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Sonoma County: A Casual California Wine Adventure

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Having visited Napa for Wine Boot Camp, our resident foodie-traveler, David Latt, continues his exploration of California’s wine country, this time in Sonoma County. Read part two of our series on California Wine Country: Napa vs. Sonoma.

With beautiful farmland, a dramatic coastline, fields of wild flowers, world-class wineries and upscale restaurants, Sonoma County located just 30 miles from San Francisco, offers travelers, especially foodies, some of the best experiences in wine country.

My wife and I needed some serious R&R. We wanted to take a trip somewhere casual, where we wouldn’t get stuck in traffic jams, could enjoy beautiful countryside, have some good meals and do a bit of wine tasting.

A Mom and Pop Start to the Trip

Driving on Sonoma County’s two-lane highway in summer, brings a whole new set of experiences.

Largely agricultural, the 200 wineries that run along Route 12 and Highway 101 are mostly mom and pop businesses. These smaller businesses are much more common in Sonoma than in Napa, which is dominated by wealthy investors and large corporations.

The same is true of the many inns and restaurants in the county. The Farmhouse Inn in Forestville isn’t part of a corporate chain. The inn is the passion project of brother and sister, Catherine and Joe Bartolomei. They chose the location because their family has owned a farm nearby for five generations.

Each room in the Inn is unique, the result of Joe’s hunting for high-quality fixtures at discounted rates. The renovations took several years and resulted in a dining room on the main floor with rejuvenated bedrooms on the second floor. They also built out the barn, adding a dozen country-style rooms. 

Another perk includes choosing the soap and bath salts you’ll use in your room. Yard long slabs of custom-made soaps are laid on out a side table. Guests cut off a piece to bring back to their rooms.

Taking advantage of the location in the Russian River Valley wine district, the inn has associations with eleven nearby wineries. If you go for a tasting at any of the wineries and say you are staying at the Farmhouse, you’ll receive a special gift.