Shed1
At Shed in Healdsburg, you can dine in or carry out the delicious prepared foods, including pizza, salads, soups, and fried chicken. (Photo: Eric Wolfinger for Shed.)

Encompassing more than 1,600 square miles, Sonoma County, California, is an easy drive north from San Francisco and offers a distinctly more low-key vibe than neighboring Napa. The postcard-perfect scenery is seemingly endless, and the area is home to more than 400 wineries and countless farms, too. (Meaning there’s loads of good eating to be found in Sonoma.) No wonder so many Bay Area residents and visitors from beyond head this way to escape the stressors of everyday life. Awesome dining is the norm, not the exception, in this section of wine country, and the eight spots listed below will have you humming about your meal long after leaving.

Shed
Even though Shed won the James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Design last year, it’s far more than a stylish place to eat. When husband-and-wife proprietors Cindy Daniel and Doug Lipton opened in 2013, their goal was to create a space where the food-minded community could gather to shop, learn, eat and drink. Most of what is sold and prepared at the market and cafe is sourced from farms within a 10-mile radius. (Daniel and Lipton also own a farm, so this type of hyperlocal mindset is especially personal.) The grange on the second floor hosts lectures and workshops focused on food and farming, while the retail area purveys beautifully made housewares and garden tools from all over the world. But no visit to Shed would be complete without a drink at the fermentation bar, which specializes in house-made, healthy thirst quenchers like kombucha, kefir water and shrubs. 25 North Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448; 707-431-7433; healdsburgshed.com

John Ash & Co. and Vintners Inn Cafe
Surrounded by 92 acres of lush gardens and vineyards, the charming 44-room Vintners Inn in Santa Rosa is also home to two terrific restaurants. And this year, the Inn’s fine-dining spot, John Ash & Co., celebrates its 35th anniversary and the tradition — many refer to founding chef John Ash as the “father of Wine Country cuisine” — of marrying artfully prepared food sourced from more than 30 local farmers with its extensive, award-winning wine collection. While Ash departed his eponymous restaurant years ago, executive chef Thomas Schmidt continues Ash’s legacy with hearty plates such as fork-tender gochujang-glazed BN Ranch beef cheeks, hearty cauliflower steak, and rustic brick chicken. If you’re in the mood for something more casual, pop by the restaurant’s popular Front Room bar and lounge for some wallet-friendly daily drink and snack specials. Breakfast is an equally delicious affair at Vintners Inn Cafe, located steps from John Ash. It’s only open in the mornings and just might be one of the area’s best kept secrets when it comes to starting your day off right. 4350 Barnes Rd., Santa Rosa, CA 95403; 707-575-7350; vintnersinn.com/johnash.asp

Chef Ken Tominaga's famed "Happy Spoon" features a raw oyster cradled in crème fraîche, uni, and two types of fish roe. (Photo credit: Hana Japanese)
Chef Ken Tominaga’s famed Happy Spoon dish features a raw oyster cradled in crème fraîche, uni, and two types of fish roe. (Photo credit: Hana Japanese.)

Hana Japanese
When chef Ken Tominaga opened Hana in an unassuming building surrounded by restaurant chains in Rohnert Park in 1990, he introduced something that local residents now take for granted: thoughtfully prepared sushi. Even today, Hana remains one of the Bay Area’s most respected and acclaimed Japanese restaurants. From day one, Tominaga has used responsibly sourced, wild-caught seafood. If you order the omakase, he will make a point of telling you what region of Japan your nigiri is from. But he’s far from traditional. In fact, one of his most buzzed-about creations is the Happy Spoon, a raw oyster cradled in crème fraîche, uni and two types of fish roe. And whether you’re new to or familiar with sake, you’ll be in good hands with Hana’s affable sake advisor, Danny Pitassy. His love and deep knowledge of the spirit is unparalleled and totally infectious. 101 Golf Course Dr., Rohnert Park, CA 94928; 707-586-0270; hanajapanese.com

Vignette Pizzeria
Chef and pizzaiolo Mark Hopper toiled in fine dining for almost 30 years — he once got hired by Thomas Keller, fired by Keller and then rehired. Later, he decided to go back to his childhood love, pizza. Located in Sebastapol’s Barlow complex, a cool cluster of structures that once made up a cannery, Vignette Pizzeria is a shrine to authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. Besides his sourdough starter, flour, salt and water, Hopper enlists only a cobalt-tiled wood-fired oven and a glass-encased work bench to stretch and finish each pie. The way he works is refreshingly transparent and free of fuss and flash, as are his pitch-perfect pies, whose crusts are pleasingly speckled with leopard spots. Hopper is such a stickler for process that he’ll close the restaurant if the dough doesn’t turn out as he likes — apparently, sourdough starters can have a mind of their own — or if what he’s prepared for the day runs out. 6750 McKinley St., Sebastopol, CA 95472; 707-861-3897; vignettepizzeria.com

Seaside Metal's house chowder is rich, velvety, and loaded with fresh seafood. (Photo credit: Seaside Metal)
Seaside Metal’s house chowder is rich, velvety and loaded with fresh seafood. (Photo credit: Seaside Metal.)

Seaside Metal
The quieter but equally charming sister of Mike and Tim Selvera’s beloved Bar Crudo in San Francisco — also home to arguably the city’s best oyster happy hour and the funky, addictive “crab fat” — Sonoma’s Seaside Metal also excels in fresher-than-fresh seafood. Like Bar Crudo, there’s a rotating selection of pristine oysters and ice-cold peel-and-eat shrimp, but that’s just the beginning. Raw seafood preparations like the horseradish crème fraîche and wasabi tobiko-capped arctic char crudo are as pleasing to the eyes as they are on the palate. Warm up your belly with the piping hot lobster broth noodle soup, or if you’re craving something heartier, the house chowder. Thick and velvety, it’s loaded with so much seafood that a single cup will do you right. 16222 Main St., Guerneville, CA 95446; 707-604-7250; seasidemetal.com

Spoonbar
Airy, colorful and spacious, Spoonbar quickly cemented itself as a Sonoma staple for locals and visitors alike with chef Louis Maldonado’s vibrant and globally inspired, yet approachable cooking — think Parmesan doughnuts, grilled lamb “riblets” and beef croquettes — and a seriously mind-boggling selection of boozy concoctions curated by bar manager Alec Vlastnik. Besides cocktails on tap, there are also more than 20 original creations and featured house spins on classics like the Spoonbar Dark + Stormy, which blends three different rums (including a vanilla one) with fresh lime juice and a house-made ginger beer. And every season, a new cocktail menu celebrating a single spirit is drawn up. (This winter, you can look forward to eight original whiskey drinks.) 219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, CA 95448; 707-433-7222; spoonbar.com

At Sante at the Fairmont Sonoma Hotel, Chef Cain puts fresh spins on indulgent classics. (Photo credit: Fairmont Sonoma Hotel)
At Sante at the Fairmont Sonoma Hotel, chef Andrew Cain puts fresh spins on indulgent classics. (Photo credit: Fairmont Sonoma Hotel.)

Sante
The dining room is sleek and handsome, with dark wood, original local art, aubergine velvet chairs and snow-white tablecloths. The servers sport crisp button-downs and are wellinformed and professional, but personable. And the food, fittingly, shines under the care of chef de cuisine Andrew Cain. As you might expect, a dinner here is spendy — Sante is tucked away on the ground floor of the very elegant Fairmont Sonoma Hotel — but the furthest thing from fussy. Dress comfortably so you can sit back and fully enjoy Cain’s fresh takes on indulgent classics, like seared foie gras, lobster terrine and rack of lamb. And don’t forget to save room for the Alsatian fromage blanc tart. Dense and creamy but not too sweet, it’s reminiscent of cheesecake but far more refined, with a local wine reduction and port-poached figs. 100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma, CA 95476; 707-938-9000; fairmont.com/sonoma/dining/sante-restaurant

Rustic, Francis’s Favorites
When someone of stature puts his or her name behind a winery or restaurant (let alone both), eyes will inevitably roll. Unless that person is Francis Ford Coppola. Today, his winery is unlike any other, with its pools, bocce court, gallery of movie memorabilia and, of course, great dining. The winery’s full-service restaurant, Rustic, is a culinary love letter to the director’s favorite foods growing up, like Armenian rack of lamb, Florentine steak and a lemon chicken prepared according to a recipe from Martin Scorsese’s mother. The food is hearty, the service is incredibly warm and the vibe is lively and fun. Though it might sound strange, split the muffaletta as a starter. A Dagwood-style sandwich stuffed with various meats and cheeses, it’s a perfectly savory way to whet the appetite. (Bonus: Any bottle of wine you don’t finish you can take away with you.) 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, CA 95441; 707-857-1471; francisfordcoppolawinery.com