Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

Sonoma County, California 72-Hour Vacation

No Longer the "Other Wine County"
Epicurean Treats and Fabulous Wines


Osmosis Spa's Tea Garden
Osmosis Spa's Tea Garden

DAY 2

Rise and shine and venture to the Historic Sonoma Plaza's eastern quadrant to enjoy the flavorful morning fare at LaSalette, a family-run Portuguese restaurant that, among other delicacies, features an adventuresome crêpe menu. Try Chef Manuel Azevedo's house-smoked salmon and cream cheese with dill sauce crêpe or the Dungeness crab and corn with shrimp sauce crêpe (the more traditional Crêpe Suzette is also available).

Now you're ready to drive to Nirvana, or more specifically the Osmosis Spa in Freestone. Take in the vineyard views along the 35-mile drive along Sonoma Highway as you head westward into Sebastopol. From there, proceed about 15-minutes into the wooded enclave of Freestone, through which the aptly named Bohemian Highway wends its way to the coast.

The Sonoma County sanctuary offers a bevy of spa services including a popular cedar enzyme bath. You don't dip into this fragrant blend of fine-ground cedar, rice bran, and imported Japanese plant enzymes so much as get buried in the steaming mush. The fermenting ingredients produce a natural heat, which reflects your body's own natural metabolic processes. After a good steep, have a massage in one of several outdoor pagodas strewn throughout the spa's lush grounds. Replenish the toxins that have been leached from your body with some fresh intoxicants—which is a cheeky way of suggesting a visit to one of Sebastopol's award-winning wineries.

Lynmar Winery
Lynmar Winery

A popular stop on your way back to civilization is Lynmar Estate, tucked away in the rolling Russian River Valley appellation in Sebastopol. There, winemaking director Hugh Chapelle has produced an exceptional pinot noir that has garnered heaps of praise in the national wine press. With its myriad notes of dark fruit and spice, complemented by hints of pomegranate and black cherry cola, the 2005 Lynmar Quail Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir is worth braving the winding roads of Sonoma County's scenic back country.

By now, all the relaxing and tasting has surely worked up your appetite. For lunch, visit one of Sonoma County's burgeoning new epicurean epicenters—the tiny hamlet of Graton. Located on the periphery the former apple producing capital of Sebastopol, a mere five-minute drive from Highway 12.

The Underwood Bar & Bistro is a revelation for the area that some remember was once strewn with rough-and-tumble bars which were pit stops for bikers and druggies. The Underwood and the nearby Willow Wood are the lynchpins to the newly gentrified row of galleries and eateries, and executive chef Matthew Greenbaum oversees both ventures with aplomb. The Willow Wood Market Café, known for its "piping hot polenta" offers several variations on the dish including a creamy polenta served with maple syrup for breakfast, a bowled polenta and goat cheese lunch offering and a polenta topped with rock shrimp dinner entrée. Likewise, the Underwood features a wide-reaching tapas and small plate menu that features the requisite charcuterie plate as well as a savory goat cheese and caramelized onion tart.

Underwood Bar and Bistro
Underwood Bar and Bistro

Return to downtown Sebastopol to peruse a plethora of local shops, galleries and vintage and antique stores as well as children's and home stores. Antiquarian book lovers will enjoy Copperfield's Annex and art lovers will delight in the whimsical creations of sculptor Patrick Amiot, who has lined nearby Florence Avenue with a folk art extravaganza of colorful characters welded together from junk.

For dinner, a brew and some nightlife, visitors and locals alike can thank beer and restaurant entrepreneur Dean Biersch, who has had tremendous success with the Gordon-Biersch Brewing Company, which he co-founded in the late '80s. A dozen additional locations later (as well as a brisk trade in bottled beer), Biersch recently opened the doors - and taps - to his latest project, Hopmonk Tavern, a beer garden, restaurant and live music venue launched in Sebastopol this past Spring. Try the slow-roasted pulled pork sandwich with mole barbeque sauce with the Hopmonk Tavern Ale. The tavern has also rapidly become a favorite among locals and touring musicians, who regularly rock the venue's 22-foot stage. Dancing is, of course, encouraged.

MORE SONOMA COUNTY INFORMATION


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