Sonoma, a town built around a square. One of the many shops located around this true four corner square has been praised by locals and the in-the-know tourists. Basque Boulangerie Cafe at 460 First Street East for years has been supplying the town with in their own words: "crusty, hand made loaves of peasant bread, inspired by our Basque ancestors high in the Pyrenees Mountains separating France from Spain."
The breads are made fresh daily and there are many choices of types of dough to design and taste preferences. Coffee and pastries, as well as a bistro lunch menu. A great start for that wine picnic you may plan. A loaf of delicious fresh baked bread. Bon Appetit.
The call of gelato, ice cream, handmade chocolates brings the herd of people to "The Chocolate Cow". Locals and tourists alike, come to Stephen Ponds parlor to cool down or satisfy a chocolate urge. If the weather is hot, get to the end of the line. Banana Splits are the tummy, yummy treat. Located at 452First St. East, in the Sonoma Square.
You will find that locals do not buy their wines at the wineries. In Sonoma the place to buy wine is at the Wine Exchange of Sonoma. Their prices are better than the wineries and they will ship your purchases home. They also have a great wine and beer bar in rear of the store. It is a popular place for the locals to gather in the early evenings.
Even in a laid back town like Sonoma, winery owners can be a bit haughty. Winemakers sometimes revel in their star status, but cellar rats, the men and women who actually make the wine, can be trusted and are a constant source of entertainment.
Whenever you encounter a cellar rat (identified by their rubber boots or stained hands during the harvest season) it is customary to offer to buy them a beer. (It takes a lot of good beer to make great wine.)
You will often be immediately welcomed into a closed society and hear hair-raising tales of winemaking misadventures and get the poop on all the local winemakers.
In November of 2006, during a 10 hour crush party, a new sport was invented. It's called window diving. Usually accomplished in front of the Swiss Hotel as cars slow for the stop sign, the window diver darts out into the street and leaps through an open passenger window on a passing car. Style points for conversation with the strangers in the car, leg wiggle outside the window and the actual leap and entrance into the car. Window diving is always accompanied by heavy drinking and is quite likely against some law, but it's fun and the Swiss Hotel crowd will often buy you drinks after a particularly good dive. Window diving season runs from May through November, but occurs rarely, so if you have the chance be sure to check it out.
When you are in a tasting room, it is poor form to ridicule, or criticize the wine in your glass while you are in the actual tasting room. Save your critique for after you have left the room.
Be patient with the servers, especially if they are jammed up with customers. Most wineries have a list of what they are pouring, check that out before you start making requests of the servers.
By the way, cold rainy days are the best days to visit wineries. The weather keeps the crowds down, and the servers have time to talk to you. Remember that servers are usually not winemakers, and while they will answer all of your questions, you might not be getting the best information.