Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.s)
TRANSPORTATION & TOURING
How far is Sonoma from San Francisco?
Downtown Sonoma is roughly 39 miles, or approximately 45 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. Plan on adding at least an additional half-hour if you’re traveling during rush hour.
How far is Sonoma from Napa?
Downtown Sonoma is about 14 miles from downtown Napa, or about 22 minutes by car.
Are there any airport shuttles from S.F.O. or O.A.K. to Sonoma?
While there are no official rideshare shuttles between the airports and Sonoma, The Sonoma County Airport Express shuttles people directly between the airports and the Petaluma Fairgrounds—a 30-minute drive away—for $42 for adults (subject to change- check current fares) one way. You can then take an Uber, Lyft or cab ride to Sonoma from Petaluma.
If you are looking for private transportation to and from the airport, or to and from San Francisco, we welcome you to consult our transportation partners for more information.
Which tour companies offer day trips to Sonoma Valley from San Francisco?
There are several tour companies that offer private tours that will pick up and drop off in San Francisco including: California Wine Tours, and Pure Luxury Transportation. Visitors staying in San Francisco should contact the concierge at their hotel for a more complete list of options for visiting wine country from the city.
What’s the best way to get to San Francisco from Sonoma Valley if I don’t have a car?
Although there are no direct shuttles to Sonoma, you have a few other great options to get you here. Combined with an Uber, Lyft or taxi, getting here is pretty easy.
- Golden Gate Ferry (from Larkspur or Vallejo),
- Golden Gate transit bus (from various locations),
- Uber, Lyft or taxi
- For private transport, consult our transportation partners for more information
FUN THINGS TO DO
What are some fun things to do in Sonoma if I don’t drink wine?
There’s plenty to do in Sonoma Valley if you don’t drink wine. For starters, Sonoma is rich in cultural history and was the site of California’s Bear Flag Revolt. Check out the Mission San Francisco Solano (also known as “The Sonoma Mission,”) the Sonoma Barracks, General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo’s Home, and the Depot Park Museum to get an idea of what Sonoma was like in its early days as a city.
As a creative hub since the 1960s, Sonoma’s legacy in the arts also makes it a fun place to get inspiration. Sonoma’s amazing art museums and galleries include places like the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, and the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art for starters. Read “Appreciating the Arts: A Guide to Sonoma Valley’s Art Scene” to dive into more possibilities.
Outdoor enthusiasts love the valley for its wide array of state and regional parks, including hiking trails, bike paths, and picnic spots galore! Plant lovers will swoon wandering though the peace and quiet of Sonoma Botanical Garden and the Ecology Center's Sonoma Garden Park. Thrill-seekers have plenty of options, too, ziplining with Sonoma Zipline Adventures, ballooning with Sonoma Ballooning or auto racing at the Sonoma Raceway, putting you front and center with the natural beauty that surrounds us. Check out Jack London State Historic Park for a hiking and cultural experience!
If you don’t drink wine, but you still like to imbibe, we also recommend checking out Sonoma Springs Brewing Company, Hanson of Sonoma Distillery, Pomme Cider Shop and Prohibition Spirits & Hellocello Distillery. Cannabis aficionados will also appreciate the grower tastings through Happy Travelers Tours. All offer fun and engaging experiences.
Which wineries have the best…?
Views? All have great views. Viansa, Gloria Ferrer, Schug, Gundlach Bundschu, Abbot’s Passage on Highway 12, Deerfield Ranch, Kunde, Benziger, Anaba, and Ledson have delightful and varied views of the valley and beyond.
Tours? Benziger offers a memorable tram ride through the vineyards and education about biodynamic farming, including a visit to their cellars. If caves are your thing, also check out Kunde’s, and their mountaintop tasting is one for the books! To learn the ins and outs of sparkling wine, we highly recommend a visit to Gloria Ferrer. If you want to learn more about the harvest, make sure to visit Loxton Cellars in the fall to tour their crush pad—a very cool experience.
Gardens? Chateau St. Jean, Imagery, Cline, and Meadowcroft, have some lovely gardens to stroll around in.
History? The Sonoma Valley has numerous historic wineries and vineyards. Buena Vista, Bartholomew Estate, Cline, Gundlach Bundschu, Sebastiani, Landmark, and Larson are all rich in history
Architecture? Wineries tend to make for some interesting architecture, and it really depends what you like, but Ledson, Jacuzzi, and Buena Vista have especially stately and unique buildings.
Which wineries serve food?
Several wineries, including VJB Cellars, Viansa and Ledson, have food that you can purchase to enjoy with your wine or as a picnic. VJB is particularly known for pizza, Italian-style deli sandwiches and gelato.
Many wineries accommodate picnicking. Picnic supplies can be gathered at Sonoma Market, Sweet Pea Bakeshop, Les Pascals, Glen Ellen Village Market, or Whole Foods. A glass of wine from the winery on site will make the picnic special!
A number of wineries also offer food and wine pairings. These include: Chateau St. Jean, Mayo Reserve Room, Pangloss Cellars, St. Francis Winery, WALT Wines and several others. To make your tasting experience a memorable one, we recommend calling the winery ahead of time to confirm their offerings.
Which Sonoma Valley wineries have fireplaces?
Wine-tasters can cozy up to a warm fireplace at Muscardini Cellars, St. Anne’s Crossing and St. Francis Winery. Just off the Plaza, Roche has a year-round fire pit.
Which Sonoma Valley wineries have caves to visit?
On a hot summer day, there’s nothing like a visit to a cool wine cave to refresh mind, body and spirit! Benziger, Buena Vista, Deerfield Ranch, Gloria Ferrer, Gundlach Bundschu, Kunde and Schug all have wine caves. Generally speaking, caves are included on tours at other wineries, when they have them.
How can I ship wine home?
Shipping wine from California is relatively easy, depending on where you live. Make sure to consult the ever-changing list of compliant states to be sure, although most are open for shipping. Most wineries are able to ship your purchases for you.
FOOD TASTING EXPERIENCES
Where can I taste olive oil?
The Olive Press at Jacuzzi Winery is a great olive oil tasting experience! Call ahead if you want to tour their production facilities—also an engaging experience. If you want to combine your olive oil tasting with wine tasting, we recommend Jacuzzi and BR Cohn, among others.
Where can I taste cheese?
Vella Cheese is a family-owned and -run cheesemaker, specializing in jack cheeses and located only a few blocks away from the Plaza. If you want to get more hands-on, check out the schedule of classes at The Epicurean Connection, where you can learn to make your own cheese.
Is it legal for me to consume cannabis in Sonoma Valley? Where do I find it?
Yes, adult-use of cannabis was legalized in California in 2016. For education about cannabis we recommend visiting dispensaries like SPARC or signing up with a company like Happy Travelers Tours to have a grower tasting experience. Please note that it is illegal to smoke any substance in most public places throughout the State of California, and driving while under the influence is strictly against the law. Please be informed before you consume.
See our blog post, "Cannabis 101: A Visitors Guide" for more detailed information.
What are some fun activities to do for families with kids?
For young children, Train Town on Broadway is a good place to start with a fun and easy train ride that circles around their park, and Charlie’s Acres is a great place to interact with happy, rescued farm animals. Sonoma Fun Center offers miniature golf and some arcade games. Safari West in Santa Rosa is a surprising addition to wine country, offering safari experiences with wildlife from around the world. Santa Rosa is also the home of the Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center, founded in honor of the famous Peanuts creator—an iconic visit for kids of all ages!
For those who like hands-on experiences, check out the calendar of events at Art Escape, Sonoma Community Center, or at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts.
There are some wineries that are kid-friendly as well, including Larson Family Winery, Cline Cellars, Benziger Family Winery, and Landmark Vineyards. Come see us at our two visitors’ centers to learn more.
DINING & PICNICKING
Which restaurants have outdoor or patio dining?
Since the weather is so spectacular for most of the year, many restaurants offer outdoor dining experiences. Near the Sonoma Plaza, check out the Swiss Hotel, El Dorado Kitchen, Della Santina’s, La Salette, the girl + the fig, Sunflower Caffe, Murphy’s Irish Pub, Taste of Himalayas, Hopmonk Tavern, and The Red Grape. Reel & Brand in Sonoma, Kina's Kitchen and Spread Kitchen in The Springs, and Salt & Stone, Palooza Brewery & Gastropub and Tips Roadside in Kenwood are also great options!
Where can I go to enjoy a picnic?
Picnicking is long cherished Sonoma tradition, and at any given time of the day—almost regardless of the season—you’ll likely see a local relaxing or eating in the Sonoma Plaza. The Plaza is the best and easiest place to picnic, as the consumption of alcoholic beverages is permitted—one of the rare town squares in the United States to allow it. In addition, you’ll be surrounded by restaurants, bakeries and delis for takeout, as well as have access to public bathrooms. See here for a complete list of wineries and parks that offer picnic areas, as well as restaurants that offer picnics to go.
Where’s the best place to purchase food for a picnic?
Picnic supplies are available at Sonoma Market, Sweet Pea Bakeshop, Les Pascals, Glen Ellen Village Market, or Whole Foods. Spread Kitchen offers delicious Mediterranean-inspired spreads and dips that are perfect for picnics, too. In addition, most restaurants will be happy to pack up a to-go box for your and picnic companions. Make sure to call ahead to beat the mealtime rush!
Where can I go to listen to live music?
Sonoma Valley is a treasure trove of live music venues, from everyday spots like Hopmonk Tavern, Murphy’s Irish Pub, The Sonoma Speakeasy & American Dance Hall, Passaggio Wines, and Reel & Brand, to larger production venues like Sebastiani Theatre, Transcendence Theatre’s Broadway Under the Stars, Green Music Center and Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. Check out individual websites to consult their calendar of events, confirm times, dates and purchase tickets.
For annual music festivals, check out the Valley of the Moon Music Festival, BottleRock, Gundlach Bundschu’s Huichica Music Festival, and BR Cohn’s Sonoma Harvest Music Festival. Tickets for the annual festivals usually sell out quickly, so be sure to book in advance for best results.
What Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Sonoma?
The 'best' time to visit is usually a personal preference. Our most popular time of year to visit is May through October, and especially during the grape harvest in September/October.
What Is The Weather Like In Sonoma Valley?
The Sonoma Valley has a "Mediterranean" climate. Temperatures in the Valley rarely drop below freezing during the rainy winter months; in the summertime, coastal fog and breezes bring cool evenings even after very warm days.
Below are the average high and low temperatures and rainfall for the city of Sonoma. In other parts of the Valley the numbers can very: in Schellville, for example, breezes off the San Pablo Bay keep temperatures as much as 10 to 15 degrees cooler than in the City of Sonoma, while more rain falls in Glen Ellen than in downtown Sonoma.
- January - High 57.4 °F, Low 36.8 °F, Rainfall 6.74"
- February - High 63.3 °F, Low 39.2 °F, Rainfall 5.06"
- March - High 66.5 °F, Low 40.2°F, Rainfall 4.10"
- April - High 71.6 °F, Low 41.6 °F, Rainfall 1.81"
- May - High 77.6 °F, Low 45.2 °F, Rainfall 0.61"
- June - High 84.5 °F, Low 49.2 °F, Rainfall 0.28"
- July - High 89.5 °F, Low 50.5°F, Rainfall 0.04"
- August - High 89.0 °F, Low 50.3 °F, Rainfall 0.12"
- September - High 87.0 °F, Low 48.8 °F, Rainfall 0.34"
- October - High 79.2 °F, Low 45.0 °F, Rainfall 1.60"
- November - High 66.1 °F, Low 40.2 °F, Rainfall 4.04"
- December - High 57.6 °F, Low 36.8 °F, Rainfall 5.05"
How Can I Get To And Around Sonoma Without A Car?
To get to Sonoma on public transit from San Francisco you would take Golden Gate Transit from San Francisco to San Rafael, and then transfer to Sonoma County Transit to get to Sonoma Valley. There are no public transit routes that go directly to wineries, though some Sonoma County Transit routes do pass near wineries. For schedules and information, visit the San Francisco Bay Area Transportation website at transit.511.org
For more information on Sonoma County Transportation visit www.sctransit.com.
Are There Any Restaurants At Wineries?
Wineries in the Sonoma Valley do not have full service restaurants. There are a number of wineries that conduct food and wine pairings, and others that have pre-made picnic and/or deli items available. Many wineries are happy to have visitors use their picnic facilities.
How Late Are Wineries Open For Tasting?
Wineries and tasting rooms generally open between 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM and close between 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM. Many wineries stop pouring wine one half hour before the tasting room closes.
Are Wineries Open On Holidays?
It depends on the winery or tasting room, but most wineries are open year round with the exception of major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Years Day, and Easter Sunday. Wineries may have limited hours the day before a major holiday or on nationally recognized holidays such as Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc. Some may also have shorter hours in the winter season.
What Are The Nearest Airports? Drive Time Is Approximate. Fly To Sonoma Wine Country!
- San Francisco International - 56.3 mi - 1 hour 18 mins
- Oakland International - 56.6 mi - 1 hour 11 mins
- Sacramento International - 76.4 mi - 1 hour 26 mins
- Sonoma County Airport - 36.0 mi - 47 mins
- San Jose International Airport - 84.7 mi - 1 hour 37 mins
Are There Any Lodging Properties That Don't Require A Two-night Minimum?
Most properties require a two-night minimum on weekends and during our busy season (April - October). Properties may require a 3-night minimum stay on holiday weekends. The Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau keeps a list of lodging that will consider a one-night stay. Please call 866-996-1090 for more information.
When Is The Grape Harvest?
The grape harvest generally begins in August with the light-skinned grapes such as Chardonnay and ends in late September or October with the dark-skinned grapes such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Harvest is dependant on summer weather patterns and the sugar content (called a Brix count) of the grapes themselves.
What Is 'Crush'?
Crush is the term used to describe the process of wine grapes being crushed to release their juice. The term is also used to describe the harvest season.
Distances to other destinations (drive time is approximate)
- Eureka - 247 mi - 4 hours 41 mins
- Healdsburg - 44.2 mi - 55 mins
- Lake Tahoe (south) - 167 mi - 3 hours 5 mins
- Las Vegas - 597 mi - 9 hours 15 mins
- Los Angeles - 408 mi - 6 hours 20 mins
- Napa - 14.3 mi - 24 mins
- Monterey - 162 mi - 2 hours 54 mins
- Oakland - 48.2 mi - 1 hour 4 mins
- Sacramento - 67.7 mi - 1 hour 20 mins
- San Francisco - 44.2 mi - 1 hour 3 mins
- Yosemite National Park - 202 mi - 4 hours 29 mins