While people tend to just think of Sonoma County as a place of only wine, I can truly say (and have in this series) that wine is just a part of what a vacation here can be. Sure, if you want a wine vacation you can keep yourself very busy. But there’s also a ton of other things to do as well! These include exploring small farms, seeing how cheese is made and exploring the redwood forests—as seen below!
1. Petaluma Creamery (621 Western Avenue, Petaluma, CA; 707-762-3446)
Petaluma Creamery is not only integral to farming in Sonoma County, but it also supplies all of the delicious cheese at Chipotle (every Chipotle on the western hemisphere to be exact). We were excited for a tour of the plant so we could understand the cheese-making process.
The coastal salt air, fog and mild climate all help produce great grass and healthy cows. The dairy cows are primarily pasture-fed and are also supported by the dedicated dairy farmers. Healthy, primarily pasture-fed cows provide great, nutritious cheese full of taste.
Our Petaluma cheese favorites include Sage Cheddar and the Smoked Yellow Cheddar.
2. Achadinha Cheese (750 Chileno Valley Rd, Petaluma, CA; 707-763-1025)
A local in Petaluma recommended this smaller farm to us as a must-do. At Achadinha you can learn how a smaller farm makes cheese. It would make a perfect stop after you see how a larger creamery like Petaluma Creamery makes cheese. The owners have dairy goats along with jersey cows, beef cows, horses, pigs, sheep, and chickens. Achadinha Cheese makes feta, capricious, broncha, California crazy curd and fresh cheese curd.
3. Double 8 Dairy (11205 Valley Ford Road, Petaluma, CA)
We were driving out of Sebastopol toward the Pacific Coast when we decided to stop at Rose & Thorn (the chickens running around outside caught my attention). The owner was so sweet and gave us a list of nearby farms to visit. That’s how we found Andrew Zlot and Double 8 Dairy. Andrew and Curtis currently raise 75 water buffalo in this West Petaluma farm. Andrew sells his buffalo milk gelato and gelato base to restaurants like The French Laundry, SPQR and Oliveto.
You can even find baby water buffalo here! Once water buffalo reach 2.5-years-old, they’re fertile and they can produce milk for their baby calves.
If you catch this place at the right time, you may even get to feed a baby water buffalo. My boyfriend thought it might be a priceless moment if I fed one, so he volunteered me. And it was pretty priceless to watch that considering the baby was almost stronger than me. Considering the small country town I grew up in, I should be good at this! However, I gave up quickly and let the little kid next to me take over. He was clearly better at it than me.
1. Russian River Adventures (20 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, CA; 707-433-5599)
When people think of Sonoma, most envision an afternoon set out on the patio of a winery, sipping cabernet and taking in the sights of the vineyards rolling lazily out over the hills and out from sight. The experience the folks at Russian River Adventures offer is a little different. Okay, it’s a lot different and that’s why we loved this adventurous day!
Owner Larry Laba relocated to Healdsburg in 1998 and began offering tours down the Russian River, which flows 110 miles out towards the Pacific Ocean. Using SOAR inflatable canoes (which Larry also designed and produced), Larry dropped us off just outside of Healdsburg, where we were introduced to the tranquil motion of the river gliding downstream. We found a nice place to pull off and take a couple photos and enjoy the beautiful scenery before pressing on down the river.
Being outdoors was a welcomed and relaxing change of pace. The view on the river and seeing the wildlife around makes for a unique experience. Plus, there’s always time for wine later.
2. Sonoma Canopy Tours ziplining (6250 Bohemian Highway, Occidental, CA; 707-874-3507)
Located on a remote stretch of the Bohemian Highway near Occidental, Sonoma Canopy Tours is gaining a following as one of the premier outdoor experiences in the county. High above the Redwood forest floor, our guides made us feel comfortable (even though one of us was afraid of heights) as we zipped along from treetop to treetop on seven different ziplines.
A few teetering skybridges and spiral staircases attached to the massive Redwoods gave us a one-of-a-kind perspective. Although I could have done without the sway of the redwood platforms in the wind!
The canopy tour is just one part of the Alliance Redwoods Christian Conference Grounds. The organization donates one dollar from each tour booked to give an at-risk youth an outdoor adventure.
Photo credit to Caitlin Martin/Spencer Marker.