Plan a trip to Sonoma wine country

Of all California’s wine regions, Sonoma may be the easiest to fall in love with. Visit this laid-back land of vineyard-rich valleys, from Sonoma to Dry Creek to Alexander, with the Russian River thrown in

Artisan Sonoma

Wine Country locals reveal their off-season discoveries

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Locals' Sonoma

If you're in the market for wine tasting and eating in the Sonoma Valley, the options are virtually limitless. That's why it's smart to ask the people who live there where to go.

Rick Kasmier's Sonoma

The Fig Café & Winebar. A spin-off of the Girl & the Fig, it serves rustic, country-French fare, with specials such as cassoulet ― perfect for a winter evening. Kasmier appreciates the restaurant's "Rhône Alone" wine list, which features not a single Cab, Merlot, or Chardonnay. $$; dinner daily (closed for renovation Jan 27–31). 13690 Arnold Dr., Glen Ellen; www.thefigcafe.com or 707/938-2130.

Kaz Vineyards & Winery. Don't miss the 2002 Mainliner ($42), made from the Lenoir grape. 11–5 Fri–Mon; $5 tasting fee. 233 Adobe Canyon Rd., Kenwood; www.kazwinery.com.com or 707/833-2536.

LaSalette Restaurant. A small family-run Portuguese restaurant loved by Kasmier. $$$; closed Mon. 452 First St. E., Sonoma; www.lasalette-restaurant.com or 707/938-1927.

Ditty Vella's Sonoma

Cafe LaHaye. Ditty calls this her benchmark restaurant ― informal, with local, fresh, consistently excellent food, not to mention an artisan cheese plate (supplied by Ditty). $$; closed Sun–Mon, reservations recommended. 140 E. Napa St., Sonoma; 707/935-5994.

Gundlach Bundschu Winery. Ditty calls this family-run winery "fun, funny, and refreshing because they have a sense of humor about what they do." $5 tasting fee. 2000 Denmark St., Sonoma; www.gunbun.com or 707/938-5277.

Sebastiani Theatre. Ditty likes to watch weekend matinees in this restored old theater. Tickets from $5.50. 476 First St. E., Sonoma; www.sebastianitheatre.com or 707/996-2020.

Sonoma Overlook Trail. Both Ditty and Jim Callahan say the 3-mile trail, which starts just a few blocks north of the Sonoma Plaza, is a great place to hike in winter. The trail opened in 2002, after a hot debate on whether to turn this oak-covered hillside into a high-end resort. First St. W. at Mountain Cemetery; Sonoma Ecology Center, 707/996-9744.

Jim Callahan's Sonoma

The Cheesemaker's Daughter. Callahan often picks up a cheese-and-prosciutto sandwich at Ditty's cheese boutique. $; closed Mon. 127 E. Napa St., Sonoma; 707/996-4060.

LaHaye Art Center. Working art studio managed by Callahan that's right off the plaza. Call for hours; free. 148 E. Napa St., Sonoma; 707/996-4373.

Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. This month see Artist-Teacher-Artist, an exhibit that explores the creative relationships between major Bay Area artists and their mentors. Works from such standouts as Christopher Brown, Squeak Carnwath, and Viola Frey will be on display. Closed Mon–Tue; $5 (free Sun). 551 Broadway St., Sonoma; www.svma.org or 707/939-7862.

The Wine Exchange of Sonoma. Instead of visiting wineries, Callahan likes to wind up his day at this shop on the plaza. In the back of the store, there's a bar where you can try the owner's favorite wines and beers of the moment (from $1 per taste). 452 First St. E., Sonoma; 707/938-1794.

 

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