Happy Friday everyone! I’m so excited to finally share with you part one of our mini-moon, a Sonoma travel guide! You’re probably wondering what the heck a “mini-moon” is and why I keep referring to it as such. Basically, this is what we are calling the trip after our wedding instead of calling it our honeymoon. We had to make a little lemonade out of some sour lemons we were given at the beginning of this year and made the decision to move our wedding up as a result (you can read all about that here)…so we will take our actual honeymoon next year!
If you haven’t read the story behind our wedding, all the backstory you really need is that we had a beautiful and emotionally charged wedding (whoo-hoo!) in Michigan, spent the following day with friends and family, decided we wanted to go to wine country, booked our mini-moon at 9:00pm, drove home to Chicago, packed our suitcases, slept for one hour and then took the first flight out to California! Huge shout out to Southwest for being our favorite airline for cheap and last minute flights. We narrowly escaped the SNOW STORM and had to sit on the tarmac while they defrosted the plane before take-off!
We landed in San Francisco and the gentleman who gave us our rental car recommended Café 382 for lunch. They have a HUGE menu. It was quite delicious but I devoured my buffalo chicken salad so fast I couldn’t even take a picture for you guys. Sorry not sorry? TIP: Don’t order a mimosa here if you prefer real orange juice. It is ultimately my fault for not reading the menu (which is unfortunately a re-occurring theme for me haha) but it was made with some sort of fake OJ, like a Hi-C or Tang sort of deal. Which is definitely NOT my jam. So after our bellies were full we started the beautiful drive to Sonoma, stopping on the way to take pictures at the Golden Gate bridge! TIP: Make sure you drive in the very right lane so you can pull off to take pictures!!
We got back on the road headed towards Sonoma. As we drove along, we rolled down the windows to enjoy the fresh California air and appreciate the fact that we managed to sneak out of Chicago before the snow. The smell of the crisp spring air, mixed with the salt from the bay engulfed the car and we were truly overcome with a sense of relaxation for the first time in a few months (because weddings are stressful, and they are even more stressful when you have to plan them in a month haha). I know that is technically San Fran, but how could I not include these things in my Sonoma travel guide?
Finally, we arrived at our hotel, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa. I would HIGHLY recommend this hotel for anyone looking to be immersed in Sonoma County, but still have that upscale feeling. We will definitely be going back! While we didn’t have time to enjoy the spa (too much wine to be had), every other amenity the hotel had to offer was fabulous! They had complimentary guided hikes every morning, yoga classes and happy hour in the hotel lobby each evening (complete with a delectable array of cheeses). The hotel grounds are situated in the middle of the action but kind of tucked away- it is like the perfect hidden gem!
TIP: There is no elevator in the main building we stayed in so try to book the main floor.
As we were getting checked in, we were given complimentary drink coupons to redeem at the hotel bar since we missed the happy hour that evening. TIP: Complimentary wine tasting happy hour was from 4:30-5:30 each night, so if you visit keep that in mind when planning! We did manage to catch the tail end of it one night and holy mackerel the cheese options were endless.
Anywho, we threw our suitcases in the room and headed to the hotel bar, 38° North. Our mixologist was bomb dot com, I wish I could remember his name so I could shout him out! I started with the Verte ’75, which consisted of gin, mint, chartreuse, lime and sparkling wine. It was delightful and the presentation was lovely as well. I then moved on to my first flight of wine in wine country! TIP: The Coup de Foudre was my favorite of the flight!
Kyle had a cocktail and then stuck with his beloved whiskey. Shortly thereafter, we ordered room service (which was surprisingly super delicious) and called it a night, giving us a chance to enjoy the complimentary bottle of champagne from the Fairmont! #ChattWillWed #WilliamsInSonoma
Mr. & Mrs. Williams! Still so weird! haha
Okay- let’s jump into the Sonoma travel guide!
TIP: Plan to eat dinner early! We were so used to the late dining options in Chicago, but not much is open late in Sonoma (and by late I mean like past 8 or 9pm).
- ROOM SERVICE/SANTE: If you miss your chance to dine out, room service at the Fairmont is DELICIOUS. Bonus option? You can order dishes from the Michelin rated restaurant in the hotel called Sante. People visit the hotel specifically to dine there, so I would NOT miss the opportunity!
- FOOD TRUCKS: Another option, if you close down the wineries and don’t make dinner reservations *cough we did it multiple times cough*, is to check out a local food trucks! We saw a couple and settled on Mexican food option that was walking distance from the Fairmont.
- BASQUE BOULANGERIE: You MUST stop at least once for breakfast and coffee at Basque. Do yourself a favor and order a slice of the Beehive. It may seem like you shouldn’t order a puff pastry/cake for breakfast but don’t judge me it’s no different than having a donut okay!? They also have good coffee and multiple flavors if you’re into the whole hazelnut flavored coffee trend. We each tried a breakfast sandwich, mine on a croissant and Kyle’s on a brioche roll and both were so fresh and tasty! TIP: Get a bag of the house-made croutons to go, they make a perfect souvenir!
- SUNFLOWER CAFFE: This place has inspired the breakfast that I have been eating on repeat now since we got back (you may have seen the recipe on our IG story). I don’t see it on the menu anymore, probably because it’s seasonal, but it’s basically garlic mushroom toast with goat cheese and pepitas, topped with a soft egg. Okay, I’m drooling. Also, if ever you have the chance to order a beet bloody mary, DO IT. So weird. SO good.
- GIRL & THE FIG: So many good things to say about this place. We found them because of the crazy number of Yelp reviews they have! We had steak tartar for the first time (and subsequently we order it everywhere we can now) it was SO delicious! The app, pictured below, features grass-fed steak and this crazy lavender sea salt that you won’t understand but you will crave copious amounts thereafter. For mains I had the wild flounder (sorry Ariel) and Kyle had the steak frites. TIP: Get the lavender crème brulee for dessert, and like, anything else that has lavender in it.
TIP: There are SO many winery options in Sonoma. Check Yelp for the ones you for sure don’t want to miss, but leave yourself time to stop at the hidden gems you drive by. That’s how we found our favorite!
- ROCHE: We went to the Roche tasting room in Downtown Sonoma and it was a great first experience (they have olive oils too so don’t miss that). The staff was super friendly and we started outside at the bar for a tasting. Eventually the gentleman took us inside to taste some of the reserve wine straight from the barrel. TIP: Start with the barrel tasting at Roche, it blew us away and I would have enjoyed having a full glass.
- LAKE SONOMA WINERY: We loved the ambiance at their tasting room. I don’t know how to describe it other than homey! It felt like we were sitting at a friend’s kitchen island, enjoying a glass of Pinot! The gentleman who helped us here was very knowledgeable too which helped us to explore new wine options that we may have otherwise passed on.
- LARSON FAMILY WINERY: This was one of our drive-by stops and is I think a better option for a family. The place is dog and kid friendly, they even sell retro toys to keep your children (or you) occupied. They are known for their Two Lab Cab (and they literally had their family’s Labrador retrievers outside which was super cute). All in all, maybe not the best choice for a newlywed couple looking for a different vibe, but would recommend for a family or a group of friends who wants to play bags while sipping Cabernet.
- VIANSA SONOMA- I want to yell on the rooftops about this place. You MUST stop here on your trip. It was by far our favorite place we visited on our mini-moon. I’m going to try to condense all the love I have for this joyous place into a small blurb like the rest of the wineries, but it probably won’t actually happen… The grounds were absolutely breathtaking and we basically had the place to ourselves! The kind gentleman who did our tasting quickly became our friend. His recommendations were honest, his pours were heavy and his company was just delightful! The inside of the winery was so cute, almost shabby chic-ish, and that’s where we started our tasting. Once we had a clear favorite (the Primativo) we got a couple glasses and headed outside to enjoy the panoramic views!
This place had multiple private gazebos that jutted out off the side of the winery grounds which made for the perfect romantic spot for newlyweds. We sat and enjoyed our Primativo until our friend from inside thoughtfully came all the way out to bring us another glass he recommended. Which also turned out to be one of our favorites from the trip. We joined their club, our first shipment has already come and did not disappoint! TIP: Don’t just join the wine club at the first place you visit. That place will seem awesome and so will the next. And then you will find THE ONE. It’s sort of like finding a man, or a car, or a house. Wait until you can confidently “say yes to the wine” and you won’t regret it.
- DOWNTOWN SONOMA: The downtown area had lots of cute little boutique shops and stores. If you don’t like shopping (we probably can’t be friends…haha) but you appreciate architecture and cool buildings, it is even worth walking around for a few hours and enjoying. The Sebastiani Theatre was so beautiful, and its right by the Basque Boulangerie so that in and of itself makes the trip worth it!
- SONOMA HISTORIC PARK: Definitely a cool break from shopping and wine! Visit the old barracks and restored buildings dating back to 1823. It is almost like being transported while you’re there! Except it’s just all right there in the heart of Downtown Sonoma. Very cool. TIP: Go during the day, don’t save this for an after dinner stroll. You’ll be able to see MUCH better and actually take a peek inside some of the preserved rooms!
Well I think that’s it for this Sonoma travel guide. I’ll be back with my guide to Napa so stay tuned! I want to hear about your adventures in Sonoma too. Leave your personal recommendations in the comments for me so I can add them to my future itineraries!
xox Stacy (Williams?! What?! #married)