Downtown Sonoma, an historic city in the heart of the Sonoma Valley wine region, has made great strides in being more dog-friendly. They still enforce the unpopular “no dogs on the plaza” rule, but that’s no reason to put your tail between your legs and slink away from the historic town center. The restriction applies only to the central square and buildings associated with Sonoma State Historic Park, which are clustered along Spain Street on the north side of the plaza. You and Spot are free to walk the square’s perimeter, so long as you stay off the grass and away from the historic buildings.
And you know Sonoma’s heart is in the right place when you land at a checkered-cloth table on the sidewalk in front of the historic Swiss Hotel, on the plaza’s northwest corner. It’s a great place for the two of you to linger and watch other people and pets go by. Casual Italian fare and pizza from a wood-burning oven are the specialties, and you’ll likely exchange pleasantries with passers-by admiring your four-legged companion. Around the corner, on First Street, the very sunny-feeling Sunflower Caffe allows dogs at its sidewalk tables and in the more private garden patio area out back.
Basque Boulangerie Cafe, also on First and facing the plaza, is a bakery/deli that feels lifted straight from the streets of Paris. Just as in the City of Light, your dog is welcome to join you at a teeny outdoor table as you sip your espresso or enjoy your pastry, soup or sandwich.
So what does Spot get out of this? A visit to Three Dog Bakery, just off the square, will enthrall you both—in fact, it’s hard to say who will enjoy it more. Three Dog’s bakery cases are filled with wholesome, oven-baked treats that look so good you’ll be tempted to taste them, too. In back is the “Bulk N Bite Buffet,” where your pooch can sniff out his favorites and you can fill a bag to take home.
Once you’ve got tails a’waggin, pick up some picnic fixins (Basque Boulangerie is a great place for that) and walk two blocks to Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery, where dogs are not just welcome, but encouraged. Also within walking distance is Roche Winery’s much more intimate indoor-outdoor tasting facility, which features a garden-like picnic area (BYO or order off the snack menu) and a brand of Irish hospitality that extends to visiting canines.
And how about a little exercise with your wine? Not far from the plaza, Bartholomew Park Winery—“Bart Park” to locals—is a private, 400-acre preserve laced with hiking trails and graced with vineyard-view picnic areas. Well behaved dogs are allowed in the tasting room (once part of an institution for the “feeble minded”) as well as in the museum, where exhibits include images from Victorian photographer Eadweard Muybridge and artifacts from previous owners who shared the place with 200 Angora cats.