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The Perfect South Sonoma Day Trip

How to do wine country without spending all day in the car.

B Wise Vineyards.

Photo: Chateau St. Jean via Instagram

Sonoma is enormous—roughly 1,768 square miles. With that much ground to cover, it would be a fool’s errand to try to see, much less enjoy, all of it in one day. To make it more manageable, we’ve separated Sonoma and Napa Counties into three easy-to-enjoy areas—north, middle, and south. Laid-back southern Sonoma is the closest to San Francisco and peppered with wineries. Here, we’ve devised a day trip that showcases some of the best that southern Sonoma has to offer.

MORNING

Your first stop is Forestville, which is located 60 miles from San Francisco. Leave before 10 a.m., and you should arrive within an hour. On your way up, hit Bad Ass Coffee or take a 10-minute detour to Blue Beagle.

Benovia Winery is a great place to start the day. Driving on a gravel road, you’ll pass through a grand gate to rows of vineyards and forested hills before reaching the winery. You’ll feel as though you’re deep in the country, somewhere far from home. Tastings of the winery’s celebrated Russian River pinot noir and chardonnay (the wines for which this region is best known) are hosted in the ranch house and cost $30 per person. Make sure to try the bright rosé ($32), crisp and nutty chardonnay ($38), and Liberation pinot noir ($70).

Two miles southeast, DeLoach has a large selection of wines that come in really cool-looking bottles. Start with the Le Royal sparkling wine ($75) and then try the zinfandel ($36), riesling ($30), rosé ($30), estate chardonnay ($58), and pinot noir ($70). No need to book an appointment at the tasting room, but you will need to choose among six tastings, including a highly recommended wine-blending session, available for reservation at between $25 and $80 per person. 

Been to either of these before? As a backup, head to Sonoma Cutrer

LUNCH

If you’re looking for something upscale, try Ca’ Bianca or Bistro 29. If you’re targeting local favorites, go to Perch + PlowBibi’s Burger Bar, or Beer Baron. If you’re in a rush, grab something at Chicago's Pizza with a Twist or Amy’s Drive Thru

AFTERNOON

Start your afternoon with a tasting at the elegant gardens and mansion of Chateau St. Jean. The winery doesn’t require reservations for the “welcome” tasting, which includes four wines and costs $15 per person, but it doesn’t hurt to book ahead as it often gets busy. The grand patio is a perfect spot to hang out on a beautiful day. Chateau St. Jean also offers private tastings that range from $30 to $60 and include bites, bubbles, and tastes of past vintages. Be sure to try the bold and spicy Dry Creek merlot ($40). 

Your next stop is B Wise Vineyards, which is about 20 minutes south on Highway 12. (B Wise also has a tasting room that’s a one-minute drive from Chateau St. Jean, which is great if you’re in a rush.) Sip on the patio while you enjoy the views ($65 per person). You need a reservation here. Make sure you try the Trios cabernet sauvignon ($55). 

If you can’t get reservations at B Wise, consider Imagery Estates, Benziger, GunBun, or Ram’s Gate

DINNER

Should you decide to stick around for dinner, you’ll want to dine on the square in Sonoma. La Salette is a cozy Portuguese spot that’s hidden away. It’s always busy, so make reservations. El Dorado Kitchen is a great place for upscale American dining or a drink. The Girl & the Fig is a wonderful place for farm-to-table dining in a welcoming atmosphere. If you are looking for pizza, give the Red Grape a go. 

  

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