Most visitors are afraid of going off of the beaten path. There are plenty of vineyards to see from highway 101, but there is also urban sprawl. No great views of what makes Sonoma County great; the rolling hills, the rivers and creeks, and the great groves of redwoods and oaks. Sometimes it is good to take your time. Take a back road. Next time you are up in Sonoma County, pull out your green wine road maps and get off the freeway. Add 5 to 10 minutes onto your drive but take the road less traveled. It’s more beautiful than you can imagine.
If you have some extra time on a beautiful day up in our neck of the woods, take Geysers Road in Alexander valley. This drive is a little over an hour long and has some of the most amazing views of Alexander valley and Northern Sonoma County. The drive takes you behind Geyser Peak, the high point right outside Locals window. Find the ½ mile above sea level sign on your adventure! You also get to go past the geothermal plant on your journey. Do be aware though that the road is unpaved in a few sections so it will be a bumpy ride!
When starting off your day of wine tasting, getting a good jump on the day is important. I think a good cup of coffee can help shape your day from being tired and dreary in the morning to be full of energy and ready to face the day. Depending on where your day starts gives you many options for an amazing cup of local joe.
Starting up in Cloverdale, the coffee shop Plank is the coolest place to go. Located at 227 N Cloverdale Blvd, this small little coffee shop has a large selection of coffee and tea drinks with gluten and vegan pastry options in lovely glass containers. With nice cushy seating and earthy tones covering the walls, this coffee shop right in the heart of Cloverdale is a great place to people watch in the morning in a small town not overloaded with tourists.
Here in Geyserville is our beloved Geyserville Mud. Most of you know this place as our local café we love to send people to. They have a full selection of coffee drinks hot and cold, with pastries from Cousteax bakery down in Healdsburg. During the weekend they have a hot breakfast with specialties like Bourbon French toast to fill your belly. This is also the only coffee shop on this list where you also grab a pint of beer from on tap and a freshly made sandwich.
For Healdsburg the best kept secret is The Flying Goat. The reason I say secret is that there are actually two locations, for different coffee needs. The main Flying Goat is right off the square next to Powell’s sweet shop. This is the main location and the best place to rub elbows with the locals, people watch, or just enjoy the morning paper. They have house made pastries and breads for a quick nibble as well. Right down the road about a block located in a shopping center is the other Flying Goat. This is the place for if you just want to run in and grab a cup, or have a quiet moment to yourself. They have a limited selection of pastries from the main location, but the same coffee brand. Even house made treats for your dog!
Down in Windsor is an old favorite of mine, Café Noto. Right on the square in the middle of downtown Windsor, this coffee shop is great for the artsy colorful feel of a European coffee shop. With a great outdoor seating area this coffee shop has amazing ambiance. They usually have a fun local artist present their work in the shop. Their coffee is on the lighter side of roasted, leaving a creamy mouth feel. They have an amazing selection of quiches, hot breakfast sandwiches, and pastries to fill your every need.
Where is your favorite place to get coffee in Sonoma County?
The Sea Ranch Chapel
Take 101 to River Road Guerneville exit and follow until it until it hooks up to Hwy 116 in Guerneville, follow Hwy 116 to Jenner then turn left and you are on Hwy 1. This is a very windy, beautiful drive. Sea Ranch is at the 55.5 Hwy 1 marker. The Chapel (non-denominational) was built in 1985 from local natural materials by craftsmen and artists. A San Diego based artist (Hubble) was one of the craftsmen/artists and is known for creating unique living environments for humans to dwell in harmony with nature and their surroundings. The interior of the Chapel (kind of looks like a wooden shoe from the outside) features stone floors, stained glass windows, floral mosaic and carved redwood details plus chandeliers. It is beautiful and very peaceful. After visiting the Chapel and on your way back. Stop at Timber Cove Hotel and Restaurant for some incredible views of the ocean/sunsets and great hikes along the cliffs and lunch or dinner. Returning to Jenner stop at Rivers End Restaurant for a glass of champagne and some fresh oysters to cap off the night. Rivers end has been at the same location since 1927 and you will enjoy yourself. Check the Chapel out at www.thesearanchchapel.org If you are history buffs stop at Fort Ross which was a Russian Colony established in 1812 it is one of the oldest state parks in California. There is a museum and beach access. www.fortrossstatepark.org.
One of my favorite stops on the way to the Pacific Coast, Goats Rock and the mouth of the Russian River is Duncans Mills, rich in history and a great place for killer coffee and hot pastries at Gold Coast Coffee. The Sticky Buns ( only available on Saturdays) are one of my favorites as are the Butter Horns hot right out of the oven available most days. Two Scottish Brothers Samuel and Alexander Duncan relocated a lumber mill there in 1877, to avoid spring flooding on the River that occurred at their former location and the town grew up around the mill. Duncan Mills does a fantastic Civil War Days re-enactment in July. (www.civilwardays.net) which is great history and fun for the family. This is an incredible re-enactment complete with cannon fire, horses, troops and history lessons, do not miss it. Duncan Mills has some fun shops and art galleries as well as the newest tenant which is Sophie’s Cellar. Sophie’s has some great wine selections and cheeses, snacks and picnic basket goodie selections for your day on the beach. Sophie’s owner John Haggard writes a monthly column about wines in the Russian River Gazette and will help you find some fun wines for your day (tell him Locals sent you). He also has free corkage at 9 local restaurants in case you are having dinner along the River. On Saturdays in the late afternoon the Blue Heron has outdoor music and dancing with the foothills and blue skies as a back drop. Bob’s BBQ Oysters and a pitcher of beer will set you in the mood. Follow River road exit off 101 to Hwy 116 and follow it towards the ocean. Duncan Mills is about four miles west of Monte Rio along the Russian River. Cheers
Freestone Artisan Cheese in Freestone
This magical little cheese shop just opened about a month ago in the corner at Freestone, along the Bohemian Highway. They specialize in local cheeses, with a variety of cow, sheep and goat cheeses to fit any palette. With the help of Omar Mueller, this small shop can take you on your own journey through the Sonoma County landscape with different cheeses from around the area. He will work with you and walk you through different aged cheese for any occasion. You can grab some bread from Wildflower bakery and bring it in for some supreme pairings with the fougasses or goat rock loaves. Then take your little lunch over to the Wildflower gardens or the patio in the front of this little cheese shop and have a moment of bliss.
380 Bohemian Highway, Freestone, CA
Open Friday through Monday 10 – 6
Wild Flour Bakery in Freestone
This well kept locals secret has been passed around for over 14 years, with mainly only the tourists driving or biking by never knowing the wiser. All of their bread is made in an old brick oven witheucalyptus wood and they primarily make sourdough bread with mixings of goat cheese, garlic, onions, and many herbs, spices, and seeds. They are also well known for their scones and warm sticky buns bursting with currants, walnuts, and cinnamon.
What makes this spot so special is not only the amazing breads, but their luscious garden rightbehind the building. Full of fruit trees, vegetablegardens, berry patches, and a grape vine arbor; this quiet garden has seating sprinkled around for quiet moments or a small catch-up with an old friend. You can always meet some locals out in that garden! Grab some cheese from the newly opened Freestone Artisan Cheese shop right down the road and have your self a lovely picnic.
Keep in mind that their hours are sort of unusual in that they are open the unusual Friday through Monday, 8:30 AM to 6 PM.
Rivers End in Jenner
Follow River road and Hwy 116 from Guerneville to Jenner. You will be driving along the river with lots of pull out spots to enjoy the views. This road comes to a fork near the ocean. Turn right to Jenner (this is about an 18 minute drive from Guerneville). Just outside of Jenner on the left side of the road looking out over the ocean and the Russian River is Rivers End Restaurant. This is a great spot for lunch and a walk on the beach or for a dinner with ocean and sunset views. The restaurant has a great California Cuisine menu with lots of fresh local produce and fish. Patrick is the Bartender and he makes a serious Ramous Gin Fizz so if you are looking to start off with a great morning cocktail tell him Bill sent you. The restaurant staff is friendly and the menu has something for everyone, including a great wine list if you are back in the mood for some wine after a day of rest and reflection. Reservations recommended especially for dinner if you want a table with sunset view.
Always open for LUNCH and DINNER.
We always recommend you call for reservations 707-865-2484 ext. 111
Year Round Hours
Thursday through Monday
(Closed Tuesday and Wednesday)
SEE SPECIAL HOLIDAY HOURS.
Lunch – 12:00 pm to 3:30 pm
Dinner – 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm
In Sonoma County after a few days of wine tasting perhaps a little quite time for reflection and relaxation is in order at Armstrong Woods. An 805 acre park located in Guerneville is a sure bet for nature lovers. From Hwy 101 take the River road/Guerneville Road exit (about 2 miles north of Santa Rosa). Follow River Road as it winds through the Russian River Appellation for about 16 miles to Guerneville and at the second stoplight in Guerneville take a right on Armstrong road, it dead ends at the park. I recommend parking in the lot just outside the park and then by walking in you have no park fee. It is flat and some of the biggest and oldest Redwoods in Northern California are in these woods. It is truly beautiful. Get there early in the morning and enjoy the quiet and a cup of coffee which you can get at Café Bazaar which is on the left just after you make the turn on to Armstrong road.
HOURS OF OPERATION:
8:00 AM to one hour after official sunset.
PARK OFFICE TELEPHONE:
Day Use Fees
$8.00 per vehicle
$7.00 per vehicle for seniors
Free to pedestrians and bicyclists
Bus fee for 10-24 passengers is $50.00
Located in the Rincon Center in San Francisco in the Embarcadero area, this world renowned Dim Sum Restaurant is abuzz with friends, families and conversations while a host of servers approach your table with carts filled with fresh seafood, meats and veggie dumplings along with offerings of fish, duck, crab and veggie side orders. I love the Atmosphere at Yank Sing and the food that once served only to the Imperial Family is out of this world.
Water Bar is a seafood-centric restaurant located on the waterfront in San Francisco with a panoramic view of the bay, city skyline and the Bay Bridge. It features a menu of fresh sustainable fish and seafood plus in the evenings the light show on the Bay Bridge is visible. During happy hour lunch from 11:30 -4pm on Thursdays thru Saturday’s they serve fresh DOLLAR OYSTERS. Sit at the bar you will meet people from all over the world.
399 The Embarcadero South| San Francisco, California 94105 |