Magazine article Sunset

Sebastopol, CA: A Big-Buzz Opening Brings the Best of Wine Country to One Sleepy Sonoma Town

Magazine article Sunset

Sebastopol, CA: A Big-Buzz Opening Brings the Best of Wine Country to One Sleepy Sonoma Town

Article excerpt

The new artisan amusement park

"We're bringing the artisans out of the woods and into the town center," says Barney Aldridge, owner of The Barlow, a 13-acre retail park that packs a week's worth of West Sonoma County destinations--cafes, community markets, tasting rooms--under 17 farmhouse-style roofs. Some two dozen shops are set up in the former apple factory, with more to come this summer, as well as an outdoor stage for concerts. Learn how to pull the perfect espresso at Taylor Maid's weekly coffee lab, or sample first-batch gin at Spirit Works Distillery, where every drop has been milled, mashed, fermented, and bottled on-site. Tasting breaks are best spent cozying up by the outdoor firepits at sunset. 6770 McKinley St.; thebarlow.net.

Wineries without the bottleneck

You won't bump into lost tourists or limo gridlock along the Gravenstein Highway. This is a wine trail for the laid-back set. At Merry Edwards Winery, the grounds are as sumptuous as the Sauvignon Blanc. A mile up the road, break for a picnic and a round of bocce at Graton Ridge Cellars, or just lounge in the Adirondack chairs with a glass of leathery Petite Sirah. A flute of bubbly to round out your afternoon? Continue north to Iron Horse Vineyards for blanc de blancs and the best views in Sebastopol. Merry Edwards: 2959 State 116; merry edwards.com. Graton Ridge: $10 tastings; 3561 State 116; graton ridge.com. Iron Horse: Tastings from $15; 9786 Ross Station Rd.; ironhorsevineyards.com.

A Sonoma-style sugar high

Tracy Walls used to bake for her teenage daughters and their friends before opening Snapdragon Bakery, a rustic cafe south of downtown that she calls "an extension of my living room." The bakery is known for its drool-worthy seasonal cupcakes; this month, expect to find favorites like Meyer lemon, strawberry, and raspberry--all made with a shameless amount of butter. …

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