The rolling golden hills and year-round sunny climes make Sonoma a winner when it comes to fresh produce and local wines. The region is gloriously laidback in its attitude, with bright, friendly locals wherever you go – but don’t misconstrue this low-key vibe; fine wine, and fine dining to match, are of upmost importance to Sonomans and as a result, the region is also home to several world class restaurants. We’ve dug deep and taste tested a few (it’s a hard job) to give you three of the best places for fine dining.
FARMHOUSE INN, FORESTVILLE
Situated in the town of Forestville you will find the Farmhouse Inn lying alongside the winding Russian River Valley and surrounding vineyards. It is a relaxed yet elegant establishment and has an incredible Michelin starred restaurant to boot. Steve Litke is the head chef and has been dubbed one of the best chefs in Sonoma, if not the best. That’s quite an accolade. His creativity and flare is encompassed in a menu focusing on Italian and Asian cuisine, all accompanied with the finest local wines. He likes meat and is pretty nifty when it comes to fresh fish too; We think you should try the pan roasted squab, rabbit or tartare of local Hamachi – oh, and the soufflé is always great too. One of the real beauties of this place is the way Steve uses produce from the Farmhouse Inn owners ranch, so the menu changes according to what is available. All in all, its low key atmosphere and high end menu create an artful blend that can’t fail to impress.
SANTE, FAIRMONT MISSION INN
This Michelin Star restaurant in the heart of Sonoma is known for using only the freshest local produce that can be found. Chef Bruno and Chef Andrew are visionaries in their field and find great pleasure in travelling around the local area to source tantalising local fare that they can use in their cooking. Perhaps this is the recipe for their success? Regardless, you’ll enjoy elegantly simple dishes that allow the natural flavours of the food speak for themselves. Notable a-listers on the menu for us were the waygu beef or the sweet butter lobster; even more exceptional when paired with regional wines chosen by the in-house sommelier. And all this inside the gates of the famous Fairmont Mission Inn hotel, somewhat of an institution and a must-see for your visit to Sonoma (if you’re not already staying there).
Sitting on the main drag of this little town in wine country is Chalkboard. It is bright, casual and contemporary – and like many of the best places in the area, Chef McAnelly prides himself on using local, seasonal produce. So what makes Chalkboard different? The menu (which changes daily) comprises of small plates, so you can sample a lot of what you fancy; try the caramelised baby carrots, pork belly biscuits and Snake River Farm beef tartare, just a few of the things we enjoyed. Along the same vein, Chalkboard offer delicious wine flights that allow you to experience several different flavours that compliment your food choices. This is the kind of place you might just stumble across accidentally as you wander from the town square, but now you know the secret, don’t risk missing it.