Wine Country, USA :
Sonoma, CA: The Ultimate Guide with Kids
You already know that I believe that wine regions are amongst the most kid-friendly places in the world - open spaces, crisp climates and of course, wine to take the edge off of mom and dad.
California's wine regions are amongst the most famous in the world and I personally believe that no trip to the Bay Area is complete without a trip to the wineries. Typically, we prefer Sonoma because it is home to more boutique and elegant wineries than its more commercial counterpart, Napa. But narrowing that down doesn't help much because you still have over 100 wineries to choose from. Here are our recommendations for Sonoma wineries that would constitute the perfect day trip boasting gorgeous vineyards, friendly staff, and of course, the best of Californian wines.
Sonoma itself is made up of several regions but we don't recommend going too far North on a day trip with the kids since most wineries close between 4:30 and 5pm and you don't want to spend most of your day in the car. The wineries suggested here are all in the Sonoma Valley, the furthest being only 2 hours from San Francisco. I recommend packing a lunch for the kids and some salad, fruit, chips and water for you, and sampling all you can along the way.
So here we go:
As you enter Sonoma, skip cheesy and overcrowded Viansa and head to stunning Gloria Ferrer, a vista that impresses tourists and locals alike. Start your day in Sonoma aptly with a glass of sparking wine, overlooking acres of vineyards and olive estates. Since this is one of the larger wineries with tables and chairs, it's a good idea to stretch your legs, take bathroom breaks and make sure the little ones have lunch before you get back on the road.
Settle back into the car for the windy ride (about 30 minutes) up to Kenwood, straight up to St. Francis Winery where you can do a daily wine and food tasting. Let the little ones run around on the big lawn outside while you contemplate selling your house and moving to wine country to be closer to all this de-lishness.
With satisfied stomachs, jump into the car for the highlight in terms of wine in our opinion: Landmark Winery, just slightly South of St. Francis. Landmark is the epitome of a Sonoma boutique winery with a luscious estate, elegantly landscaped with an outdoor gazebo and bocce ball for summer days and warm tasting room with a fireplace for cooler ones. The Pinot Noirs at Landmark are NOT to be missed. If you are thinking about taking wine home, Landmark would be a great choice and they ship all over the country.
You will pass Chateau St. Jean as you exit from Landmark and head South. I have recently been disappointed with their wines but their gardens are very pretty and they do offer some lovely gourmet foods such as their Hazelnut Merlot Chocolate sauce and Champagne mayonnaise. If you are a true foodie, I would leave the gang in the car (or at Landmark) and pop in for 15 minutes to pick up some foodstuffs. They also sell cheeses and cold-cuts in case you want more snacking along the way.
We now route you Southwards so that you don't have too far to drive as you head back to San Francisco. The last stop is to quaint Valley of the Moon, a winery that looks like something out of an Enid Blyton book. Their wines are reasonable and enjoyable, but we mostly love the friendly, small business feel of Valley of the Moon. Grab one of their beautiful Roses in the summer to enjoy with a light grill for dinner.
Head back on 101 S towards SF - make sure that you have a designated driver!
You are now well on your way to becoming a Sonoma connoisseur. Please note that in this guide we have intentionally avoided big names like Kendall-Jackson, Blackstone and Francis Ford Coppola, all of which are in Sonoma. I personally believe that Sonoma's charm lies in the lesser known treasures listed above - I hope you will agree! For a full map of Sonoma and its wineries, click here.
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