Sonoma is one of my favorite places, the county stretching from the Pacific Ocean to its border with the Napa Valley. There are gorgeous redwoods to explore, wine to taste, rivers to kayak and artisan foods like artisan cheeses to gorge on. But it can be really pricey, like many wine growing regions. Here are some ways to cut costs.
1. Visit the Korbel cellars for free >> Even if Champagne’s not your favorite, stop by to visit the beautiful historic Korbel winery in Guerneville, where you can taste four wines for free in their gorgeous tasting room. I never miss doing this when I’m nearby. You can also take a public wine tour for free that lasts 50 minutes, or a free tour of their beautiful rose gardens, planted in 1880. They offer wines you can’t buy in your local grocery store, including sherry and port. And, if you’re lucky, you might stumble onto a holiday case sale. I was there on Father’s Day and got 30 percent off when I bought a case to bring home. Sweet! Location: 13250 River Road, Guerneville. Learn more: korbel.com/winery
2. Get a free visitor’s guide and map >> The county tourist bureau will be happy to send you a tourist guide and wine map, which can be useful for planning, and also sometimes has coupons inside. Learn more here: sonomacounty.com/guide-order
3. Taste honey for free >> If you just love honey as much as I do, stop at the small shop of Beekind Honey in Sebastopol, where you’ll have a chance to taste dozens of varieties for free from a self-service carousel of local and international honeys. We’re not just talking clover here, my friends. How about Redwood forest, coriander, avocado, Sonoma County spring wildflower, buckwheat, Oregon blackberry, well, you get the idea. They also sell imported honeys like Italian acacia. Yum. And they offer beekeeping supplies, beeswax candles and more. Tasting is free, but, really, you won’t be able to resist buying some. 921 Gravenstein Highway S., Highway116, Sebastopol. 707-824-2905, beekind.com
4. Take a hike >> This gorgeous mostly-rural county offers many opportunities for hiking, including at Armstrong Redwoods State Park. Check out the free public access trails overlooking the ocean south of Gualala, at The Sea Ranch. There’s free parking off Highway 1. Numerous easy trails stroll through meadows and forests through to coastal bluffs and stairs down to hidden beaches. Some have access ramps for…