Off-Season in Sonoma Valley Wine Country

Off-Season in Sonoma Valley Wine Country

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From late spring through early fall when the weather is likely to be warm and sunny sounds like the ideal time to visit “Wine Country” north of San Francisco.

Weather-wise, it is, and that’s why during that time of year you’ll find lodgings fully-booked, restaurant reservations hard to come by, roads clogged with cars, and winery tasting rooms chock-a-block with those seeking to sample the wares.

The grape harvest, beginning from sometime in August and extending through sometime in October, is a particularly busy time, not just for grape growers and wineries, but for the area’s tourist industry as a whole

(Chip Harlan Flick Photo)
(Chip Harlan Flick Photo)

But like leaves on trees, tourism begins to fall by November, “locals” begin reclaiming their must-loved wine region for themselves, and savvy travelers take advantage of the quiet time in wine country.

While the Napa Valley, hard hit by an earthquake back in August but now mostly recovered from that temblor, seems busy year-round, Sonoma Valley, where much wine is also produced, slows down during late fall and winter.

I’ve been to both the county and the City of Sonoma twice this month, and enjoyed having far fewer visitors jockeying with me for places at the bar in winery tasting rooms, seats in restaurants, parking in downtown Sonoma, and room to roam on the highways.

While it certainly can and does rain in wine country from time to time from November through March, the weather can be brilliantly sunny and quite warm, such as when I shot video on my way up to Glen Ellen to pick up a wine club shipment at Wellington Vineyards, stopping for an al fresco lunch at Park 121 in Schelville on the way north, and to enjoy a glass of sparking wine on the terrace at Gloria Ferrer on the way back.

But even if it’s damp outside, you can always find a cozy spot to warm up and enjoy the food and wine of Sonoma County at places near the holiday-lighted main plaza in the City of Sonoma like The Girl & The Fig, La Salette, the Swiss Hotel, Della Santina’s restaurant, or its adjacent “Enoteca” wine bar and shop where I enjoyed a pairing of “small plates” with Italian wines at a wine club evening event last week.

(Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau Photo)

If you like watching your food being cooked up, or are a “rising star chef” in your own home, head a few blocks west of the plaza to attend a demonstration or “hands-on” cooking class, or a winemaker dinner, at Ramekins Culinary School where I put in a three-year stint as a “Volunteer Cooking Assistant” a few years back and still rate it as one of my favorite places to eat in Sonoma. If you can’t spend Christmas in Paris like the family who left their son behind in the movie Home Alone, don’t despair, there’s one spot left for Chef Pierre Lagourgue’s “Christmas in Paris” demonstration class on December 12th.

(Ramekins Culinary School Photo)

If snow is up to the eaves of your roof, as it’s been this past week in Buffalo, New York, preventing you from traveling out to Sonoma Valley during the off-season, don’t fret. Just come to this part of “Wine Country” whenever you can.

(For more information, get our Quick Guide to Napa and Southern Sonoma County Wine Country and go to the Sonoma County Visitors Bureau Website. Purchasing Home Alone, or other products, from through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

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