Winter Escape in Sonoma County: Wine Taste and Storm Watch in One Weekend
Escape to Sonoma County
When I say ‘Sonoma wine country’, I know what you’re thinking: sun-dappled vines on warm summer days, a glass of rosé in your hand, and perhaps a charcuterie picnic al fresco. But guess what? Wine tasting by the flickering glow of a fire can be just as idyllic. And by planning your Sonoma County getaway in winter, you’ll avoid traffic, crowded tasting rooms and high room rates, too.
Fly into Santa Rosa
The Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport is the cutest you’ll ever see, and a breeze to get in and out of on Alaska Airlines. After flying in, rent a car and stay the night right in town, at The Sandman . Long a Santa Rosa institution, the Sandman enjoyed an upmarket refresh in 2017, and now basks in the glow of a retro, artsy vibe while still remaining blissfully affordable. On weekends, the pool bar will be open for a first night cocktail, and a dip in their outdoor hot tub is a must. Work out the next morning, enjoy your complimentary breakfast, then head out to…
This town in the heart of Sonoma wine country is a charmer, with a quaint downtown quarter featuring boutiques, bookstores, and fair trade stores you could lose yourself in for hours. After a leisurely morning (when is the last time that happened when you traveled with the kids?) head to Highway 128, where just outside town, you’ll find wineries featuring Sonoma’s signature Cabernet Sauvignon. We loved that we could get into Silver Oak’s new winery facility without a reservation, and their sleek, modern Leed-certified building showcased the vineyards with rain falling on the vines outside.
Right down the street is Hawkes Wine , even cozier with a winery dog sleeping on a cushion by the wood-burning stove. From here, you can continue along the Alexander Valley to hit more wineries, such as Seghesio Family Vineyards or Williamson. We opted to keep driving, heading toward the southern end of the county to the namesake town of Sonoma. Here, we enjoyed another adorable town center to explore before heading to Cline Cellars , where we toured this eccentric property that was once a carp farm and then a horse ranch before growing grapes. If you’d rather stay in town, Sonoma boasts dozens of tasting rooms within its city center, allowing you to sample even more efficiently.
Once you’re ready to leave the valley behind, head toward Bodega Bay on the Sonoma coast. Follow Highway 1 north, stopping as often as you like to take in the view. You may luck out with blue skies, but more likely, if you come in winter, you’ll be enjoying a crashing sea via a storm-swept vista. Either way, the beauty is stunning.
Be sure to get an early enough start to arrive at Timber Cove Resort in Jenner, CA before dark. This property was built in the 1960s and while beautifully updated, it retains its rugged charm. The inn seems to blend into the wild coastline around it, with 25 acres of cliffs, hiking trails, lawns and gardens. Stay in one of their oceanview rooms with a fireplace and balcony, then plan on having a hard decision to make: stay in and open a bottle of Sonoma wine while enjoying the fire and the record player and records in your room (yes, really!) or heading to Coast Kitchen, located just past the welcoming bar, in the main building? We opted for dinner, which started with fresh oysters and continued with rockfish and salmon. The wine list is deep, the cocktails are smart and fun, and the ambiance is warm and cozy.
In the morning, you’ll want to linger by the big fireplace in the lobby while enjoying breakfast, then hit the trails either on-property or at nearby Salt Point State Park or Fort Ross State Park. Or, just stay in and read by the fire or enjoy a game of bocce ball outside by the ocean if the weather is clear. We recommend staying at least two nights to fully soak it all in before heading back to Santa Rosa!
Managing editor at Twist Travel Magazine, Amy Whitley has been a travel writer, editor, and columnist since 2009. Amy publishes the family travel website Pit Stops for Kids, writes monthly for US News Travel and additional national outlets, is a travel and outdoor gear reviewer and influencer, and is an editor at OutdoorsNW Magazine.