guide to sonoma // napa

i can’t believe we’ve been living in the bay area for almost two years 
and only made it to sonoma//napa recently! we are now
obsessed with the area and plan to make lots of weekend
trips from the city. just a little disclaimer…we don’t
drink wine! ha, so this guide will show all
the other great things this area has to offer!
guide to
the girl & the fig
everyone in sonoma knows this place,
and loves it. we had the best meal of
the year here, and we’re still full from it!
you can see our full review of it here,
or you can just trust us and go. be sure
to try the fig arugula salad and the
lavender crème brûlée..not to be missed.
*make a reservation!

el dorado kitchen
promise me that you will go to lunch here.
it was my favorite lunch ever. get the crab
salad and the panna cotta with rhubarb for
dessert. sit out on the patio if it’s warm!
olive & vine
this place is in glen ellen, a little north
of the town of sonoma…where lots of 
 amazing food can be found! trust me, this 
place is special. i love driving up the 
road here and off the beaten path to
get here. the owner catherine is the
best and has done an incredible job
with olive & vine. it has a very 
personal, warm feel while offering 
upscale dining. try their caesar salad!
 see our fun dinner there with 
my parents by clicking here.

red grape pizza
“new haven style” thin crust pizza
with such fresh toppings grown in
their garden. right off sonoma square!
see pictures and details of our yummy 
lunch there by clicking here. we recommend
the bbq chicken pizza…one of the best!
the cottage inn & spa
if you want to stay right near town,
cottage inn & spa is a great little bed & breakfast
right off of sonoma square. so cozy + comfortable…
and they serve breakfast in a darling basket
hanging on your door in the morning.
chateau sonoma
magical french antiques store…
whether you’re into antiques or not,
stop in here and be transported to france.
sonoma cheese factory
remember, you’re not only in wine country..
but cheese country too! stop in here for some
fun tastings..and then go down the street
for a cheese plate at the girl & the fig.
sonoma valley cyclery
you’d be silly to come to sonoma and
miss the chance to rent a bike and go
through the pretty roads and towns.
we rented from sonoma valley cyclery and
highly recommend them. they are in a great
location a few streets off the main square, so 
you can park there and ride on a gorgeous
12 mile loop through the prettiest wineries.
brenna will set you up and you’ll love it!
sonoma overlook trail 
this is a pretty hike right near sonoma
square if you don’t want to drive too far.
{there are lots of other hikes to be discovered
in the future!} you can ask for directions to the
trailhead from town, and enjoy this overlook
of the valley! it’s not too difficult, just nice
and helps balance all that good food!!
sebastiani theatre
because my husband has a thing for
old movie theatres, we will include this one.
we went in and heard about the history and 
saw part of a movie {we were late after a 
10 course meal!!} the best part is that they
not only show movies here, but they also have
musicians, comedians, etc. who come to perform.
sonoma state historic park
along with all the food + shopping there’s some
history! see the state historic park to see
more about the six sites of sonoma.
kenwood inn & spa
north of sonoma is kenwood, where the
nicest hotel we’ve ever stayed in is.
changing. we can’t say enough good
things about staying here. it felt
like tuscany! so charming and relaxing.
see our stay and feature here.
guide to
napa is so close, but has a very different
feel. it has some of the best food, and
the town is cute to explore! like i said,
we spent less time here so this guide won’t 
be complete until next visit, but here are a few..
grace’s table
we stopped through napa and had lunch
at the delicious grace’s table. this little bistro
has quite the menu from around the world.
chef mauro sat and talked to us while we
ate, explained his garden, background, etc.
we were so impressed. definitely get the skillet
cornbread with lavender honey butter (!!!)
and try the beet/avocado salad. incredible.
oxbow public market
oxbow public market is well known,
for good reason! some of the best food in
the entire region is here. all the time in SF
i will see things that come “from oxbow market.”
food lovers must stop here! it’s just across the river.
you can see a few pictures from our time at
oxbow market here. we have already set up
some more features when we visit next!
c casa
this place is not to be missed in oxbow market.
c casa has the most unique food and is so worth
stopping in. catherine has turned “tacos”
into gourmet works of art! you have to try
them…also, the treats! so cute and so unique.
i dream of their sunshine bars! stop in for sure!
model bakery
this mother-daughter bakery is in oxbow market, 
and it is aptly named because it truly is a “model” 
for baking! they just released a new cookbook 
and i am getting it solely for their famous english 
muffins…stop in and grab a bag, they normally 
sell out by noon! they are melt-in-your mouth 
incredible. seriously, you have to try one!
the kitchen door
one of the restaurants in oxbow market
is the kitchen table. it’s amazing! we
just stopped by for some samples
due to our busy schedule, but we
loved hearing about the restaurant
and already have a date set to go back
for the full experience.
cate & co.
this is in oxbow market and the same owner as 
c casa, with a completely different feel. they make 
everything by hand, and you have to try their 
salads. mmMMM! *gluten-free treats here.
the meritage resort
we discovered this lovely resort last time we
visited with my parents, and chase + i both said
we want to go back again soon. it is a little bit 
south of the town of napa, so it feels secluded 
and quiet. it is great for couples and families,
as different parts of the resort accommodate
both. my favorite part is the vineyards right
on the edge of the resort with a pretty path
you can take to walk all through them.
if you’re looking to stay on the napa
side, it’s great. see more here!
other areas we’ve heard about
in the region and can’t wait to explore:
• healdsburg 
• west sonoma 
• yountville 
sonoma/napa lovers…please comment with any favorites!
until next time, we can’t wait to visit again! 

'guide to sonoma // napa' has 8 comments

  1. January 12, 2014 @ 4:01 am Tiffany {A Touch of Grace}

    I just made my hubby read this too! We are so excited for our first trip to Sonoma! Thank you for the guide; it will be super helpful for us. :)


    • January 12, 2014 @ 7:50 pm emi

      good!! can’t wait to hear how you like it! you’ll have the best time.


  2. January 13, 2014 @ 3:13 pm Laura - Relatively Offbeat

    I definitely need to go to Napa/Sonoma sometime in the near future! I’ve heard amazing things. Great posts! Looks like you did and saw a lot while you were there!


  3. March 14, 2015 @ 12:15 am Hannah

    I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now and I just love it. When I first saw your Napa posts I knew I had to comment with all of my recommendations, but I forgot until I saw Sonoma on your upcoming travel schedule (I am totally loving the new website, btw). I don’t know if you are actually coming to the town of Napa anytime soon again, but there are so many personal favorites left off this list, although you totally nailed it with the Oxbow. I go to school in DC now (your guide for DC is great!), but I was born and raised in Napa! First you must try Pizza Azzuro. The pizzas are great, but my favorite thing is the organic vanilla soft serve with caramel and sea salt. Life changing. They also have these things called Manciatas, which is basically all types of salad on warm pizza dough. Walking along the riverfront is great too and the best restaurant down there is a darling place called Angele. You will love the decor since you love all things French! The best brunch in my opinion is the Boonfly Cafe. It is part of the Carneros Inn. You have to try the doughnuts! And if you can, try to walk around the hotel itself…stunning views! In between Napa and Sonoma there is an incredible little roadside place called The Fremont Diner. The biscuits and milkshakes are to die for. I know the other food is great too, but it is seriously worth a stop just for the biscuits. If you drive the other direction (further up valley) you can’t miss Rutherford Grill. I would also stroll through Yountville and grab some pastries from Bouchon bakery. Lastly I would head up to St. Helena. There are lots of great restaurants right on Main St., but my personal fav is Market. Great American food, plus you can make homemade s’mores right at your table. Clearly I judge all my restaurants by dessert! My other favorite thing in St. Helena is the Cameo Cinema. It is the most darling one screen local movie theater. All the locals bring their own bowls to fill up on popcorn and it is the best. Sorry for leaving the longest comment known to man, but I couldn’t help myself. Enjoy!!


    • emi

      March 15, 2015 @ 2:14 pm emi

      haha okay i am LOVING this comment! you are my kind of girl with all these great tips (and desserts!!! :) can’t wait to try these all out! our visit in a few weeks is just to sonoma, but now i have an excuse to get to napa asap. give DC a kiss from me, miss that place!



  4. August 13, 2015 @ 6:12 am Abby

    What a wonderful {& helpful} post this was for me planning our recent trip to Sonoma/Napa! We just returned on Sunday and had a wonderful time. I have to say, the Fig and The Girl was definitely our favorite restaurant followed by a brand new ice cream shop on the square called Sweet Scoops. A must try if you visit wine region again. Your blog is so great – keep it up!


  5. July 26, 2018 @ 3:52 pm Kaylin

    I never comment on blogs, but I am pretty passionate about Napa Valley! I’ve spent a lot of time there (although not SUPER recently) and these are some of my MUSTS for newer visitors-
    -La Taquiza –> taco shop tucked into a shopping center on the southern side of Napa. The baja fish tacos are to die for. The carne asada burritos are also stellar. Best horchata, and all the salsas are house made and GLORIOUS. If you’re feeling adventurous, I love the octopus taco as well. I’ve had just about everything there, and its a MUST for me anytime I’m in town. This isn’t your typical grungy CA taco shop (which I love too), this is high quality Mexican food perfectly executed and with a touch of Napa flare.
    -Bistro Don Giovonni –> this is an old Napa favorite closer toward Yountville. It’s a classic for a reason. Mushroom pizza, stuffed figs from the fig tree out back, the butterscotch pudding made with Macallan scotch, an incredible frito misto. Lovely.
    -Alston Park –> go early in the morning with a cup of coffee and sit on a bench on the little hill there and watch the hot air balloons float across the valley. It’s magical.
    -Speaking of balloons –> nothing’s beats a balloon ride over the valley on a crisp fall morning with the vibrant colors of the vineyards passing quietly below. *sigh*

    Yountville: (my favorite)
    -the Vintage 1871 shops –> fun to walk around, but I basically only go for Kollar chocolates. BEST TRUFFLES. The red wine truffle may be a bit cliche, but its absolutely divine.
    -Ad Hoc & Ad Hoc Addendum –> I haven’t been here in years, but every time I went, I wasn’t disappointed. Fun atmosphere, and a more relaxed (and affordable) way to experience Thomas Keller. They’ll even do a non-alcoholic beverage pairing if you’re not interested in wine. It was a blast. Very unique experience.
    -Speaking of Thomas Keller –> Bouchon Bakery and Bouchon Bistro. The bakery is a must. Get a couple macarons, a chocolate almond croissant, I highly recommend splurging for an epi baguette and the salmon rillettes. Walk with your goodies up the road just a bit and have a picnic in the French Laundry garden. Nothing is dreamier. Bouchon Bistro is rustic french comfort food in the gorgeous upper echelon setting of Yountville. Another more affordable (than The French Laundry) option to experience Thomas Keller’s french food.
    -Yount Mill Rd –> I’ve both biked the loop, and wandered through Yountville to find the back way and walk, but this little road meanders along a vineyard under full shade of beautiful trees. Its stunning. The definition of relaxation and romance.

    St. Helena:
    -wandering downtown is fun in and of itself. Cute town with lots of history.
    -Goose & Gander –> best bone marrow I’ve had to date. I suggest the downstairs bar area (you don’t have to drink); its a really neat and cozy atmosphere and serves the full menu. Feels almost like a speakeasy style lounge with phenomenal food.
    -Auberge de Soliel –> I’ve never had the budget for the formal restaurant there (rivals the French Laundry apparently), but they have a more casual bistro with a patio that has views of the valley that are only rivaled by a balloon ride. Its lovely, its classy, the views are breathtaking, and its worth the splurge.

    You’ve already hit on some fantastic places, and I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting, but these are my top favorites that don’t revolve around wine. I suggest driving up valley on the 128 and back down valley on Silverado Trail. The drive along Silverado Trail is worth a trip to wine country in and of itself. Hope this list gives you some fun ideas for your next trip! Sonoma is adorable, but there’s something just magical to me about Napa valley. Enjoy!


    • emi

      July 28, 2018 @ 7:17 pm emi

      this is an AMAZING list!! can’t wait to get back up there now!! ♥ thanks!


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