Food and Wine Tours (a fast growing, international activity) offer visitors to wine country culinary hot spots such Sonoma a delicious opportunity to taste their way around town and take in more than a well-selected variety hidden gems that they might never find themselves.
These tasty, fun and informative micro-tours (usually offered with a late morning or afternoon start) are the perfect ticket for anyone visiting a top-pick gourmet destination who doesn't want to miss out on the secrets that only the locals know about.
I took my first ever Food and Wine Tour anywhere, in my not-quite hometown, but close by — the small wine country city of Sonoma, just a 20 minute drive through familiar dairy land and rolling hills of vines from Petaluma.
Bay Area tour director Renée ReBell's Gourmet Food & Wine Tours take place in Sonoma, Tiburon and Sausalito, but for my first take on a tour, I chose to stay closer to home.
I'm going to be taking several more tours in and around my stomping grounds of SoCo over the next few weeks and it will be fun to see how each tour company's itinerary delivers a different insight into the tasting delights of my home county.
Look out for links to more of my "Culinary Adventure" posts coming on the county website each month.
What I liked best as a local taking a tour was not feeling like a tourist. (Pitcured above) Renée hospitality was extremely warm and welcoming, her knowledge of Sonoma's rich history was served in palatable portions, interspersed with the tasting spots she has on her itinerary, around the city's historic plaza.
Proprietors and staff at each spot were happy to see our little group, even though this is the start of the busy season in wine country and entertaining a food tour undoubtedly calls for extra organization and thoughtful presentation.
Each tasting location came up trumps. There's no time for delay with so many places to stop in at, but I didn't feel hurried and learned something new at every port-of-call.
Tour takers took mental notes of where they shop, later. Boutique tasting rooms such as The Highway 12 Tasting Room pictured above, sell all sorts of gorgeous, quality merchandise.
Figone's Olive Oil opened a boutique tasting room on the plaza in the spring of 2015. My first visit!
The El Dorado Hotel is super chic and right on the plaza. I've eaten in the excellent El Dorado Kitchen several times, but this was my first time tasting the kitchen's scrumptious Ahi tacos.
Anyone who's tried to get a table at girl & the fig without a reservation during the Summer or Fall, or on weekends, knows how key it is to book ahead.
Restaurant host led us to a corner table in the super outdoor seating area where we tucked into a signature taste of Laura Chenel's Chevre on toasted baguette, dribbled with lavender honey and served with a side of savory nuts, sliced fruit and compote.
Food tours are also a great way to go if you have family or friends or business associates visiting the area. Make a tour date with Renée, drop your visitors off at the square and pick them up, happy, wholesomely full and enthused with a taste of Sonoma's best foods, wine and historical tidbits.
Pulled Pork sliders at B.V. Whiskey Bar & Grille, opposite the Mission. Another first for me and now I know where to go in Sonoma when I'm with a gourmet burger crowd.
Wine Country Chocolate is located off the square and now I know where it's at, I'm in trouble. I picked up a recipe for Guittard dark chocolate, melted over a double broiler and sprinkled with lavender and sea salt. I made it at home and it's dangerous.
La Bodega is a true hidden-gem, tucked away off the plaza, next to the chocolate shop, serving small platters of farm fresh vegetarian offerings that pair superbly well with the Sonoma Wine Shop pouring flights, our last stop.
Renée's Sonoma Gourmet Food & Wine Tour is priced at $110 per person. Tour time is 2pm. Plan for the afternoon. Click here for website.