Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dog-friendly Wine Country: Sonoma, CA

The city of Sonoma is surprisingly close to San Francisco - just about 45 minutes in the car gets you to the main plaza in this little wine town. This is the Carneros region of Sonoma wine country - further north (another 45 minutes or so) will find you in the Russian River area of Sonoma. Make no mistake: Sonoma is a huge county. Even Napa is a very long valley-based county. Santa Rosa is about 45 minutes from the actual city of Sonoma.

Carneros has tons of great wineries; however, due to the onslaught of massive rain storms, our trip was cut a bit short and we didn't get to fully explore as much as we liked (guess that will be a follow-up trip and blog!).

First stop in Sonoma: Three Dog Bakery. This store is huge with a bit of everything - including treats for the kitties! We were looking for lunch locations and the ladies working were super helpful in recommending places and letting us know that Sonoma Plaza is NOT dog-friendly. Huh? Really? Sure enough, big signs - no dogs allowed in the plaza, not even on leash. As we walked around the edge of the plaza fuzzbutt expressed his opinion of this. Thankfully I had doggie doo-doo bags. (How embarrassing).

After buying carrot cake and mini carob-chip cookies for fuzzbutt and being embarrassed by him on the plaza, we went to the Swiss Hotel. They have a nice front porch area which is covered and heated with heat lamps and the staff were very dog friendly! A bowl of water was brought out without us even having to ask. Food was pretty good and drinks were strong. A win-win for everyone!

After lunch we ventured to Cline Cellars where every tour bus in the world was stopped. It was madness. The grounds were very beautiful but we really didn't bother to explore much due to the weather. We did end up tasting there and the wines were decent. We didn't confirm their dog policy but they seemed pretty casual so it would be worth trying if you have a pup with you - they appear on several sites as being dog-friendly.

Our hotel for the night was further north, in Santa Rosa, near the Russian River area. The Hilton Sonoma Wine Country is dog-friendly with a $50 non-refundable fee. That is it - no other comments or restrictions. I asked about special walking areas (or areas to avoid) and was told any place is OK. The hotel has a great pool area and the rooms are typical Hilton rooms - nice bedding, ugly furniture. The restaurant at the hotel, Nectar, has an outdoor patio with heating lamps but is NOT dog accessible. Stupid, right? Dog friendly hotel with a restaurant where the patio can only be accessed by walking through the restaurant. Dumb. Well - you aren't really missing much - the food was horrible. The drinks were good, but the service was pathetic, at best. For details, check out my yelp review.

The next morning dawned cold and rainy. As in raining cats and dogs (ha-ha). We cut things short, but I was determined to go to the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center for their new food and wine pairing. For $25 you get seven (or more) pours of their reserve wines, paired with yummy little snacks. You really can't get much better than this! Our chef, Ryan, was terrific and explained everything he brought out. If you have dietary restrictions - speak up. Ryan adjusted on the fly for us when told hubby doesn't eat pork.

Due to the downpour of rain, we didn't take fuzzbutt into the wine center with us. I did ask and the gentleman working said he didn't see any signs forbidding it, so he didn't see any issue. Yeah!

And with that, we braved the storm and traffic to return home.

Happy Travels!

** This post approved by fuzzbutt


  1. We cannot thank you enough for all the kind words. Come back anytime. Make sure you always keep Chef Ryan on his toes!


  2. Thank you Rocky! Also, thank you for the clarification on KJ Wines dog-policy:

    "As for dogs - We are happy to allow them on the property - just not inside because of the food."


    "Both our wine center and tasting room are A.D.A. compliant, so dogs for guests with special needs are allowed everywhere."