When you’re spending so much time in chic tasting rooms and luxury hotels or wandering through the redwood forests, it can be easy to forget that Sonoma County is an agricultural region at its roots. And winemaking is only a small part of it. The county also produces an enormous amount of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, livestock and field crops. Consider, too, the bounty of fresh seafood available from the rivers and the Pacific Ocean. And it all ends up on your plate.
The concept of farm-to-table dining is thought to have gained momentum after Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, which is a mere 70 kilometres away from Sonoma County, started mentioning its suppliers on the menu. Similar to the winemaker’s sustainability commitment, the food movement was easily adopted in Sonoma County restaurants. They’d been doing it all along — they just hadn’t been shouting about it. Of course, the trend became such a global phenomenon that seasonal farm-to-table eating is now a big part of the Sonoma story, which can only be good news for visitors who are keen to try the local goods.
Kitchen gardens are commonplace. Santa Rosa’s Vintners Resort boasts over 92 acres of vineyards, vegetable gardens and olive tree orchards that supply to its two on-site restaurants: the rustic casual eatery River Vine and the more upscale offering John Ash & Co. Meanwhile, Forestville’s Farmhouse Inn, which is lauded for its Michelin-starred restaurant, is kept well-sourced from co-owner Joe Bartolomei’s nearby ranch — including eggs from 100 hens, honey from three beehives and greens, citrus and edible flowers from the vegetable garden. His family even rears turkeys for the hotel’s annual Thanksgiving feast. Plus, scraps get fed right back to the hens to continue the circle of life.
A similar thing happens at Lagunitas Brewing Company. Out the back of its monstrous brewing facility in Petaluma, there’s a paddock filled with cows grazing on the brewery’s spent grain — and that cattle become the beef that the taproom uses for its burgers.
And when it’s not possible to grow it in their own backyards, restaurants hit up their neighbours. The belief in sourcing from local suppliers is second nature in Sonoma. And you’ll see evidence of it everywhere, from the shelves of rustic eatery Big Bottom Market lined with locally made artisanal goods — cheeses, jams, honey and bread — to Farmhouse Inn’s winery and artisan partner programs. There’s also Sonoma restaurant The Girl & The Fig’s Sonoma FIG Foundation Fund, which gives grants to new entrepreneurs and local business projects. Companies like Bohemian Highway Travel Co will give you a great snapshot of sustainability in practice within the county — its curated tours are designed around highlighting local artisans, winemakers and farmers.