With the changing of the seasons and the grape harvest in full swing, the acres of green vineyard leaves will soon turn the hills of Sonoma Valley brilliant yellows and reds. This is in addition to the natural greening of the grasses that lose their golden hue from summer dormancy and grow again during the winter.
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.
This winery at the southern entrance to Sonoma Valley, in the Carneros region, sit atop a small rise as the vineyards fall away from the tasting room. Make a reservation for a food and wine pairing experience as a great way to begin your autumn exploration. Excellent views of the vineyards from the grounds, as well as of the greater San Pablo Bay watershed.
The eight-acre Sonoma Plaza is noted for being the birthplace of California as we know is (see Republic, Bear Flag of) as well as being the focal point of the quaint town’s charm. Ringed with restaurants, shops, cafes and wine tasting opportunities, don’t overlook a walk in the Plaza itself to enjoy the changing leaves among the 30 varieties of trees found there. The Visitors Center in the historic Carnegie Library even has 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 and surrounded on all sides by vineyards, oak-studded hills and backing up against Moon Mountain and Sonoma Mountain. Spots to get out and enjoy the view include 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.