• Alma Lopez-Tilghman

How to Wine, Dine and Recline during Quarantine Time: LA to Sonoma

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

There's travel and then there are vacations. Travel is at times uncomfortable, sometimes challenging, it requires one to be open to adapting and learning, and often self transformational. Vacations on the other hand, are what we take to rest and recover, with the goal of resetting mentally and physically. At heart, I am a traveller. I travel a lot but rarely would I say I take what I define as a vacation. Needless to say, with work being very busy, the pandemic stress, and my father's recent death, I was in desperate need of a vacation. All I wanted was a pool, good food and some decent wine.

With that said, my husband, our dog Oscar, and I decided to take a one-week road trip from Los Angeles to Sonoma County. One of our goals along this route would be to support as many #BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) businesses as possible, sounds easy but it actually took a lot of research. Road trips can be tiresome and often we just want to stop at what is roadside. However, taking the time to find and experience these businesses is one of the things that made this trip special. We also needed to make sure every business we visited was dog friendly. So here's our itinerary for you to enjoy. Not every business on this trip was a #BIPOC business but we did our best to include as many as possible.

Day 1 - Stop #1 - Los Angeles to Ventura

First pit stop, Latino owned Tatiana's Coffee & Tea in Ventura to grab some coffee and a cheese "pastelito" to go. A cheese "pastelito" is like the Cuban version of a cheese danish. In addition to the food, there is a lot of Latin American art exhibited inside and small gift items to purchase.

Day 1 - Stop #2 - Ventura to Los Olivos

We've heard nothing but rave reviews about the beef brisket sandwich from the Los Olivos Grocery in Santa Ynez. However, much to our disappointment, upon arrival we were told it's only available on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and we were there on a Tuesday. So we ended up getting pastrami sandwiches to go and now have an excuse to return!

Day 1 - Stop #3 - Los Olivos to Lompoc

Our third stop for the day was in Kita Wines in Lompoc. Well worth the 20 minute detour. Kita Wines is the first winery solely owned by a Native American Tribe, making wines from vines on tribal land, with a Native American woman, Tara Gomez at its helm. Before the area was colonized by European settlers the area around Lompoc like much of the central and southern coastal regions of California, was first inhabited by the Chumash people. Call ahead and make an appointment for a wine tasting

Day 1 - Final stop - Los Alamos

Our final stop for the day was at the Skyview Hotel. Driving up the hill to the reception we are greeted by their very own vineyard, especially scenic during this month of September which is harvest time. We recommend you book mid-week to avoid crowds. The property is very clean. Nonetheless, we make it a habit to spray the room with disinfectant spray, Seventh Generation is the brand we prefer, as it's free of chemicals and we wipe down all surfaces we touch with our Lysol wipes. We also request that our room not be cleaned during our stay, as to avoid others coming into the room. Everyone on the property is required to wear masks when outside of their rooms and the pool hours are restricted to 2 hours per room as to avoid large gatherings and ensure that everyone gets pool time. Initially, I was a bit concerned about this, as I can literally spend all day in the pool, but with temperatures soaring into the 90's, 2 hours was plenty of time.

The Room

The Grounds

Day 2: Enjoyed our 2 hours by the pool and had lunch at the pool. The food at Norman's, the hotel restaurant is pretty good. Dinner reservations for outside patio seating are recommended but breakfast and lunch you don't seem to need a reservation.

Day 2: Afternoon drive to Presqu'ile Winery

A 20 minute drive from the hotel, make an appointment for a private food and wine pairing at this family owned winery that sits atop a hill with stunning vineyard views. Reservations required. Limit 2 hours per tasting. Book the appointment around 3pm and they may let you linger a few minutes longer.

Day 3: Stayed in hotel most of the day but woke up early to grab take out breakfast from the famous Bob Wells's Bread. Order "Eggs in a Jar" and try one of their pastries. Arrive early, as we hear the line gets long. Also check their hours. Only open Thursday-Monday.

Later that afternoon we ventured into town, literally a 1 minute drive. You can also grab one of the Linus bikes from the hotel and ride into town. You'll feel like you've been transported into an old western film.

While in town we visited Casa Dumetz Wines, a woman owned winery, and partook in a private wine tasting. Reservations required, book ahead.

Day 4 - Los Alamos to Santa Rosa with a stop in Paso Robles.

Sad to be leaving Los Alamos, especially the Skyview Hotel. This hotel was just the right size with everything we needed to relax while still having fun. We will be back!

Next stop Indigene Cellers.

The only Black owned winery in Paso Robles, we were beyond happy to get an appointment. The owner Raymond Smith welcomed us into his tasting room with open arms. He proudly displays his awards for his prize-winning wines and we soon find out why. I left with 2 bottles of his 2017 cabernet sauvignon and although we hear there is not much left, we hope to get our hands on a few more.

As a fan of red wine, thus far Indigene Cellars has been my top choice for wine. I might even have to join their wine club.

What was supposed to be a quick stop, was not. Needless to say, we made it to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County by 8pm. We were hungry and oh so lucky to find a restaurant that was still open and just so happened to be Latino owned, but not just Latino, Puerto Rican. I love Puerto Rican food and outside of New York City, where I lived for almost 12 years, I can never seem to find authentic Puerto Rican cuisine.

Hence, El Coqui Restaurant to the rescue! We loved the owners who made us feel like we were eating at our favorite tia's house. Sidewalk seating. Order any of the mofongos and the baked chicken! Eat half and take the rest to go!

Day 4 - Santa Rosa - Checked into our cute airstream booked on Airbb. We've included the link above if you want to book it. It's perfect for a couple and a pet. Has everything you need, even AC and is in a cool artist neighborhood with coffee shops and a park for you to walk your pup 1 block away.

Day 5 - Started the day with coffee from Cafe Frida Gallery, one block away, which is also Black owned. We were curious about the name as we might have assumed it to be Latino owned. The owner explained that he and his wife are big art fans and they love Frida Kahlo, with his business partner being Latino, they thought this was the perfect name. The space has a beautiful outdoor patio, the ginger matcha latte was different, but good and their egg toast was equally as tasty.

Day 5 - After coffee we drove over to the city of Sonoma, which is a 40 minute drive from Santa Rosa. We had an appointment at Latino owned Ceja Vineyards, which many of our friends rave about, so we had to go find out for ourselves.

Ceja Vineyards

Family owned and operated, Ceja Vineyards was born in 1999, founded by Pedro, Amelia, Armando and Martha Ceja and produces premium Carneros wines. We had 2 private tastings and brought home 1 bottle of the sauvignon blanc.

Next Stop, Downtown Sonoma - It was a scorching 95 degrees and we met a friend for a social distance lunch in Sonoma Plaza Park, a great place to stroll, window shop, or just people watch. Our friend brought the bubbly and we ordered take out ceviche from Mexican owned Maya Restaurant, directly across the street from the park.

Day 6 - It was hotter than hell today, over 100 degrees in Santa Rosa. We stayed in our airstream with the AC on most of the day. I went to grab takeout brunch from Black owned, Sonoma Crust. We heard their Sunday beignets and chicken and waffle sandwiches were the bomb and had to try them. Did they live up to the hype? Yes.

Day 6 - Evening Charles Schultz "Peanuts" statue search

Having grown up on Charles Schultz' Peanuts characters and my husband loving comics and being an illustrator, we were very excited to find out that Santa Rosa was a big part of Charles Schultz's life. We learned that Charles spent over 40 years writing his Peanuts comic strips in Santa Rosa. There is even a museum dedicated to his work there, the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center. Currently closed due to Covid-19, we were able to walk around the outside and take photos. Across the street from the museum you will find Snoopy's Home Ice - Redwood Empire Ice Arena, also closed at this time. Furthermore, throughout the city of Santa Rosa you will find 70 Peanuts statues, many of them near downtown. We found about 20.

Dinner - Bird and The Bottle Restaurant in Santa Rosa

Out of world is an understatement, Bird and the Bottle was nothing short of a hit. We only ordered a couple of seafood appetizers, everything was amazing, but the star of the show was the salmon wing pictured below.

Day 7 - Santa Rosa to San Francisco

Didn't want to say goodbye to Santa Rosa. This town is worth spending more than a few days in. It has amazing food, a number of Black and Brown businesses to support, quaint little shops, art galleries, great parks, and very easy to get around. It also makes a great base for visiting neighboring Sonoma and Napa.

Our next and final stop before we headed home was San Francisco, which is an hour and 15 minute drive south of Santa Rosa.

We met another friend for another social distance lunch (seems to be the norm these days).

We ordered takeout Cuban sandwiches from Media Noche near the Mission and sat in Dolores Park.

Our final stop was the San Francisco Pier. We wanted to stop at Fisherman's Wharf, which was one of my dad's favorite spots, unfortunately it was too crowded and since we are doing our best to stay Covid-19 free, we opted to drive to the end of the pier where there were very little people. We found a nice Peruvian restaurant called La Mar, ordered beers from the bar to go and sat near one of the docks. It was a great ending to our trip and a great way to toast to my dad who loved road trips, beer, and San Francisco.

We ate, we drank, we laughed, we cried. Mission accomplished.

Travel Tips:

1 - Call ahead to places you want to visit, including restaurants, and especially wineries. Due to Covid and fires, many places are closed or have limited hours.

2 - Expect to do a lot of take out for food. Again due to Covid, many places only serve take-out.

3 - Be open to change and willing to try new things, something that you didn't find on Yelp.

4 - Make reservations wherever possible.

5- Denny's had decent, clean bathrooms and they were nice enough to let us use them on our pit stops, don't be afraid to ask them for permission to use bathroom. Also the rest stops had pretty clean bathrooms.


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