Sunny skies make exploring Sonoma County in winter even more enjoyable. Here are a few things to do right now.
Drive-In Whale Watching
Okay, so you will probably want to walk at least a short distance from your car — but winter whale watching at the Ocean Overlook at Bodega Head, part of Sonoma Coast State Park, is as user-friendly as can be, with miles of gorgeous Pacific views just steps from the parking area. Gray whales, as many as 18,000 a year in recent years, migrate south from Alaska to calving regions in Baja California starting this month, passing very close to our coastline along the way.
Often, on weekends, volunteer docents are on hand to help show visitors what to look for, as the whales in the water below breach, blow, or spy-hop. The bluffs here are as breezy as they are beautiful, so dress warmly, and maybe stop in for a thermos of Brazilian fish soup or classic clam chowder from nearby Fishetarian.
The Ocean Overlook at Bodega Head is accessed via Westshore Rd. in Bodega Bay. Download maps at parks.ca.gov.
With hills turning a lush green from winter rain, it’s time to bring that same sense of freshness and renewal to our indoor spaces. Cloverdale Nursery has a newly expanded selection of plants, hanging baskets, and macramé holders (216 S. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale. 707-894-6654, cloverdalenursery.info).
And at The Barlow in Sebastopol, the beautifully assembled garden lifestyle shop California Sister, owned by floral designers Kathrin Green and Nichole Skalski, sells orchids, tillandsias, and other well-cared-for plants (6770 McKinley St., Sebastopol. 707-827-8090, californiasister.com).
Eric Story, Alison Smith Story, and their beloved goldendoodle, Lord Sandwich, are the family behind small-but-mighty Smith Story Wine Cellars, where winemaking and philanthropy go hand in hand. The trio’s non-profit organization, Socks for Sandwich has distributed more than 50,000 pairs of new socks to folks around the world, most of which have been donated by the popular pooch’s massive contingent of Instagram followers. Check him out @sandwichthedoodle.
The family’s favorite dog-friendly spots to wander:
“Try a stroll along the shady, winding paths of the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery. Quiet and peaceful, the cemetery dates to the 1850s. We often end our walk on the nearby dog-friendly patio at Willi’s Wine Bar.” 1600 Franklin Ave., Santa Rosa, (707) 543-3279, srcity.org
“Taking a two- or four-mile walk along Thomas Lake Harris Lake Drive in Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove neighborhood can be a leisurely stroll or an intense workout whether you have two legs or four. There is such beauty springing up everywhere, a welcome sight after the Tubbs fire.” srcity.org
“All of the wine tasting rooms at Healdsburg’s new Bacchus Landing face a gorgeous piazza that is often filled with happy sounds. It reminds us so much of our time spent in Europe where after work is finished, families gather for leisure time as a community. If you need a pick-me-up, the market at Bacchus pours local favorite Wolf coffee.”
14210 Bacchus Landing Way, Healdsburg. bacchuslanding.com
Tractors and Tastings
Welcome to the “tractor showroom,” as proprietor Tim Bucher calls the tasting room at Trattore (from the Italian word for tractor) Farms, where four shiny vintage farm machines take center stage.
Winter season tastings likely include a Pinot Noir, a reserve Zinfandel, and a Counoise. “Counoise is a Rhône red usually used to develop aromatics and complexity in blends, but we fell in love with it on its own,” says owner Mary Louise Bucher. “It’s a lighter red, much like a Pinot.” More than two acres of estate Zinfandel grapes were recently budded over to Syrah, Cinsault, and Counoise, which should bear fruit this year, says winemaker Craig Strehlow.
“I’m looking forward to making an estate Rhône red blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Counoise, and Mourvèdre, a wine truly unique to our site.” Ask about winemaker dinners, and classes for olive oil devotees—Trattore Farms also grows, mills, and bottles over a dozen different olive oils.
Tastings from $30. 7878 Dry Creek Rd., Geyserville, 707-431-7200, trattorefarms.com.
Jean Saylor Doppenberg and Dana Rebmann contributed to this article.