Local shops, cozy cafes, historic buildings, and a central park define Sonoma Plaza. (Courtesy of @macarthurplace)

A Modern Guide to Downtown Sonoma: Beloved Restaurants, Cozy Inns, Shops, Hikes + All the Wine

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Downtown Sonoma, once the birthplace of the California flag that marked the state's independence from Mexican rule, lures visitors with the charm of its heritage along with all the modern trappings of Wine Country life.

Go for the wine tastings, quirky speciality shops and restaurants du jour.


Where to Taste Wine (and a Little Beer) in Downtown Sonoma

Three Sticks

The Vallejo-Castanada adobe—the longest-occupied residence remaining from California's Mexican Period (1822-1846)—got the magic treatment from San Francisco interior designer Ken Fulk, who transformed the historic interior into an enchanting space for tasting Three Sticks' primo chardonnay and pinot noir, sourced from some of the top vineyards in Sonoma County. // 143 West Spain St., threestickswines.com

Abbot's Passage Supply Co.

The brainchild of Katie Bundschu, sixth-generation vintner of Sonoma's iconic Gundlach Bundschu family, the cozy Abbot's Passage is a wine tasting room up top and a boutique shop on the bottom. Sip distinctive field blends and then browse apparel, decor, adventure gear, and jewelry. They also offer unique workshops from time-to-time; learn how to shuck oysters or re-wax worn out travel accessories before your next backpacking trip. // 27 East Napa St., abbotspassage.com

Sojourn Cellars

Want a taste of the best pinot noir in all of California? Wine Spectator awarded Sojourn Cellars' 2014 Gap's Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir top honors in 2016. It's not too surprising, as Sojourn has a reputation for producing stellar, single vineyard pinots, which can be sipped side-by-side in an intimate tasting (by appointment). They also pour excellent Sonoma County chardonnay and even some Napa cab in a recently renovated, country-chic cottage. // 141 East Napa St., soujourncellars.com

Sigh Sonoma

Sonoma's only bubbly bar, Sigh feels like a New Year's Eve party all year long. The luxe location off Sonoma Plaza pours local sparkling wines, but the real treat is the chance to try Champagnes and bubblies from around the world. Pair with fancy cheeses and caviar. // 120 West Napa St., sighsonoma.com

Kamen

Kamen Wines represents the second career of screenwriter/producer Robert Mark Kamen, who brought us The Karate Kid. Back in 1980, Kamen bought property in Sonoma and began to grow mountain cabernet sauvignon, eventually starting his own wine label. The only decoration in his sleek, minimalistic tasting room is a series of quotes from his famous films above the bar. Wax on, wax off, drink up. // 111B East Napa St., kamenwines.com

Walt Wines

Taste your way through California at Walt, which makes chardonnay and pinot noir sourced from vineyards that span 1,000 miles of California coast, making for a diverse portfolio of wines that showcase the terroir of each region along with their distinct flavor characteristics. Walt is the sister winery to Napa Valley's Hall Wines, but the vibe here is considerably toned down. More fitting for Sonoma, Walt tastings go down in a charming country house where the best seats are on the patio. // 380 First St. West, waltwines.com

Corner 103

Named simply for its address, Corner 103, the only African American–owned winery in Sonoma Valley, strips down the oft-intimidating tasting experience into something more relaxing, fun, and educational. Owner Lloyd Davis, formerly of the much larger Viansa Winery, wanted to do something different, without the crowds. Here you'll find no bar (all tastings are done comfortably seated), and there are no stupid questions. Get a crash course in Wine 101 and opt for the Sonoma Cheese Experience, a pairing of seven wines with six cheeses from nearby Vela Cheese Company. // 103 W. Napa St., corner103.com

Pangloss Cellars

With 4,000 square feet to work with, Pangloss has a tasting experience to match every mood. Saddle up to the bar for a classic tasting, sip wines with light bites in the cozy lounge, or head to the cellar for a fully immersive 90-minute journey through Pangloss' portfolio. Not too long ago, Pangloss completed a painstaking restoration of their gorgeous, 1902 building featuring the original redwood and stone walls. // 35 East Napa St., panglosscellars.com

HopMonk Tavern

When you've had enough wine, you can drink all the beer at HopMonk Tavern. The 15-beer tap list includes a mix of HopMonk's own brews, as well as some from the West's top brewhouses—Lagunitas, Dogfish, and Drake's to name a few. Head there for "hoppy hour" or a nightcap in the massive beer garden complete with a fire pit and live music on Fridays and Saturdays. // 691 Broadway, hopmonk.com

Downtown Sonoma's Best Restaurants

Oso

You'll want to make a reservation at OSO, an intimate alcove that's great for date night. Chef/owner David Bush gets creative with flavor combos in everything from shareable plates (Dungeness crab deviled eggs; mole-braised pork shoulder tacos; steamed mussels in a coconut-tamari and lime broth) to cocktails—try the Abuelita (Han Soju fire whiskey, cold brew coffee, and coco powder). // 9 East Napa St., ososonoma.com

Girl & the Fig

It's not a proper trip to Sonoma without a meal at this Wine Country institution, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017. The restaurant was a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement and still grows much of its own produce and cures all meats in house. Cal-French plates include plenty of namesake figs: Order the starter of duck liver mousse with fig jam on toasted brioche; chocolate-dipped dried figs for dessert; or a Fig Kiss cocktail (Figcello di Sonoma, St-Germain liqueur, and cranberry). // 110 West Spain St., thegirlandthefig.com

El Dorado Kitchen

The seafood paella is a local favorite at El Dorado Kitchen, but you can't go wrong with the housemade fettuccine carbonara or the not-so-plain Petaluma chicken served with tasty and seasonal fixin's. Choose to dine inside the historic 1843 adobe or al fresco beneath the fig trees. // 405 First Street West, eldoradosonoma.com

The Red Grape

The owners of this casual, family-run pizza joint created their recipe for crispy thin crust pies 15 years ago and have been charming foodies ever since. Order up a side of truffled onion rings and then choose from more than 20 offerings including the Four on Four (four cheeses, four meats) and Pears and Gorgonzola, one of 10 purely delightful spins on the tomato-less white pizza. // 529 First Street West, theredgrape.com

Sunflower Caffé

For a quick bite between tastings, grab a table at the casual Sunflower Caffé, inside the original home of Captain Salvador Vallejo (brother of General Vallejo, Sonoma's founder), who reportedly lost the house in a poker game. Now the old place serves seasonal dishes—think smoked duck or avocado pepper jack sandwiches—made with local ingredients. Whatever you order, we're certain it'll pair well with the farmer-approved Bloody Mary, made with organic beet, tomato, and cucumber juices. Craving something sweet? Look for waffles in fun, rotating flavors like apple pie and bananas foster. // 421 First Street West, sonomasunflower.com

Things to Do in Sonoma: Hikes, Cooking Classes, Tours + More

For History Buffs

Sonoma State Historic Park

Today Sonoma is best known for its world-class wines, but the town has a rich history dating back to the early 1800s when it played a pivotal role in California's declaration of freedom from Mexican rule. Get the full story at Sonoma State Historic Park, where admission ($3) gets you access to six historical sites including the Mission San Francisco Solano. // 20 East Spain St., parks.sonoma.net


For Foodies

Sonoma Food Tour

Food makes everything, even history class, better. That's why we love the idea of discovering Sonoma's heritage while hopping around its local eateries, specialty shops, and tasting rooms. Book the Original Sonoma Food, Wine & History Tour ($89) for a delicious three-hour stroll around town. sonomafoodtour.com

Ramekins Culinary School

Roll up your sleeves and learn how to make anything from hearty Italian risottos to wasabi pancakes to macarons at this beloved local cooking school. They'll even give you a discount on the classes if you book one of the six comfy rooms at the on-site inn. // 450 West Spain St., ramekins.com

Figone's Olive Oil Company

Olive oil is the new wine at Figone's, where you can taste an array of EVOOs in sundry flavors including white truffle mushroom, sun-dried tomato and blood orange, as well as aged balsamic vinegars. Figone's olive mill is located a bit outside of town, but it's worth the trip for a tour of one of the few mills that opens to the public during crush time. // 483 First St. West, figoneoliveoil.com

Vella Cheese Company

The Vella family has been making cheese, including their signature high-moisture jack, behind the stone walls of their downtown Sonoma factory since 1931. Sadly they don't do public tours, but you can stop by to sample Italian-style cheeses, cheddars and salami. // 315 Second St. East, vellacheese.com


For Weekend Warriors

Sonoma Adventures

Meet up with Sonoma Adventures for a half- or full-day guided bike tour through Wine Country including stops at wineries, a picnic lunch and, for full-day tourists, a tasting at Vella Cheese Company. You can also rent bikes for a choose-your-own adventure. // sonoma-adventures.com

Sonoma Overlook Trail

A trip to Sonoma can mean maximum food and wine, and very little exercise. If it's balance you seek, find the trailhead at Mountain Cemetery, just a few blocks from the Plaza, and explore old Native American hunting grounds. The leisurely, three-mile Overlook Trail hike is beloved for its accessibility and panoramic views of Sonoma Valley; look for longer and more rigorous trails at the adjacent Montini Open Space Preserve. // First Street West and Mountain Overlook Trail, overlookmontini.org

Sonoma’s Specialty Shops

Sonoma Roadside

On your way out of downtown, pull over at Sonoma Roadside, a welcoming collective of businesses. Shop quirky locally crafted gifts (need a bonnet for your cat?), snarky greeting cards, soaps, and preserves at Fat Pilgrim General Store and then head next door—these stores are connected like Marshalls and Home Goods often are—to Harvest Home, the San Francisco design shop known for Wine Country–chic furniture and antiques. // 20820 Broadway (Sonoma), sonomaroadside.com

Tiddle E. Winks Vintage 5 & Dime

Like a real-life vintage Etsy shop full of fun, classic items that'll add a pop of color, humor, and nostalgia to your home. But don't be fooled by the name. This is still California's Wine Country, where nothing is 10 cents, but your new Crazy Cat Lady dinner tray will be worth every penny. //115 East Napa St., tiddleewinks.com

Bram Cookware

If the kitchen is your happy place, watch your wallet at Bram, a unique cookware shop that specializes in the age old art of clay cooking. Forget the basic, modern-day crockpot and shop for gorgeously designed, slow-cooking tagines, tians, and brams from all over the world. They not only make great conversation pieces, they'll also give your beans, soups, and rice recipes new life. // 493 First St. West, bramcookware.com

Global Heart Fair Trade

You can feel good spending your money at Global Heart, which sells fairly traded goods—think colorful scarves, home decor, and trinkets—made by artisans from all over the world. The vibrant downtown store places a focus on global outreach and awareness too; sales of their handmade cards help victims of sex trafficking and landmines. BYO reusable bag and they'll reward you with a chocolaty treat at checkout. // 423 First St. West, globalheartfairtrade.com

The Candlestick

California's largest specialty candle store has been making homes smell wicked amazing for more than 60 years. Browse this whimsical shop and stock up on candles of all kinds for every season. // 38 West Spain St.

Where to Stay in Downtown Sonoma

MacArthur Place

MacArthur Place is within walking distance to the Sonoma Plaza, but once inside, you'll feel far from city life. Set on 300 acres, the inn is home to an 1850s Manor House with 10 country-style rooms (64 total), romantic gardens, lawn sculptures, quiet sitting areas, a life-sized chess board, and heated pool. Dine at the on-site restaurant, borrow an old school movie from the library, or book a treatment incorporating the land's bounty at the Garden Spa. MacArthur Place is currently undergoing some big changes and updates, including a new restaurant concept with an Iron Chef champ, so look out for that to finish up in 2019. // 29 E. MacArthur St., macarthurplace.com

Ledson Hotel

Sleep like royalty at Sonoma Plaza's extravagant boutique-sized Ledson Hotel, where the guest quarters are larger and have more amenities (fireplaces, whirlpool tubs) than some San Francisco apartments. All six rooms are unique, with wood-carved ceilings and beds, intricate chandeliers, marbled vanities, and plush oriental rugs. We also suggest making the 25 minute drive to Ledson's majestic winery in Kenwood. // 480 First St. East, ledsonhotel.com

El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen

Book your stay at the El Dorado Hotel and awake to the tantalizing aromas of one of the town's best restaurants—there are churros for breakfast, hello. Here the country and the city sides of Sonoma County merge in rooms that are rustic yet modern, neutral yet warm, with French doors and private balconies that overlook the Plaza. Catch a siesta by the solar-heated saltwater pool before dinner. // 405 First St. West, eldoradosonoma.com

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