After a long day of floating the Russian River, wine-tasting (we see you, oenophiles) or relaxing into your weekend getaway, there’s nothing better than tucking into a delicious, nourishing meal filled with local ingredients. From cozy to elegant-chic to rustic farmhouse, Wine Country has something to offer. As expected, wine is somewhat prominent in this historic region — we’ve included one restaurant located on a vineyard — but the food is as unmatched as the beverage offerings.
With an overwhelming amount of eateries to choose from, we’ve narrowed it down to the cream of the crop dinner spots ranging from Sonoma to Saint Helena. Bon appétit!
Photo: Scallion pancake courtesy of Lazeaway Club, Flamingo Resort
Sonoma County Dinner Map
The name can be polarizing, but as soon as you see the place you’ll understand why it’s named as such. A perfectly rustic-yet-refined barn with a gorgeous and spacious patio, it’s no surprise that this is such a popular spot of weddings. Much like its neighboring restaurants, Barndiva serves food that’s been sourced from local farmers, ranchers and small batch purveyors. Among the favorite menu items are the goat cheese croquettes with lavender honey and the tagliolini limone with parmesan and meyer lemon cream sauce. barndiva.com
Mangia, mangia! It’s easy to do while at this small Sonoma County trattoria serving old-school Italian dishes. Everything from the focaccias to the pastas are made from scratch. Expect heated outdoor seating, great service, a warm and romantic ambiance, a full bar and an extensive wine list. For a brief rundown of their menu: Grilled calamari, spaghetti alla vongole, gnocchi with gorgonzola and walnuts, bitter greens salad with radicchio and endive — our favorites are too numerous to name. cucinaparadisopetaluma.com
The ethos of modern farmhouse pulls through from the comfortable, easy chair and fluffy pillows decor to the table. The seasonally-changing menu might feature ahi tuna paillard with green yuzu-kosho, red wine-braised short rib or mushroom risotto. Grilled octopus with Calabrian chili and fennel is a menu must. farmhouseinn.com/restaurant
Glen Ellen Star
Located in the heart of Jack London’s beloved cozy hamlet, Glen Ellen Star specializes in wood-fire cooking that brings out the finest flavors of their California-inspired dishes. The team sources ingredients from local producers and craft daily menus that showcase the best of the region. Make a reservation and get the house baked sourdough boule and brick chicken with cauliflower labneh, caper berries, dates and ramp “anchoiade.” glenellenstar.com
Lazeaway Club, Flamingo Resort
We know, adding a brand-new restaurant to this list is bit risky — we challenge you spend an evening poolside in the newly spruced Flamingo Resort and not find a reason to come back. Refreshingly casual, the patrons range from locals dressed for a night out to hotel guests on vacay mode. Start off with a creative cocktail — no high fructose corn syrup found here — instead expect local honey and herbs and sample the Cal-Pacific cuisine created by Chef Sergio Morales previously of Sam’s Social Club in Calistoga and his team. Highlights on the menu include scallion pancakes (see feature image above), bibimbap, seared ahi tuna and the Lazeaway smashburger built for two. flamingoresort.com/dining
It’s a lot less expensive to book reservations at Riviera Ristorante — in Santa Rosa’s downtown — than to take a flight to Rome, and regulars claim the pasta here is on par. This family-owned spot has been serving classic dishes like trofie, ravioli and gnocchi for over twenty-five years, but the best kept secrets of true Italian fare are not carbohydrate-focused. Steak with gorgonzola sauce, “brick” chicken, and prawns cooked perfectly in white wine is what it’s about, and all are on the regular menu. Don’t skip the specials based on the fresh-market availability, like petrale sole sauteed with lemon and capers and lamb shank roasted and served over polenta. All items are sourced locally so it’s hard to go wrong. Both Rita and Luca Pesce are cooking in the kitchen, but you’ll also find Rita greeting you. Be sure to look out for the weekly gathering of Italians from the motherland on Thursday evenings. Check the website for hours of operation. rivieraristorante.net
The newest delicious venture by Dustin Valette, The Matheson is essentially two restaurants in one. Downstairs is a more formal dining experience; don’t miss the Tamanishiki Rice Porridge topped with a day boat scallop. While you’re waiting for a table, check out the Wine Wall and its mind-boggling 88 wines on tap. Rooftop lounge and cocktail bar, Roof 106, serves an assortment of pizzas, piadines and plates of crispy pork belly, alongside views of Healdsburg Plaza. thematheson.com
The Spinster Sisters
Tucked away in Santa Rosa’s SOFA district, have a seat in the garden and prepare to be dazzled by what chef Liza Hinman has in store for the night. From a dip with baked Dungeness crab and kale, to chicken and dumplings, to a selection of local cheeses. You’ll wish you’d skipped lunch. thespinstersisters.com
The story of this restaurant begins in the 1940s with Grandpa Valette, a French-born baker who landed in the Alexander Valley at this very corner (minus the stop signs and cars on the road) to open a bakery. In 2014, Valette’s two grandsons returned to the corner and are now running one of the most popular restaurants in the area. Aaron runs the front of the house and Dustin, a veteran chef, runs the kitchen. The undecided and adventurous won’t want to miss the “Trust Me” tasting menu. valettehealdsburg.com