Sonoma Plaza Heats Up
as Summer Bears Down
Slowly but surely, Sonoma is coming back to life. Visitors are appearing with increased frequency and,
just as summer temperatures begin to rise, reservations for tasting rooms and hotels are heating up as well.
Stay on the Sonoma Plaza
There are loads of fun things to do and places to stay. In fact, Maggie Walker, General Manager of the Ledson Hotel couldn’t be happier. With a sublime location overlooking the Sonoma Plaza and a new designation as the 2021 Tripadvisor Traveler’s Choice, the beautiful boutique hotel has been welcoming guests since Valentine’s Day and is excited to continue. “Most of our first guests were from the Bay Area followed in April by out-of-towners and even a few international travelers,” said Walker. “We are following new rules like limiting in-room guest services like changing towels and emptying garbage as well as not booking back-to-back reservations in order to thoroughly clean and sanitize rooms. With just six suites, it’s a bit of a challenge but none of that matters because we’re just so happy to have our hotel lively and vibrant again.”
At street level, Ledson Hotel’s Zina Lounge is open for tastings from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for both guests of the hotel and the general public. “We offer a tasting menu as well as wines by the glass, champagne and beer … plus a cheese and charcuterie plate that is very popular,” said Walker. “The Lounge has seating both outside and in and while reservations are preferred, we can accommodate walk-up guests as well. It is a really fun spot to sit, enjoy some refreshments, and watch the world go by.”
A La “Cart” Visitor Information
Stop by the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau (SVVB) for more tips, tricks and tidbits from the knowledgeable SVVB volunteers. “Of late, we’ve noticed a marked uptick in visitors from the Bay Area with many people coming for short trips and also those who are celebrating events that were postponed because of the pandemic,” said SVVB Executive Director, Tim Zahner. “Intimate gatherings like milestone birthdays, anniversaries, and girlfriend trips are happening plus there is a lot of pent-up demand for weddings and smaller meetings.”
Fun Outdoor Wine Tastings
Located just past the girl & the fig restaurant, and taking fine advantage of their abundant outdoor space, Walt Wines is able to seat guests on the 12,000- square-foot back patio as well as a new space out front. “Fostering an environment of comfort and safety is paramount,” says general manager Jeff Zappelli.
“Our staff is not only knowledgeable but extremely conscientious when it comes to keeping our guests safe.” In back, gorgeous teak tables await beneath a stand of towering redwood trees. The shady spot is perfect for tasting the best of Walt Wines. “We are just releasing our 2019 Pinots and it will be fun to really show people what that vintage looks like,” said Zappelli. In partnership with local chef Brian Jones, Walt Wines also offers food pairings, and be sure to ask about a unique program called Root 101, tasting wines from grapes grown from the Willamette Valley to Santa Barbara County. “It is going to be a fun summer. The Sonoma Plaza has so many high-quality tasting rooms. It’s a real community and one that we are proud to be a part of.” Walt Wines is open by appointment every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For years now, the Lake Sonoma Winery tasting room has had the outdoor vibe down pat. Having honed this amazing space pre-pandemic, the winery only had to reconfigure in terms of safe spacing and wait to reopen. Located on the west side of the Plaza and set back from the street, the intimate tasting room invites oner to linger over delicious wines and food offerings. Huge sliding glass doors open onto a spacious deck with comfy couch-style seating, umbrellas and a coveted firepit. New tasting menu options include a fantastic selection of wines as well as a meat and cheese plate from Ovello’s Michelin-starred salumi maker from Italy. Reservations are each one hour long at 11:30 a.m. and at 1, 2:30, 4 and 5:30 p.m. More details can be found on the Lake Sonoma website.
Parklets – Here to Stay
In addition to an amazing array of tasting rooms, Sonoma Plaza’s restaurant scene has ventured outdoors in the form of parklets. Popping up last summer, the parklets have become an incredibly popular addition to the local restaurant scene and will stay in place for the foreseeable future. “The parklets have really been a saving grace for our restaurants and wineries and other businesses that were able to take advantage of them,” said SVVB’s Zahner. “Sonoma Valley’s mild Mediterranean climate means that we can enjoy the parklets year-round and it enhances the cafe life of wine country. There are also reports of diners becoming shoppers when they see something in a store window from their seat outside and pop in to browse.”
Outdoor Summer Art Exhibit
Traversing the Plaza, take a moment to admire this year’s outdoor art exhibit, courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art (SVMA) and featuring sculptures from four outstanding and diverse artists: Bruce Beasley, Catherine Daley, Peter Hassen, and Jun Kaneko. “The museum is pleased that the timing for the public art exhibition, A Delicate Balance, was perfect for welcoming visitors and residents back to Sonoma Plaza,” said SVMA Executive Director, Linda Keaton. “The eight sculptures on the Plaza are an indication that Sonoma is getting back to business, and are a visible sign that Sonoma supports the arts.”
New Offerings Around the Plaza
One of Sonoma Plaza’s eagerly anticipated openings is finally here in the form of Taub Family Outpost (TFO). Construction delays pushed the opening right up to the edge of the pandemic, which subsequently shut the full opening of the Outpost down for quite some time. Getting by with curbside coffee and take-out kept them moving in the right direction until they were finally able to truly open.
The Outpost comprises a café/market on the ground floor, a soon-to-open restaurant upstairs, along with a very cool and moody speakeasy-style cocktail bar through a private entrance.
Open Wednesday through Sunday starting at 8 a.m., the café offers espresso/coffee, pastries and a breakfast menu from 8 to 11 a.m., Wednesday through Friday. An All-Day menu and lunch specials continue throughout the rest of the day. On weekends, the Outpost serves a breakfast menu and full-service brunch menu on the outdoor patio. Dinner on the patio is offered Wednesday through Sunday. Times vary so check the website for full details.
Upstairs, Taub’s destination cocktail bar, The Beacon, is now open with a rotating selection of classic craft cocktails, other seasonally inspired libations as well as a small bar menu. Offered as a 90-minute experience, reservations are highly recommended as there is limited seating. Check the website for times and additional details.
“We hope to have indoor restaurant space upstairs open in the very near future but for now, the patio is a lovely spot to dine,” said TFB General Manager Martín Gobbée. “And for our guests who cannot climb the stairs, we are happy to offer anything we serve upstairs to guests downstairs in the café area.”
Also new to the Plaza:
Recently relocated from Cornerstone to the Sonoma Plaza, Chateau Sonoma brings together collectibles from France, Morocco and beyond. From antique and vintage furniture to accessories, rugs, linens and more, it’s worth a stop into the First Street West storefront.
Flower and Hewe on First Street East is a gorgeous art gallery with an eclectic selection and a rotating series of exhibits and small events. Visit their web site for details.
Four legged friends deserve their day on the Plaza, too, and are well represented by Woof on East Napa Street. This fun and friendly dog boutique is chock full of hand-picked items for your fur ball. From the unique collection of toys to accessories and healthy USA-made food and treats, make this a definite stop along your sipping and shopping route.
Tuesday Farmers Market
Sonoma’s famed Tuesday Night Farmers Market is back! Hours have expanded from an earlier rendition and now, shoppers have access each Tuesday from 5 to 8 PM throughout the summer months in the Plaza “horseshoe.” Live music and food vendors have returned with along with booths offering everything from gorgeous produce, home-baked bread and jewelry to flowers, honey and so much more.
SUMMERFEST From the Sonoma International Film Festival
Returning to a live event for the first time since its cancelled March 2020 festival, the Sonoma International Film Festival will host SUMMERFEST, from August 5 through 8, 2021. Twenty-plus films will screen at the Sebastiani Theatre, Andrews Hall at the Sonoma Community Center. Additionally, there will be three outdoor screening events: an outdoor film at Chateau St. Jean on Friday and at Viansa on Sunday. On Saturday night, SIFF’s signature Screen & Cuisine format will be hosted at the Harrow Cellars Barn at Cornerstone and open with a reception followed by a three-course dinner followed and an outdoor film.
Plaza Tasting Rooms
With so many great tasting rooms from which to choose, you can hardly go wrong. Here is a full list either on or around the Plaza to make your day carefree and wineful:
Bennett Valley Cellars
Bump Wine Cellars
Cochon Tasting Bar
Enoteca Della Santina
Westwood Estate Wines
Galatea Effect Wine
Highway 12 Winery
Kamen Estate Wines
Lake Sonoma Winery
Rancho Maria Wines
Roger Roessler Wines
Sbragia Family Vineyards
Sonoma Wine Shop
Zine Hyde Cunningham Winery