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Where to Eat and Drink in the Russian River Valley

From earthy pinot noir to all-star biscuits, here’s how to refresh in Russian River

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With its coastal proximity and roadside tie-dye peddlers, Russian River Valley in West Sonoma County is cooler than neighboring Napa both in climate and laid-back style. Known for its fog-fed vineyards, abundant farms, and eclectic restaurants, no wonder people have been exploring the towns along the conifer-rimmed Russian River since the 1870s. The native Pomo called the river Shabakai, meaning “long snake,” before the Russians ever laid eyes on it. Always good to bring a towel just in case — there are as many swimming spots as there are places to refuel and refresh afterwards.

What follows is a mere sampling of the wineries and eateries in the greater Russian River Valley, with all manner of palate-pleasers: from Old World tapas to all-star biscuit sandwiches to award-winning food truck barbecue. Pack a sweater and linger over earthy pinot noir or a hoppy IPA — or one of many flavors of handmade ice cream.

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Big Bottom Market

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Hailed as one of Oprah’s favorite things in 2016, Big Bottom’s biscuits are delicious enough to eat on their own, but also serve as the perfect vehicle for anything from honey and butter to salmon, crème fraiche, pickled onions, and capers. Grab a picnic lunch and hit nearby Johnson’s Beach (spots available by reservation), which has been a favorite among boaters and swimmers since the 1920s. Big Bottom also carries three exclusive wine labels, including a Perpetual Indulgence rose and pinot noir—a dollar per bottle is donated to the beloved Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the charity of drag queen nuns who raise awareness and funds for gender equality and sex education.

Biscuit from Big Bottom Market Big Bottom Market

Mirroring its clean and simple aesthetic, Brot (German for bread) serves unpretentious German food done right. Teeming with purple cabbage and haus-made kraut, this might be the most beautiful hamburger in the county. Chef Crista Luedtke also slings classics like Bavarian pretzels, spatzle with speck, schnitzel, and wurst plates. Fresh salat with little gems or kohlrabi and apple nicely balance the meat, which is mostly organic and locally procured.

Burger at Brot Brot

Stumptown Brewery

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A trip to Guerneville is not complete without a stop at Stumptown, which has been keeping river folks fueled with Pale Ale and IPAs since 1997. Currently on tap are their Squirrel Tickler Cream Ale, Rat Bastard Pale Ale, and Donkey Punch Pils. Enjoy burgers and beers on the huge deck overlooking the Russian River, seven days a week. Patrons have access to their private beach and the still-swimmable water beyond.

Burger and beer at Stumptown Brewery Stumptown Brewery

The Farmhand

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Opened in 2017 next door to Riverside Wellness Collective, Sonoma County’s first cannabis dispensary, The Farmhand is a perfect place to lose a few hours. Generous sandwiches are big enough to split — build your own or try standards like the veggie-packed Greek or the BLAST, a dressed-up BLT with avocado and sprouts. Hard to find a better setting: their wide grassy backyard includes picnic tables and an open area big enough for kids to play paddle ball while parents lounge in comfy Adirondack chairs.

Sandwich box from the Farmhand The Farmhand

Rio Nido Roadhouse

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Tucked into the redwoods just off River Road, the resort community of Rio Nido occupies just one tenth of a square mile, but the Roadhouse, with its big lawn, shaded picnic tables, swimming pool, and outdoor stage, makes it worth a stop. For 14 years, through flooding and fires, owners Raena and Brad Jones Metzger have continued to serve classic pub fare, craft cocktails, and 16 mostly locally brewed beers on tap. Nachos get an upgrade with pulled pork or tri tip, and the popular artichoke-jalapeno dip comes with house-made chips. The scene is laid back and super family friendly.

Exterior of Rio Nido Roadhouse Rio Nido Roadhouse

The Altamont General Store

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Newly renovated and opened, this bright, airy market and community space is housed in charming Occidental’s oldest building. The perfect spot to grab a quick nosh before heading out to the coast or the river, the Altamont also sells locally made jewelry, art, and novelty kitsch. Salads and sandwiches share the menu with hearty bowls like the Boho, a nourishing mix of stewed French lentils, roasted Brussels sprouts, arugula, chimichurri, kraut, and crème fraiche (rotisserie chicken or Kiawe smoked pork are also available for meat lovers). All manner of delightful pick-me-ups are available at their full coffee bar.

Vegetarian bowl at the Altamont General Store The Altamont General Store

Iron Horse Vineyards

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Named after a railroad stop that crossed the property in the 1890s, Iron Horse is renowned for their sparkling wines which have been served at the White House since the Reagan administration. Outdoor tastings afford stunning views of the gentle rolling hills of Green Valley and Mount St. Helena in the distance. In this pandemic moment, reservations required.

Sparkling rose from Iron Horse Iron Horse Vineyards

Moshin Vineyards

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Math instructor turned DIY vintner Rick Moshin started making wine in 1989, and developed one of California’s first gravity-flow wine cellars to more gently treat his thin-skinned pinot noir grapes. Right in the heart of winery-rich Westside Road, the tasting room is open midday Thursday through Monday.

Pinot noir at Moshin winery Moshin Vineyards

Canneti Roadhouse Italiana

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The quaint little town of Forestville is surrounded by towering redwoods and anchored by the delightful Canneti, the dream come true of Chef Francesco Torre, formerly of Fish in Sausalito. Seafood is well represented here — wild Alaskan salmon carpaccio, pasta with grilled Mediterranean octopus, and roasted sturgeon with Brussels sprouts and peas all grace the menu — as well as unexpected appetizers like the crispy beef heart tomato skins with house caper mayo. Save room for sugar cookie cannoli or tiramisu with espresso sauce, perfect with or without a sweet Vin Santo del Chianti on the shaded back deck.

Snacks at Canneti Canneti Roadhouse Italiana

Bravas Bar de Tapas

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Arguably the most visionary restaurateurs in Sonoma County, the Starks operate seven distinct, wildly popular restaurants— but the crown jewel just might be Bravas. One of downtown Healdsburg’s hot spots, here you’ll find a nice mix of chilled and warm tapas like roasted escarole salad, gazpacho, tuna belly salad, creamy chicken croquetas, crispy pig ears, and Dungeness crab–stuffed piquillo peppers, as well as a ham and cheese station, family-style paella, and perfectly fried rum balls for dessert. The cocktail menu is foolproof — from the kicky Feel the Bern (with habanero tequila, ginger agave, lime, orange, and mezcal) to the sublime Strawberry Fields Forever (with tequila, elderflower liqueur, strawberry agave, lime, and basil salt).

Jamon iberico at Bravas Bravas Bar de Tapas

Davis Family Vineyards

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Guy and Judy Davis founded their vineyard in 1997, and together with sons Cole and Cooper, the family maintains an organic farm and produces mostly pinot noir from five different vineyards throughout Sonoma County. Visitors to their tasting room can enjoy the garden lounge and bocce ball court just steps away from the Russian River. They are open for outdoor, socially distanced tastings every Thursday through Sunday.

Outdoor seating at Davis Family Vineyards Davis Family Vineyards

The Black Piglet at Davis Family Vineyards

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The food truck of celebrity chefs and also downright cool people Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu restaurant (now closed), the Black Piglet features their award-winning pasture-raised pork, which cures for some three weeks with brown sugar before finishing with a 12-hour applewood smoking. The menu is short, and yet still it’s hard to choose between a BLT with Tabasco aioli or pulled pork with apple slaw and chicharron; when it comes to the kimchi fries and  bacon caramel popcorn, might as well try both. Find them Saturdays and Sundays at Davis Family Vineyards all summer long.

Wicked Slush

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Right across from Veterans Memorial Beach, Amy’s Wicked Slush has almost always had a line (luckily swift-moving) since it opened in 2017. Sometimes called Italian ice, slush is creamy and lick-able, a friendlier version of a sno-cone, and pairs nicely with Straus Creamery soft serve (known as a “split”). With enough flavors to make your head spin, the combinations are endless, but you can’t go wrong with classics like root beer slush and vanilla soft serve. Try the Spumoni (cherry slush with pistachio soft serve) for a taste of owner Amy’s Bostonian childhood.

Ice cream at Wicked Slush Amy’s Wicked Slush

Horse & Plow Tasting Room

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Winemakers Suzanne and Chris offer outdoor tastings on their pleasant two-acre garden property just off Highway 116 as it leads out of Sebastopol. In addition to a wide variety of wines, including their lovely organic dry rose of Carignane, their fermented ciders made with locally grown apples perfectly embody Sebastopol’s long history of apple production. Kick back to the live music on lazy Sunday afternoons.

Cider bottles from Horse & Plow Horse & Plow

Martinelli Vineyards & Winery

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Founded by two young elopers from Tuscany in the 1880s, Martinelli is a six-generation family-owned winery. Their descendants are still farming “Jackass Hill,” the steepest non-terraced vineyard in the county planted by the original couple. From a more classically crisp Chardonnay to their old-vine Zinfandel to their rare Syrah with gamey notes of leather and tobacco, there’s something here for everyone. They offer tastings Thursday through Sunday on their outdoor terrace and inside the red hop barn. Walk-ins welcome, but reservations are highly recommended.

Outdoor seating at Martinelli winery Martinelli Vineyards & Winery

Sutro Wine Co.

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If hiking the hills near old terraced vineyards sounds good to you, book a tasting with winemaker and artist Alice Warnecke Sutro at Warnecke Ranch and Vineyard, where she grew up and returned to raise her own children. The 45-minute hike includes an education about the volcanic terroir and “aromatic journey from soil to wine glass,” and is followed by a guided tasting of three wines under the shady oaks just up the road at Bell Mountain. Two appointment times are available daily except Sundays, limited to six people max.

Hillside view at Sutro winery Sutro Wine Co

Big Bottom Market

Biscuit from Big Bottom Market Big Bottom Market

Hailed as one of Oprah’s favorite things in 2016, Big Bottom’s biscuits are delicious enough to eat on their own, but also serve as the perfect vehicle for anything from honey and butter to salmon, crème fraiche, pickled onions, and capers. Grab a picnic lunch and hit nearby Johnson’s Beach (spots available by reservation), which has been a favorite among boaters and swimmers since the 1920s. Big Bottom also carries three exclusive wine labels, including a Perpetual Indulgence rose and pinot noir—a dollar per bottle is donated to the beloved Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the charity of drag queen nuns who raise awareness and funds for gender equality and sex education.

Biscuit from Big Bottom Market Big Bottom Market

BROT

Burger at Brot Brot

Mirroring its clean and simple aesthetic, Brot (German for bread) serves unpretentious German food done right. Teeming with purple cabbage and haus-made kraut, this might be the most beautiful hamburger in the county. Chef Crista Luedtke also slings classics like Bavarian pretzels, spatzle with speck, schnitzel, and wurst plates. Fresh salat with little gems or kohlrabi and apple nicely balance the meat, which is mostly organic and locally procured.

Burger at Brot Brot

Stumptown Brewery

Burger and beer at Stumptown Brewery Stumptown Brewery

A trip to Guerneville is not complete without a stop at Stumptown, which has been keeping river folks fueled with Pale Ale and IPAs since 1997. Currently on tap are their Squirrel Tickler Cream Ale, Rat Bastard Pale Ale, and Donkey Punch Pils. Enjoy burgers and beers on the huge deck overlooking the Russian River, seven days a week. Patrons have access to their private beach and the still-swimmable water beyond.

Burger and beer at Stumptown Brewery Stumptown Brewery

The Farmhand

Sandwich box from the Farmhand The Farmhand

Opened in 2017 next door to Riverside Wellness Collective, Sonoma County’s first cannabis dispensary, The Farmhand is a perfect place to lose a few hours. Generous sandwiches are big enough to split — build your own or try standards like the veggie-packed Greek or the BLAST, a dressed-up BLT with avocado and sprouts. Hard to find a better setting: their wide grassy backyard includes picnic tables and an open area big enough for kids to play paddle ball while parents lounge in comfy Adirondack chairs.

Sandwich box from the Farmhand The Farmhand

Rio Nido Roadhouse

Exterior of Rio Nido Roadhouse Rio Nido Roadhouse

Tucked into the redwoods just off River Road, the resort community of Rio Nido occupies just one tenth of a square mile, but the Roadhouse, with its big lawn, shaded picnic tables, swimming pool, and outdoor stage, makes it worth a stop. For 14 years, through flooding and fires, owners Raena and Brad Jones Metzger have continued to serve classic pub fare, craft cocktails, and 16 mostly locally brewed beers on tap. Nachos get an upgrade with pulled pork or tri tip, and the popular artichoke-jalapeno dip comes with house-made chips. The scene is laid back and super family friendly.

Exterior of Rio Nido Roadhouse Rio Nido Roadhouse

The Altamont General Store

Vegetarian bowl at the Altamont General Store The Altamont General Store

Newly renovated and opened, this bright, airy market and community space is housed in charming Occidental’s oldest building. The perfect spot to grab a quick nosh before heading out to the coast or the river, the Altamont also sells locally made jewelry, art, and novelty kitsch. Salads and sandwiches share the menu with hearty bowls like the Boho, a nourishing mix of stewed French lentils, roasted Brussels sprouts, arugula, chimichurri, kraut, and crème fraiche (rotisserie chicken or Kiawe smoked pork are also available for meat lovers). All manner of delightful pick-me-ups are available at their full coffee bar.

Vegetarian bowl at the Altamont General Store The Altamont General Store

Iron Horse Vineyards

Sparkling rose from Iron Horse Iron Horse Vineyards

Named after a railroad stop that crossed the property in the 1890s, Iron Horse is renowned for their sparkling wines which have been served at the White House since the Reagan administration. Outdoor tastings afford stunning views of the gentle rolling hills of Green Valley and Mount St. Helena in the distance. In this pandemic moment, reservations required.

Sparkling rose from Iron Horse Iron Horse Vineyards

Moshin Vineyards

Pinot noir at Moshin winery Moshin Vineyards

Math instructor turned DIY vintner Rick Moshin started making wine in 1989, and developed one of California’s first gravity-flow wine cellars to more gently treat his thin-skinned pinot noir grapes. Right in the heart of winery-rich Westside Road, the tasting room is open midday Thursday through Monday.

Pinot noir at Moshin winery Moshin Vineyards

Canneti Roadhouse Italiana

Snacks at Canneti Canneti Roadhouse Italiana

The quaint little town of Forestville is surrounded by towering redwoods and anchored by the delightful Canneti, the dream come true of Chef Francesco Torre, formerly of Fish in Sausalito. Seafood is well represented here — wild Alaskan salmon carpaccio, pasta with grilled Mediterranean octopus, and roasted sturgeon with Brussels sprouts and peas all grace the menu — as well as unexpected appetizers like the crispy beef heart tomato skins with house caper mayo. Save room for sugar cookie cannoli or tiramisu with espresso sauce, perfect with or without a sweet Vin Santo del Chianti on the shaded back deck.

Snacks at Canneti Canneti Roadhouse Italiana

Bravas Bar de Tapas

Jamon iberico at Bravas Bravas Bar de Tapas

Arguably the most visionary restaurateurs in Sonoma County, the Starks operate seven distinct, wildly popular restaurants— but the crown jewel just might be Bravas. One of downtown Healdsburg’s hot spots, here you’ll find a nice mix of chilled and warm tapas like roasted escarole salad, gazpacho, tuna belly salad, creamy chicken croquetas, crispy pig ears, and Dungeness crab–stuffed piquillo peppers, as well as a ham and cheese station, family-style paella, and perfectly fried rum balls for dessert. The cocktail menu is foolproof — from the kicky Feel the Bern (with habanero tequila, ginger agave, lime, orange, and mezcal) to the sublime Strawberry Fields Forever (with tequila, elderflower liqueur, strawberry agave, lime, and basil salt).

Jamon iberico at Bravas Bravas Bar de Tapas

Davis Family Vineyards

Outdoor seating at Davis Family Vineyards Davis Family Vineyards

Guy and Judy Davis founded their vineyard in 1997, and together with sons Cole and Cooper, the family maintains an organic farm and produces mostly pinot noir from five different vineyards throughout Sonoma County. Visitors to their tasting room can enjoy the garden lounge and bocce ball court just steps away from the Russian River. They are open for outdoor, socially distanced tastings every Thursday through Sunday.

Outdoor seating at Davis Family Vineyards Davis Family Vineyards

The Black Piglet at Davis Family Vineyards

The food truck of celebrity chefs and also downright cool people Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu restaurant (now closed), the Black Piglet features their award-winning pasture-raised pork, which cures for some three weeks with brown sugar before finishing with a 12-hour applewood smoking. The menu is short, and yet still it’s hard to choose between a BLT with Tabasco aioli or pulled pork with apple slaw and chicharron; when it comes to the kimchi fries and  bacon caramel popcorn, might as well try both. Find them Saturdays and Sundays at Davis Family Vineyards all summer long.

Wicked Slush

Ice cream at Wicked Slush Amy’s Wicked Slush

Right across from Veterans Memorial Beach, Amy’s Wicked Slush has almost always had a line (luckily swift-moving) since it opened in 2017. Sometimes called Italian ice, slush is creamy and lick-able, a friendlier version of a sno-cone, and pairs nicely with Straus Creamery soft serve (known as a “split”). With enough flavors to make your head spin, the combinations are endless, but you can’t go wrong with classics like root beer slush and vanilla soft serve. Try the Spumoni (cherry slush with pistachio soft serve) for a taste of owner Amy’s Bostonian childhood.

Ice cream at Wicked Slush Amy’s Wicked Slush

Horse & Plow Tasting Room

Cider bottles from Horse & Plow Horse & Plow

Winemakers Suzanne and Chris offer outdoor tastings on their pleasant two-acre garden property just off Highway 116 as it leads out of Sebastopol. In addition to a wide variety of wines, including their lovely organic dry rose of Carignane, their fermented ciders made with locally grown apples perfectly embody Sebastopol’s long history of apple production. Kick back to the live music on lazy Sunday afternoons.

Cider bottles from Horse & Plow Horse & Plow

Martinelli Vineyards & Winery