My Family’s Guide to Sonoma

Cline Cellars, Sonoma

Cline Cellars’ sign on our wedding day.

My husband and I married in Sonoma in April 2013, and I always planned on writing about it here so other couples considering a wine country wedding might find some guidance or inspiration in our experience. Each of our vendors was terrific and I wouldn’t change a thing about our incredible day, except we wanted a rewind button the morning after. We never made it into a magazine, but here’s a link to our blog post on Destination I Do, in case anyone stumbles upon this link and wants to know who did what at our Cline Cellars reception.

Our gift bags for guests had a few fun local offerings, including a personal, informal guide to Sonoma for those who turned the wedding weekend into a mini-vacation. I’ve posted several guides here on my site so I figured this one might be helpful, too.

WINERIES

Benziger ­
It’s all about the Chardonnay. Also Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. They offer a fascinating golf cart tour of the wine­making process and don’t miss their caves.
*1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen

Buena Vista
BV is California’s oldest premium winery and is recognized as a California Historic Landmark. It is one of the most charming places to visit in all of wine country, and if my wedding guest list had been < 50 we would have loved to have had the reception here. Chardonnay leads the pack, while its Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah also deserve a tasting. *18000 Old Winery Rd., Sonoma 

Chateau St. Jean
When you pull in the long driveway you’ll find a stunning, elegant location with a turreted mansion at the foot of the mountains. It has one of the best gardens/gift stores in the area and is a romantic spot for a picnic and/or wine lunch. Fosters, the Australian beer company, owns this property. Chardonnay sets the pace here and their Fume Blanc is also worth a try.
*8555 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood 

Cline Cellars
I’d been to about a dozen wineries, in addition to several venues along the California coast, in search of the perfect reception spot for us. When my mom and I pulled into Cline, it was love at first sight. I’d been searching for something that fit our couple personality — a bit of country with a bit of elegance. We wouldn’t feel at home dancing among chandeliers and white table cloths. Once we saw the barrel room, the pumpkin patch and donkeys, I was sold. My parents are wine snobs, and while they weren’t dazzled by the wines at Cline, the decor and atmosphere won them over and it won our guests over, as well. The reds at Cline are the most popular. My favorite is the Cashmere blend which is parts Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache (they sell it at World Market). The staff at Cline is terrific (don’t hesitate to tell them the Fikes sent you and you’d like a tour — you may even find our photo album on display in the tasting room). *24737 Arnold Dr., Sonoma

Ferrari­-Carano
You’ll find great wines in this sprawling Mediterranean mansion. They offer a wide range of varietals with a focus on Merlot, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. The gift store is worth visiting, but make sure you sneak downstairs to the “reserve” tasting room.
*8761 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg 

Jacuzzi
­Thinking of hot tubs? Well this is the same family. It is situated directly across the street from Cline Cellars. They have a beautiful Tuscan farmhouse with a stone courtyard and a stunning barrel room. Don’t miss their olive oils. My parents really wanted me to choose this as the reception venue, but it was almost too formal for what I had in mind. Their wines include the classic Italian varietals: Nebbiolo, Primitivo and Pinot Grigio. *24724 Hwy. 121, Sonoma 

Kunde ­
What you envision when you think of wine country:­­ sprawling hills, ponds and vines as far as the eyes can see. It’s no wonder the movie “Bottle Shock” was filmed here. This was one of the wineries we chose for the wedding wine tour on Friday before wedding festivities. It was a crowd favorite. Try their Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. *9825 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood

Lambert Bridge ­
One of my family’s top picks, hands down. While we immediately fell in love with the modern farmhouse and its romantic, dark wood interiors, the St. Bernard who greets you at the door (or rather, lies while you greet him) stole the show. Don’t miss the pizza ovens in the picnic area. Merlot and Chardonnay are their specialties, while Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel are also well ­represented. Their Meritage called Crane Creek Cuvee is delish.
*4085 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg 

Sebastiani ­
If you want to stay close to town, definitely stop by here. It’s within walking distance of Sonoma Plaza, though they do have a trolley that looks awfully inviting. Their historical barrel room is worth a visit. Sebastiani is known for its basic reds, especially Zinfandel and Merlot. *389 4th. St. E, Sonoma

Viansa ­
This is my parents’ favorite spot. The vineyard sits on top of a hill and has fantastic views of the wetlands and is great for bird­watching. They have a lovely gift store, tasting room, picnic grounds and a Mediterranean market for lunch. The vineyard focuses on Italian varietals. *25200 Arnold Dr., Sonoma 

FOOD/DINING

Basque Boulangerie Cafe ­
They offer a wide selection of soups, salads and sandwiches and award­-winning breads.
*460 1st St. E, Sonoma

Della Santina’s ­
Reservations are recommended at this cozy Italian eatery with a splendid patio. A trip to Sonoma for my family is not complete without dinner here. The staff is super friendly.
*133 E Napa St., Sonoma

Dry Creek General Store
If you make it out to Healdsburg, you must grab a bite to eat or a memento from the general store. A charming, country stop and one of my faves. *3495 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg

Girl and the Fig
­Fresh California fare and a casual atmosphere make this another family favorite. The owner is somewhat of a celebrity chef in the valley. Reservations are a must. *110 W. Spain St., Sonoma 

Harvest Moon Cafe­
My mom and I stopped in here on a whim one evening on a wedding recon mission and fell in love with it. We met friendly locals at the bar and they have a stellar patio. Wonderful wine list (no shock there) and delicious food. *487 1st St. West, Sonoma 

Murphy’s Irish Pub­
Need we say more? *464 First St. E, Sonoma 

Saddles
­Located in the MacArthur Place Hotel and Spa, this is Sonoma Valley’s premier steakhouse known for its horse murals and its western­-themed decor. On a recent weekend visit with MainMan, we celebrated the finalizing of our wedding plans with their extensive martini menu. *29 East MacArthur St., Sonoma 

Schellville Grill ­
They serve a GREAT lunch here. My mom and I stopped in on our way to SFO one afternoon and had two whoppingly delicious sandwiches. If you’re a Food Network junky, this spot was featured on Guy Fieri’s show “Diners, Drive-­ins and Dives.” 22900 Broadway, Sonoma 

LODGING

We have stayed in each of these spots in/around Sonoma.

Sonoma Hotel
This is a rustic, country hotel right off the town square — you can’t beat its location — though it is a bit worn with age. It is one of the most affordable places to stay in town. They don’t have many rooms so you must book in advance.

The Lodge at Sonoma
This wins for elegance and modernity, though it’s pricy and a decent walk from the center of town. This was our primary hotel during the wedding weekend, though we’d probably never stay again given the prices and there being other places that are more walkable/affordable.

Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn
This was the secondary hotel for wedding guests. It’s always reasonably priced and the rooms are decent (some even have fireplaces and jacuzzis). Bonus that it’s right off the main drag and close to restaurants/shopping. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here on our next visit to Sonoma.

El Pueblo Inn
This hotel is a few blocks removed from the center of town, but they have lovely rooms and good service. This is another place I wouldn’t hesitate to stay in again.

The Vineyard Inn
Similar to El Pueblo, this is a bit removed from town, but if you have a rental car and are planning on driving everywhere anyway, this is a solid choice. Rooms aren’t much to look at, but it was good enough for me and my mom for a couple of nights. It has the feel of a mid-scale motel.

OTHER TIPS

*A few friends of mine visited Scribe during our wedding weekend and LOVED it. I haven’t been yet, but would love to now I hear it’s terrific.

*The wineries we chose for our bus wine tour were: B.R. Cohn, Kunde and Jacuzzi. I didn’t mention B.R. Cohn above because while my parents had been, I hadn’t visited prior to the wedding weekend. It’s a fun spot to visit. I have a few friends who walked out of Cohn becoming wine club members.

*For travel purposes, Oakland Airport is about a 60-minute drive to Sonoma, while SFO is about a 90-minute drive.

*Healdsburg is a great town and worth a drive to walk around.

Adeline & Grace Photography

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There is one comment

  1. Danica

    Loved this post and brought make soon many fun wedding memories. I’m constantly looking for wines from the wineries we visited. So hard to find them up here.

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