Think winter in the wine country isn’t worth it? Think again! I had the best time with my friend Sarah in Sonoma last month. Many of my friends were startled that I was going to the wine country in December, since that’s not a popular time to visit. I’m here to tell you all the brilliant reasons to book your winter wine country vacation as soon as possible! My only complaint all weekend is that we tried to fit in both Sonoma and Napa Valley. Everyone told me you can “absolutely do wine country” in a weekend. There are 700 wineries in Sonoma alone! I was picturing Sonoma Plaza to be a darling town square, since so many people describe Sonoma as a small town. Clearly those people have never been to a small town in Texas. You could easily spend an entire Saturday swooning over the shops at Sonoma Plaza. This will definitely be the first of many, many Rose Table trips to the wine country!
A few reasons to visit the California wine country during the winter:
- It’s less crowded
- It’s less expensive
- Sonoma and Napa Valley have incredible shopping for Christmas gifts
- The weather is still practically perfect (okay, that’s subjective but it was gorgeous!) in December
- There’s never a bad time to eat dinner in California
- The wine tastes just as delicious year round!
I cannot say enough wonderful things about Fairmont Sonoma. It has that same quiet elegance that Fairmont Hotels are known for with all the charm of a historic Spanish mission. The beds are to die for and perfectly dressed with fluffy pillows and thick comforters. You’re even given a glass of champagne upon arrival! Don’t miss the spa: the bathing ritual is the most European spa experience I’ve had on US soil. The spa is reason enough to visit Fairmont Sonoma year round! The resort is also just minutes away from Sonoma Plaza and a plethora of wineries.
Tour Fairmont Sonoma:
Watch my Room Tour video:
Read my full Fairmont Sonoma review here.
Benziger Family Winery
Benziger Family Winery is the quintessential California winery with a twist: it’s actually a step above organic. Color me impressed! They’ve got it all: olive trees, sweeping views, a wine cave, and great wine. Even on a dreary, overcast day, Benziger was stunning. We did the partners tour and got to taste a ton of Benziger wines in the wine cave after touring the vineyard. What a way to spend a Friday! Read my article about Benziger here.
Dinner at OSO Sonoma
After Benziger, we headed to Sonoma Plaza for a quick bite at OSO Sonoma. We split six raw oysters and hummus with feta, parsley, paprika, and grilled bread. I am still dreaming about my shrimp and cheesy grits with bacon. Heaven help me, I could eat that every Friday night. Afterwards we walked around Sonoma Plaza, enjoying all of the glittering lights.
After dinner we lit our fire bag, popped some champagne, and cozied up in spa robes for the loveliest girl’s night!
Breakfast at Sante
We ate breakfast at Sante on Saturday morning: crab eggs benedict for me (if there’s benedict on the menu, I’m probably ordering it), chilaquilles for Sarah. Both delicious and hearty, which is good when you have multiple wine tastings on the agenda!
Willow Stream Spa
I smelled like a cookie all day thanks to my hot buttered rum sugar scrub and massage. I just had a massage last week and my massage therapist raved about how soft my skin is, six weeks after my sugar scrub at Willow Stream Spa. Now that’s impressive! We also squeezed in a quick bathing ritual (which includes a mineral water soak, rain tunnel, eucalyptus steam, and dry sauna) and felt completely refreshed by the time we walked out.
We finally got cleaned up and headed out for our first wine tasting of the day!
Buena Vista Winery
Our first wine tasting of the day was at Buena Vista Winery, just minutes from Sonoma Plaza. Buena Vista has an old world European feel with cobblestone paths, secret passages, and ornate wine bottles. The Count gave us a private tour and I wish y’all could have seen my face when I walked in to the bubble lounge. Oh wait! You can. Just watch the video below. Read my article about Buena Vista here.
Make sure you have enough time to explore Sonoma Plaza. It’s much larger than I was anticipating and full of lovely little shops. You could easily spend several hours shopping. Sonoma Plaza is also home to the original Williams-Sonoma.
Sweet Scoops Ice Cream
Don’t even dream of going to Sonoma without going to Sweet Scoops Ice Cream. I got three scoops and had zero regrets. It’s a tiny, cheerful shop that serves up practically perfect ice cream. My favorite was the Basque Cookie, made with cookies baked daily by nearby Basque Boulangerie. I didn’t have time to stop into Basque (we were practically sprinting from activity to activity) but it’s at the top of my to do list on my next wine country visit based on the ice cream alone.
Black Stallion Winery
The drive from Sonoma to Napa Valley is quite fun. We got to Black Stallion Winery just as the sun was starting to dip down to kiss the vines. We toured the barrel room, the production facility converted from an old farm, and the educational vineyard that shows many types of grapes. Bucephalus was my favorite Black Stallion wine – no surprise there, since the bold red is named after Alexander the Great’s epic stallion.
Shopping in Napa Valley
I wish we had a whole other day to shop in Napa Valley! I was ill-prepared for how large downtown Napa would be. We didn’t have too much time to shop but I do have to give a shout out to Boho Lifestyle. I bought a new dress, a fabulous cross body bag, and a ton of Christmas gifts. Bring comfortable shoes because Napa Valley is filled with adorable shops all within walking distance of each other.
Sarah and I talk about this dinner frequently. Torc, we love you. And I love blogger Vogue in Vines for recommending it! We loved every bite of this hearty Italian restaurant. I highly recommend ordering the pakora (crunchy sweet potato bites with a yogurt sauce), beet salad, and lobster risotto.
On Sunday we had a dainty breakfast of pancakes and bacon at Sante and did the bathing ritual at Willow Stream again – it’s that good! – before getting cleaned up and heading to our last vineyard of the trip.
BR Cohn Winery
We had breakfast at Sante again and went back to Willow Stream for another bathing ritual because it’s just that good. Before saying goodbye to the wine country, we snuck in one more wine tasting at BR Cohn Winery. It’s just five minutes from Fairmont Sonoma and looks positively idyllic. I can’t even decide what the best part is: the picturesque olive groves, delicious food and wine pairings, happy roses, live music, or Oyster Mike. Either way, this is a very Rose Table place. Read my article about BR Cohn here.
Book this Trip:
- Stay at Fairmont Sonoma
- Do the partners tour at Benziger Family Winery
- Eat at OSO Sonoma
- Visit Buena Vista Winery
- Explore Sonoma Plaza
- Get ice cream at Sweet Scoops
- Visit Black Stallion Winery
- Shop downtown Napa Valley
- Eat at Torc
- Enjoy the Taste of BR Cohn tour and tasting at BR Cohn Winery
Watch the wine country episode of The Rose Table:
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be a general resource. Any recommendations are based on personal opinion. A portion of this trip may have been compensated but opinions are my own, always. I’m not a fan of negativity so if I don’t like something, I don’t write about it.