The best part about fall in Sonoma Valley is the colorful landscape, painting the valley in spectacular hues of yellow, red, and orange. And it’s not just the trees that are wonderful—it’s also the vines! After the grape harvest, the vines release all of their colors. Pile on changing tree foliage and the natural beauty of seasonal produce in the farm stands, you’ll realize that fall in Sonoma Valley is pure magic. For the ultimate ride through the fall foliage, start in Sonoma and drive north, stopping along the way at the following spots, and make a day of it.
In Sonoma, Bartholomew Estate is the perfect place to enjoy the seasonal foliage. It lies on one of the earliest properties planted to vineyards, originally by a native man named Vivano and later, the famous Agoston Harazsthy of Buena Vista fame. Today, it is still home to some of Sonoma Valley’s most picturesque vineyards, a beautiful tasting room, an old estate and a gorgeous park with a 3-mile hiking loop that takes you up and over the property through a beautiful forest, opening to magnificent views of the valley below. It’s one of Sonoma Valley’s best-kept secrets.
Highway 12, Sonoma to Kenwood
Stretching 17 miles from south to north, Highway 12 sprawls along the valley floor like a zipper, melding in one unforgettable view after the next, from Sonoma to Santa Rosa. Dotted with some of the valley’s most notable vineyards from wineries like B.R. Cohn, Beltane Ranch, Kunde, Kenwood Vineyards, St. Francis Winery, Landmark Vineyards, and Chateau St. Jean, among others, there’s enough color to create a new kind of rainbow.
Make a day of it, and drive up 12 to explore all its wonders. Take a detour into Glen Ellen via Arnold Drive to grab some lunch and visit Benziger Family Vineyards and Jack London State Historic Park.
Benziger Family Winery & Jack London State Historic Park
On your way up Highway 12, make time for a totally worthwhile detour in the tiny town of Glen Ellen. Here, you’ll find Benziger Family Vineyards and Jack London Historic State Park, two jewels in Sonoma Valley’s crown.
As the one of the first certified biodynamic vineyards in California, Benziger Family Vineyards is a slice of heaven where nature is in perfect harmony. At this time of year, their rolling vineyards pop with outstanding colors. We recommend taking a tram ride through these very vineyards, where you’ll take your way through, while learning about their über organic farming and why their land is so special.
Jack London Historic State Park is not only the former home of the famous author of novels like Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Valley of the Moon, but it is also Jack London’s fantasy farm. It is here that he experimented with different trees and plants, agricultural methods and, of course, organic viticulture. Check out his spectacular vineyards, set against the foothills of Sonoma Mountain, and allow yourself to breathe in their splendor.
Sonoma Botanical Garden
On your way out of Glen Ellen, return to Highway 12 heading north. Shortly after you turn onto 12, you'll see Sonoma Botanical Garden on your right. This magnificent garden of Asian and native Californian plants and trees comes alive in the spring and the fall--particularly when foliage is at its peak! Stop and take a stroll, bring a picnic, or go to the Visitors Center to get a tour. When it comes to plants, this is one of Sonoma Valley's best-kept secrets.
Once done touring the park, drive up to Kenwood via Highway 12, don’t forget to pop over to Kenwood Vineyards, who farms the grapes you'll see at Jack London State Park and bottles them into wine.
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Cap off your fall foliage tour of Sonoma Valley with a drive up to Sugarloaf Mountain to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, a right turn off Highway 12 at Landmark Vineyards. The drive alone is breathtaking, but you’ll see the most fall colors from the top. Treat yourself to a heart-pumping hike and take in views of the entire Sonoma Valley in all its colorful splendor.