Jack London came up here to write; others used to journey this way to enjoy healing hot waters. If you're looking for new ways to enjoy the town of Sonoma and surrounding Sonoma Valley this summer, wait no more. New establishments have opened their doors and await your visit, while it might also be time to refresh your memory at long-established places offering summertime-only events, new wine tastings and tours.
Annex Wine Bar: A wine bar, tasting room and live music venue, the Annex is next door to the Community Caf?on the way out of the town of Sonoma traveling north into Sonoma Valley. Together they offer a four-course pairing menu pouring the wines of both resident wineries (Coturri, David Noyes, Hughes Family, Schug and Trecini) and a monthly guest winery. The patio wine bar is a nice place to sit by the fire and enjoy the bar's $5 dinners Wednesday through Saturday, or come by on Sunday for the popular dinner series. Daytime tasting is by appointment only.
865 West Napa St., Sonoma, 938-7779, annexwinebar.com
Benziger Family Winery: The always reliable Benziger has a new pizza menu Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with hand-tossed 10-inch pizzas for $13 with a selection of toppings paired with several wines by the glass, including the family's deliciously crisp sauvignon blanc or delightfully fresh ros? The winery is also doing a new pinot noir and cheese pairing held at times in its newly remodeled winery house room.
1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, (888) 490-2739, benziger.com
Buena Vista Winery: The re-imagined Buena Vista plays host this summer to Shakespeare Under the Stars, presenting "Romeo and Juliet" Thursday through Sunday during most of August, and inviting guests to bring a picnic and take in one of the world's most beloved tales of star-crossed love. When not visiting for a performance, the winery nicely offers picnic hampers ($75) to visitors every day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with The Count's Hamper including a sandwich, salad and assorted sweets for two; the JCB French Hamper, as implied, a more continental assortment of cheese, charcuterie, salad, bread and sweets, also for two. Each includes a bottle of Buena Vista wine.
18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma, (800) 926-1266, buenavistawinery.com
The Epicurean Connection: Right off the Sonoma plaza, Epicurean hosts a meet-your-farmer dinner every month and live music on various nights, in between winemaker dinners and weekend wine tastings. Heaven for cheese-heads, it also teaches all manner of cheese-making and cheese-tasting classes while its caf?makes soups, sandwiches, artisan cheese plates, fresh salads and more. There are pairings of cheeses with beer or wine, too.
122 West Napa St., Sonoma, 935-7960, theepicureanconnection.com
Glen Ellen Star: Opened last year by French Laundry alum Ari Weiswasser and wife Erinn, the daughter of winemaker Mike Benziger, the Star is a welcome culinary gem in the heart of town, featuring an inspired menu built around wood-fired vegetables, pizzas and meat and an innovative selection of housemade ice creams. Sit inside or out for dinner nightly or lunch Saturday and Sunday.