Gourmet Gifts: Sonoma County

A trip into the West’s wine country is an excellent opportunity to savor the grape—that’s a given. But it’s also the perfect chance to find one-of-a-kind gifts with a story and a sense of place. Here’s our indispensable guide to where to shop in Sonoma.

Published: 9/01/2019

Sonoma County

While we do love the coast of Sonoma, it’s more a kayaker’s paradise than a shopper’s. Near the coast, though, is the teeny Victorian village of Duncan Mills. As small as it is, it holds a slew of shops including Cetonia Bath & Body Shop. Bath bombs, soaps, and whipped body butters spiked with natural essential oils are great stocking stuffers. Spend an afternoon shopping, then break for oysters in the redwood dining room of The Blue Heron, built in the 1800s.

 

Sebastopol

Hippie-boho Sebastopol is known for its free-spirited residents and its apples. Once an applesauce cannery that processed fruit from the 11,000 acres of orchards nearby, The Barlow is now a shopping and tasting paradise. A favorite retail haunt is California Sister Plant & Flower. Gold decor feathers, botanical-based apothecary, and floral vintage pieces appeal to the modern-flowerwoman. Scout offers a contemporary take on the general store by filling its beautiful space with highly coveted brands. It’s easy to find a gift here for trendsetter family members or friends.

Golden State Cider moved into The Barlow this past summer to give visitors a taste of the once bountiful star fruit (over the years grapes have pushed out apples). Also of note is William Cofield Cheesemakers, a British-style creamery that also carries cheeses from other nearby farms.

The Barlow is about a block or two from downtown Sebastopol. Wander into the standout shops like The Boho Bungalow, Little Four Clothing, Cultivate Home, and high-quality cannabis dispensary Sparc. Ramen fans should insist on stopping at Ramen Gaijin for shoyu ramen or an izakaya dish.

A short distance from downtown is a must-stop-and-taste for the Pinot Noir obsessed. Although many of Littorai Wine’s offerings are already fully allocated to an enthusiastic fan base, this cult winery sets aside bottles to pour in its tasting room, by appointment. 

 

Two Square Towns

Generally speaking, the two main towns of Sonoma County are Sonoma and Healdsburg. The former organizes around an historic plaza, the latter around a tree-filled square. Bordering them are shops, restaurants, and tasting rooms. When planning a trip, it’s good to be aware that they are separated by about 40 miles.

Healdsburg—closer to Sebastopol and similarly off of Highway 101—charms with a walkable center off its main plaza, as well as an array of foodie pit stops like Campo Fina, Chalkboard, and Valette. You’ll quickly find that after wine, art and jewelry reign in this small town.

The indie Levin & Company bookshop carries a large selection of book and vinyl titles and houses an upstairs art gallery. Hopscotch offers a selection of American-made gifts and art. Zizi Boutique combines modern women’s clothing lines, like Johnny Was and Three Dots, with jewelry. Break for a glass of chai at local coffee haunt Flying Goat Coffee, or enjoy a glass of wine at friendly Cartograph Wines, where husband-wife owners Alan Baker and Serena Lourie are often on hand.  

Just behind the 8-acre Sonoma Plaza is the even older Mission San Francisco Solano, founded in 1823. Tucked within all of this centuries-old architecture and history are diversions that will help you while away the afternoon.

Housed in an historic red barn, Abbot’s Passage is a place to taste, shop for curiosities and gear, and join in on a maker’s workshop. Sign of the Bear Kitchenwear carries a curated selection of cooking gadgets that will make any cook’s life much easier. Wildeflower excels on the clothing front with an assortment of modern gifts and decor too.

This mission town is also the gateway to bucolic hamlets of Glen Ellen and Kenwood to the north and Cornerstone, a more modern shopping and tasting hub to the south. Lose yourself in the spectacular gardens in this wine country mecca. But before you do, browse the delightful shops such as Artefact Design & Salvage and Potter Green.

 

Diversions for Sonoma County

Preston Farm and Winery attracts a real turnout on Sundays. That’s the day when jugs are filled from barrels in the cellar. But the property is beautiful any day of the week with its honor farm, freshly baked bread, farm-pressed olive oils, a selection of books, and fantastic wines. Take your goods, sit under the walnut tree, and enjoy the scenery.

Step back into your childhood at Guerneville 5&10 in this Russian River town close to the Pacific. Games you’ve forgotten about, pranks you stopped playing, and candy you figured had been outlawed fill the store that’s been here since 1949.  The bar and food selections at neighboring El Barrio and Boon Eat + Drink will whisk you back to adulthood in a happy 21st-century way.

Sure, there’s a tiny general store within Graton’s Willow Wood Market. Honestly, though, come to shop lightly and eat a lot at this old-fashioned roadside stop north of Sebastopol. 

Zen diversion: Sonoma overflows with wellness experiences like the Japanese cedar enzyme baths at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary. Dunk into cedar and rice bran. It’s like fermenting yourself. The spa is in the town of Freestone, also near Sebastopol. 

For 100 percent, made-in-Sonoma-county gifts, Made Local in Santa Rosa has you covered. Goods from more than 700 local artists, makers, and producers line the walls.

Toys, games, and hobbies rule the shelves and space at Fundemonium Toys in Rohnert Park, south of Santa Rosa. This is the place to pick up children’s gifts and playful treasures.


As seen in the issue Harvest 2019 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.

The Northern California county of Sonoma offers up 60+ grape varieties for good reason: It’s large, with multiple microclimates. As an example, the redwood-studded Russian River town of Guerneville lays 20 miles east of the foggy Sonoma coast. Within that short distance, temperatures can dip 20 degrees. The predominant grape here, Chardonnay, can taste radically different when grown in Sonoma’s different climate zones. For Pinot Noir fans, know that more is grown in Sonoma County than anywhere else in California. With 17 AVAs and 425 wineries, that’s a lot of touring and tasting.