Highway 101 divides Sonoma County in half; on the eastern side, you have Sonoma Valley, which has wineries, the town of Sonoma, and its neighbor Napa. On the west side is the Sonoma we really know and love, western Sonoma, which has more dairy land than grapevines. There are lots of small towns, rolling golden hills, redwood groves, and a hell of a coastline. We love it because it's gorgeous, down to earth, and full of fantastic food and drink. Summer means hot days (except for the occasional fog), cool nights, and - steady yourself - a noticeable eau du cow during fertilizer season. Just wanted to warn you.
For wedding events, you'll be spending most of your time in the Sebastopol area, which is a short drive from the coast to the west, and the heart of Sonoma Valley and its wineries to the east. We're happy to give you as many recommendations as you care to hear. Below is a list of some of our favorite places, should you go exploring in western Sonoma. We're also happy to talk to you about eastern Sonoma and Napa, especially if you're planning a wine tasting trip - just ask!
For our many Catholic family members, St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Sebastopol is a short drive from both the Fairfield Inn and the Sebastopol Inn. Sunday Mass is held at 8 and 10 a.m. (or 1 p.m. if you speak Spanish!)
You can also attend services at Saint Teresa of Avila Church in nearby Bodega, made famous by Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds.
Mike is a big fan of the band Primus, whose singer Les Claypool owns Claypool Cellars right next to the Sebastopol Inn! We haven't tried the wines yet, but it seems worth it just for the names, which include Russian River Valley Purple Pachyderm Pinot Noir and Pink Platypus Pinot Noir rosé.
If you want to explore Sonoma wineries but don't want to deal with the hubbub of central Sonoma or Napa, head just a bit north to the Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg. Look online for more information, or check out 7x7's guide and Sunset Magazine's restaurant and winery planner for the area.
Hog Island Oyster Co is about 40 minutes from Sebastopol on Tomales Bay. Make a reservation ahead of time for a large group and enjoy amazing oysters, plus BYO beer and wine and barbecuing.
The Russian River: floating lazily on the Russian River is one of our favorite things to do. Rent a canoe or kayak from Burke's or Johnson's canoes and have a paddle, or pick up an inner tube and just float at Johnson's Beach or the Monte Rio public beach.
Wildflour Bread Bakery: in between Sebastopol and Valley Ford, this bakery makes amazing breads (get the daily fougasse) and sweet treats. We once showed up sans cash - they don't take cards - and they sent us home with our order and a request to mail a check in when we were able. Two thumb's up.
Russian River Brewing: Santa Rosa's famous (to beer nerds) brewery, home of strong, hoppy, tongue-tingling beers.
Tomales Bay Oyster Co, Hog Island Oyster Co: south of Valley Ford along the coast, nothing beats shucking your own oysters and washing them down with a local wine. Both are casual, though Hog Island sometimes requires reservations.
There are innumerable places to hike in the area; let us know what you're in the mood for - hills, ocean, woods, easy, moderate, strenuous - and we'll be able to make some recommendations. Weekend Sherpa is also an excellent resource.
The Coppola Winery Pool is dreamy - a big pool, wine tastings, comfy lounge chairs, and a movie museum including props from the Godfather. To get in, book a cabin as far ahead of time as you can.
Big Bottom Market: along the Russian River in Guerneville, this place sells fantastic biscuits (we buy them frozen by the dozen) and is good for a casual bite. Seriously, get the biscuits.
If you're staying in Sebastopol, there are plenty of things to do nearby:
- Hopmonk Tavern: a great beer bar in the heart of Sebastopol with a nice backyard. Mike loves their kale salad.
- Spiritworks Distillery: a maker of gin, vodka, sloe gin, and soon whiskey in the Barlow, a culinary center in the middle of Sebastopol, owned by our wonderful friends Timo and Ashby. Highly recommended for a tour and a tasting.
- Woodfour Brewing: upscale brewery food and tasty, drinkable beers, just a few steps from Spiritworks in the Barlow.
- Also in the Barlow: wineries, a coffeemaker, restaurants, and more. Worth a visit.
- The Hallberg Butterfly Gardens lets you stroll among hundreds of butterflies.
- The Gravenstein Apple Fair will be going on in Ragle Ranch Park on the 9th and 10th. In addition to featuring the area's signature apple in all kinds of ways, the fair has live music, arts and crafts, and children's activities. Our sources tell us not to miss the apple fritters.