California wine country conjures images of sprawling estates and verdant vineyards. And, while that’s certainly true, it’s not the whole picture. Nestled within Sonoma County is an under-the-radar gem that offers a mix of classic viticulture activities and more eclectic pursuits.
Santa Rosa is artsy, hip and still has a bit of grit, which is appealing to many travelers. Beyond that, there’s great food, world-class vino, cool accommodations, and unique attractions that make a solid case for visiting this up-and-coming destination ASAP.
The Astro is an uber-hip, redesigned motel. Bathrooms flaunt retro tile and updated appliances. What's not in there? A sink. The basin sits just outside the door in the main area. Overall, the use of space is quite brilliant. You won’t find a closet. Instead, there’s a rainbow hanging rack and a wood bench that doubles as storage and seating. Mid-century furnishings and art are all available for purchase. If the rooms don’t scratch your itch for nostalgia, the exterior will. It really looks like an old-school motor lodge with a two-floor setup, centered around an outdoor courtyard plus alternating turquoise and orange doors.
For a more traditional stay, check out Vintners Inn. It’s super charming with manicured grounds and on-site gardens. In the mood for fine dining? John Ash & Co. is an excellent option. Glasses from nearby vineyards are the perfect complement to the farm-fresh tasting menu.
Around the corner from The Astro is a dynamite eatery called The Spinster Sisters, helmed by chef/owner Liza Hinman. The menu is a shining example of Sonoma County cuisine, while the wine list reflects the breadth of the local viticulture talent with under-the-radar makers you won’t find anywhere else. (Order any bottle from Martha Stoumen; you won’t be disappointed!) Speaking of sips, the city is home to tons of urban tasting rooms. You can sample stellar vino and yummy bites at Santa Rosa Vintners Square. The mountain-top Belden Barns and Matanzas Creek Winery are also scenic, fan favorites.
In the heart of downtown, just past Historic Railroad Square—where you can enjoy live music and an artisanal market every Wednesday evening—is Russian River Brewing Company. This is the place to go for craft beer! Get your java fix at one of the funky, neighborhood coffee shops. And to work off all that indulgence? How about a bike tour.
Last but certainly not least, no trip to this locale is complete without a visit to the Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary. (OK, technically it’s in Freestone not Santa Rosa, but the 25-minute drive is totally worth it.) Distance aside, this oasis is exactly what its name asserts. After a cedar enzyme bath and aromatherapy massage in a private pagoda, you’ll leave about as zen as can be.