Fathom contributing editor Anna Petrow can't keep away from California wine country for long.
SONOMA, California – I'm a born and raised Midwestern-based gal, but something about California's wine country keeps calling to me. Maybe it's the rolling farmland, the friendliness of the local folks, or endless hospitality. Whatever it is, Sonoma beckoned me for an end-of-summer trip with girlfriends — a summer camp for adults.
We planned our lodging strategically. I had passed by The Lodge at Sonoma on a previous trip, and the Spanish-inspired architecture and proximity to the square (an easy stroll or bike ride) hinted that it might be the ideal home base. There were three of us, and we got a suite with two queen beds, a nice little sitting area, and an outdoor patio with fireplace. Because we planned lots of activities for the weekend, we didn't need extensive space to spread out. It was the perfect spot to crash after lounging at the pool, and the large closet and bathroom made sharing space with two others easy.
The landscaping on the property was transportive: towering Cypress trees, flowering bushes, pungent lavender, even pomegranate trees. Early morning yoga — when the fog was still dissipating and the grass was still dewy was the ideal way to start the day, followed by lavender lattes by the fire in the cool morning air. Our fuel for the day: horchata French toast and chilaquiles from Benicia’s Kitchen.
We took advantage of the hotel’s proprietary Pedal for Pinot program and borrowed the property’s bikes to reach the many nearby wineries on the square and beyond. We pedaled to Three Fat Guys, an unassuming roadside tasting room founded by former NFL players that turned out to have a delightfully crisp sauvignon blanc and a vibrant wildflower garden out back. Sebastiani Vineyards is another highlight within easy biking distance. Founded in 1904, it is one of Sonoma’s more storied wineries. The founder can be seen some mornings around town cleaning up the city square, a sure sign of the family’s long-lasting love of the place. The refreshing mist from the courtyard fountain was a shady place to sip a selection of pinots paired with charcuterie.
Speaking of the square, locals told us it’s the largest in the country — completed in 1846, it was modeled after the European towns from which many of the valley’s vines hail. Today, you can still follow in European fashion and browse French antiques at Chateau Sonoma or saddle up to the bar at Tasca Tasca for Portuguese tapas with crab empanadas, green bean salad, and fresh oysters.
For those in search of a more robust activity, the trails at Bartholomew Estates offer sweeping views of one of the oldest farmed properties in California. It's also a protected park, with miles of pristine trails with views on a clear day all the way to Golden Gate Bridge. We booked a wine tasting in their succulent garden overlooking the vineyard and learned all about the rich history of the 375-acre estate, the birthplace of California viticulture, which now functions as a non-profit steward of the land. It’s clearly a favorite among locals – park goers young and old were picnicking and enjoying the shade of the Redwood trees. (File away this great tip for impromptu wine country weekends. Thanks to the expansive grounds, you can pop in without a reservation and buy a bottle of wine to enjoy anytime, sans reservation.)
However you structure your days, many visits to wine country have proven one rule to be true – nothing is better than an evening in at your hotel after a long day of wine tasting. We wrapped up both days of our weekend with a complimentary wine tasting in the lobby and a breezy nap by the pool with soothing live music. Lucky for us, one of the most sought-after reservations in Sonoma was right on site: Wit & Wisdom, the latest from culinary darling Michael Mina. The wine list was impressive — no surprise given Mina’s connections in the industry — and the dishes surpassed the hype. Delicate crab Caesar salad served in endive cups with crispy capers, heirloom tomatoes with peaches and burrata, local mushroom cacio e pepe, and a show-stopping white truffle pizza made for a memorable dinner to mark the end of our girl’s trip.