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5 Locals Tips for Sonoma and Napa Rentals

By Jon Falker

Since we're based in San Francisco, Napa Valley and Sonoma County are our backyard. Our staff loves to visit on the weekend, all year long. We decided to provide some locals tips for people planning a visit, especially if they're going to rent a place for a month or more.

1. Sonoma County wineries are just as good as Napa Valley wineries and tend to be less touristy and less crowded.

While Napa Valley is more well-known, if you are looking for a more tranquil winery experience, Sonoma County is likely your best bet. Some of the more popular Napa Valley wineries are quite crowded, with tour buses full of tourists coming and going all day.

Some of our favorite wineries and vineyards in Sonoma Country are Williams Selyem, Chalk Hill, and Moshin Vineyards. Note that Williams Selyem is open to visits by members only however. An easy and pleasurable way to visit a bunch of beautiful Sonoma wineries without getting lost or driving too much is to simply drive down scenic Westside Road. There are several high-quality wineries along this gorgeous 12 mile stretch of country road. Most are open to the public, members and non-members alike. At the eastern end of Westside Road is the town of Healdsburg, which is a charming little upscale town in itself, with some excellent shopping and food.

With so many excellent wineries and vineyards to choose from, setting your itinerary can get confusing. One great way to filter is by sustainability. California tends to lead the U.S. in environmental responsibility and the wine industry is no exception. While many Napa and Sonoma wineries are very environmentally responsible, you can find some of the most sustainable by searching the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance list of certified vineyards and wineries.

Whether you're in Napa Valley or Sonoma County, don't drink and drive! Find a willing designated driver. Or even better, leave the car behind altogether. Perhaps the most fun and stylish way to leave the car behind is to tour wineries via horse-drawn carriage

2. Take a day trip to Guerneville.

It's a blast from the past. An old logging town in a redwood forest, Guerneville has been reinvented as a peaceful, hippy, LGBTQ-friendly, summer vacation retreat. Also called "Stumptown" from the logging days, the town is also home to a brewery by that name.  Charming, low-key Guerneville is almost like a California version of Provincetown, on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.  

Guerneville,_CA_USA_-_panoramio.jpg

While in Guerneville, if it's warm out, you can do some sun bathing on Johnson's Beach. There are lounge chairs to rent and an old-timey snack shack with soft serve ice cream, hot dogs, hamburgers, and of course, beer. It's a perfect place to completely unwind and enjoy a warm summer afternoon.

3. Take a day trip to Jenner or Bodega Bay.

Alfred Hitchcock fan? The Birds was filmed in part in Bodega Bay. The Potter Schoolhouse, shown below and built in 1873, was vacant at the time of filming and used for several scenes. It's now a private residence, so you'll have to settle for seeing it from the outside.

Bodega Bay Birds-Schoolhouse-1-640x427.jpg

Jenner and Bodega Bay are quiet seaside towns, much like Mendocino further north. While it's often foggy, both towns are still great places to have some fresh, local seafood and enjoy a glass of wine while looking out at the Pacific Ocean. For a local sweet treat, try the saltwater taffy at Patrick's. It's a small-town candy store right out of the 1950s.

Due to the fog and ocean breezes, Jenner and Bodega Bay are great escapes from the inland summer heat. Remember that "summer" in this part of California stretches well into October. It's not unusual for daytime high temperatures in the Santa Rosa area to reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 Celsius) from June all the way through October. Temperatures on the coast meanwhile almost never get above 70 or 75.

4. For Sonoma or Napa rentals, you can get a lot more value for your dollar by renting by the month.

There's no shortage of nightly vacation rental options, from homesharing sites to luxurious spa hotels. If you plan on staying a month or more however, avoid the nightly rental sites. Rent a furnished home or apartment by the month and get more value. Take a look at this absolutely beautiful three bedroom home in Sebastopol which comfortably accommodates up to eight guests in style.

Sonoma rental_fully furnished

5. Don't forget about the beer.

One of the most-loved California breweries, Russian River Brewing Company, is building their new facility in Windsor. When completed in the fall of 2018, it is sure to be an amazing place to visit. Until then, visit them in downtown Santa Rosa. They have an impressive selection of delicious beers, including one of our favorites, Supplication, which is a sour "brown ale aged in used Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries, Brettanomyces, and also Pediococcus and Lactobacillus". The brewery is famous for it's Pliny the Younger IPA, which is only available for two weeks in February, but expect many more tourists at that time!

Another excellent brewery to visit in Sonoma County is Lagunitas. They even have an outdoor amphitheater with great local bands.

So there you have it. Whether you're coming in from another state or another country, follow these insider tips and you're sure to have an excellent experience. If you're planning a trip, you can get our most attractive homes delivered straight to your inbox monthly. Sign up below (no spam guaranteed).

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by Jon Falker

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