Sustainable sips in Sonoma

Travelling light in Northern California wine country – without sacrificing luxury

In the heart of Northern California wine country, Sonoma County welcomes travellers with an invitation to travel light, luxuriously. As the world embraces a more conscious approach to travel, Sonoma invites visitors to immerse themselves in a guilt-free, eco-friendly experience from farm-to-table and vineyard-to-glass.

Pledge of Sustainability

Before setting foot in the lush landscape of Sonoma County, visitors are encouraged to embark on a journey of responsibility by signing a Sustainability Pledge. This commitment, an integral part of the region’s ethos, ensures that every visitor travels with consideration to preserve the pristine beauty of Sonoma County. From observing the principles of leaving no trace, enjoying the roads less travelled to simply supporting local businesses and spreading kindness, the pledge sets the tone for a stay that is not just indulgent but also mindful.

Kind Traveller’s haven

To begin your sojourn on a sustainable note, select accommodation via Kind Traveller, a socially conscious booking and education platform where participating hotels make a donation to local charities on your behalf.

One such featured hotel is Vintners Resort, a California certified green hotel and the only hotel in Santa Rose to achieve ‘environmentalist level’. Vintner’s green credentials are an ode to sustainable luxury; step inside and you’ll find a refined retreat set on around 37 acres of lush vineyards and beautifully landscaped grounds. Pro tip: upgrade your luxe lodgings to a Vineyard Terrace Deluxe Suite and enjoy a grand one-bedroom suite complete with fireplace, luxurious bathroom, spacious lounge and dining area, opening out to an outdoor terrace with incredible vineyard views to make you really feel immersed in wine country.

Sustainable winemaking

A staggering 98 per cent of Sonoma County’s vineyards employ sustainable winemaking principles, making it the most sustainable wine region in the world. Start your wine tasting at the picturesque Anaba Wines, the first Northern California winery to utilise wind power via a massive wind turbine that provides clean energy to power the estate. Wind down at Anaba with a selection of tasting experiences where expert staff guide you through a curated flight of wines in a relaxed setting. Owner John Sweazey’s vision was for the cellar door to feel like an extension of his home and the result is a welcoming classic American homestead that invites you to sip and savour.

Nearby, Hamel Family Wines employs biodynamic farming practices to produce their wines of distinction. A wine tasting at Hamel is an exclusive affair, available by appointment only. Your tasting experience is hosted by an Estate Ambassador and features a tour of the winery including the incredible caves followed by a seated tasting of current and library releases against a backdrop of gently rolling vineyards and mountainous landscape.

Everywhere you visit in Sonoma, you get a sense the winemakers are preserving the connection between wine and terroir.

For the time-pressed, a visit to Region The Barlow offers the opportunity to choose from over 50 wines via self-service dispensers as well as traditional tastings and opportunities to meet the maker. Alternatively, slip around to The Punchbowl, a new natural wine shop that champions producers dedicated to minimal intervention winemaking and pick up a bottle of something uniquely local to take back to your accommodation.

Sustainable dining

Sonoma’s commitment to sustainability extends to its dining experiences, where farm-to-table dining is par for the course.

Connect to the land at John Ash & Co, where Executive Chef Tom Schmidt selects seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs from the estates gardens and orchards as well as sourcing ingredients from 30 local farms to deliver exceptional dishes such as the comforting Estate Squash and Curry Soup or the Roasted Rocky Chicken Breast featuring Estate quince.

A must-visit is Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate. Start by exploring the myriad of gardens, where you’ll discover culinary gardener Tucker Taylor and his team harvesting ingredients ready to grace your table or be shipped to over 30 Michelin star restaurants in the Bay area. Settle in for their signature five-course farm-to-table dining experience where seasonal bounty is served alongside specialty ingredients from local purveyors and matched with a selection of limited release wines.

Alongside Kendall-Jackson’s impressive sustainability credentials, excess produce is rescued by local organisation Farm to Pantry to help feed people in need. A cause Tucker feels so passionately about he’s served on the board since 2017.

Regenerative tourism

Regenerative travel is the current buzzword and, put simply, it’s the concept of “treading lightly” and giving back more than we take from the ecosystem or the communities we visit. Sonoma County invites travellers to actively give back to the community and the environment by participating in a host of voluntourism opportunities. The act of donating a few hours of your time and connecting with locals can be profoundly rewarding. Volunteer to go gleaning with Farm to Pantry, where surplus crops are collected and redistributed to those in need, nourishing the community while also reducing food waste. For a more artistic endeavour, join a flower arranging class, learning techniques from a resident floral designer using seasonal flowers with the arrangements being donated alongside fresh produce, providing dignity to the process of receiving food aid. You’ll also take home a bouquet yourself as a token of thanks!

Nature immersion

In Sonoma County, the connection with nature goes beyond the vineyards. Embark on a kayaking adventure exploring Jenner’s Russian River Estuary with Suki Waters, a local Native American descendant and WaterTreks Eco Tour guide. Our tour provided an opportunity to learn about the local ecosystem, collect stray litter along the way (inspired by Australia’s Take3 for the Sea). “We get so caught up in the busyness of life, that we forget to pause and pay attention to all the amazing things that are all in our own backyard,” said Suki as we watched playful river otters eyeing us curiously.

For further tranquillity, try forest bathing ie. the simple art of spending time in a forest, at nearby Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. Among towering Redwoods, unwind, connect with nature and let the peacefulness of this serene setting wash over you.

Sonoma County is an indulgent, guilt-free getaway, just 90 minutes from San Francisco where you not only take away memories but also leave a legacy of responsible travel. In Sonoma, your glass is not just half full; it’s filled to the brim with the promise of sustainable serenity.

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