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A Newcomer's Guide to the Sonoma Valley

This California wine region is home to more than 450 vineyards and some of the state's best eats, making it a must-visit for wine lovers and food lovers alike.
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Calling All Wine Lovers

It's an easy 45-minute drive north of San Francisco to reach this wine region that feels like it's worlds away. Though perhaps not as well-known as neighboring Napa Valley, this designated American Viticultural Area is home to more than 450 vineyards and has a soil diversity greater than all of France, making it a must-visit for wine lovers and food lovers alike.

 

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Photo: Sarah Deragon ©

Sweet Scoops

At this tiny ice cream shop on the Historic Sonoma Plaza, punny flavors like Chex Mix-a-Lot and A-lot-a-choco-lata are not just fun to order but also creamy and decadent. There are plenty of incredible flavors to choose from, so opt for the sampler size, which scoops out six different flavors. Vegans, take note: The shop serves at least two dairy-free options at all times.

 

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The Girl & the Fig

You'll get a warm welcome at this French bistro that's been in business since 1997. The country-style setting serves French classics with a modern twist. If you're up for it, the fromage tower is a table-covering array of local cheeses (like the awesome Laura Goat Cheese), charcuterie, nuts, olives, pate and, of course, fig paste. Entrees like the Sole Meunière and the special Lamb Cassoulet are served in generous and filling portions, but you'll still want to save room for the salted fig-and-chocolate pudding trifle.
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El Dorado Kitchen

If you're visiting with a group or just want a lively atmosphere, the restaurant in the lobby of the El Dorado Hotel certainly fills the bill. Reserve a table on the patio and you might find yourself under an individual canopy. Start with the chorizo and pepper mussels or the meatballs, and move on to the famous paella that’s got a perfectly crispy layer of rice under a bed of shrimp, clams and fish.
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