We traveled to Sonoma Valley from Texas to celebrate our country’s independence and spent five days exploring the little towns of the wine country in the north Bay area. We made Santa Rosa our home, staying at the iconic, mid-century modern Flamingo Hotel and Resort and savored the outdoor green space and pool area every afternoon soaking up the California sunshine.
If looking for great places to nosh while exploring the valley towns, check out Barndiva just 20 minutes north of Santa Rosa, located on the cute community square of Healdsburg. Great drinks and the outdoor patio is perfect for a romantic dinner. Another option is in Sonoma itself . We first checked out the farmer’s market, and then elevenses at The Girl and the Fig. We sat at the bar since we didn’t make a reservation and shared a crispy chicken liver sandwich in a rich brioche bun with a side of frites. It paired nicely with the house California Chardonnay. For an off the beaten path for authentic peruvian cuisine check out Sazon. You go for the food and the late night flamenco dancing. We shared small plates of papas and beef heart skewers grilled to perfection.
For active fun, check out the bocce ball courts in Sonoma County. You can find courts in almost all the little towns. It’s that popular. I think it is so because you can hold a glass of wine in one hand and still play the game. See Sonoma County Bocce for where to play and when.
We stumbled onto Jack London State Park and learned some fun facts about Jack London, the author of the Call of the Wild and White Fang (my dad’s favorite author from his youth). Did you know?
- London’s mother was a spiritualist
- His mom tried to kill herself while pregnant with Jack (his real name is John). She was also unmarried.
- He wrote 1,000 words every day
- He died at the young age of 40, due to alcoholism and side effects of mercury poisoning and morphine. No wonder!
- His wife’s name was Charmain.
The park, with over 29 miles of trails across 1400 acres, is where Jack London called his home. From the ruins of a winery to the cottage where Jack London wrote, you feel a certain energy whispering throughout the space. Jack London called it “Beauty Ranch” for a good reason but look for snakes when exploring the trail to the abandoned pig pens. I am currently reading his novel, the Valley of the Moon, set in Sonoma Valley to get more perspective of the history of the time and place.
We did roam into Napa Valley so that I could get a glimpse of the French Laundry, the fine French cuisine restaurant located in Yountsville. I was inspired walking through the chef’s garden located just across the street from the famous restaurant that was originally a working French steam laundry in the 1920s. The extensive garden is open to the public to explore. A must see for any foodie fan. To top it all off, as I was crossing the street, I stumbled into the path of renowned chef, Thomas Keller, in his freshly pressed white chef coat, headed into work with a grocery bag in hand. I wish I could tell you, dear reader, that I said something pithy but all I could muster was a nod.
In reflection, this part of California feels and looks so much like the hill country of Texas that I now understand why so many Texans visit Sonoma Valley and come back inspired to grow grapes and produce wine. From its rustic and rugged heritage, independent spirit, and grit to grow grapes, overcoming drought and rocky soil, sprouting large tufts of tawny-dry grass, comes the nectar of the gods. We certainly enjoyed several varietals along the way. As we were leaving, the wildfires were becoming more intense. Now, they are out of control with over 100,000 acres currently burning so these resilient Californians must also brace against wildfires, high winds, and the tragic loss of property and precious human life. Our hearts go out to you. We pray for rain and for the first responders. If you can, please consider to Donate to Victims of Wildfires.