A Sonoma Wine Maker's Locavore Favorites
Vintner Tom Gore shares his favorite Sonoma bars and restos and offers some insider advice for wine tourists.
Tim Gore Vineyards
A native of Sonoma County, Tom Gore Vineyards owner Tom Gore grew up farming and studied agriculture before launching his own wine brand.
Tom Gore Vineyards owner and farmer Tom Gore was born and raised a Sonoma locavore and comes from a long line of farmers. The longtime vintner describes his corner of California as a more “diverse” Napa, with a funkier mix of people and venues where guests are encouraged to come as they are in the regional preference for “wine country casual.” And the wine is more diverse too, says Gore, because of Sonoma’s varying landscape and climate which translates to more diversity in the wine. An unapologetic booster for the region where he was raised and grows grapes for his award-winning cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, Gore offered Travel Channel an inside look at where the locals go for food, wine and other diversions in this grape-centric region.
Gore’s go-to for an amazing charcuterie board, this well-regarded local spot has a relaxed ambiance, home-town vibe, and fantastic artisanal menu. It’s the perfect evening spot to grab a table on the patio with a charcuterie board and, natch, a bottle of local wine.
Authentic po’boys are what you need to try at this New Orleans-flavored spot where shrimp and grits, beignets, bananas foster pain perdu, gumbo, catfish, fried green tomatoes and other Nawlins (and Southern) favorites are on the menu.
To give visitors the local wine tasting treatment, Gore likes to bring them to Locals Tasting Room in Geyserville. Gore describes Locals as like “a consignment tasting room,” with 20 different small producers represented so visitors can sample a large spectrum of wine offerings and really refine their taste and decide what they like. Bottles and wine subscription services are on offer, and there are restaurants (including Diavola’s) close by to help modulate that post-tasting buzz.
Another “awesome spot” says Gore, is SHED a market, café, and gathering space where you can grab a bite (there are both a la carte and prix fixe options) or a coffee, and pick up home goods or local gourmet artisanal products (the eucalyptus honey comes highly recommended by Gore). Called the best restaurant in Sonoma County by the San Francisco Chronicle, SHED is a requisite foodie destination (you’ll want to make a reservation as far in advance as possible) with a commitment to locally-sourced ingredients, but there are also options for every price point or time constraint. SHED also holds private events like screenings, workshops and talks so call ahead to see what they have on offer.
Gore proclaims this working farm and its attached kitchen one of the hippest restaurants in Sonoma right now. “It’s essentially a modern Blue Hill Farm,” says Gore, citing the upstate New York farm and restaurant considered one of the world’s 50 best restaurants. California food critics have been hurting themselves genuflecting with praise for this beautifully appointed restaurant where the food has a Japan-meets-Sonoma influence and the interior design is as exquisite as what arrives at your table. “They have their own farm which they source fruits, vegetable and olive oil from for their menu items, and it’s a 2-star Michelin-rated restaurant,” notes Gore. Make your reservation for the 11-course tasting menu and if the spirit moves you, plan a day or two of it and stay in their small, exclusive inn with five guestrooms on the second floor.
Tom Gore's Wine Country Traversing Tips
There are a million different ways to do a wine country tour, but Gore has some insider tips for making the most of your visit.
Take a Hike!
With all of the liquid and culinary distractions, it would be easy to overlook the splendor of the local scenery. But Gore recommends a trip to Armstrong Woods, a favorite hiking spot, to get a taste of the glorious Sonoma outdoors.
Get a Driver
Not only does a local driver save you from the fear of driving under the influence, your local chauffeur will know all of the winery players and will probably also have some great insider tips. “It’s a good way to see something that’s behind the scenes,” says Gore. A personal driver can also offer an entry to exclusive, high-end producers if you are looking for that experience.
Be Smart About Buying
Don’t buy wine you can get at home, even if you are visiting your favorite winery. Instead, “buy what they sell at their tasting room only,” recommends Gore.
Leave Some Gaps in Your Day
Even if you are the kind of person who likes to account for every minute of your vacation time, you’d be smart not to overschedule says Gore. That way you can get some on-the-spot recommendations from locals and have time to track down any of those insider tips.
Stay with a Real Vintner
Gore’s own home has a charming outbuilding where you can stay courtesy of Airbnb and get your own Tom Gore wine country recs in person!
Get Your Bubbles On
Though Gore doesn’t have any sparkling wines in his own winery’s repertoire, he is a firm believer in beginning your day of wine tours and tastings with something light and effervescent. “I always say start with bubbles,” advises Gore.
Try the Beer
“Don’t forget about beer” says Gore. In addition to an array of incredible wineries, the whole reason for your trip, don’t overlook the chance to also sample the incredible variety of breweries like the family-owned Bear Republic Brewing Company, a Gore favorite.
“If you show up in a suit, it’s OK. If you show up in khakis and a polo it’s OK” says Tom. It’s called “wine country casual” and it’s all good.