Small town, big flavors

There's lots to savor in the idyllic Sonoma County town of Graton

a photo of the bar and interior at underwood bar and bistro

The king-sized nickel-top bar at Underwood Bar and Bistro

Graton Gallery

  • paintings at graton gallery

    Dogs are everywhere in Graton, including at the Graton Gallery.

Only 1,815 people live in Graton, but they all must have good taste. That's one explanation for why there's a cluster of excellent eateries along the town's two-stop sign main street. That and its proximity to Sonoma County's Russian River wine country, where residents have a history of pairing good food and wine in an easygoing way.

Start at Willow Wood Market Cafe ($$; 9020 Graton Rd.; 707/823-0233), where the wholesome meals come Sonoma-style ― informal, yet gourmet. The 9-year-old cafe's back patio is a gathering spot for locals, who rave about the polenta. The cafe doubles as a country store, with preserves, wine, and oddball gifts.

Continue browsing at the just-opened Far West Trading Company (closed Mon-Tue; 9056 Graton Rd.; 707/823-4880), stocked with tansu, rice bowls, and other Asian imports. Or pop into Mr. Ryder & Co. (9040 Graton Rd.; 707/ 824-8221), a cute vintage-furniture and collectibles shop named for the owners' handsome dog.

Also downtown, small Graton Gallery (9048 Graton Rd.; 707/829-8912) has colorful works by a half-dozen local artists lining its narrow space. Wet your palate at the new Lynmar Winery tasting room (closed Tue-Thu; $5 tasting fee; 9060 Graton Rd.; 707/829-3374), where you can sample different styles of the Russian River's specialties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Expand your tasting range on a scenic drive to Martin Ray Winery (2191 Laguna Rd., Santa Rosa; 707/823-2404), 2 miles east of Graton. Four miles west, taste organic wines at Topolos at Russian River Vineyards (5700 Gravenstein Hwy. N., Forestville; 800/867-6567).

Back in town for dinner, you won't go wrong at Scala's ($$$; closed Mon-Tue; 8989 Graton Rd.; 707/824-5856) for pizza and pasta or at Mexico Lindo ($; 9030 Graton Rd.; 707/823-4154) for burritos. One of Graton's hot spots is the Underwood Bar & Bistro ($$$; closed Mon; 9113 Graton Rd.; 707/823-7023), with French-inspired dishes and trendy cocktails. Though it comes in a small glass, the fig aperitif packs a tasty punch ― a bit like the town of Graton itself.

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http://www.sunset.com/travel/california/small-town-big-flavors-00400000015798/