Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Nov 26, 2013 08:52 AM

Christmas week in Sonoma, need restaurant and winery recs!

Husband and I have done plenty of trips to Napa, but never Sonoma. We are staying at the Fairmont in Sonoma and will have dinner one night at Sante. Other than that we have no idea where to go for wine or food. We will be golfing Thursday morning, so we will have Tuesday (Christmas Eve), Wednesday (Christmas Day), Thursday afternoon and Friday wide open for exploring wineries.

Might be good to schedule a hike for Christmas day as I'm sure not a lot will be open.

We enjoy most wines, anything from crisp whites to Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabs and Zinfandel (Cabs are a favorite). We would prefer not to venture into Napa this visit. That being said, we will have a car and can travel throughout Sonoma County for great recommendations.

I’ve done a bit of research on the boards and these wineries seem to keep popping up:

Bartholomew Park (hiking trail?)
Gundlach Bundschu

Kenwood (20 min):
Chateau St. Jean

Santa Rosa (40 min):
St. Francis

Healdsburg (I realize this is about an hour from where we are staying):

Food-wise we love French, Italian, Mexican, Tapas; do not like sushi. Not too worried about breakfast as we will probably eat at the hotel before we hit the road each day. Lunches will be on the go in between wine tastings. We have a reservation at Sante for Thursday and will do the Chef’s Tasting Menu. Other than Sante, we will probably try to eat on the lighter side, i.e. not a large tasting menu and are fine with more casual restaurants.

Have heard good things about:

Willi’s Wine Bar (Santa Rosa)
El Molino Central
The Girl and the Fig
La Salette
Café La Haye

Please tell me if there are any "musts" or "skips" on the list and feel free to add other suggestions.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: macsak

      Looks delish, thanks! Adding it to the list.

    2. Good call to schedule a hike for Christmas Day as I can't think of any wineries that will be open. There is a very nice trail behind Bartholomew Park, but it might be too short.

      La Salette is top of my list of must-eats in Sonoma.

      1 Reply
      1. re: CarrieWas218

        I think we will try Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, weather permitting.

      2. I'd focus on Glen Ellen for wineries and Sonoma Mountain: Laurel Glen, and Pangloss. Up the road, and to the west: Matanzas Creek.

        I love Cafe Citti in Kenwood, which we did on a visit to Matanzas Creek. Love the roast chicken, duck and especially the potato salad.

        Listen to Carrie: She has a wonderful palate.

        1 Reply
        1. re: maria lorraine

          Cafe Citti is one of those places that, while obviously on the tourist trail, are frequented often by locals because the food is so good and the prices so reasonable. I also love the ambiance, very wine-country unpretentious casual. It's on my must-do list for taking visitors. As are Fremont Diner and El Molino Central (which I describe as the Mexican version of Fremont Diner).

        2. If you're going to Healdsburg, you should definitely stay to eat! I was just there last weekend for my birthday and had a fantastic time based on the Chowhound recs I researched before.

          Healdsburg eats:
          - Barn Diva has fantastic Californian "modern country" cuisine and a nice atmosphere. I came for brunch, but would come back for dinner as well!
          - Mateo's Cocina Latina was a great variation from typical Mexican fare in CA. Fresh ingredients, the chef was amazingly friendly and came to tell us what inspired his dishes. Again, was here for brunch, but would try it for dinner as well.
          - Bravas bar de Tapas is a Spanish tapas place with a great patio and wonderful dishes to share. We came for dinner and they had communal paella being cooked in a giant pan in the courtyard which was fun to watch.

          Healdsburg tasting:
          - Thumbprint Cellar has been a favorite of mine for years. They also have a wine and cheese/charcuterie pairing on the menu.

          Calistoga was a pretty 25m drive east from Healdsburg on a small country road. Over there we enjoyed the most beautiful estate at Chateau Montelena - seriously gorgeous grounds as well as the chateau itself. The staff was really friendly and laid back, which was nice to see, despite being so close to Napa. We bought a bottle and hung out on the lake and pagoda :)

          3 Replies
          1. re: bobabear

            i second Bravas, had our second exellent meal their today. skip Willie's, as for me their food has gone downhill. Bravas is owned by the same people. lovely space, esp. that patio, wonderful tapas, great cocktails.

            our newest favorite wine tasting room is Banshee, right around the corner from Bravas. excellent syrah, decent pinots, and i even liked their chards. but the room is great and inviting, with lounging areas and a long communal table.

            1. re: bobabear

              Thanks for the recommendations! We are spending Friday in Healdsburg and dining at Mateo's for lunch and Bravas for dinner :)

              1. re: Im4Wine

                just had another very enjoyable lunch for 11 at Bravas. hoping you'll love it!

            2. One other don't miss meal is at Glen Ellen Star.