Visitors to Wine Country sometimes miss exploring Santa Rosa unless they are in town for a conference with only a few hours to spare. Whether you are in Sonoma County for a long or short visit, or live locally, there are plenty of terrific things to do and see just minutes from the heart of Santa Rosa.
Urban Winery Tasting Rooms
Within the city limits of Santa Rosa you’ll find seven Wine Road member wineries. The closest to the downtown area is D’Argenzio Winery. Open Wednesday through Sunday, they offer their current releases for tasting, and a long list of library and reserve wines for sale. This is a real treat for wine lovers who don’t have the capacity (or patience) for cellaring wines to enjoy older vintages of their favorites.
Siduri Warehouse Winery is in the northwest section of Santa Rosa. This is where the Siduri wines are made, and they have a very charming tasting area in the front of the warehouse. Siduri calls this location Warehouse Winery to distinguish it from their tasting room in downtown Healdsburg. Siduri is renowned for their Pinot Noirs, making more than two dozen different Pinots annually from Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills, and Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Just few blocks away from Siduri is an industrial complex called Coffey Park. Among the many businesses there, you’ll also find several wineries—Carol Shelton Wines, Desmond Wines, Inspiration Vineyards & Winery, and Premonition Cellars. Desmond Wines and Premonition Cellars are open by appointment only, so plan ahead if you want to visit one or both of these wineries. Inspiration Vineyards & Winery is open Friday through Monday, and Carol Shelton Wines is open daily.
Paradise Ridge Winery is the last urban winery on my list, and although it is a bit further out on the northeast part of town, it is worth the short drive. The Byck family, owners of Paradise Ridge, offers more than wine to their visitors. They have amassed a spectacular modern art collection displayed in an outdoor walk-able gallery dedicated to their mother, Marijke Byck-Hoenselaars.
Because of the property’s higher elevation, the Paradise Ridge tasting room deck has spectacular west-facing views. A few years ago the tasting room started staying open late on Wednesday evening, and they invited folks to come up to enjoy wine and watch the sunset. It has been come so popular with locals and visitors alike that Wines & Sunsets now has live music, food trucks, and dessert vendors, and requires a reservation.
Exploring Santa Rosa
Not tasting wine? Santa Rosa has plenty of other activities to keep you entertained. Last December, the Wine Road Podcast offered a three-day itinerary for folks wanting to explore the area in and around Santa Rosa. I’d recommend you give it a listen, but I’ll share a few of the highlights they covered and add a few of my own.
For theater, music and more, check out the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts and the Santa Rosa Junior College Theater Arts offerings. Just a couple of events on the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts calendar are Boz Scaggs on August 1st, The Gipsy Kings on September 7th, and Steve Winwood on September 11th. Locals look forward to the Santa Rosa Junior College theater program every year. Upcoming productions include It Can’t Happen Here, The Little Mermaid, and Into the Woods.
If you prefer wildlife, be sure to check out Safari West—“an African adventure in the heart of California Wine Country.” Or, if you are a fan of the Peanuts cartoon strip, be sure to visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum. If you enjoy shopping for local arts and crafts, you have to stop into the Made Local Marketplace. Located in downtown Santa Rosa, this unique store offers handcrafted items from over 600 local artists, makers, producers, and manufacturers. If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind souvenir or gift, this is the place to go.
If you love the great outdoors, Santa Rosa is home to several small parks scattered throughout the town, plus Howarth Park (city), Spring Lake Park (county), and Trione-Annadel State Park. Walking trails connects these three parks, and each park offers something unique. Howarth Park is a great family park with train, pony, and carousel rides, a jump house, and an animal barn with a variety of farm animals. Spring Lake Park has miles of hiking and biking trails, a swimming lagoon, a lake for kayaking, canoeing, fishing and more, picnic facilities, campground, and the Environmental Discovery Center. Trione-Annadel Park is beloved by horseback riders and off-road bicyclists, as well as hikers. The terrain is a bit rougher, but the scenery is worth the bumps.
If you happen to be in Santa Rosa on a Wednesday night during the summer, be sure to check out the Wednesday Night Market, held in Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa. In addition to fresh produce, you can select food from a variety of vendors, and enjoy beer, wine, live music, and dancing.
Drinking and Eating
After all the activity, it is time for a pick me up cup of coffee. Santa Rosa has plenty of amazing coffee shops, and even some of the local grocery stores like Oliver’s Market offer excellent coffee made from local roasting companies. To name just a few of the shops, you might check out Acre, SoCo, City Garden Doughnuts, CUPPA, Trail House, The Flying Goat, and A’Roma Roasters.
As for where to dine, the podcast did a great job of covering some of the restaurants, but here are a few more. If you are looking for a French bistro, try Bistro 29. They have amazing crepes along with traditional French dishes, and a wonderful wine list. If you want something more casual, but equally delicious, check out Franchettis’ Wood Fire Kitchen. It has an extensive menu with sandwiches, pizza, pasta, salads, small plates, and full dinners. The wine, beer, and cocktail lists are equally impressive.
If you looking for ethnic food, pick a cuisine and you’ll probably find it in Santa Rosa. There are few dozen Mexican and Chinese spots of course, but you can also find Peruvian, Ethiopian, Thai, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Italian, Vietnamese, Indian, and more. Pizza, pub food, and burgers are also widely available. A great restaurant resource is the Sonoma County Tourism website.
Even if you don’t have the bandwidth during your stay to travel outside of Santa Rosa, you can experience a great slice of Wine Country within the city limits.