The biggest choice is whether to stay in downtown Sonoma, with easy access to its walkable shopping and dining square, or anywhere else in the valley, which promises small-town surroundings and a guaranteed drive to any activities. Regardless, you’re destined to spend time behind the wheel, as the wineries and attractions are scattered. Keep in mind that in peak season and on weekends, most B&Bs and hotels require a minimum 2-night stay. Of course, that’s assuming you can find a vacancy; make reservations as far in advance as possible. If you are having trouble finding a room, call the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau (sonomavalley.com; tel. 866/996-1090 or 707/996-1090), which can refer you to lodgings with rooms to spare. Stay Sonoma Valley, the bed-and-breakfast association (staysonomavalley.com; tel. 800/969-4667) can also refer you to a B&B that belongs to the association.
The southernmost town in Sonoma Valley is also the most "townlike," with an extremely charming town square encircled by hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and a historic California mission. It's also a short drive from many of the wineries.
Best For: Visitors who want instant access to shopping, restaurants, and bars.
Drawbacks: It's far more bustling than other areas and requires longer time in the car when exploring wineries to the north.
A 10- to 20-minute drive (traffic permitting) from downtown Sonoma provides a far more rural experience, with little more than a 1-block town, lush overgrown surroundings, and accommodations ranging from intimate to grand and budget to wallet-busting.
Best For: People seeking a heavy dose of country charm.
Drawbacks: You'll have to get in the car to do pretty much anything other than dine at the few local restaurants.
The northernmost town is also the least developed, with stretches of vineyards, a handful of wineries and restaurants, and the renowned luxury retreat listed below; it's also the gateway to Northern Sonoma, a Wine Country destination in itself.
Best For: Anyone who wants to truly "get away from it all" or venture up to Northern Sonoma while staying in the valley.
Drawbacks: You'll have to do more driving to get to the rest of the area's attractions.
WHERE TO STAY IN NORTHERN SONOMA
Santa Rosa, the most densely populated area, also has the most choices—ranging from B&Bs to motels to hotels—though it’s not exactly in the middle of the vineyard action. If you want to immerse yourself in a community with true wine country flair, Healdsburg is the best choice, with a variety of places to stay, including some swanky boutique hotels. Laid-back Russian River attracts gay and lesbian Bay Area residents, who spend their days playing in or lounging by the lazy river. In between are many sweet towns and wooded enclaves offering places to lay your head.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.