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Sara’s place: Sonoma

A romantic destination with great food and wines, Sonoma also provides a picturesque setting for strolls and picnics

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Posted: Friday, June 8, 2012 8:35 am

Why I love Sonoma: I grew up taking summer trips to Bodega Bay, passing through much of Sonoma County without a closer look. But after college at Sonoma State University, it seems I can’t stay away from the stunning views and welcoming people.

Favorite memory: For a very special first date a few years ago, I was told we were taking a walk. Instead, we drove 30 minutes, then strolled arou nd the plaza and down the main street. It was near midnight, and a beautiful look at the town.

What Sonoma is famous for: Wineries. The drive to Sonoma is filled with rolling vineyards. It’s impossible to drive more than a mile or so in any direction without finding yet another winery. It can be a bit of a drive to get to new places, but roll down the windows, turn up your music and enjoy it.

Where to sleep: There’s a bed and breakfast called Bungalows 313. It’s half a block from the hub of town, but tucked away behind gardens and a large courtyard. Check in to your own bungalow for the night and wake up ready to take in the valley.

Wake up and: Go for an early walk at Sonoma Valley Regional Park in neighboring Glen Ellen with the dog. Let Rover off the leash at the one acre dog park at the end of the trail.

Best shopping: Around the Sonoma Plaza. Find a parking spot somewhere around the block and wander through shops, tasting rooms and hidden courtyards.

Best coffee: Barking Dog Coffee Roasters has two locations. One is on Napa Street, another is on Sonoma Highway. Both have the freshest coffee in town, because it’s the only spot that roasts the beans on site.

Best place to meet people: On the trails or at the wineries. Between the endorphins and the wine buzz, everyone is chatty.

Where to grub: Make it a picnic. Pick up bread at Basque Boulangerie, buy cheese and salami at the Sonoma Cheese Factory, then head to a winery. Purchase a bottle of wine, find a grassy spot under a tree and nosh.

What to do during the day: The area is rich in history. Tour Mission San Francisco de Solano right off the plaza on Spain Street or take a drive to Jack London State Historical Park in nearby Glen Ellen. Bring a bike or hiking shoes and find a trail. Or spend a few hours at a spa getting pampered.

Dive in: Again, it’s a bit of a drive, but head to Spring Lake outside Santa Rosa. Great trails, lake views, and a recently renovated swimming lagoon.

Night life: Grab dinner anywhere along the plaza that strikes your fancy, then have some drinks at Murphy’s Pub. That guy from the date I mentioned prefers the Irish stout. Most weekends, the pubs play live music.

Getting around: Bring your own car, but also bring a willing driver. Wine tasting can hit you faster than you think.

Don’t leave without seeing: Cornerstone Sonoma on Arnold Drive. It’s a series of walk through gardens showcasing new designs from the world’s best landscape architects. It’s a treat for the senses.

— Sara Jane Pohlman, staff writer

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