Wine Country Without Wine

On a recent road trip from Oregon traveling south into the redwoods of Northern California, we made a last minute choice to head out of the dampness of early spring continuing further south into the warm & beautiful Sonoma County California. It was a great choice for an awesome drive through incredible countryside and lots of sunshine. We knew the area was a great destination for activities involving wine, but what other things could we experience in Wine Country without wine?

Yes, you heard that right. We got strange looks from everyone we asked along the way. Wine Country without wine??!! It’s not that I don’t enjoy a great glass of wine, but in the past couple of years I have become very sensitive to what I eat and drink and the affects on my body – sleep, weight gain, and overall sense of energy and well-being. So it becomes a trade off weighing the balance of how I’ll feel later. Anyway for those of you  who may choose not to drink the wine due to health, spiritual or personal reasons there are still plenty of reasons to head to Wine Country.

North of San Francisco and adjacent to Napa Valley, Sonoma County is home to almost 60,000 acres of vineyards. When it comes to fine wine tastings, you could stay busy for days in this area, but what is there to enjoy in Wine Country without wine? Turns out there are plenty of options. And, for all you wine lovers out there, you can enjoy the over 450 wineries in Sonoma County alone as well as all these extra activities.

Breathe in Beautiful Countryside Views

Travel Photographer/Cathy Fitzgerald

Take time to enjoy driving through the countryside with your windows rolled down breathing in the fresh air, and taking in the  views of blue skies, rolling hills and miles of vineyards .

Relax and Rejuvenate 

Accommodations are abundant in Sonoma County from charming family-run bed and breakfasts to elegant luxury resorts and spas. Because heading to this area was a spur of the moment decision, we checked out Booking.com for last minute deals. Luckily we found a room for two nights at the Kenwood Inn & Spa with a wonderful discount. Since their restaurant was closed for remodeling it was available at a great price.

Relax and Rejuvenate Accommodations are abundant in Sonoma County from charming family-run bed and breakfasts to elegant luxury resorts and spas. Because heading to this area was a spur of the moment decision, we checked out Booking.com for last minute deals. Luckily we found a room for two nights at the Kenwood Inn & Spa with a wonderful discount. Since their restaurant was closed for remodeling it was available at a great price.

We enjoyed the peace, tranquility, relaxing in the pool and outdoor spa so much we decided to add an extra two nights to our stay. The fireplace was not working in the room they wanted to move us into so they bumped us up to a Junior Suite for the same price – really??!!

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

The Junior Suite was like an apartment and not something in our budget had it not been for the unbelievable discounts. Sometimes keeping plans flexible and going with the flow can backfire, but sometimes you can end up feeling like you are on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

 

Travel Photographer/Cathy Fitz

The Kenwood Inn Junior Suite we got moved into was like an apartment.

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Another option we use quite often for our stays is Airbnb. Every Airbnb experience is different, and you need to read details on properties carefully, but overall we have had amazing experiences. The cute little cottage we had scheduled in Healdsburg was a great find. Kate, the owner, went above and beyond ensuring we had everything we needed. I highly recommend you look into Airbnb for options when traveling. Click on this link to get $25 off your first Airbnb experience.

Cathy Fitz/Travel Photographer

Set under majestic oak trees, on a quiet private country lane, the cabin has panoramic views of the Russian River, vineyards and Mount St. Helena.

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Originally built by Kate’s grandfather, she has continued to upgrade and make it perfect for a comfortable stay. We loved the space the minute we walked in the front door.

 

Travel Photography/Cathy fitz

And then we saw this view from the enclosed back porch – wow!

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

The space with bright and cheery with a fresh breeze blowing in through the open windows.

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

The back yard completed the experience with chairs waiting to relax and take in the great outdoors.

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

The historic Healdsburg plaza was just a 2 mile drive away and the perfect place to enjoy great the local cuisine, walks through the parklike setting or sitting on a bench indulging in fresh baked pastries or ice cream treats.

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

The Costeaux French Bakery is a perfect way to start your day with great coffee and breakfast.

 

Another great choice for accommodations is a Bed and Breakfast. We didn’t spend the night, but happened upon Beltane Ranch while visiting Glen Ellen. It’s just one of many options, and looked like a lovely place to stay – winery, working ranch, and B&B all rolled into one.

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

We love the outdoors and are always looking for places to hike and get in our minimum 10,000 steps a day on FitbitThe Quarryhill Botanical Garden near Glen Ellen is twenty acres of Asian plants with peaceful trails meandering through the gardens. It’s a very easy and enjoyable walk. There is a fee of $15 per adult to enter the gardens.

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Thankfully, we did not see any of these.

 

We parked along Highway 12 to access the trails at Sonoma Valley Regional Park, next to the village of Glen Ellen. The park’s main path is a paved, 1.2-mile trail that begins near a wetland and meadow, winds through magnificent oak woodlands and follows a seasonal creek. Several smaller trails connect the main trail to the ridges.

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Our favorite hike by far was at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Located in the Mayacamas Mountains north of Kenwood, the park contains the 2,729 feet Bald Mountain, the headwaters of Sonoma Creek and a 25-foot tall seasonal waterfall. There is a day use fee of $8 per car.

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

There is a unique feeling of joy and contentment when meandering through fields of spring flowers, butterflies, birds & deer.

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Once again, a sighting we weren’t sorry to miss.

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Our only regret was finding this park on the last day of our stay and only getting to enjoy a small portion of the 25 miles of trails.

 

Immerse yourself in History, Culture, and Architecture 

The Jack London State Historic Park near Glen Ellen was full of history and interesting stories. Jack London, an American novelist, journalist, and social activist purchased 130 acres in 1905 to have a place to get out and enjoy nature. Eventually he purchased more land and worked to develop what he called Beauty Ranch.

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Jack tried some unique methods of ranching – not all were successful.

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

There are buildings and ruins scattered throughout the property to visit and explore.

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

The over 29 miles of trails on the 1400 acre property opening up to stunning vistas.

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

The Pig Palace was built in 1915 at a cost of $3000. It was designed with a circular layout of 17 pens around the central feed house to save labor and provide an efficient, sanitary environment for his prized breeding pigs.

 

The stories of Charmian Kittredge, London’s second wife in 1905 were as interesting as those about Jack. She was adventurous and independent, sometimes pushing the envelope. Evidently,  she rode her horse cross-saddle when women were riding English side-saddle and became an out-spoken advocate defending it.

Charmian was the perfect mate to join Jack on his adventures and they built the Snark with a seven year plan to cruise the world. Unfortunately, the trip was cut short at around 18 months when Jack become ill.

There House of Happy Walls Charmian built on the property in 1919, three years after Jack London’s death, is now a museum complete with pictures, artifacts, and stories of their travels.

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Photo in the museum of Chairman London during their world travels aboard their Yacht Snark

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

The railing in Jack London museum decorated with artifacts from Jack & Charmain’s travels.

 

The small towns in Sonoma County are themselves full of beautiful architecture, history, art museums, and culture. They are great places to browse, dine and shop.

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

The historic Sonoma Plaza is a gorgeous historic landmark.

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Mission San Francisco Solano

 

Exploring

One of the best parts of any road trip is the unexpected. Not sure the story behind this place called Cyclop Iron Works. A neighbor said it belonged to Chuck, a former attorney. The sign on the gate said private, but please peek freely. It would have been great to meet the owner and learn more.

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Take Time to Smell the Roses

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

In addition to the spring flowers, there were roses in abundance.

 

 Eat Your Way Through

Food choices seemed as abundant as the wine. More details on a future blog about all the delicious eats, but I just had to share a couple of pictures from Yeti RestaurantThe unique Indian and Nepalese food was delicious – my mouth waters just thinking about it!

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Samosa – homemade pastry filled with potatoes, green peas and bell peppers spiced with garlic, ginger and cumin

 

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

Boating, Biking, Fishing & More

There were more options to consider that we didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy. Biking is huge in this area if you are an avid biker comfortable with riding along the sometimes busy roads. And while driving from Sonoma to Mendocino we discovered beautiful  Lake Sonoma. Maybe a great place to go on a future trip?

Travel Photography/Cathy Fitz

So there you have it – yes you can enjoy Wine Country without wine. And, of course if you do enjoy a great glass of wine, with over 450 wineries in Sonoma County alone, the possibilities are endless!

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