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Sonoma County, California 72-Hour Vacation

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

Gloria Ferrer Winery
Gloria Ferrer Winery


Four blocks south of the Plaza is MacArthur Place, a hotel that is a veritable village unto itself, comprised of dozens of Victorian-style cottages surrounded by over 100 species of trees and immaculate rose and lavender gardens. Many of the rooms are outfitted with outdoor showers and teak tubs in private tree-line patios. Inside the large yet cozy rooms are spa-tubs with shutters that open onto the main room so that one may enjoy the capacious bungalows while luxuriating.

A complimentary continental breakfast menu (fruits, bagels, cereals, coffee and more) can be supplemented from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. with a menu that includes eggs Benedict, huevos rancheros and a waffle selection among other morning notions - a fine way to prep your belly for a day of wine tasting. A five-minute drive south of Sonoma leads to the lauded Carneros appellation along Highway 121, where several varietals flourish, including the pinot noir grown from Gloria Ferrer's array of award-winning sparkling wines. Looming above the highway, the winery's architecture is a mash-up of Catalan and California mission design and festooned with a veranda that affords a sweeping view of the valley.

Mustard growing between rows of old vine zinfandel in Kenwood

Mustard growing between rows of old vine Zinfandel in Kenwood

Across the highway from Gloria Ferrer is Cornerstone Gardens, the walk-through showcase of installations by world-class landscape designers surrounded by a collection of eclectic shops and purveyors of artisanal foodstuffs. Motorists will recognize the Sonoma landmark by the white picket fence that twists dramatically around its perimeter such that is recalls a Möbius strip.

Return to downtown Sonoma to savor the town's rich California history. The Historic Sonoma Plaza was the site of the Bear Flag Revolt in which General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Northern California's former Mexican comandante, was taken prisoner and California began its first bloody steps toward independence from Mexico to eventual American statehood. Sonoma historian and "multiple personality artist" George Webber recounts these events and others during his frequent walking tours of Sonoma, usually in character as Vallejo and occasionally as author Mark Twain. Ever the showman, Webber's historical tours are popular with all ages and a must for history buffs.

On the Plaza's north side is the Swiss Hotel, a collection of garrets above a restaurant of the same name. Downstairs enjoy a hearty lunch (the 10 oz. Harris Ranch beef rib eye steak sandwich with Cabernet-Roquefort butter and French fries is a local favorite) or partake of the Swiss Hotel's claim to fame—a coffee-based cocktail dubbed the "Glariffee." The name is an abbreviation of Glazed-Irish-Coffee, though its ingredients are a family secret known only to the landmark's nonagenarian proprietress.

Arrowood Vineyards and Winery
Arrowood Vineyards and Winery

Time to continue tasting Sonoma Valley's award-winning wines. Jump in your car and head north on Sonoma Highway, a right turn from the west side of the Plaza and proceed to the eponymously-named B.R. Cohn Winery (where one can sip the former Doobie Brothers manager's award-winning Silver Label cabernet while regarding a wall of gold records) and the requisite stop at internationally-lauded wine master Richard Arrowood's first solo outing Arrowood Vineyards and Winery. Literally dozens of wineries dot the highway and encourage visitors to stop in and sample their creations for nominal tasting fees, which generally apply to any purchase you might make.

Yummy the girl & the fig

Yummy the girl & the fig

After a day of wine tasting, return to Sonoma for dinner at the girl & the fig, which attracts travelers with a yen for fine dining as well as fixtures of the Sonoma arts scene. The wine list is focused exclusively on Rhône varietals, which accounts for the flights of viogniers, marsannes, syrahs, and mourvèdres that seem to pour in a steady stream from behind the bar. The cheese menu, in all its coagulated splendor, canvasses much of the County's dairy producers and executive chef John Toulze's French-inspired fare does well with the bounty of local ingredients available to him. Consider the roasted Sonoma County half chicken with baby Yukon gold potatoes and watercress salad with Dijon vinaigrette—it's a perennial favorite that never disappoints. Of course, the restaurant's namesake fruit is represented in everything from salads to drinks (those with doubts might find their palates converted by the Fig Royale).

After dinner, linger at the bar and chat with the friendly locals, many of whom work in the wine industry and will freely offer advice on which wineries to visit (invariably, theirs), when you decide to book an additional 72 hours in Sonoma.

For more information, please visit the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau at


* Mustard image courtesy of Sonoma County Tourism Bureau.


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