New Sonoma Recommendations (and East Bay, too)

Looks like we’ll be heading to CA in September, flying into Oakland, staying there (or Berkeley/Emeryville) for a few days, then staying a few nights each in Sonoma and Healdsburg (maybe Santa Rosa?). So winery, dining and hotel recommendations for all areas would be great. I used to visit Sonoma regularly, but haven’t been in over 20 years. I’ve looked through the Sonoma thread, but a lot of that is old, and I’m assuming a lot has changed post-COVID.

Here’s what we’re looking for:

Wineries - We tend to like smaller wineries, with more balanced, acid and earth driven wines without a lot of prominent new oak or alcohol. But we also aren’t fans of natty and beery wines. I’d much rather taste and chat over a barrel in the winery or a small tasting room with someone who knows the wines as opposed to a $50/person two-hour sit down “experience” led by someone telling me what flavors and aromas I’m going to pick up in the wines.

Restaurants - We usually like smaller, more chef-driven/owned restaurants, but we also aren’t looking for 7 course tasting menus. We like great food, don’t have any dietary restrictions (other than I don’t eat many green veggies), and are fans of a variety of cuisines. We don’t need Michelin stars, and aren’t really into “molecular gastronomy”, just really good food in a comfortable restaurant. Places with reasonable wine pricing get bonus points in my book. And for lunch we usually do more casual places, so recommendations for great delis (is the old one on the square in Healdsburg still around?), bakeries, Mexican joints, and burger places also help.

Hotels - We probably won’t be lounging at the hotel much, so just want a nice, clean place with comfortable beds and a nice vibe. I stayed at the Dry Creek Inn years ago, and would like something a little more upscale than that, but not $700/night like Ruse or Harmon.

In the East Bay, we’ll probably stay someplace close-in, but will hop over the bridge to visit SF for a day. So recommendations for hotels and restaurants in the close-in EB would help, as would a good place for a dinner in SF that meets the qualifications above. I went to Piperade about 10 years ago and loved it, so might go back unless there’s a better spot.

Lastly, we might be up for meeting a few local wine geeks for dinner if anyone is up for it and it works into our schedule.

Been to Sonoma a few times over the past several years and Restaurant Valette in Healdsburg is always on our itinerary. One of our favorite spots. Great food, house cured charcuterie and a very nice wine program. Can’t go wrong IMO.

Not sure if you’ve heard of this little winery called Bedrock–but it’s in Sonoma. Bucklin would probably fit the bill. Not sure if Once and Future and Pax do tastings? I stayed at the Berkeley City Club–but Claremont Club looked nice. In Napa Valley, this is the best I found in my budget: Accommodations & Camping | Napa Outdoors

Enfield - Santa Rosa

Extra Dimensional Wine Co YEAH! - new tasting room opening in Sonoma proper.

Scherrer - Sebastopol

Sonoma Pizza Co in Forestville
Walter Hansel Bistro in Santa Rosa
Big John’s Market in H’bg


4 of us went to Piperade a few months ago. I also hadn’t been in many years. It was absolutely terrific. They are closing at the end of November (retirement, restaurant lease is expiring).

In the East Bay, same group went to Belloti in north Oakland. Blew our socks off. Every single dish was spot on including the simple salad. Great service, too. VERY popular for good reason so book in advance.

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Cool, going there for Lunch on Monday.

In Sonoma you have the old standards
Ed Dorado Kitchen
Girl and Fig

Maya is fun mexican, pretty decent food, good bar
LaSalette, in an alley off the east side of the square
Layla restaurant, in the MacArthur Place resort, is quite good. Breakfast in particular is excellent, and a very nice room. Don’t have to be staying there to eat.
El Molino Central just north of town is always good for lunch

In Healdsburg I’d go to the Aeris tasting room. Wines you will like.

I didn’t realize Enfield had a tasting room… I don’t see the location on their website. Where is it?

Just as an FYI for future recommendations, it doesn’t have to be a tasting room. I’m fine making appointments, too, although I realize it might be a very busy time so I don’t want to inconvenience anyone.


He said he’d rather taste at the winery from barrels. John does all his tastings at Punchdown Cellars where he make the wines.
September may be tough due to harvest constraints though.

Good point. I was bottling for Shalini Sekhar on Monday. She’s the winemaker at Neely Wine in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She showed us grape cluster photos from a few days ago and the same time last year. She figures crush will be a month later this year, that is in September.

Bucklin absolutely fits for what you are looking for. Tasting done outside a barn.
Scherrer too.

My wife and I recently had dinner at Guiso in Healdsburg. Latin fusion place, dishes meant to be shared for the table. Great dinner. Very small dining area with some outside seating. Pretty good value and excellent food.

Let us know what you think. Scott and Charleene went to Cyrus the week prior to the 4 of us dining at Belloti. They both said that in its own way, they got just as much pleasure from Belloti as they did from Cyrus.

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Hi Marshall been a while since I visited with you. Bellotti is great. Another stop in Healdsburg is Arno-tRoberts. Napa is harder to find value and interest. If in Marin county email or text me and we’ll open anything you find interesting in my cellar😎


+1 for Piperade. Also in SF, I recommend Octavia (or sister restaurant Frances) and Bellota. Haven’t been to Copra yet but based on the chef’s history at Taj Campton Place, that seems like a sure bet. In Oakland, recommend Wood Tavern or it’s sister restaurant, Wolf. Or Duende. Or Pomet.

Not new any more, but new since your visit 20 years ago, consider Barndiva (Healdsburg) which has always impressed us for its food, drink, and service. We have been there 5-6 times for dinner and once for lunch.

We have also enjoyed the (old) Cyrus about 5 times – one of our favorite restaurants and 3 different friend groups report great experiences as well. We have still yet to try Cyrus 2.0 which is located a little north of Healdsburg. Same chef and same Mâitre’d and both genuinely nice people.

In San Francisco, Cotogna may fit your requirements. Loud and bustling with a fun vibe. It is near-ish the escape to Oakland.

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Tested at Ramey in Healdsburg. Across the board the wines were very good with some exceptional and pricing very fair relative to comparable wines. 20 Hyde Chardonnay was exceptional as was 16 Annum.

The other nice thing was pop ins seem to be back at some Sonoma wineries

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Thanks for posting! We’ll be in Sonoma in a week and will use these recommendations.


I liked Troubadour WAY better than Cyrus!

Thanks for the input. So far we have Piperade, Wood Tavern, and Bellotti in the Bay Area; La Salette, La Haye and Girl and the Fig in Sonoma and Guiso, Valette and either Diavola or Baci Cafe in Healdsburg.

Girl and the Fig seems to have some mixed reviews lately. Any recent experience there? Is the Fig Cafe in Glen Ellen better? How about Glen Ellen Star? Just trying to make sure we hit the places that are currently delicious.