NC Hounds visiting Sonoma wine country
We will be spending 5 nights in Santa Rosa in early June and will value tips from local Hounds about wineries and restaurants in the area. We would especially be interested in places that deliver value (bang for the buck) vs. "cost is no object" experiences. We will also be spending our last night in CA near the Oakland airport so a good restaurant recommendation near OAK would also be appreciated.Thanks in advance for sharing local knowledge.
Don't know if you are planning/willing to travel outside of Santa Rosa or Sonoma into Napa, but in case you just plan on staying around Santa Rosa, my husband and I just got back form a week in both Sonoma and Napa (full report promised soon), and really liked Willi's Wine Bar in Santa Rosa. It's tapas style with respectable sized portions so you can taste several different things. I don't know if it's necessarily a total "bang for the buck," but it's delicious and fun and definitely not as expensive as some of the other nicer places in the area like Farmhouse and Cyrus, etc....which I hear are amazing as well! As for wineries in Sonoma, we really loved Porter Creek, which is a smaller style winery that is doing some really interesting things. It was recommended to us by a friend of ours who is a wine director at several fantastic restaurants here in NYC, and we loved their wines. All organic too! On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is Ferrari Carano -- we didn't love their wines, but they have beautiful gardens if the tour part is of more interest to you guys than the actual wines. Have fun -- it is such an amazing trip to take...we didn't want to ever come home!!
Flavor in downtown Santa Rosa is the best food for great prices. My recommendation there is the sweet potato gnocchi which is on the appetizer menu for 7$. You can also chose half orders of almost anything on the menu which is great because they will you up with warm focaccia bread (I try not to eat all of the bread, but it is so good here, I cannot help it).
Visit Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg for great picnicking items to eat at wineries. This way you don't have to worry about the added costs of siting down to eat lunch and you can have a great picnic at one of the many wineries in Healdsburg.
You should definitely try Zazu in Santa Rosa for dinner. You msut take the group into Healdsburg for a night. Make a dinner reservation in advance. There are so many options, so check out the websites to see what interests you--for Italian: Cela Luna or Scopa, and for American/modern comfort Ravenous or Zin, small plates, Willi's (better for lunch). Other lunches while you are wine tasting--in dry creek valley, the dry creek general store (fun people atching in gorgeous area), or Jimtown in Alexander Valley. Also find out about farmer's markets--for instance, the town of Windsor (close to SR), has one Sundays from 10a-1pm--they have amazing seafood, inc warm, out of the oven smoked slamon, and tuna salads...another vendor seels homemade pizza breads--fun nibbles for picnics.
As for vineyards, and after four days of intense tasting, our favorites were: Iron Horse (amazing view and great sparkling tasting), Dutton Goldfield (not a pretty tasting facility, but I loved their McDougal pinot--have to ask for it, as they do not generally give tastings), Woodenhead and Hartford (pinots/zins), and Westside Road--especially the new kid on the block, C. Donatiello, very elegant, well structed pinots--I was really impressed, and this was after Rochiloi and G. Farrell tastings (which I also love for pinots). we did not like Porter Creek very much. The wines were all young and imbalanced--too much fruit...and expensive, but fun stop. hope this helps!
Mid-range Chowhound favorite restaurants in Sonoma County include:
275 Windsor River Rd, Windsor, CA 95492
Willi's Wine Bar
4404 Old Redwood Hwy, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Syrah - Now Petite Syrah
205 Fifth Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar
403 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448
I really like Arrowood. Very high quality wines for the price, and a number of smaller bottlings not widely available beyond their tasting room.
Cafe Citti is a great place for a casual Italian lunch if you find yourself down on highway 12.
Arrowood Vineyard & Winery
14347 Sonoma Hwy Glen, Ellen, CA
9047 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA 95452
If you'll be in Healdsburg on Saturday, walk through the Farmers Market in the morning, or take a class/lunch at Relish - the culinary school - on June 14: Mateo Granados will prepare his excellent tamales
10:00 AM Farmers Market Tour and Market Demonstration (open to the public) 11:00 AM Class & Lunch
or, in Windsor... dinner at Odyssey
426 Emily Rose Circle - Windsor, CA - (707) 836-7600
On a Friday night, the original French Connection was on screen; the next evening it was La Dolce vita.
My favorite starters at Odyssey are the lemon cured sardines with fennel and olives... and the foie gras pork terrine with port steeped huckleberries. The gnocchi is wonderful, too. Call 707.836.7600 after 2:30 pm for reservations.