By Carolyne Zinko
With international travel all but forbidden right now, and local health officials gradually loosening restrictions on dining and attractions, now’s as good a time as any to focus on Northern California’s easy-to-access scenic allures. Sonoma County is ripe for exploration, whether on foot, by bicycle or car. Here are a few ideas for your next getaway.
For a morning or afternoon’s diversion in the Russian River Valley, try Bricoleur Vineyards, a retreat on a 40-acre estate in Windsor, just 63 miles north of San Francisco, which features tastings of hand-crafted, estate-grown wines in the newly renovated Winery Barn, picnics in the stone pavilion overlooking rows of Chardonnay vines, strolls in flower gardens (in season) and games of bocce ball. If that’s all too active, guests are welcome to sit alongside two ponds and watch birds and waterfowl in their native habitat. Owned by Bay Area natives Mark and Elizabeth Hanson and their daughter, Sarah Hanson Citron, Bricoleur Vineyards strives to build community and connections among its guests. Tastings—some of which include bites by executive chef Shane McAnelly (Zero Zero, Chalkboard, The Brass Rabbit)—run $45 to $75 per person, are hosted outdoors until further notice, and require reservations in advance. Pre-packed picnics to enjoy on-site (which also require reservations) are available for $45 per person, and include house-made piadini (flatbreads), salads with estate-grown vegetables, house potato chips and dip, house-made dessert and a glass of 2019 grenache rose served in Bricoleur tossware. By appointment only; Th-M 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 7394 Starr Road, Windsor, 707.857.5700, bricoleurvineyards.com
Farther north, Seghesio Family Vineyards in Healdsburg, a maker of zinfandel dating to 1895, locals and visitors alike are welcome at the Wine Garden experience in a large grove on the property shaded by redwoods. On weekends, in the alfresco setting, guests can bring their own picnic lunches, select one bottle per person to purchase, and commune with nature—or play bocce in the winery’s courts. Groups are limited to six people and seating is available for 90 minutes per group. Wine purchase required, seating is first-come, first-serve, Sa-Su 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 700 Grove St., Healdsburg, 707.433.3579, seghesio.com
Stay, if you like, in downtown Sonoma, where the boutique Cottage Inn & Spa offers a tranquil, convenient refuge just steps from the historic plaza. Nine suites feature spare white walls and terracotta-tiled floors with wood-beamed ceilings, trim couches, throw pillows in tactile textures and a hint of leather for rustic flair. Spa massage treatments are conducted outdoors in a private, shaded area (prices range from $145 to $215). Therapists wear masks; guests are required to do so when facing up but may remove them when facing down. No children or pets; no on-site restaurant. Room rates $199-$425, depending on season. 310 First St. East, Sonoma, 707.996.0719, cottageinnandspa.com
Photo credits: All images courtesy of venues.