Somewhat less famous and a touch more rustic than its neighboring wine-making county, Napa, Sonoma's viticultural output is no less esteemed — and far more abundant. The county's 13 official appellations span a diverse gamut of geographies, from the Dry Creek Valley, which yields distinctive Sauvignon Blancs and Zinfandels, to the Russian River Valley and its cool-climate varietals, including many exceptional Pinot Noirs.
The largest county in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sonoma comprises gorgeous tracts of ancient redwoods; sparse, rugged stretches of coast dotted with salty seaside hamlets and old Russian forts; and quaint outposts along the Russian River that have drawn flocks of summer revelers since a train completed in 1909 (and now gone) carried San Franciscans northward daily.
Healdsburg, a 19th-century agricultural town, is now a charming wine country tourist destination filled with boutiques and bed-and-breakfasts focused around a lovely town square. Bodega Bay, a picturesque inlet that straddles Marin County to the south, the setting for Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds," is in reality a rustically romantic village situated on a stunningly beautiful stretch of coast.
When I feel like a break from the tasting rooms, I head to the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve (17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville; Tel.  869-2015), where a series of trails leads into a world of stately coast redwoods. The giant here is the Parson Jones, soaring 310 feet.