Sonoma Valley is open for business. In fact, within the Valley’s 17 mile stretch, a multitude of exciting new businesses have opened their doors within the past 11 months; existing Sonoma Valley wineries and distilleries have expanded with new tasting and culinary offerings; three of the Valley’s beloved hotels have commenced or completed impressive renovations; businesses have expanded into larger spaces to accommodate growth; and visitors have continued to be embraced with open arms and the world-class hospitality for which the region is known.
From new restaurants and wine releases, to author festivals and art exhibits, Sonoma Valley has a variety of new offerings for travelers to enjoy. Highlights of new and notable offerings throughout Sonoma Valley include:
WINERIES & TASTING ROOMS
- Hanson of Sonoma: Hanson of Sonoma Distillery is a family-owned and operated distillery located the heart of the Carneros region. The brand’s unique vodka is distilled from organically farmed grapes, and each vodka expression is infused with hand cut, certified organic fruits and vegetables. The distillery opened a new tasting room in July 2018, offering a variety of tours and experiences for visitors to explore.
- Bedrock Wine Co.: Bedrock Wine Co., which produces wine from 150-year-old vines on the former ranch of famed Civil War Union General Joseph Hooker, now offers tastings at the historic 166-year-old Joseph Hooker House in downtown Sonoma. The tasting room showcases old photographs and maps that tell the history of Hooker, alongside images of century-old vines at the winery’s two estate sites, and portraits of the other grape growers who supply Bedrock with fruit. Appointment-only tastings include a glass of bubbly and an overview of the house and its history, followed by a seated, guided tasting of five wines with light snacks.
- Abbot’s Passage & Abbot’s Passage Supply Co.: For more than 150 years, the Bundschu family has farmed its estate vineyard; in fact, founded in 1858, today, Sonoma Valley’s Gundlach Bundschu is California’s oldest family-run winery. Sixth-generation vintner Katie Bundschu recently released Abbot’s Passage, a collection of small-lot, co-fermented field blends sourced from storied vineyards within Sonoma. The inaugural collection includes four distinctive field blends from singular Sonoma vineyards, each highlighting a unique terroir and climate story, and each with a unique name reflective of its style and origin: Redshift, Points Unknown, The Crossing and Due West. Abbot’s Passage Supply Co., which celebrated its grand opening in downtown Sonoma last February, is a new retail space showcasing apparel and home goods alongside Abbot’s Passage tastings, maker-focused workshops and more.
- Chateau St. Jean: Founded in 1973, Chateau St. Jean was the first winery in Sonoma to win the prestigious “Wine of the Year” award from Wine Spectator in 1999 for its 1996 Cinq Cepages Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, the winery remains one of the Valley’s most acclaimed. The winery’s award-winning winemaker, Margo Van Staaveren, recently called upon her 35 years of winemaking acumen to release the Chateau’s first sparkling wines in 23 years – a Brut Cuvee and Brut Rose. Van Staaveren, who was named “Winemaker of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast in 2008, is celebrating her 37th harvest at Chateau St Jean.
- Corner 103: Founded in 2015, Corner 103 offers relaxed, yet highly educational wine and food tastings – incorporating Information about where grape varietals grow best, and ways in which wines are best tasted, served (glass and temperature) and paired with food. Corner 103 crafts wines from the many American Viticulture Areas of Sonoma County; late last year, the winery released a new 2015 Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine from the Carneros AVA. In September 2018, the tasting room was recognized as one of the Top 10 tasting rooms in the country by USA Today’s 10Best Reader’s Choice Awards.
- Highwayman Wines Wine Bar: Highwayman Wines, the small production reserve label from Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery, celebrated the grand opening of Highwayman Wines Wine Bar and Tasting Parlor at Cornerstone Sonoma Gardens in August 2018. The tasting room offers a chic lounge style atmosphere, complete with an inviting staff of hospitality professionals with decades of experience.
- Roche Winery: This summer, Roche Winery opened a new winery and tasting room just south of Sonoma, within its Tipperary Vineyard, to complement its sister tasting room in downtown. The new, state-of-the-art, 17,000 square foot winery has capacity to produce up to 50,000 cases annually, and provides a visitor experience showcasing the brand’s well-known Irish hospitality.
- Boxcar Fried Chicken & Biscuits: In Summer 2018, the Fremont Diner reopened as Boxcar Fried Chicken & Biscuits, with a menu that features classics from the former Diner. Owners, Chad and Erika Harris, are focusing on offering fast service and delicious Southern-inspired comfort food, with highlights including deviled eggs, milkshakes, pimento cheese, hot chicken, collard greens and more.
- Frenchie Sonoma: Frenchie Sonoma is a new picnic and provisions store that opened in June 2018, offering locals and visitors a well-curated general store with locally sourced food and provisions. With grab-and-go lunches and dinners, picnic lunches, picnic supplies, house-made snacks, and local beer and wine, Frenchie Sonoma is the perfect stop for those looking to dine on the go, or bring provisions with them to enjoy at one of the Valley’s many wineries.
- Les Pascals: Les Pascals, Glen Ellen’s newest French patisserie and boulangerie, opened in March 2018. Proprietor of the historic Chauvet vacation rental property, Christine Hansson, teamed up with Pascale Merle, the pastry chef and master chocolatier of Carmel's Lafayette Bakery, and breadmaker Sean Perry, both of whom offer their creations that make Les Pascals an "authentic" French bakery experience.
- The Rhône Room Wine Studio & Farm: Sonoma recently welcomed a new wine tasting lounge, educational space and working farm, from the team behind beloved Sonoma restaurant the girl & the fig. The Rhône Room experience highlights the girl & the fig label Rhônes, alongside more than 85 lesser known offerings from local Rhône producers. Meanwhile, produce from the farm supplies the girl and the fig and its sister restaurants with fresh, local ingredients.
- Salt & Stone: A new restaurant in Kenwood, Salt & Stone celebrated its grand opening in December 2017. Owned by Santa Rosa residents David and Diane LaMonica, the restaurant features a variety of classic dishes, alongside a full bar and abundance of fresh seafood in an affable and iconic Sonoma Valley roadhouse. For more than a decade, the LaMonicas owned Mendocino’s Café Beaujolais, also known for its combination of charm and destination-worthy food.
- TIPS Roadside: TIPS Roadside is the latest food venture from the team behind the Tri Tip Trolley, a popular food truck that calls an old trolley car home, and offers guests cubed tri-tip sandwiches alongside addictive chipotle sauce. TIPS Roadside Executive Chef Thaddeus Palmese, a 28-year veteran, now also serves Wine Country comfort food inspired by southern cooking at the new Kenwood restaurant.
- The Window Block Kitchen: Valley of the Moon Winery at Madrone Estate now offers visitors to its beautiful Sonoma Valley winery a new culinary concept: The Window Block Kitchen. Inspired by the block of 120-year old Zinfandel wines that grow just outside of Estate Chef Sam Badolato’s kitchen, the Window Block Kitchen offers guests a unique food and wine pairing experience highlighting Sonoma Valley’s bounty of flavors. Visitors can choose from a three-course menu paired with five wines, or order food and wine à la carte off the Window Block Kitchen menu. Menus change seasonally, and the estate plans to expand its culinary offerings further by opening an entirely outdoor kitchen.
- Kenwood Inn & Spa: Kenwood Inn & Spa reopened in spring 2018, following an extensive renovation. The Inn is a tranquil, Mediterranean-inspired hideaway, located in the Valley of the Moon. Sitting on more than 2.5 peaceful acres, surrounded by vineyards, orchards and ancient oaks, the exquisite grounds are meticulously landscaped with greenery and flowers, three courtyards, a pool, two hot tubs and fountains. The dining room, Cucina, was re-imagined with the renovation, and the spa features new common areas and fully updated treatment rooms, alongside new women’s and men’s locker rooms.
- Olea Hotel: Built around 1900, the 15-room Olea Hotel recently completed a full remodel, reopening its doors at the end of August 2018. In the past 10 months, the property, with the assistance of Inspired Spaces of Santa Rosa, added a pool and new hot tub, is rebuilding two cottages, upgraded the interiors of the entire facility and added new landscaping.
- MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa: Located just blocks from Sonoma Plaza, this 64-room hotel will complete a major renovation in 2019, remaining open throughout the duration of the process. The original Victorian architecture will remain, but the complete redesign includes all guestrooms, suites and cottages; the spa; pool; verdant gardens and expansive outdoor spaces, set over five acres. Celebrity Chef Geoffrey Zakarian is planning three new concepts within the hotel: An upscale Mediterranean restaurant called Layla; the Bar at MacArthur, featuring a lounge vibe with cocktails, beers and a simple all-day menu; and a coffee bar and marketplace called the Porch.
ARTS & CULTURE
- The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art: Founded in 1998, the museum exhibits works by regional, national and international modern and contemporary artists. On display from Sept. 29, 2018 to Jan. 6, 2019, 20 Sonoma Collectors: Celebrating SVMA’s 20th Year, features the best works from private collections in the area, that in many cases, only friends and families of the collectors have seen. The selected artworks not only display key pieces of contemporary art history, but also reveal more about the collector, informed by his or her interests, personal journeys and friendships in the art world. This exhibition reveals a side of the art world rarely seen. On display concurrently, SVMA will be installing Laura Kimpton’s “LOVE” sculpture in front of Sonoma’s City Hall as part of the From Fire, Love Rises: Stories Shared from the Artist Community exhibition running through January. The installation aligns with the one-year anniversary of the 2017 Northern California fires, and pays tribute to the resiliency and strength of the Sonoma Community.
- The Sonoma Valley Authors Festival: Following its inaugural in 2018, the Sonoma Valley Authors Festival will return next year on May 3-5, 2019. This year’s festival featured presentations from more than 25 noted authors, including David Brooks, Captain Scott Kelly, renowned historian Niall Ferguson and ESPN producer and reporter Lisa Fenn, among many others.
- Sonoma Valley International Film Festival (SIFF): Taking place March 27-31, 2019, the 22nd Annual Sonoma International Film Festival will feature more than 90 hand-selected films, including independent features, documentaries, world cinema and short films – all shown at intimate venues within walking distance of Sonoma's historic plaza. This unique 5-day event offers world-class cuisine from local artisans and exceptional wine from Sonoma vintners. Renowned filmmakers, industry leaders and celebrities such as Bruce Willis, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams and Danny Glover have walked the festival red carpet in years past.
- McCormick’s Mercantile: In July 2018, McCormick’s Mercantile opened in Glen Ellen, selling décor, gifts, small furniture items and local artwork. Among the products McCormick’s Mercantile carries are Mexican tile coasters, jewelry crafted from silver platters, hand-crocheted washcloths and artisanal soaps, which are all locally produced in Sonoma Valley.
- Overlook Trail: In 2018, the City of Sonoma, in close partnership with the Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards and the Sonoma Ecology Center, began a maintenance and rehabilitation project on the Sonoma Overlook Trail. Improvements include the addition of stone steps at the main trailhead, the creation of a new 795-foot portion of the Lower Trail, the rebuilding of climbing turns and junctions and more. The new portion of the Lower Trail will remain closed through the winter and the Upper Trail does not have an exact reopening date at this point.
- Sonoma Ballooning Adventures: In June 2018, Sonoma Ballooning Adventures began flights in Sonoma Valley. Visitors can now see Sonoma Valley and the Carneros region by air for the first time with a hot air balloon ride. Hour-long flights carry guests above corridors of grapes, the Sonoma Valley Gateway and Sonoma’s world renowned landscape – from the quaint town of Sonoma, to the south San Pablo Bay.
- Safari West: Coined the Sonoma Serengeti, Safari West is a wildlife preserve and African tent camp comprised of more than 400-acres, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018. The property is home to nearly 1,000 animals, including African antelopes, primates, and predators, as well as expansive, custom-built tents with panoramic views of grazing antelope and giraffes.
- Sugar Loaf State Park: On February 15, Sugar Loaf State Park reopened, following several months of closures. Located in the town of Kenwood, Sugar Loaf State Park is not only home to 25 miles of hiking trails, beautiful vistas showcasing views to San Francisco and camping grounds, but also to Robert Ferguson Observatory, Northern California’s most active public observatory. The largest observatory in the western United States, Robert Ferguson Observatory is completely dedicated to public viewing and education, and offers a brand new 40-inch telescope. Guests can sign up for Night Sky Classes, followed by camping at the park’s outdoor camping grounds.
- Mike Benziger & Biodynamic Farming: Since purchasing his property in 1980, Mike Benziger and his family have established Benziger Family Winery as a true leader in quality wines, and a globally recognized trailblazer in biodynamic farming practices. Today, in addition to operating Benziger Family Winery, one of California’s first biodynamic wineries, Benziger owns Glentucky Family Farm with his wife Mary, producing some of the country’s most pristine produce – much of which goes directly to the Glen Ellen Star, a Sonoma Valley restaurant owned by Benziger’s son-in-law. Benziger is now combining his biodynamic wine experience with his farming acumen to cultivate a biodynamic medical marijuana garden. Benziger’s small, 50-plant farm is only one of two known biodynamic cannabis operations in Sonoma County.
- Sonoma Roadside: Sonoma Valley’s newest shopping destination, Sonoma Roadside is a self-described “modernized mid-century rest stop.” In addition to The Rhône Room Wine Studio & Farm, the shops house Fat Pilgrim Contemporary General Store, offering a unique collection of food, housewares, decor, gifts, and local products, as well as Harvest Home, a furniture and accessory store, with a clean and rustic wine country vibe.