Sonoma. We had been wanting to stay here for years, and the beauty and elegance of this historic hotel did not disappoint. An icon in the Sonoma Valley for more than 100 years, this hotel offers the best of all worlds. Also on site, a geothermal-fed spa features treatments that would relax even the most troubled soul.
The restaurants here are spectacular. Ava is still talking about the roasted brussels sprouts at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Sante. (We had to get a second order!). The rooms and bathrooms are so well appointed, and come with a complimentary bottle of wine which we promptly enjoyed. Many of the suites have working fireplaces. There are also fire pits conveniently placed around the grounds to enjoy a cozy moment in the evening chill.
However, the grounds at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn are truly what make this resort so special. The tower of the original hotel building and architecture are stunning, along with pink painted stucco walls and a red tile roof. This combination of colors and textures is near to perfect.
When you visit Sonoma County in the spring, the grounds at the Fairmont are literally covered with flower petals from the groves of blooming cherry trees. Light pink and falling like snowflakes, the petals created a dreamy atmosphere. Mix in the stately palm trees, pines, rhododendrons and other foliage, and the resulting effect is over-the-top gorgeous.
How To Visit Sonoma County in the Spring
It’s an easy and picturesque drive to reach Sonoma County, and there are several airports that serve this area nicely. Major airlines offer direct flights to both Oakland International Airport and San Francisco International Airport. Jump into a rental car at either location and drive to Sonoma in just about one hour.
Better yet, fly directly to the Charles M. Shultz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa on Alaska, American and United Airlines. (Hint: Alaska Airlines now has a policy where you can travel with an entire case of wine for free!) We flew here direct from San Diego nonstop on Alaska, and the flight took 1.5 hours and cost less than $200 roundtrip per person.
Like Wine Vacations and Tours?
If you enjoy California wine country, wine tasting and tours, check out these other wine regions:
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In Temecula Valley Wine Country, Southern California earns its own stripes as a top wine region in the US.
One thought on “Spring Visit to Sonoma County: New Growth, New Adventures”
Yeah I get to live here! I feel very privileged. It’s like living in paradise, even in Santa Rosa, covered in redwoods and all sorts of other trees and plants blooming and fruiting year round. This was the great plants man Luther Burbanks’ stomping grounds. He called it Gods special place on earth” or close to that
Be sure and visit his House and Gardens. There are over50 Regional Parks, 8 State Parks, a Marine Sanctuary from the Farallon Islands to Bodega Bay, many protected wilderness and agricultural areas. Every town is unique and different from every other one from gay Guerneville to ultraleft Sebastopol and courtly, ancient Spanish Sonoma.