1. Cellars of Sonoma
It’s billed as a tasting room, but it’s really a fashionable bar and retail store, set on busy Fourth Street off Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square. Crowds pack in for this boutique collective of small labels (generally less than 2,500-case production) filling the eight seats at the bar, and the eight chairs at two tables. The space is artsy, the staff friendly, and the wines fun, like the La Sirena Pirate TreasuRed that’s done with a treasure chest-design case and a label written in pirate-speak. Check out the live music on Fridays, and if you get hungry working through the wine flights, you can order a wood-fired pizza from Jackson's Bar & Oven next door.
133 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa, 707-578-1826, cellarsofsonoma.com.
Sonoma chef Lisa Hemenway recently unveiled her 7,800-square-foot emporium in the former Skyhawk Village Market space on Highway 12 in Santa Rosa. And while it is primarily an upscale grocery, deli and restaurant, it also is a wine bar, focusing on local boutique labels. Take a seat at the stylish set-up next to the restaurant, beneath French-style black-and-white striped awnings, and sip at special selections like a brand new wine from Peter Taddei, a SkyHawk neighborhood resident who is just launching his new label called Super Sonoman.
5755 Mountain Hawk Way, Santa Rosa, 707-595-1048, freshbylisahemenway.com.
Chef-owner Jude Affronti has put together a stylish wine bar and bistro featuring more than 30 wines by the glass and an eclectic Cal-Mediterranean menu (he previously worked chef Mario Batali). But the toque also has an eye for art, and so the walls are hung with works from notable North Bay artists. You need to know where you’re going, since the small spot is hidden down a corridor behind La Crema wine tasting room, but once you’ve landed, you can sip creative cocktails and craft beers alongside offbeat wine flights.
235 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, 707-431-1113, affrontihealdsburg.com.
There couldn’t be a better name for this “diva” stylish hangout that’s popular with the fashionable crowd; the space looks rather like a barn, with its open floor plan and gardens, but it’s sure not rural sensibility for cocktails built with Brazilian caipirinha and ingredients like lemon grass syrup and muddled ginger. The owners know everybody in the wine biz and everybody in the wine biz knows the owners, so come here for obscure varietals and tiny boutique productions you likely won’t find anywhere else.
231 Center Street, Healdsburg, 707-431-0100, barndiva.com.
There’s a reason that Spoonbar’s Scott Beattie is considered the force behind mixologists being called celebrities today. He treats his drinks like food, and a Beattie “farm-to-glass” cocktail will not contain cheap alcohol nor anything that is out-of-season for the North Bay. As bar manager of this ultra-hot-spot inside h2hotel, he treats the wine list the same way, handing the reigns over to expert and wine director Ross Hallett. Only the most coveted wines are cozy regulars on his line-up, and as you sit at the eco-chic bar nestled along the sidewalk of Healdsburg’s main drag, you’ll likely be offered something equally intriguing: premium wines served out of the keg (Medlock Ames on tap, anyone?).
219 Healdsburg Avenue (in h2hotel), Healdsburg, 707-431-2202, h2hotel.com.
6. Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar
The food comes from chef Janine Falvo, a wild-and-crazy wunderkind who works magic with exotic ingredients. The wine comes from sommelier Christopher Sawyer, a local celebrity for his Midas touch with grapes. On Thursdays, there is a popular Celebrity Bartender Night, when guest winemakers offer free samples and chat up their wines. Could it get any better? Gather at the bar in front of the restaurant's wood-burning oven, and sip on fun flights like the "Pink Out!" of dry rosés.
1325 Broadway (in The Lodge at Sonoma), Sonoma, 707-931-2042, thelodgeatsonoma.com.
7. The Girl & The Fig
Everyone knows the name Sondra Bernstein, so many are surprised at how comfortable and casual this charming oasis is. Like a cozy café, it beckons for a drink at the intimate bar, or at the few patio tables under the greenery-draped trellises. Relax over the signature cheese and charcuterie sampler, and ask your knowledgeable server about the often-changing line-up of flights served in whimsical glasses. There’s even a dessert wine flight, perfect for profiteroles or even more cheeses.
110 W. Spain Street, Sonoma, 707-938-3634, thegirlandthefig.com.
8. Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar
Sonoma doesn’t go much for pretension, and so one of its best restaurants and wine bars is in a strip mall. But chef John Francetti is a genius with wood-fired pizzas, salads and daily specials (pork roast!) made with the County’s most superb ingredients. His wine list is right on par, traveling the globe for biodynamic and earth friendly labels that, by gosh, also taste incredible. Just be prepared to share some elbow space as you sit at the bar; this place is always packed to the rafters.
53 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-544-3221, rossopizzeria.com.
9. Willi's Wine Bar
Legendary among the locals for its internationally inspired small plates, this cozy, off-the-beaten path spot is Sonoma incarnate. Crazy delicious food, crazy special wines, in a low-key setting that hold no pretension. What to sip alongside sautéed Brussels sprouts with sausage and Pt. Reyes Blue? Your server will know. Or, try a selection and see what suits your fancy, in the two-ounce, five-ounce, and half-bottle pours.
4404 Old Redwood Highway, Santa Rosa, 707-526-3096, williswinebar.net.
10. Pizzavino 707
Thinking to drink? There are three bars within this stylish Cal-Italian restaurant, and a full-out wine showcase. The latter would be the Sonoma County Wine Collective, a virtual tasting room and retail store inside the restaurant that showcases offerings from about a half dozen boutique wineries. Every seat is good, but a special favorite is at the eat-in counter in front of the wood-burning pizza oven, sipping a Radio-Coteau Pinot Noir La Neblina.
6948 Sebastopol Avenue, Sebastopol, 707-829-9500, pizzavino707.com.
Tip: Just like tasting room tours, Sonoma’s wine bars invite you to visit more than one in a fun-filled evening. Plan a “pub crawl,” but be safe and leave the driving to Pure Luxury. A limo or Town Car is perfect and oh-so-stylish for your group.