A less developed contrast to Napa, Sonoma’s unpretentious gaggle of ordinary towns, ranches, and wineries result in a genuine backcountry ambience—and a lower density of wineries, restaurants, and hotels. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do and see. Low-key wine tastings are held at the small, family-owned wineries scattered along the quiet woodsy roads of this 17-mile-long, 7-mile-wide valley bordered by two mountain ranges: the Mayacamas to the east and the Sonomas to the west. Unlike Northern Sonoma, Sonoma Valley is relatively condensed: A small cluster of wineries surround Sonoma’s town square, with a string of additional stops off the highway as you head south or north along the main highway. While planning your route, get a copy of the Official Visitors Map put out by Sonoma County Tourism Bureau; tel. 800/576-6662); online, you can order a variety of information to be sent to you. If you want to range farther afield, see Northern Sonoma County wineries.

Northern Sonoma Wineries

Northern Sonoma is expansive, with a variety of appellations to explore, including many well-known areas such as Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, and Russian River Valley. Each area has at least one cluster of wineries, and getting from one appellation to another along the rural roads is part of the fun—provided you have a designated driver. Alas, there’s no way for us to include all the wineries worth visiting, but the following selection will get you started. Once you head out, you’re bound to stumble upon many more.