Wine, dine and garden? If your weekend agenda sounds similar, forget getting your hands dirty and instead set your GPS to Cornerstone Sonoma. Located at the gateway to Sonoma and Napa counties, Cornerstone Sonoma is a wine country marketplace featuring rotating garden installations, artisan shops, Park 121 Cafe & Grill, a handful of wine tasting rooms and the Sunset Test Kitchen.
The gardens showcase designs created by landscape architects from around the world. Inspired by the International Garden Festival at Chaumont-Sur-Loire in France, these aren’t your ordinary suburban backyard gardens. Instead, you’ll find sculpted cumulus clouds made from swirls of wire mesh hovering over an undulating landscape, a serenity garden, a wall that pays homage to migrant farm workers and more inspired works that seem more like art than gardening.
After wandering through the gardens—you can take a self-guided tour or book a docent-led tour in advance—stop in the various garden-themed shops. You may get inspired to incorporate a waterfall, lawn ornament or hand-carved bench into your own garden.
By then, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite. Luckily, Park 121 Cafe & Grill is right on site and ready to welcome you with both indoor and outdoor dining. The menu includes all of your bistro favorites prepared with locally sourced ingredients. Whether you have a hankering for a BLT, the “best adult grilled cheese sandwich” made with Bellwether Farms Carmody cheese, bacon, quince paste and Penngrove wheat bread, or a grass-fed burger, Park 121 has you covered. The cafe features an inspired selection of local wine and beer.
A trip to Sonoma isn’t complete without wine tasting. Meadowcroft Wines, Keating Wines and Poseidon Vineyard & Obsidian Ridge all have tasting rooms at Cornerstone. If wine isn’t your thing (or even if it is), be sure to stop by Prohibition Spirits Distillery Experience for a $10 tasting flight. Makers of California’s award-winning limoncello, Limoncello di Sonoma, the distillery also distills orange and fig “cellos”, gin, brandy and specialty spirits, including an Italian-style black walnut liquor as well as moonshine made from grapes. Sadly, their whiskey and rum aren’t available for tasting yet.
Check the event calendar before heading to Cornerstone Sonoma. There are many fun events on the weekends, some of which require ticket purchase, like the Sunset Celebration weekend and the Traveling Spectacular! vaudeville experience. Weddings and private events may close the gardens.
If time permits, go up the road to Sonoma Plaza to wander the shops, art galleries, taste more wine and have a bite to eat at one of the many four-star restaurants and cafes that line the plaza.
If you go: Cornerstone Sonoma is located on Highway 121, approximately 5 miles outside of town. Shops are open 10am-5pm daily. The gardens are open 10am-4pm and wine tasting hours are 11am -5pm. Admission is free. Tasting rooms charge a modest fee. Picnic tables are available. For more information, visit cornerstonesonoma.com. Information on Sonoma Plaza can be found at sonomaplaza.com.