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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Sanchez

Weekend in Sonoma's Russian River

After having a crazy and hectic week at work you can fill the urge to leave the city and take a road trip for a weekend getaway, right?

In the Bay Area we have plenty of options where to go for the weekend, Tahoe, Napa, Carmel, Monterey. How about Russian River in Sonoma?

This area has been one of my favorite spots since 2010, once we started visiting our dear in Monte Rio. It’s just an easy ride, about 80 miles north of San Francisco, try to get on Highway 101 either before 2pm or after 7pm to avoid the Friday night traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge and highway 101. As soon as you get to the Healdsburg exit you will feel the relaxation and laid back environment that the area has to offer.

You can always start by visiting quaint Healdsburg and walk around the main square, visit wineries like Ferrari-Carano, stroll down for ice cream or visit one of the best towns for finding hidden treasures, and by that I mean antiques. Then, I suggest taking Westside road into Russian River area. On that road you’ll find yourself lost in the middle of vineyards and never-ending green fields, the experience is absolutely incredible, there’s no need to go to France or Italy to feel this way, you’ll be transported to another country right in Sonoma County. Along the way many wineries have been established, one of our favorites being Hop Kiln Winery which we like because of its red wines, made with grapes from the area. Definitely you can spend a few hours touring this road and visiting the many wineries on this windy road, there’s no rush to get anywhere so roll down your windows, put the top down and enjoy the ride.

Venture yourself a few miles west and finally you’ll arrive to beautiful redwood trees towns in Russian River, Guernville and Monte Rio. As soon as you get there you’ll feel incredibly sheltered by these impressive redwood trees, nestled in the forest they create an atmosphere of seclusion. Temperature will drop 5–10 degrees because of the foliage from these trees protecting the roads and making it almost impossible for the sun to get through.

This area is all about relaxation, it’s like the town is stuck back in the 1960’s, with the hippie revolution and flower power influences, and believe me, you’ll see examples of these just by observing the locals walking around and some of the decor.

But he fun doesn’t end there, drive about 20 more minutes west and you’ll get to the breathtaking Pacific coast, Highway 1, and see how the ocean waves break in, beautiful scenery, and the wildlife is so diverse, you can spot all kinds of forest birds, seals, sea lions, and if lucky some dolphins out in the ocean. Stop by Jenner town, it’s the quintessential example of Pacific Ocean towns in California. You can explore more by driving on Highway 1 (south or north) and admire the dramatic coastline and wildlife in the area, explore more of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” movie stage, Bodega Bay, and enjoy the freshest seafood that the town has to offer, and perhaps shop for some memorabilia from the movie set.

One of the most recent jewels that we’ve found is the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, in Alexander Valley. This impressive construction, just about 12 miles north from Healdsburg, sits in the valley offering some of the best wines in the region. Do some wine tasting and experience the great variety that the winery has to offer. Not only that, but inside the winery you can find a great restaurant, usually with wait list to get a table, and also movie props from Francis Ford Coppola’s different masterpieces, such as Apocalypse Now, Dracula and The Godfather. Outside you’ll find a great heated pool and 1930‘s-style pool cabanas for rent, which include shower, fresh towels and the privacy to get changed into your bathing suit. These cabanas are rented for $125 a day but if you are a member of the winery then the price drops to $100 a day. There’s a bar and restaurant outside by the pool, and besides serving the wines of the house, also offer cocktails and great food, like their brick oven pizzas. With all these amenities how could you not like the winery? This is the perfect setting for a hot day in the summer or cold rainy day in the winter, either way you’ll feel the bliss of Alexander Valley.

So with so many options how could you spend only a weekend in the area? Sounds impossible? Well, try coming back! I’m always looking forward to my next trip up north and eager to find the new best thing in the area. The wine country is not only about Napa, next time reconsider and think of Sonoma County, down to earth and relaxing.
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