We sometimes receive zany questions from visitors: “Is Sonoma County open on Tuesdays?” “Where can I find the white Zinfandel vineyards? I’ve never seen pink grapes.” “Do Canadians enjoy Sonoma County?”
(Answers: “Yes.” “Surprisingly, white Zin is made from a mix of red Zinfandel grapes and the magic of wine making.” “Most definitely, eh?”)
However, around 90 percent (and, no, I didn’t do the math on this; it’s just a nice round estimate) of the questions we all get are variations of the same. Here’s a compilation of what we’ve deemed the top questions visitors ask about Sonoma County and the answers to those questions.
Are there any wineries that offer free tasting? Yes, there are dozens of wineries in Sonoma County that offer either free tastings or waive the tasting fee will a wine purchase. A list of the wineries that offer complimentary tastings can be found at inside-sonoma.com/sonoma-county-wine-tasting. This list is up to date as of press time, but you’ll need to double check with the wineries to confirm tasting fees.
Members of Sonoma County Vintners’ Visa Signature program also offer free tastings to Visa Signature card members. Find out where at sonomawine.com/visa-signature-perks/vs-winery-guide.
Can I get to Sonoma County from San Francisco on mass transit? While the best way to experience Sonoma County is renting a car, yes, you can use mass transit to visit. Go to www.sonomacounty.com/transportation for local companies that offer private transportation.
Sonoma County Airport Express (www.airportexpressinc.com, 707-837-8700) offers transportation from San Francisco and Oakland international airports. There are four drop-off locations in Sonoma County: Petaluma Fairgrounds, DoubleTree by Hilton in Rohnert Park, the park and ride across from the Sonoma County fairgrounds in Santa Rosa (not available in late July through early August for the Sonoma County Fair), and the Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport (STS), Santa Rosa.
The journey is part of the adventure. If you’re in San Francisco, take the ferry from the San Francisco Ferry Building to Larkspur. From there, you can take Golden Gate Transit buses (some transfers) to downtown Santa Rosa. Use the Golden Gate Transit trip planner, at goldengate.org/schedules.php. Or, if you aren’t near the Ferry Building, you can take a Golden Gate Transit Bus directly into Sonoma County, goldengate.org/schedules.php.
What is the best way to get around Sonoma County without renting a car? Sonoma County Transit, www.sctransit.com, has buses that run throughout the county. If you want to have the freedom to experience all Sonoma County has to offer, renting a car is highly recommended.
How far away are the airports from Sonoma County? Sonoma County has its own airport, with flights from San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle, or via a transfer from another Alaska, Delta, or American flight. Otherwise, Sonoma County is located:
- 75.1 miles, 1:33 hours north of San Francisco International (SFO)
- 76 miles, 1:30 hours North of Oakland International (OAK)
- 119 miles, 2:06 hours West of Sacramento International (SMF)
Are there day trips to Sonoma County from San Francisco? Check with your hotel concierge for additional tips. A roundup of some touring options once in Sonoma County can be found at www.sonomacounty.com/what-to-do/sightseeing-tours.
San Francisco Travel also has a list of day tours to Sonoma County, www.sanfrancisco.travel/winetours. Of course, one day doesn’t do justice to an area more than 1 million acres in size. You should spend the night.
What can I do as a day trip or ideas if I’m staying in Sonoma County? Enjoy the second-most reason (first being wine) people visit Sonoma County – the sheer natural beauty. Discover the great outdoors by hiking, cycling, or kayaking more than 40 state and regional parks and beaches. Find out more at:
- www.sonomacounty.com/what-to-do/outdoor-activities – Outdoor activities
- www.sonoma-county.org/points/regional_parks.htm – Regional parks
- www.sonoma-county.org/points/state_parks.htm – State parks
- cheesetrail.org – Marin Sonoma Cheese Trail
- www.farmtrails.org – Farm Trails
If you need more “on the ground” information, visitors centers or chambers of commerce are located throughout Sonoma County. Go to inside-sonoma.com/sonoma-county-visitors-centers for a list.
How do I find out about B&Bs and vacation rentals? Sonoma County has a wide array of accommodations that make it easy to design the getaway that’s right for you. Find out more at www.sonomacounty.com/where-to-stay. Find specific information about B&Bs at www.sonomacounty.com/where-to-stay/inn. Information on vacation rentals can be found at www.sonomacounty.com/where-to-stay/vacation-rental-homes.
Are there good roads or trails for bicycling? With 1,400 miles of lightly traveled secondary roads and a growing system of off-road bike trails, Sonoma County appeals to a wide variety of riders. Whether you are a dedicated cyclist attacking mountain passes or a weekend pedaler eager to sip wine and cycle through the vines, Sonoma County can provide you the perfect track. Find out more at www.sonomacounty.com/what-to-do/outdoor-activities and choose the “Bike Rentals/Tours” filter.
Also, Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition has great information for more serious riders, www.bikesonoma.org/ride/ridesandmaps.
What special events or concerts are going on when I visit? A good round-up of events can be found at www.sonomacounty.com/events.
What else is there to do in Sonoma County other than visit wineries? Visiting America’s wine, spa, and coastal destination doesn’t mean you’re required to only taste wine, get massages or explore 55-plus miles of Pacific coastline. (Though, that itinerary sounds delightful.) With a zip line through the top of a redwood forest, an African-style safari, challenging golf courses, and a thrilling car racing course, Sonoma County boasts myriad activities, ensuring you’ll have something to write home about. Find out more at www.sonomacounty.com/what-to-do. You can filter for various types of activities.
You say there’s a coast in Sonoma County; where is it and what is there to do? Even from the far eastern and northern borders of the county – the towns of Sonoma and Cloverdale, respectively – the coast is less than an hour-and-a-half drive away. At www.sonomacounty.com/what-to-do/outdoor-activities, you can filter on such topics as Fishing/Boating, Hiking/Walking, Horseback Riding, Kayaking/Canoeing, Surf Shops, and Whale Watching. Also, check out www.bodegabayca.org, www.bodegabay.com, and www.stewardsofthecoastandredwoods.org.
As for where it is, go west young man, or woman. The Pacific Ocean runs for more than 50 miles/80 km, creating Sonoma County’s western border.
What is there for kids to do? Sonoma County is known for its award-winning wines, luxury inns, romantic honeymoon vacations, and, yes, as the perfect place for an unforgettable fun-filled family vacation. With its exceptional variety of natural attributes – the Pacific Ocean, rivers, lakes, ancient redwood forests, and farm lands – you’ll discover unique and memorable adventures for the whole family.
For details visit inside-sonoma.com/sonoma-county-with-family. To design your family’s own adventure, visit www.sonomacounty.com/what-to-do/outdoor-activities filter for Family Fun.
Are the spas in Sonoma Wine Country different from other destinations? As they say in real estate: Location, location, location. Spas here are different, because this is such a special place. In fact, here you can relax and rejuvenate through local water, wine, soil, and spirit in more than 40 spas and wellness centers. Read about how a Wine Country spa experience can enhance your visit, inside-sonoma.com/sonoma-county-spas. Find a spa for you at www.sonomacounty.com/what-to-do/spas-wellness.
Can I explore Wine Country with my disabilities? Sonoma County is a warm and welcoming destination that tries to accommodate all visitors. There are myriad lodging choices that are ADA compliant. Some of the smaller, historic B&Bs or inns may not be able to accommodate someone with limited mobility. Winery tasting rooms, shops, and other activities have handicapped parking available and can tailor the experience.
A little more adventurous? In Spring 2011, Up & Away Ballooning, www.up-away.com, became the first hot air balloon operator in the United States to offer wheelchair-confined adventurers the opportunity to soar above the magnificent hills and vineyards of the Sonoma County Wine County.
How far is Napa County to Sonoma County? Depending on where you want to travel, the two are around 20 to 30 miles apart, or about an hour’s drive time.
- The two counties connect in the south, via Highway 29/121/12 – the cities of Napa and Sonoma.
- The northern connection is Santa Rosa and Calistoga, via Calistogo Road and Petrified Forest Road.
- Another northern connection is Healdsburg to Calistoga, via California Highway 128.
- Glen Ellen to Oakville is a twisty mountain road that’s not for the faint of heart, Highway 12 to Highway 29 via Oakville/Trinity Grade.
- Bodega Bay and Sonoma Coast is about an hour and a half from the city of Napa, via Highway 29/121/12, US-101, and Highway 116.
Why Sonoma County over Napa County? They are both great destinations and we love our neighbors in Napa, located just east of Eden. But, with more than 350 wineries, miles of rugged Pacific Ocean coastline, and some of the most fertile earth in California, Sonoma County embodies the genuine, natural and deliberate life that typifies wine country.
America’s premier wine, spa and coastal destination offers more than fermented grape juice. Come visit and stay awhile. Accommodations range from luxurious hotels to historic inns, romantic B&Bs and modern campgrounds. Stay along the winding Pacific coast, among the redwoods, on a vineyard-lined lane, or in a casual urban setting.
With 40-plus spas, 18 golf courses, art galleries, museums, attractions, shops, rivers to kayak or float down, and miles of trails to bike or explore on foot, there is no bad time to visit Sonoma County, located less than 45 minutes north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.