We have a soft spot for Sonoma’s folksy ways. Unlike fancy Napa, nobody cares if you drive a clunker and vote Green. Locals call it ‘Slow-noma.’ Anchoring the bucolic 17-mile-long valley, the town of Sonoma makes a great jumping-off point for exploring Wine Country – it’s an hour from San Francisco – and has a marvelous sense of place, with storied 19th-century historical sights surrounding the state’s largest town square.
Halfway up-valley, tiny Glen Ellen is straight from a Norman Rockwell painting – in stark contrast to the valley’s northernmost town, Santa Rosa, the workaday urban center best known for traffic. If you have more than a day, explore Sonoma’s quiet, rustic western side along the Russian River Valley, and continue to the sea.