From Neoplitan-style pizzerias and Japanese ramen pop-ups, to quintessentially Californian eateries - sommelier Courtney Humiston recommends the best restaurants to visit in Sonoma County.
Insider guide to restaurants in Sonoma County
As you head north out of San Francisco, you reach a fork in the road. In this analogy, the road less travelled is the one that takes you to Sonoma County. Unlike Napa Valley, which is one self-contained corridor (hence, Valley), the wine country of Sonoma County is vast and diverse.
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It’s made up of many small towns that each have their own unique populations and aesthetics. Stay on the 101 and you’ll find yourself in Healdsburg, the small but lively hub of northern Sonoma. Located at the intersection of three major wine-growing regions (Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley), the town has long been considered an up-and-coming tourist destination, but remains true to itself, largely because it is just such a nice place to live.
Heading west was something that very few visitors to Sonoma County would have done as little as five years ago. But that too is changing. Sebastopol (a town that feels much further than its seven miles off the main drag), has been the site of some serious construction, and has drawn some dynamic and imaginative eateries.
Scopa, Healdsburg: Buzzing locals’ joint
At Scopa in Healdsburg, chef Ari Rosen has been luring the locals to his tiny, buzzing restaurant for years with the comforts of burrata and Nonna’s braised chicken. Every week, a different winemaker from Scopa’s wine list joins the team as a server in the restaurant for ‘Winemaker Wednesdays’. This is a cleverly devised condition that enables participating winemakers to keep their wines on the list for a full year.
109A Plaza St
+1 707 433 5282
Bergamot Alley: Where winemakers drink
If you’re wondering where the local winemakers go to drink, it’s Bergamot Alley, an eccentric wine and beer bar where there’s not one single local wine on the list. This is where the people who spend all day thinking about growing California Pinot Noir and Zinfandel go to get their Champagne fix: and along with it, a helping of live music and grilled cheese sandwiches, until late at night.
328 Healdsburg Ave
+1 707 433 8720
Geyserville Gun Club: Champagne & cocktails
Dino Bugica opened his second Geyserville foodie destination in early 2016: Geyserville Gun Club Bar & Lounge. Besides his excellent pizza and fresh pastas, Bugica is known locally for his ability to source interesting and difficult-to-find Italian wines, many of them in the natural camp. In spite of its somewhat ironic name, expect to find really good Champagne and classic cocktails at the Gun Club – along with all the food that you want to eat with really good Champagne, such as caviar and fried chicken.
21025 Geyserville Ave
+1 707 814 0036
Diavola: Wood-fired pizza
For some of the best wood-fired pizza in Sonoma County, keep heading north until you get to Geyserville. The tiny town (seriously, it is two blocks long), is known for its high standard of rustic Italian cuisine. Start with Diavola, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria and salumeria run by chef Dino Bugica.
21021 Geyserville Ave
+1 707 814 0111
In 2015, Dustin Valette, a locally raised chef, opened his eponymous restaurant Valette with his brother Aaron Garzini. Valette brings fresh energy to Healdsburg’s town centre in the form of house-cured meats and fresh pasta. Their wine list is closely connected to the local winemaking community, featuring a variety of choices from all over Sonoma County.
344 Center St
+1 707 473 0946
The Barlow in Sebastopol is a kind of outdoor mall that’s home to craft gin distilleries, breweries, wineries and coffee roasters instead of clothing stores and movie theatres – and it’s attracted restaurants and hotels as well. The most noteworthy addition is Ramen Gaijin, which started out as a small pop-up in The Barlow and now has a permanent home just a block away. The ramen is rich, savoury and satisfying – best enjoyed with sharp homemade pickles and citrussy cocktails.
6948 Sebastopol Ave
+1 707 827 3609
Written by Courtney Humiston and edited by Laura Seal for Decanter.com
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