By Beth Fletcher
Spring is in the air, the vines are budding and the mustard has blanketed the hillsides and striped the vineyards. Barrel tasting has started and another season of the vine is in the works – it’s time to think about pampering yourselves with a wine country get away.
A weekend on the Sonoma Coast is a surprising wine tasting venue. Staying at some of the exceptional lodges in the area and day tripping to off-the-beaten-path wineries is a wonderful way to spend a weekend and, with so much to do, will certainly have you planning a return trip.
The Bodega Bay Lodge and Spa on Highway One in the town of Bodega Bay is a beautiful-view hotel with an outstanding restaurant – the Duck Club – that celebrates the wines of Sonoma County. Check their website for dinner menus and wine options at www.bodegabaylodge.com.
My husband and I have enjoyed many wonderful dinners here while watching the sunset over the bay. The staff here is uniquely gifted in suggesting wines to pair perfectly with your food selections. And, for the next day’s entertainment, there is a very challenging golf course right next to the lodge and spa.
Just up the road, stop in at Gourmet au Bay for some “wine surfing.” This is a fun place to spend an afternoon overlooking the bay while enjoying a wine flight, served on mini surfboards. And to pair with your wine, Gourmet au Bay has a great selection of cheeses to nibble on and enjoy. Patio heaters let you sit outside on the deck and enjoy the gentle breeze off the bay. The staff is helpful and we enjoy that they limit their selections to wineries with only small case production. This is a great way to find some lesser-known but excellent wines that are recommended by a trusted source. And don’t miss their extensive gift shop, a great place to pick out just the right souvenir of a fun weekend. www.gourmetaubay.com
The Bodega Bay area has good restaurants with a variety of food and drinks. It is cool in the mornings and evenings and sometimes the wind can be strong. If you prefer a milder area, but still close by, the Sonoma Coast Villa and Spa is just a few miles inland – east of town – located in a beautiful setting. This restful and restorative European-style villa houses five-star accommodations and five-star cuisine in their organically stocked restaurant. The inviting and private Courtyard Spa has a full menu of treatments, and you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy the experience. The spa is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily with reservations. www.scvilla.com
From Bodega Bay, it is an easy day trip to numerous wineries in the West County. Drive up the coast to the Russian River and visit the town of Duncan Mills, where perusing the fun shops is a joy. An amazing weekend brunch, with mimosas and eggs benedict on creamy grits and other delights, can be found at the Cape Fear Cafe. duncans-mills.com/cape-fear-resturant
Continue along the Russian River and turn down towards Sebastopol. Definitely stop at Kozlowski Farms, a great place for the designated driver to taste their hearts out with an amazingly broad selection of house-made jams and sauces, salad dressings and pies, just to name a few of their creatively created offerings. If you like pie, you’ll definitely want to bring one of these beauties home. www.kozlowskifarms.com
Just at the outskirts of Sebastopol are three wineries worth a stop: Dutton Estate, Dutton-Goldfield and Red Car. Dutton Estate has wonderful Pinots and the staff is friendly, knowledgeable and will spend time talking with you. You can buy cheese in the tasting room to accompany their tastings. Check out their event schedule and make a reservation for one of their great wine tasting dinners. sebastopolvineyards.com
There are 11 wineries in this little tucked away wine stop. Visit www.westsonomacountywineries.com for complete information on them all.
You can return to the coast driving through Sebastopol and make a side trip into Occidental for great shopping in a postcard, small-town setting. The town has two great choices for a family-style Italian dinner, the Union Hotel or Negri’s. We like to go to breakfast at Occidental’s Howard’s Station Café (www.howardstationcafe.com). The food is well worth the wait and the dining room is filled with historical information and pictures from when the train was the way to get to the West County.
Returning to the Coast you can drive through the historic town of Bodega with its perhaps familiar scenery from Hitchcock’s iconic movie, The Birds. Interesting shops and coffee stops dot the two-block main road through town.
Back on the coast, and before taking off on another day of adventure, drive around the bay to Bodega Head – if your timing is right you may see whale spouts. There are many hiking trails around the area, but be careful – cliffs are steep and can crumble. Having walked off the excesses of the day, it might be a good time to book yourself into the spa at The Bodega Bay Lodge and pamper yourself before heading back home.
Sonoma County has a comprehensive calendar of events available online which can tag some dates you may wish to make. www.howardstationcafe.com
Next time, onto the Sonoma County Valleys, another wine adventure. The three valleys – Dry Creek, Russian River and Alexander – have a wealth of amazing wine and food stops. Trust me, this can become a recurring trip to see them all!