New England may get all the press, but Sonoma is one of the finest destinations for viewing fall foliage. After the grape harvest, acres upon acres of green vineyard leaves will soon turn the hills of Sonoma Valley brilliant yellows and reds, while the grasses lose their golden hue from summer dormancy and begin their winter greening. It's a seasonal transformation that's not to be missed.
Here are three places to see fall color in the Sonoma Valley, from the gentle slopes of Carneros to the higher peaks of Moon Mountain and Sonoma Mountain. Note that not all grape varietals change colors at the same time, and often a bright yellow patch of leaves in a field of green will denote where one block of grapes differs from the rest of the field. Have your cameras poised and ready--your holiday cards stand to be the family winners this year!
This winery and tasting room at the southern entrance to Sonoma Valley, in the Carneros region, sits atop a small rise surrounded by colorful vineyards. Make a reservation for a food and wine pairing experience as a great way to begin your autumn exploration. The tasting room offers gorgeous views of the vineyards, the surrounding grounds, as well as of the greater San Pablo Bay watershed. And did we mention that the wines are delicious, too?
The eight-acre Sonoma Plaza is noted for being the birthplace of California's Bear Flag Republic, as well as the focal point of this quaint town’s charm. While the many restaurants, shops, cafes, galleries, and wine tasting opportunities would be more than enough to keep you busy, the Plaza ground themselves offer the chance to view 30 varieties of trees found there, originally planted by the Sonoma Valley Woman's Club nearly 100 years ago. Come see us at the Visitors Center in the historic Carnegie Library, where you can get a map of the trees as well as the 40-odd species of birds spotted there.
3. Scenic Drive from Glen Ellen to St. Francis Winery
This six-mile stretch of state Highway 12, also known as the Valley of the Moon Scenic Highway, runs along the crescent-shaped valley. Surrounded on all sides by vineyards, oak-studded hills and backing up against Moon Mountain and Sonoma Mountain, the Scenic Highway provides great spots to get out and enjoy the view, including winery tasting rooms like Kunde Family Winery, where a mountain-top tasting 1400-feet above the valley floor guarantees excellent vistas of the fall foliage, and VJB Vineyards and Cellars in downtown Kenwood which has a pizza oven, deli and outdoor courtyard in which to enjoy the crisp fall air and a glass of Nebbiolo. Finish at the St. Francis Winery for one of their self-guided vineyard walks to learn about how their sustainable vineyards are managed and toast your adventure with a Cabernet grown on the slopes of Moon Mountain.