From rock star winemaker Jess Katz, son of the famed photographer Andy Katz, comes a new contemporary art-filled winery—a stylish spot for tasting his Bordeaux-style wines. (Courtesy of Aperture)

12 New Things to Do in Napa and Sonoma this Fall

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In spite of the pandemic and wildfires, Wine Country carries on, offering Bay Area residents a welcome reprieve and all the wine they can drink to temporarily forget about 2020's challenges.

Given the state of things this year, you might be surprised to learn that there are actually several new spots to discover in Wine Country, including the region's first natural wine bar, a restaurant from chef Michael Mina, and treetop glamping with zip line adventures. The wineries and businesses in Napa and Sonoma counties could use a little extra love these days, so we hope you'll plan your escape.


Please note that, as of press time, the Glass Fire is 96 percent contained and the air quality in Napa and Sonoma is good. But as things seem to change more quickly than ever in 2020, it's always a good idea to check conditions before you venture out. Don't forget your mask!

New Wine Bars in Napa + Sonoma

Located at The Barlow in Sebastopol, Region showcases, you guessed it, regional Sonoma wines.

(Dan Quinones)

Valley Bar + Bottle

The first natural wine–focused bar in Wine Country opened this summer on Sonoma Plaza. Founded by four Scribe Winery alumni, Valley set up shop in the historic Leese-Fitch Adobe built in 1836 and serves up French vibes, seasonal small plates—the XO eggs are a must-order—and glasses or bottles of minimal-intervention wines from a robust list of mostly European producers that you've probably never heard of. There's also a tiny bottle shop that knocks 25 percent off the menu price. Valley is currently open for dinner on their back patio, takeout family meals, plus takeout lunch to enjoy in the Plaza's park. // 487 First West (Sonoma), valleybarandbottle.com

Region

A new wine bar at The Barlow lets you sip all around Sonoma in one place. Region utilizes self-serve WineStations, which dispense wine at the push of a button. Simply link your Region tasting card to a credit card and enjoy pours of three sizes (and varying price points) at your leisure from 25 boutique local producers spanning 14 Sonoma appellations. Region has partnered with several Barlow eateries to offer food; each week, a featured producer sets up shop and brings in new releases, library vintages, and more to share. // 180 Morris St. Ste 170 (Sebastopol), drinkyourregion.com

Bar Lucia

Kara Haspel Lind, founder of Kara's Cupcakes, has opened a totally chic wine bar at Napa's Oxbow Public Market, right next to her cupcake stand. Focused on rosé (and frosé) and sparkling wines from mostly local producers, Bar Lucia also offers a selection of light bites for pairings, like pimento cheese dip, charcuterie boards, salads, and sandwiches. There are a handful of still wines available too if your date is looking for something different, plus Fieldwork Brewing is right across the way. // 610 First St. Suite 19 (Napa), barlucia.com

Fabulous New Wine Tasting Experiences in Sonoma + Napa

Animal lovers will purr over tastings at Oasis by Hoopes, where wines are accompanied by an animal sanctuary and regenerative farm.

(Courtesy of Oasis by Hoopes)

Faust Haus

Design lovers will geek out at Faust Haus, a painstakingly restored hilltop Victorian that overlooks Napa Valley in St. Helena. The new home of longtime cabernet-focused brand Faust, there's truly no other tasting room like this in Wine Country. Good luck choosing between a seat with a view within their quaint and sunny gardens or one of three completely unique rooms that seamlessly merge history with modern day: the study, the library, or the white, bright, and light-filled second floor. // 2867 St Helena Hwy (St. Helena), faustwines.com

Oasis by Hoopes

Hoopes might just be the chillest place to taste wine in Napa. Second-generation vintner Lindsay Hoopes has created her own personal paradise—a bucolic oasis complete with Airstreams, a teepee, lounging areas made with recycled materials, regenerative gardens, and a boatload of rescued farm animals (chickens, roosters, pigs, goats, a donkey named Jack, and a turkey named Caesar). Enjoy a casual, no-frills tasting of Hoopes whites, reds, and rosé, and you can grab some goodies from their on-site farm stand before heading back to the real world. // 6204 Washington St. (Napa), hoopesvineyard.com

Abbot's Passage

Sixth-generation vintner Katie Bundschu (of the Gundlach Bundschu family) has moved her winery and mercantile to a new and significantly larger tasting space in Glen Ellen, where life takes a restorative pause. Hang out in the olive grove with a stunning 1863 stone winery as your backdrop, or reserve a table set within 80-year-old zinfandel vines. Taste through a flight of nontraditional blends and varietals that you really won't find elsewhere in Sonoma, like viognier and syrah or chenin blanc and verdejo, and add on a tasty grazing board packed with hummus, cheeses, pickled veggies, kale chips, and more. A complimentary digestif cocktail before you go is the cherry on top of a relaxing afternoon. // 777 Madrone Rd. (Glen Ellen), abbottspassage.com

Aperture Cellars

Rockstar winemaker Jess Katz has opened his highly anticipated winery and tasting room in Healdsburg. While you'll mostly find pinot noir and chardonnay here in the Russian River Valley, Aperture is shaking things up with Bordeaux-style blends from cooler-climate sites (a nice departure from the jammy cabs of Napa). Ultra-contemporary, the indoor/outdoor space set right in the vineyard is designed to mimic the aperture of a camera lens, and with stunning images by Katz' famous photographer father hanging throughout, it's like visiting a gallery too. // 12291 Old Redwood Hwy (Healdsburg), aperture-cellars.com

The Hottest New Restaurants in Napa + Sonoma

Go all in with the the "Baller" raw platter—stacked with whole Maine lobster tail, jumbo prawns, daily ceviche, and oysters.

(Courtesy of Blue Ridge Kitchen)

Wit & Wisdom

San Francisco's Michelin-starred chef Michael Mina has opened his first Wine Country restaurant, in Sonoma. Wit & Wisdom has something for everyone, from Jack London–inspired craft cocktails and shellfish towers to seasonal salads, handmade pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and an array of surf or turf options. Standout dishes include the duck wings, savory pop tart stuffed with braised short rib, and the crispy Berkshire porchetta. Breaking news: The restaurant has just added brunch. // Wit & Wisdom Tavern, 1325 Broadway (Sonoma), michaelmina.net

Blue Ridge Kitchen

Another new addition to Sebastopol's The Barlow is Blue Ridge Kitchen (in what was formerly Zazu), serving California comfort food with a Southern drawl. Case in point: the croque madame with lobster. Sip a craft cocktail, like the Gravenstein Julip (bourbon, apple reduction lime juice, apple bitters, mint leaves), and order several plates to share. Go for the "Baller" raw platter—stacked with whole Maine lobster tail, jumbo prawns, daily ceviche, and oysters —"Drunken" fried chicken, smoked Gouda mac and cheese, and Mississippi mud pie for dessert. Blue Ridge is open for dinner and brunch (fried green tomato benny, anyone?). // 6770 McKinley St. Ste 150 (Sebastopol), brkitchen.com

Compline Wine Bar + Restaurant

Ok, so this sommelier-founded Napa wine bar and restaurant isn't exactly new (they just celebrated their three-year anniversary), but Compline did bring on a new chef and she's curated a brand new menu that's definitely worth sampling on the restaurant's recently expanded patio. A Bay Area native, chef Jammir Gray was most recently at Ayesha Curry's International Smoke in San Francisco, but has cooked all over the U.S. And while Compline's famous burger and duck fat fries, thankfully, haven't gone anywhere, exciting new dishes include the lobster and shrimp lumpia, fried chicken sandwich, socca (a chickpea-flour savory pancake), and rye cavatelli with Liberty duck confit. Compline's Somm-servers can recommend killer pairings for each and every dish. // 1300 First St. #312 (Napa), complinewine.com

New Glamping Adventures in Sonoma

(Courtesy of Wildhaven Sonoma)

Wildhaven Sonoma

There's a new glamping spot in Healdsburg set right on the Russian River. Thirty minimalist-chic canvas safari tents are available in varying sizes; the riverside tents are the most deluxe options with large decks, a double hammock, and the best views. Wildhaven has the only river access for miles that isn't private property and, just steps from your tent, you'll find a swimming hole, private beach, and a loop you can float or kayak around. If you're looking for luxury glamping, you might try AutoCamp instead, but Wildhaven is perfect for families, groups of friends—plus their furry friends—and couples looking for an affordable getaway that's within nature yet also minutes from world-class dining and top Russian River tasting spots like Jordan Winery. // Rates start at $109; 2411 Alexander Valley Rd (Healdsburg), wildhavensonoma.com

Sonoma Canopy Tours' Sonoma Treehouse Adventure

Adrenaline junkies will want to book this zip line glamping experience through Sonoma Canopy Tours. You'll sleep in a private tree yurt (sleeps four) set high up in the redwood canopies and embark on two zip line tours for a total of 14 flights during your stay. This experience also includes a gourmet dinner delivered to your room for a romantic night in and breakfast the following morning. // $550/person (minimum two guests), $275 additional; 6250 Bohemian Hwy (Occidental), sonomacanopytours.com

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