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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

See a New Wave of Design in Sonoma County

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3. What to Do


Compared with Sonoma's other vineyards, Ram's Gate Winery is an unusually stylish property.  

Sip and swim at the two-year-old Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Alexander Valley, which has an on-site pool with changing cabins, bocce ball courts, and an Italian restaurant that serves wood-fired pizzas at communal tables overlooking rows of merlot and Syrah grapes. Of course, there’s also plenty of Godfather paraphernalia. Further south, the new winery Ram’s Gate is a 21,000-square-foot spot that was designed to look like a modern farmstead. Snag a seat in the glass-walled, open-air pavilion and order a tasting flight of pinot noir or chardonnay.

Visit some of the region’s apple orchards, bee farms, olive groves, and goat dairies to experience Sonoma’s non-grape bounty. This year, Dry Creek Peach and Produce owner Gayle Sullivan launched half-day sessions for visitors to learn more about pruning, grafting, thinning, and harvesting. At the Redwood Hill Farm, a solar-powered organic creamery in Sebastopol, visitors can pet week-old kids and Nubian goats before sampling kefirs and chèvres, which the Bice family will tell you are much easier to digest than cow milk dairy products. Wherever you plan to go, call ahead to arrange tours, which are generally offered by appointment on weekends during the spring and summer months.

Find foodie heaven at the Shed in Healdsburg (opens this month), which is part-café, part-larder, and part-classroom, with talks and demonstrations on farming and beekeeping in the works. Fifteen years in the making, it's the dream project of local farmers Cindy Daniel and her husband Doug Lipton, and the recycled-steel, greenhouse-like “modern grange” has a wooden mill straight from Austria and kombucha on tap. You’ll find a similar operation in Sebastopol, where the Barlow Apple Cannery (opening in April) is being converted into a community hall of sorts where cheese makers, coffee roasters, and fishmongers will sell their goods in a space that also houses restaurants and bocce ball courts.

Walk through architect-commissioned landscapes in the nine-acre Cornerstone Gardens, which opened in 2004 but has since added tasting rooms by local producers Keating and Meadowcroft, as well as design shops like Zipper, which carries everything from birdhouses to photography books. Inspired by an international garden design festival held in the Loire Valley annually, the gardens invite interaction; a recently installed gargantuan concrete-and-fiberglass “pebble” beckons visitors to climb and crawl aboard and peer through holes in the rock to see the greenery below.


Published on Mar 7, 2013 as a web exclusive.

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