Tips & Ideas

Tips & Ideas


submitted by: Michael Webb

welderNapa Valley must have a very good marketing firm. When someone mentions California’s wine country, Napa Valley is usually the first place to come to mind. However, neighboring Sonoma County was producing wine before Napa and its wines have won just as many prestigious awards.

Even if you aren’t a wine bibber, Sonoma County is a fantastic place for a romantic getaway. On our recent trip there s10Athena and I explored the rugged Pacific Coast, toured through Armstrong Woods — a forest filled with gigantic redwoods, and stayed in a couple of the most pampering bed and breakfasts. We toured a few wineries but that wasn’t on the top of our list. However, if you really want to visit a few outstanding wineries, there are plenty to choose from and in general the tastings are free (most in Napa County charge a fee).


The Honor Mansion is located in Healdsburg, the center of the wine region. It made touring the area a breeze. Since our suite was so comfortable and had a private canopied hot tub outdoors we spent a lot of time just relaxing and parlorunwinding at the Inn. The gourmet breakfasts that were advertised were exactly that. Gourmet. Even if you stayed for four nights, you wouldn’t be served the same thing twice. food575The Inn even sported a swimming pool, a rarity with B&Bs. Downtown Healdsburg is quite charming with an array of unique shops and restaurants lining the main square. While you are there, ask for directions to Jimtown Store. It is an old time country General Store that serves really great lunch.

The Inn at Occidental is in the town of Occidental, naturally. It is in the southwestern area of Sonoma County and that makes it a good jumping off place for cruising along California’s famous Pacific Coast Highway 1. If you enjoy fresh cheese, be sure to stop in at the Wine & Cheese Tasting place in Duncan Mills. It is housed in a cute little cottage and the owners know quite a lot about the area as wine_shopwell as the wine and cheese.


The Inn is a very comfortable place to spend a few nights. In the late afternoon they serve complimentary hors d’oeuvres and local wines. Each room at the Inn is decorated according to a theme. The owner is apparently a collector of practically everything and uses the rooms to showcase some of his collections. If you check in early they might give you a small tour of the place. For dinner, some of the best food around is the casual Willow Wood Market. The polenta with goat cheese was out of this world splashand I’d fly back across the country just to have it again.

If you are heading to San Francisco and can carve a couple of days out of your schedule, a trip to Sonoma County would be well worth it. In fact, skip San Francisco and spend all your time up in California’s wine country.

The Inn at Occidental 707-874-1047

The Honor Mansion  14891 Grove Street Healdsburg CA 800-554-4667

Willow Wood Market –  9020 Graton Road in the town of Graton (707) 823-0233