I recently came back from a trip exploring the most famous wine counties of America, Napa and Sonoma. I lived in California about 20 years ago and it's been that long since I checked out the wine region. It's changed a lot.
First, Napa has become so developed and commercial that it's lost much of its charm. That's not to say it's not worth visiting the fantastic wineries, but the real charm of the region lies in Sonoma. It's more rustic, less planned, but no less impressive. If you want a nice touch of Tuscany, you will find it here.
I found it difficult to determine where it was best to overnight. Sonoma County is large, surprisingly taking an hour to drive from the north to the south. The main towns include Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, and Sonoma itself. I stayed in Healdsburg, and the smart splurge picks there are H2 (www.h2hotel.com) or the Hotel Healdsburg. Both are modern, luxe boutiques, with H2 the newer of the two. Modern design folk will like these options. Healdsburg is also an up and coming town, with some excellent restaurants such as Cyrus.
For something a bit cozier, and I have to admit more my style for a country escape, try the classic and elegant Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, and some lesser known inns such as the Gaige House (www.gaige.com) or MacArthur Place (www.macarthurplace.com).
Stay tuned for my next post on my favorite wineries in Sonoma and Napa Valley.
For general trip-planning information, see our Sonoma Travel Guide.