Travel

The Sonoma Valley Guide

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The site of California’s earliest planted vineyards, Sonoma Valley is rich in both history and legend—the word “Sonoma” is derived from the valley’s native Pomo, Coast Miwok, and Wappo tribes and means “many moons.” Located between the Mayacamas and Sonoma Mountain ranges, the region envelops a smattering of rustic farms, idyllic small towns, and scenic vineyards, which consistently churn out some of the world’s best chardonnays. Although easily accessible via a flight into Santa Rosa, it’s a bit more spread out and trickier to navigate than its neighbor Napa Valley, giving reason to why it’s slightly less touristy, but still a worthy destination in its own right.

Barndiva

231 Center St., Healdsburg | 707.431.0100

With back garden that's dripping in ivy and wisteria, Barndiva is hands-down one of our favorite dinner spots to try while you're exploring the area. The food is sourced locally and always inventive, while the rustic barn setting is such a fun change from the norm. (Don't mis the insanely good goat cheese croquettes.) To top it all off, the cocktail menu is off-the-charts.

Catelli’s

21047 Geyersville Ave., Geyersville | 707.857.3471

The siblings who now own and run Catelli's are the third generation of restaurateurs at this much-loved Italian spot. Everything from the wine to the vegetables is locally sourced, and it's all really nicely priced.

Fremont Diner

2698 Fremont Dr., Sonoma | 707.938.7370

Fremont Diner is a charmingly local spot where the menu focuses on old-fashioned comfort food—the fried chicken and waffles, fried chicken sandwich, and especially the homemade pies make for customers year-round. Kids will love the backyard chicken coop, where local-as-it-gets eggs are harvested daily for famous dishes like the deviled eggs and breakfast hash.

Harvest Moon Café

487 1st St. W, Sonoma | 707.933.8160

Husband and wife Nick and Jen, culinary institute alumni, deliver a seasonally changing menu in this small but mighty restaurant. Their selection is limited, but always fresh and local (the potato and kale soup with sunchoke chips is stellar). Ask to be seated in the outdoor garden when making your reservation.

LaSalette

452 1st St. E Suite H, Sonoma | 707.938.1927

Located in the heart of Sonoma's central plaza, this restaurant serves up Portuguese cuisine with a twist–with most dishes heavy on the olive oil, garlic, and fresh tomatoes. Chef Manuel Azevedo cooks classics from his native country, such as a traditional fish stew with a medley of clams, mussels, shrimp, sea bass, and scallops.

Spoonbar

219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg | 707.433.7222

Spoonbar has a great menu with California-style cuisine, but the biggest draw is the cocktails. The drink menu changes seasonally depending on which local spirits are available, meaning that it's a great place to get a feel for the talent in the region's many distilleries.

Ramen Gaijin

6948 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol | 707.827.3609

This authentic ramen and Japanese gastropub is a welcome–and unique–addition to the Sonoma food scene. Serving up handmade noodles, small batch sauces, and yaktori meats, it also offers a changing menu of robata-yaki and small plate izakaya dishes. The space is seriously laid-back and the drink menu is solid and includes several local craft brews.

The Spinster Sisters

401 S. A St., Santa Rosa | 707.528.7100

This is one of those still under-the-radar places you want to tell everyone about–but also want to keep to yourself. Chef Liza Hinman creates a menu of seasonally-forward dishes inspired by various global traditions. Our favorites include the curry-spiced halibut, wilted kale salad, and killer coconut corn fritters that have the perfect crunch without excessive oil. A true locals destination for excellent food, the space is also an artistic hub (every six weeks it features the work of a different local artist in the dining room).

Valette

344 Center St., Healdsburg | 707.473.0946

For chef Dustin Valette, the history in this space dates back to the 1930s when his great grandfather owned the property. He and his brother, Aaron Garzini, opened the restaurant in early 2015 and the duo has been serving inventive American cuisine with French influences to locals and visitors ever since. Order the coriander crusted duck breast and finish off the meal with something sweet like the carmella chocolate semifreddo.

Bird and the Bottle

1055 4th St., Santa Rosa | 707.568.4000

Jewish comfort food, Southern fried chicken, and Korean seasonings may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but that's kind of the point. In an open kitchen, chef Mark Stark turns out chicken fried oyster lettuce wraps, crispy skin salmon wings with kimchee salt and matzo ball soup (with BBQ chicken thigh, obviously). They've got a nice selection of crowd-pleasing beers on tap, too.