Last year, I started following “Sonomalacy” on Instagram. We had so much in common: we live in Sonoma Valley, we love Instagramming photos of Wine Country, we both have a dog named Murphy and we are the same age.
I finally had a chance to meet Sonomalacy – real name, Michelle Lacy – last fall at a wine event in Sonoma. She owns her own PR firm called ML Public Relations and is so charming, smart, engaging, funny, beautiful, stylish and dynamic, I wanted to be her friend.
A few weeks ago, Michelle and I got together for a glass of wine at the girl and the fig on the Sonoma Plaza.Michelle knows so much about Sonoma Valley that I just knew I had to tap into her expert knowledge and share it with you for a Rich Life Travel Friday post!
Specifically, I asked Michelle for tips on how to plan the ideal girlfriends getaway to Sonoma Valley because it just so happens that March is Girlfriends Getaway month in Sonoma!
Michelle graciously agreed to share her tips with us. In her own words, here are Michelle’s Top 10 Tips for a fun Girlfriends Getaway.
Take it away, Michelle!
I’m so lucky to live in Sonoma and even more lucky to own my own public relations company here. I do all sort of marketing projects for various wine country clients but my permanent role as Social Media Manager for the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau is probably my favorite role – lots of work and lots of fun! It’s my job to know what’s going on in Sonoma Valley and to share my tips with our 17,000 + Facebook fans (plus Instagram and Twitter.) Part of my job is to personally visit wineries, hotels, restaurants and shops (I know, grueling!) and then share my findings with our visitors.
I’m a big fan of The Rich Life on a Budget and when Adrienne asked me for my “Top 10 Tips” for a fun girlfriends getaway I was happy to share my insiders knowledge. When planning a fun Girlfriends Getaway weekend it really helps to get the inside scoop!
#1 When starting to pencil in your itinerary think about all the wineries, restaurants and sites you want to visit and start at the point farthest away and work your way back to your hotel. Do a bit of online research, pick your hotel and book it fast because there is no such thing as a “slow season” in Sonoma. I love to explore, shop, spa, eat and do a few wine tastings during the day and then park the car for good. I love a nice hotel within walking distance of all the good stuff!
#2 Pick the hotel that best suits your group. Here’s some of my favorites:
MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa – Just four blocks from the historic Sonoma Plaza, this posh hotel has gorgeous luxe rooms, A+ service and a beautiful garden setting. This property is perfect if you have a larger group. They also have a wonderful spa and a delicious farm to fork restaurant, Saddles Steakhouse.
Ramekins Culinary School & Inn – Only four blocks from the square and a fun, unique experience! If you and your friends like to cook this place is for you. Take a fantastic cooking class together and then retire upstairs to your large, beautifully decorated room for the night.
If you would rather spend your budget on wine and cute clothes than your hotel room consider The Sonoma Valley Inn Best Western. This property is just one block from the square and has nice, large rooms, super comfortable beds, a pool and jacuzzi and everything you need. Check online for Girlfriends Getaway specials!
#3 Consider hiring a professional driver at least for 1/2 day. It’s so much more fun when everyone can enjoy the wineries! My personal favorites are: Beau Wine Tours, Destination Drivers and Pure Luxury.
#4 Ask what kind of wine your group favors and book your tasting appointments. Groups over 6 almost always need appointments, especially on the weekends. Here’s some of my favorites:
SCRIBE winery – Sit on vintage blankets on a grassy knoll or swing from old oak trees in the shadows of a historic hacienda while sipping suburb wine… oh my, a really unique and very Sonoma-y experience. You absolutely must have reservations.
Buena Vista Winery – Beautiful location just east of the plaza, fantastic historic buildings filled with interesting objects and great wine!
Gundlach Bundschu – Just call it “Gun Bun” like the locals do. Super cave tour. Sweet patio and pretty grounds.
Cline & Jacuzzi Vineyards – These sister wineries are at the entrance to wine country. Jacuzzi offers beautiful grounds, a fun tasting room, gift shop and an ocean of amazing olive oils for your tasting pleasure. Jacuzzi feels like a beautiful old Italian village and it’s a great place to start your tour and no reservations are needed for groups 6 and under.) Cline is across the road and absolutely worth a stop. Cline has a bucolic farm feel complete with darling chickens, goats, sheep, mini burros and their wine is GREAT!
Kunde Family Estate – Laid back California vibe, great wine, beautiful property and super nice old school family-owned winery. Take the Mountain Top Tour with Jordan Kunde (usually on Sundays, call for confirmation) and get the inside scoop! Amazing views from the mountain top but the wine cave and sunny patio are always a good time.
#5 Relax! You don’t have to do a actual formal tasting at every winery. Many wineries allow you to purchase a bottle and enjoy the property. Kunde, Gun Bun and many others allow visitors to buy a bottle and just hang out on their patios. Many of them have bocce ball, corn hole or other fun lawn games.
#6 My gal pals and I like to get up and do a fun hike or long walk in the morning so we enjoy the beautiful countryside and can indulge the rest of the day without any guilt! My favorite hiking spots are:
Jack London Historic Park – Absolutely gorgeous park with historic ruins and many excellent long and short hiking trails.
Bartholomew Park Winery – Well-marked hiking trails with great scenery that will give you a good, challenging hike. Several paths to pick from that can be completed in less than one hour. Plus, when you are finished there is a wonderful winery. Winning!
Sonoma Regional Park offers many options – check out their website.
If you are looking for a quick place to burn some calories there is a nice bike path just north of the Sonoma Plaza that runs the length of the town.
#7 Sonoma offers a lot of great shopping. Walking around the square shopping and sipping is a great way to spend an afternoon! My favorite shops are:
Perlè – Across from Chateau Sonoma this is one of the best women’s clothing stores in Sonoma. They have great bags, jewelry and your favorite brands like Free People and Theory as well as fantastic one-of-a-kind clothing. The service is aways excellent a you will always find the perfect pair of jeans here.
Willliams-Sonoma – This is the original William Sonoma heritage store at the site of the very 1st William Sonoma shop which opened here in 1956. Great stuff!
The Loop – Everyone loves this store because you will find lots of your favorites here, gorgeous cashmere, Toms, AG Jeans, great bags and all sorts of pretty things…
Harvest Home – I always find something interesting here. They have a great selection of unique wine country home decor.
Chateau Sonoma – This was my favorite shop even years ago when I was a tourist. Part french flea market, part museum and always the best place to find the perfect gift. Insider tip: their Chateau Sonoma custom scented candles are a cult favorite and very addictive.
#8 Make reservations (especially for dinner!) The delicious farm-to-fork restaurants of Sonoma are no longer a secret. Take a peek at the on-line menus and make your reservations – especially if your Girlfriends’ Getaway is over a weekend. My favorites are:
For Breakfast –
Sunflower Caffe – (Hello, giant mimosas!) This place is wonderful for breakfast or lunch. Great healthy options! You do have to wait in line to order and sometimes it can be tricky to find a table but, many people don’t know there is a lovely, large back patio. On the west side on the plaza.
Fremont Diner is EXCELLENT home cookin’ and well worth the quick drive, just 10 minutes from the plaza. It’s been written up in Sunset Magazine, Diners Drive-in and Dives and other magazines, so the line can get long on the weekends…
For Lunch –
Sunflower Caffe has a great menu – I love the kale salad!
The Swiss Hotel – Super fun people-watching, right on the north side of the plaza.
the girl & the fig – Legendary and always a great choice!
The Red Grape – Delicious pizzas and salads
For Dinner –
El Dorado Kitchen – Hello, truffle fries! Great menu, lively atmosphere this place never disappoints. On the N/W corner of the plaza
the girl & the fig – Amazing farm to fork goodness
Aventine Glen Ellen – Outstanding Italian food in a historic building, just a quick ten minute drive north of the plaza. Excellent outdoor patio!
OSO – The newest restaurant in town, OSO has great food, fun sharable plates and a hip vibe.
Della Santinas Trattoria – Charming back patio, tasty food and a great location on the south east corner of the square
#9 Understand wine tasting etiquette – Check out The Rich Life on a Budgets great blog! Also, dress comfortably. High heels are not a great idea. Many wineries in Sonoma and Napa are rustic, with gravel driveways and uneven walkways. If you must wear heel, pick wedges. Also, it gets chilly in the morning and evenings so dress in layers, bring a light jacket and a scarf is always smart.
#10 Read a bit about wine country before you visit and be sure to watch the movie Bottle Shock – there are many scenes filmed at Kunde and around Sonoma!
There you have it! Now you have what you need to plan your Girlfriends Getaway to Sonoma Valley!
Thank you, Michelle! This is such valuable information to have when visiting Sonoma Valley – Girlfriends Getaway or not!
Be sure to visit the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau website and download the Girlfriends Getaway Guide. And you can find out how to enter the #SonomaGirlfriends Social Media Contest to win an iPad Mini!
Make it a rich day!