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Sonoma County, California Travel Guide

Sonoma Summary


  • Mild temperatures all year round
  • The country's best wine is produced here
  • Beautiful landscape, with wineries sprawling over rolling hills
  • Outstanding cuisine that uses local, organic, fresh and seasonal ingredients
  • Accommodation options for every budget
  • Relaxed ambience
  • Hundreds of wineries to choose from
  • Plenty of attractions for non-drinkers-- including golf courses, hundreds of shops and wonderful spas
  • Hot-air balloon tours
  • More laid-back and less crowded than Napa Valley


  • Some wineries have tasting fees
  • Few transportation options -- having a car is almost mandatory
  • Can be very pricey
  • Many hotels have a 2-night minimum stay policy
  • Limited nightlife (the drinking here happens all day!)
  • The closest airport in in Oakland, a 1-hour drive away

What It's Like

Sonoma County is one of the world's best wine-growing regions, with hundreds of wineries sprawling over rolling hills. It's a little less touristy than Napa, and more laid-back, with family-owned wineries and less crowded towns. It's best known for Sonoma Valley, a region in the southeastern part of the county that's home to the city of Sonoma, Glen Ellen, and Boyes Hot Springs, but there are great wineries elsewhere in the county as well. The charming town of Healdsburg in the wine growing region Dry Creek Valley is a popular destination.

Hikers, non-drinkers, and eco-tourists can expect to have fun too -- Sonoma offers attractions apart from wine tasting and fine dining, including hot air balloon rides and golf.

Sonoma's beauty is striking any time of the year, but especially during the harvest season (September and October) and spring. It can get busy during the summer months, but you shouldn't expect as many crowds as in Napa Valley.

Where To Stay

  • Sonoma is more slow-paced than Napa and attracts smaller crowds.
  • Glen Ellen is home to some of the valley's finest hotels and restaurants, and its wineries go tête-à-tête with some of France's best.
  • Santa Rosa's corporate buildings and traffic jams are unattractive, but the city (Somoma's county seat) has numerous chain motels and hotels.
  • Healdsburg, to the north of Sonoma Valley, offers the best of wine country in less than four square miles: excellent wineries, quaint dining options, great shopping, fancy accommodations, and a charming rural ambience.

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