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Winestyr Weekends: Sonoma Valley & Carneros

Explore our weekend guide to Sonoma Valley and Carneros. From our favorite places to eat to the best wine tasting experiences in the area, we have you covered.

So, you've just landed at San Francisco International Airport late Friday morning, picked up your rental car, and started the 60 mile drive north to the quaint town of Sonoma. Sitting at the mouth of the famed Sonoma Valley and in the heart of Carneros, this historic town proves to be the perfect jumping off point for an action-packed weekend of wine tasting, vineyard touring, and gourmet indulgence. All that's left is to check-in to your hotel–we recommend the Sonoma Valley Inn for being so close to the town square or the MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa if you prefer something more posh.

It's time to make good use of your first day in wine country

Once you've dropped your bags and (hopefully) gotten early access to your room, it's time to make good use of your first day in wine country. Head on over to Scribe Winery for your reserved hacienda experience, which comes complete with an in-depth tasting of the estate's wines as well as a farm-to-table spread of delicious nibbles. Enjoy what has to be one of the most beautiful settings to taste wine in all of California and keep an open mind when the time comes to try their dry Riesling. It's spectacular!

If the shared plates at Scribe didn't fill you up, you'll want to stop in for a fresh sandwich at Carneros Deli before settling in to one of the gorgeous outdoor tables at Anaba Vineyards & Winery. This is an entirely new set-up, meant to demonstrate the importance and true effect that coastal winds have on their unique spot in southwestern Carneros. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay here are critically-acclaimed and make for interesting comparisons with what you will have just enjoyed at Scribe. 

Wind down the day relaxing on the Sonoma Square

After a long day of airplane travel, driving, and wine tasting you might be ready for a nap before dinner. In case that isn't you, perhaps pay a visit to the downtown tasting room for Sojourn Cellars and wind down the day relaxing on the Sonoma Square. For dinner, make sure you've locked in a reservation at Valley Bar and Bottle. Run and owned by wine industry vets, this has become the hottest restaurant in wine country since they opened, largely thanks to the many winemakers who visit multiple times per week. In fact, you might just find yourself sitting next to Aaron or Rande of Source & Sink as you sip on their delicious Alicante Bouschet!

Hopefully you wake up on Saturday morning hydrated and rested, because you've got a long say in front of you. Start things off right with breakfast at the legendary Sunflower Caffé (the crab benedict, when in season, is incredible!). From there, you'll be heading up the valley towards Glen Ellen and Kenwood. Are you ready to sample some incredible mountain Cab? I hope so. Begin in the hills above Kenwood and Santa Rosa, with a visit to Viluko Vineyards. While they suffered extensive damage due to the 2017 fires, they've reopened the estate to visits by appointment only. Down in Kenwood, you'll be tasting through the impressive wines of Spann Vineyards and Ty Caton Vineyards, which happen to be right next to one another. Savor the complexities of these high elevation wines and begin to get a feel for why Sonoma Valley's diversity of wines is so impressive. Another great option in Kenwood is VJB Cellars where you can taste an array of Italian varietals alongside delicious cheeses and salumi in their beautiful courtyard. After that, Glen Ellen is your destination via the scenic (and less crowded) Warm Springs Road. Laurel Glen is the star of the show here and the chance to taste through their incredible lineup of estate wines shouldn't be missed!

Now comes the toughest part of the day: dinner

Now comes the toughest part of the day: dinner. If you're looking for something a bit more formal, Glen Ellen Star is the way to go and for good reason. If something a bit more relaxed is your move, head on down to Agua Caliente for a casual, roadside dinner at El Molino Central. The birria tacos are not to be missed but their enchiladas are equally awesome.

Waking up on Sunday, the realization that your final day in wine country has arrived will no doubt settle in. That's why you'll want to start on a high note, with brunch at Kivelstadt Cellars. The chance to sample through Jordan's refreshing and esoteric wines next to a hearty menu of farm-to-table ingredients will get you off on the right foot. Most of the wines here are on tap but they usually feature a handful of their more serious wines to taste as well, with the estate Syrah being a particular highlight. Your final winery visit can go in a variety of directions. If you're most interested in the history of the region, make the trek to Buena Vista (and stop for a sandwich at Sonoma's Best when done). If you need some bubbles in your life, both Domaine Carneros and Gloria Ferrer will have you covered. 

Waking up on Sunday, the realization that your final day in wine country has arrived will no doubt settle in

But if you want our advice, make your way south towards the airport and stop in the picturesque water-side town of Sausalito. Grab a cone at Lappert's Ice Cream or a beer at Sam's Anchor Cafe right on the water while gazing across the Bay at San Francisco. It's the perfect end to a quick getaway in California wine country!