Chef & Restaurant:
Sonoma’s Singular Appeal

Layla interior
Layla interior

Never the new Napa, Sonoma does have new draws.

“Wine writers loathe when lifestyle writers pit American wine regions against Napa. Is Long Island the new Napa? Is Ohio the new Napa? Are urban wineries in Portland, Oregon the new Napa? No, no, and no.

Such startling and silly comparisons reveal a lack of understanding of Napa’s intrinsic value. And yet, a recent visit to Sonoma left me wondering if Napa’s sprawling neighbor to the west had indeed picked up some of the very qualities that make Napa the preeminent wine destination in the minds of most Americans. Luxury hotels, Michelin-starred dining, pricey tastings by appointment, and upscale wineries pouring lots and lots of expensive wine.

The answer, of course, is no. Sonoma is Sonoma, a multi-faceted landscape stretching from the Pacific Coast in the west to the Mayacamas Mountains in the east. With 1,768 square miles to Napa County’s 789, topography alone dictates Sonoma County can never approximate Napa’s narrow mountainframed valley of hard boundaries. Plus, at its heart, Sonoma remains an agricultural community founded and sustained by multi-generational families. While farming is the backbone of any wine region, including one as prestigious as Napa, this fact is more evident in Sonoma when driving past the rural homes, middle class neighborhoods or working ranches from Sebastopol to Geyserville. That is, until one hits Healdsburg and opens the Zillow app.


MacArthur Place Hotel, in Sonoma town, underwent a dramatic transformation. “Contemporary farmhouse” captures the look of finishes and décor across common spaces and guest rooms dotting the property. Seasonal dining as Layla after a cocktail in the moody bar, hits the spot after a day of tasting.” – Lauren Mowery, December 2021

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