Mix small-town charisma with free-spirited whimsy and you’ve arrived at Sebastopol, a bohemian hub in the western portion of Sonoma County. Sebastopol breeds its own kind of charm, quietly supporting a talented enclave of artists and a spectacular local food and wine scene. The recent opening of The Barlow, a development that connects food producers, winemakers, brewers and artisans along a sleek stretch of renovated warehouses (once part of an apple processing plant) embodies the town’s community spirit and further elevates its cultural appeal. Just an hour’s drive north from the city, Sebastopol is equal parts best-kept secret and perfect day trip.
Seasonal and organic are par for the course. Sebastopol native Lowell Sheldon opened Peter Lowell’s, where chef Natalie Goble turns locally sourced ingredients into Italian-inspired fare (think housemade pasta with foraged mushrooms), with the twin goals of environmental stewardship and affordable fresh food. At the newly renovated K&L Bistro, the menu changes constantly, but count on savory staples like the whole mesquite grilled branzino and the ahi tuna tartare to complement craft beers and clean cocktails. A snout-to-tail philosophy reigns at Zazu Kitchen + Farm, and across the street Woodfour Brewing Company gives equal attention to cuisine and brews. For dessert, look no further than Screamin’ Mimi’s Ice Cream. The irresistible flavors, made daily by founder Maraline Olson and her husband, rival any scoop you’ll find in the city.
Sip tasting flights while listening to vinyls at Wind Gap Wines, where Pax and Pam Mahle purposely plant vineyards shaped by geological breaks to cultivate character. Winemaker Greg La Follette relates raising wine to raising kids, and with six children and three decades of experience, the distinguished La Follette Wines is the culmination of his work. Tap into his knowledge in person by booking a Barrel to Bottle tour. For a post-tasting pick-me-up, head to Taylor Maid Farms for organic coffee or tea, then switch gears at HopMonk Tavern, which entertains with craft beers on tap (try its own Kellerbier) and live music at least five nights a week.
B.Y.O.B. (that’s bring your own bugs) to feed the natives at California Carnivores, the largest carnivorous plant retail nursery in the United States. Its impressive collection includes Venus flytraps, sundews, Butterworts and the particularly popular American pitcher plants. On August 9-10, partake in everything from pie-eating to do-it-yourself applesauce at the 41st annual Gravenstein Apple Fair, a tribute to the town’s roots in apple growing and a fundraiser for Sonoma County Farm Trails. Sebastopol Center for the Arts offers a comprehensive view of the art scene, and at the Tibetan Gallery & Studio you can watch master thangka painter Tashi Dhargyal work on the first thanbochi—a large thangka, or traditional Buddhist scroll painting—created by a Tibetan outside of Tibet.