Sonoma County is one of California’s largest and most diverse regions—and one that can seem very close or very far away, depending on your time, destination and inclinations. For a day trip or quick weekend escape from Sacramento or San Francisco, the town of Sonoma charms with its historic square (no dogs on the grass, please), intriguing shops, dog-friendly sidewalk cafes and close-in opportunities for wine tasting.
Start with a stroll around the plaza and perhaps breakfast or lunch outdoors at Swiss Hotel, a long-time, checkered-tablecloth landmark; Basque Boulangerie Café, a little bit of Paris dropped into Sonoma County; or La Salette, specializing in Portuguese and Southern European comfort food. Before or after, stop by Three Dog Bakery, just off the square, and treat your four-legged friend to something from the myriad canine confections displayed behind glass.
Keep walking; your first wine-tasting stop is just off the plaza at the corner of Fourth and East Spain. At Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery, well behaved dogs are allowed in the spacious picnic area and also at Friday-night music events held in summer. A short stroll away, the Bryter Estates tasting room on East. Napa St. offers treats to four-legged visitors.
Just a few blocks east of the plaza, organically farmed Bartholemew Park Winery sits at the center of a 400-acre preserve (known locally as "Bart Park") with a 3-mile trail winding through oak-covered hills and redwood groves and opening onto vistas of valley and vineyards. The winery's intriguing history (it once was an annex of Sonoma's "Home for the Feeble Minded") is recounted in a museum whose exhibits include images from Victorian photographer Eadweard Muybridge and artifacts from previous owners who shared the place with 200 Angora cats.
Looking for an elegant place to have dinner with your four-legged friend? Carneros Bistro and Wine Bar, in the Lodge at Sonoma just a few blocks off the square, is counted among the top 50 restaurants in the Bay Area. Other dog-friendly venues in the vicinity include Hopmonk Tavern, a craft brewery with a big, dog-friendly beer garden and Annex Wine Bar & Tasting Room, with a large, dog-friendly patio next door to the popular (and dog-friendly) Community Café.
Photo Credit: Linda Peters