On my last adventure (Fall 2019), we hiked among towering redwoods, cruised along rugged Pacific coastline and met the passionate craftsmen, farmers, vintners and artists that call Sonoma home. We home-based at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, nestled in the heart of Sonoma Valley. The “Inn” is the ultimate Wine Country destination with spa, golf and fabulous farm to table dining. The resort also boasts its own mineral hot spring that feeds several on-site pools. Did you know that Sonoma County has 425 wineries?
Sonoma is a great chill weekend destination! “The air is wine,” wrote Jack London about Sonoma County. Located just 35 miles north of San Francisco, it’s the ideal setting for a classic wine country holiday but with a diversity that sets it apart from most winelands: wild rivers and rustic cabins, spas and saddles, redwoods and Peanuts (the Charles M. Schulz Museum is here). You’d think that a place blessed with such beauty and bounty would be overrun and exclusively priced, but somehow, a visit here has retained much of the unpretentious welcome that embraced London all those years ago. I was happy to see it listed as one of the “Best Places to Go in 2020” by Frommer’s readers so that more people may find their way here.
This gorgeous area of Northern California has so much to offer. Obviously, the wine culture is as good as anywhere in the world and there are many ways to enjoy the experience. Wine tasting is definitely my favorite activity – It’s casual, mostly inexpensive, and you can make up your itinerary as you go along. We found free wine tasting at many tasting rooms around the County. If you’ll just be walking up to the bar and tasting through a few wines at each tasting room, then you have the time to visit 3-4 wineries in one day. But if you’re going on a winery tour or sitting down for a chef-prepared food and wine pairing, you might only be able to plan for two wineries in one day. As a guest of the Fairmont, we also took advantage of the daily complimentary afternoon wine tasting (4:30-5:30) in the lobby living room.
Hiking is another one of my favorite activities in Sonoma County. There are more than 150 miles of trails leading to beaches, mountains, forests, lakes, and meadows. I brought my backpack, water bottle and boots. You can even sip some wine because there are tasting rooms at the end of the trail.
One of my favorite Sonoma hikes is at Quarry Hill Botanical Garden – this Sonoma Valley treasure boasts one of the largest, wild-sourced, Asian plant collections in North America and Europe. I downloaded the app for a self-guided tour through the 25-acre grounds. Another day, I took the trail up to Prayer Flags for Sonoma Mountain views. If you prefer, you can join with others on a daily complimentary docent-led hikes from the hotel, that include other favorites including the Overlook Trail and Jack London State Park.
I also love to relax at one of the superb spas. There are many to choose from but my favorite is the Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, which is rated among Travel + Leisure’s top 25 spas. Historically revered by Native Americans for its healing power, the spa touts an enviable location atop an ancient thermal mineral spring, flowing from 1,100 feet (335 meters) below the surface. I hope you will enjoy the tranquility and beauty that echoes throughout the 40,000-square-foot spa, which offers relaxing by the inviting fireplace or a private cabana complete with a stocked refrigerator.
Oh, how I loved soaking in the mineral baths and indulging in a Watsu treatment, one of their signature treatments. Watsu is a form of aquatic bodywork used for deep relaxation and passive aquatic therapy. During this one-on-one session the practitioner gently cradles, moves, stretches, and massages in chest-deep body temperature thermal water. (They even have an underwater stereo system in the Watsu Pool).
I cannot wait to enjoy another holiday in Sonoma County with its relaxed and genuine vibe. Are you ready to explore the redwoods, wineries and cuisine, art and gardens?