DAY 2: Osmosis Spa, Lynmar Estate and MacPhail Winery
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 winds its way to the coast. Japanese-influenced zen sanctuary Osmosis offers a bevy of 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.
A popular stop on the way back to civilization is Lynmar Estate, tucked away in the rolling Russian River Valley appellation in Sebastopol. There, chief winemaker Shane Finley has produced several exceptional Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that consistently garner 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 Lynmar Quail Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir is worth braving the winding roads of Sonoma County's scenic back country. But Lynmar's wine is not the only reason people come far and wide to visit — the scenic gardens, redwood grove (with wood-burning pizza oven) and million-dollar vineyard views will keep your jaw dropping at every vantage point.
Lunch options abound in the area, including in the tiny hamlet of Graton, located on the periphery of the former apple producing capital of Sebastopol, a mere five-minute drive from Highway 12. Here, the Underwood Bar & Bistro is a revelation for the town that some remember was once strewn with rough-and-tumble bars. The Underwood and the nearby Willow Wood are the lynchpins to the newly gentrified row of galleries and eateries, and executive chef-owner 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. Check out the charming bocce ball court on Underwood's shaded, rustic back patio - a pleasant spot to easily while away a lazy afternoon.
After lunch, return to downtown Sebastopol and make a quick detour onto Florence Avenue, where art lovers will delight in the whimsical creations of sculptor Patrick Amiot. Amiot has lined the quiet neighborhood street with a folk art extravaganza of colorful characters welded together from "upcycled" junk. In fact, if you look close enough, Amiot's unique metal sculptures can be spotted throughout many Sebastopol-area residences and businesses, a nod to the fun quirkiness of West Sonoma County.
Just north of the busy intersection of Highway 116 and Highway 12 in the middle of Sebastopol is a stop worthy for all ages: West County's burgeoning local food-art-wine marketplace, The Barlow. Originally an apple-processing plant, investors have morphed the tin industrial warehouse buildings into an urban-chic community of various eateries, tasting rooms, shops and galleries. Four different Pinot-phile tasting rooms occupy the Barlow with another on its way.
Some of these wineries such as MacPhail Winery have opened tasting lounges where wines by the flight, glass or traditional tastings are offered, often with cheese. Pick up a French baguette at Village Bakery, then cross the grassy courtyard and stop in at Tamarind — a chic boutique of women's clothing and accessories. Take a tour and tasting of Spirit Works Distillery, a grain-to-glass micro-distillery specializing in small-batch gin and whiskey. Peruse Tibetan Gallery & Studio to admire the only two-story Buddhist mural (known as "thanbhochi") outside of Tibet, a work in progress. Or stop for a glass of house-brewed craft beer at Woodfour Brewing Company's bustling patio and pair your beverage with a small plate of pickled seasonal vegetables or paprika-sprinkled deviled eggs. Prefer a pick-me-up? Visit Taylor Maid Farms coffee bar for an organic, fair-trade onsite-roasted espresso that will knock your socks off. Sip out on the doggie-friendly shaded patio or upstairs in the quieter, urban-techie loft.
For some lively nightlife, check out Hopmonk Tavern — a festive music venue, restaurant and beer garden. This spot is a favorite among locals and touring musicians, who regularly pack the Abby's good-sized dance floor and well-stocked private bar.