The heart of Sonoma wine country beckons with a soothing river, a dynamic food scene, and the county’s first kombucha bar. Deputy Travel Editor Christine Ciarmello takes us on a wine weekend.
Drinking here is good for youWith more than 100 wineries and one of Sonoma County’s biggest breweries, Healdsburg knows fermented beverages. Yet it’s never seen anything like the Fermentation Bar, set inside Shed, the Sonoma locavore’s new answer to Napa’s Dean & DeLuca. Bright-colored fruit infusions steep in beakers, and bacteria and grains ferment in jars, waiting to be alchemized into fruity kefirs and nosetickling kombuchas. “Kids are welcome at the bar,” says bar manager Jordan Lancer. “It’s like a science fair every day in here.” Try a glass of the seasonal spiced pumpkin kombucha, then browse Shed for local fruits, charcuterie, and breads made from the store’s freshly milled wheat.
The river soothes your psycheRiver’s Edge outfitters see a common ailment in visitors: NDD, or nature deficit disorder. Their cure? Drop you off with a kayak (or canoe) 5 miles upriver from town and let nature do the rest. “This section of the Russian River has something different around every corner,” says owner Lollie Mercer. “You can be in 2 feet of water, then a 10-foot swim hole, all within a few feet.” The course takes two to three hours of paddling, but the boat is yours for at least a half-day, plenty of time to picnic and swim.
The wineries feed youGrapes aren't the only star here. At Quivira Vineyards, you can check out the 1 acre biodynamic garden before stocking up on fresh eggs from heirloom chickens. Farther north, Preston Farm sits on 125 acres of olive groves, grapevines, and fruit trees. Beside the tasting room is a farm store where pomegranates, chard, and the season’s other yields are laid out to be paid for using an honor system.
Small bites are bigOne classic wine country experience—a formal farm-to-table dinner at a Michelin-kissed restaurant—is being rejiggered. A spate of casual eateries have opened to dish up small bites from around the world. In a quaint Arts and Crafts cottage, Bravas Bar de Tapas can start things off with a Spanish-style gin and tonic (made with fresh fruit and herbs like saffron and cardamom) before rolling out tapas such as duck meatball bocadillos, salt cod fritters, and Gulf prawns a la plancha. Around the corner, Mateo’s Cocina Latina does “modern Latin” cuisine: Chef Mateo Granados hand-rolls his crispy tacones, or cone-shaped tortillas, which he fills with guacamole, carne asada, or chorizo .