Sonoma County: Dine 5-star
Population: 472,102. Median single-family home price: $484,000 (Healdsburg).
Wineries open to the public: 305
Take a trial run: Eco-happy H2Hotel is within walking distance of stellar food and tasting rooms. From $215; h2hotel.com
“Everyone’s thinking about food and wine all day long here,” says Sondra Bernstein, proprietor of The Girl & The Fig restaurant in Sonoma. “It’s like, ‘What’s happening in the news?’ ” Bernstein, who has many projects, recently added a 2-acre biodynamic farm in a sharecropping agreement with a winery.
Though Napa, one valley to the east, may draw more tourists and buzz, it was the Sonoma Valley that in 2009 became the nation’s first Cittaslow (“Slow City”), a hard-won designation that Cittaslow International awarded the valley for keeping it sustainable, local, and small-scale.
Live in Sonoma County and you may start to take things for granted. You might think rack of lamb is always grilled on an authentic Argentine parrilla, as it is at Francis Ford Coppola’s winery in Geyserville. That any class called “The Art of Wood-Fired Cooking” would naturally be taught by Andrea Mugnaini, an authority on Old World open-hearth ovens (her oven company has a Healdsburg cooking school). That every pizza joint offers house-cured lardo as a topping (Diavola Pizzeria in Geyserville). That your Sazerac should be poured by the guy who literally wrote the book on artisanal cocktails (Scott Beattie at Healdsburg’s Spoonbar). Which is to say, you just might get a little spoiled.
Runners-up: Napa County; Vancouver, B.C.