We eat well in the Bay Area. You might even make the case that we’re spoiled. You can grab carne asada for dinner from your favorite taqueria one night, then order pasta the next without leaving the block. Folks might be tempted to eat at home more often if they could make it taste like the pros. Ramekins Culinary School in Sonoma teaches chefs-in-the-making there's no reason to starve in your own kitchen.
While Napa reigns king of wine country, underrated Sonoma skims under the radar. Time passes slowly here. Instead of tour buses, traffic, and crowds, you can stretch out in the town square with an open bottle of red, bike between wineries without getting run over, and have leisurely conversations with local proprietors.
That being said, high-end restaurants, hotels, and boutiques are popping up and polishing up their games. Travelers wanting a more covert experience need to be a bit more intrepid in their journey. Here are a few of our favorite off the beaten path destinations in Sonoma:
Corn dogs, cotton candy and funnel cakes. The off-the-charts caloric combination can only mean one thing: the Sonoma County Fair is about to get cooking. It’s an American pastime of sorts – eating, drinking, riding the Ferris Wheel and getting your “country fix” petting barnyard animals. Running July 25 through August 12, (closed on Mondays) you’ve got 17 days to get your fair fill.
The Sonoma County Fair Concert Series
A late spring wedding took place in the verdant rolling hills of Sonoma County. Kate and Phil were wed at Trentadue Winery, accompanied by poetry readings from the guests. A heirloom family handkerchief with "M" embroidered on it was her "something old," a small blue heart painted on her toenail was her "something blue," and yes--the bride had a sixpence hidden in her shoe! Tender and sweet, this couple tied the knot in the midst of friends, family, incredible food, and lovely wine country views.
Most harvest parties in Napa have come to an end, but Sonoma is just kicking into high gear. It’s the liveliest time of year in Wine Country and these down to earth celebrations are a perfect excuse to take a break from the city and check out the fall colors and new winery releases.
If you're hankering to joyride a racetrack, head to Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway this Saturday, where they're hosting an afternoon and evening of racing, wine and food to benefit the N.A.S.A non-profit Car Control Clinic for teen drivers. There are racing activities all day and you’ll even get to take a ride around the track with a professional driver.
I basically starved myself in preparation for judging Cochon 555 at Silverado Resort on Sunday. By the time the plates of food came trickling into judge's chambers round about 5 p.m., I was ravenous. I played it safe, though, sampling bites from the bites, trying not to get full before the arrival of Devin Knell's pork paté set on a perfect rectangle of pistachio genoise and Dennis Lee's ssäm. Somehow, miraculously, I made it through unscathed. You know what took the toll? The free-flowing whiskey. Figures.
Forget to make Labor Day weekend plans? Here are some surefire, spur-of-the-moment ideas:
Sip vino in Sonoma. Celebrate the upcoming grape harvest by attending the epicurean weekend packed full of winemakers' dinners and tastings galore. Sonoma Wine Country Weekend runs from noon on Friday through 6 p.m. Sunday.
A couple of months ago, a Sonoma job listing flew around the internet. Not only was it posted everywhere, but it was emailed to me by about 100 people and even made news in places like the New York Times and LA Times. The headline was that Murphy Goode winery was going to pay someone $10,000 a month to Twitter about wine.