Sun readers and sonomasun.com visitors voted for their favorite people places and things. And the winners are……
1. best place to view art
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art
A sophisticated cultural experience with hometown heart: the SVMA is the real deal.
2. best place to find a book
Pulp fiction aficionados had best head on down the road to Borders, because Readers Books is for the serious. They’ve read everything you’ve read, and will dazzle you with smart talk about plot, character, and style, too.
3. best church choir
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
When you need a direct line upstairs, beautiful voices never hurt. Catch the choir at either Sunday morning service, and prepare to be moved.
4. best unique shop
South American Secrets
Hammocks, cigars, jewelry, clothing, and art, all infused with equatorial heat. And the best part? Profits go directly into scholarships for African-Ecuadorian students working towards university degrees. Browse, buy, benefit.
5. best wine selection
What could be better than a wine shop where you can taste the wares? Elbow your way through the clamoring throng, belly up to the bar, and say please.
6. best place to propose marriage
Bartholomew Park Winery
The lush, secret garden harkens back to a simpler time when gentlemen were chivalrous and ladies were genteel. If an old-fashioned love affair is what you’ve got in mind, sit her down in the shadow of a towering oak, take a knee, and just ask.
7. best cup of coffee
Barking Dog Roasters
It ain’t Sanka, thank God. Dark, savory, piping hot, and caffeinated. Barking Dog Roasters. Woof!
8. best place to work out
The Parkpoint Club
When your colliding thighs start throwing sparks, it’s time to hit the gym. The pros at Parkpoint will get you back into your skinny jeans.
9. best customer service
So, you’re looking for an unpasteurized organic cheese made from the milk of adolescent yaks raised on a diet of free range grasses and positive affirmation tapes? Follow me to aisle three, sir…
10. best use of sonoma scenery in a movie
What goes best with an injured wanna-be cop transplanted with the vital organs of wild animals who discovers their untamed natures have hijacked his milquetoast instincts? Why, grapevines and a charming wine country square, of course.
11. best wine country experience
Benziger Family Winery
Go for the wine, stay for the peacocks.
12. best steak in town
Leave the A-1 in your purse, Mildred. These steaks taste like heaven and cut like butter.
13. best place to get a manicure
And they’ve got those cool throne chairs with massage, too!
14. best place for a haircut
EJ-588 Hair Studio
Good shoes, good watch, good haircut. You’ll never need more.
15. best place for a wedding reception
The Lodge at Sonoma
When a princess needs a castle, the Stone House at the Lodge awaits.
16. best local ad slogan
Clo the Cow of Stornetta
17. best place to buy plants
Sonoma Mission Gardens
Even if your green thumb is infested with aphids and suffering from leaf curl, strolling these shady green acres will inspire new hopes.
18. best place to stargaze
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
There’s an actual observatory, with telescopes. Or you could option the old-school approach: book a campsite, make a fire, await the magic.
19. best place to take visitors
Mom wants to picnic, Dad wants to people-watch, and cousin Annie wants to shop. The Sonoma Plaza: problem solved.
20. best place for wine tasting
Gundlach Bundschu Winery
Admit it: You can’t pronounce it stone sober, so getting it wrong after a flight or two is forgivable.
21. best place to buy furniture
Grandma’s chintz chair aggressively clashing with Mom’s
fuax- finished hutch? Time to shop.
22. best place to entertain children
When the little darlings start workin’ that very last nerve…
23. best local hike
A gentle climb, a stunning vista, and a whole lot of peace and quiet.
24. best local wine country event
4th of July Parade
Kung fu kids, wiener dog patrols, firehouse water cannons, that crazy one-wheeled bike, a little covert political action… and we’ll all still be talking about it next July.
25. best outdoor dining spot
Whether you’re up for some streetside gawking, or looking for a cozier nosh in the verdant comforts of the back patio, the Swiss does al fresco like nobody else.
26. best italian food
Italian food for real Italians…mangia! mangia!
27. best mexican food
Mexi meets upmarket.
28. best thai food
Rin’s Thai Restaurant
Fire hot curry, cool crunchy spring rolls, and ice cold beer. What more do you want?
29. best seafood
Where oysters fear to tread…
30. best host of restaurant
Saul Gropman/Café LaHaye
There’s a wafer thin line between accommodation and obsequiousness; Saul Gropman surfs the crest flawlessly night after night after night.
31. best chinese food
With a kindly Buddah watching carefully over every romantic prawn, each mooshoo pancake, and every kernel of rice, how can you go wrong?
32. best consistently good food & service
Day after day, food you can count on.
33. best florist
Anne Appleman Flowers & Plants
Why shop ordinary when you can buy sublime?
34. best place to buy organic produce
They were health freaks before health freaks were cool.
35. best gelato
Dense, thick, and less sweet than ice cream, gelato is Italian for “more, please.”
36. best place to satisfy your sweet tooth
If you can’t find your fix here, you’re not really trying, pal.
37. best grocery store
Mountains of giant strawberries, acres of fresh fish, miles of boutique cheese…it isn’t the Shop n’ Save, honey. For the epicurian, this is Mecca, and no less.
38. best spa experience
Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
Strap on that pseudonym and work on your upper-crust accent; you’re going to the land of make believe, but be warned: you’re not going to want to come back.
39. best breakfast spot
When you need a little relief from grinding out three squares a day, treat yourself.
40. best pizza place
The Red Grape
Those big ovens just make the pies special somehow, y’know?
41. best bartender
Mark O’Donnell of the girl & the fig
He’ll top you off and let you ramble, too. What a sweetheart…
42. best restaurant to get a burger
No doubt they have the best wiener, too, (hence the name) but the burgers totally rock.
43. best restaurant to take your family
Mary’s Pizza Shack
Ready for a grown-up conversation after a long day in the sandbox? Crayons, pizzas, and other helpful diversions abound at Mary’s. You may actually finish a sentence yet today! She’ll really be grateful, if you get my meaning.
44. best vendor at the farmers market
Oak Hill Farms
The sweetest asparagus, the juiciest melons, and the hardiest sunflowers in town. All grown the old fashioned way: a little water, a lot of sunshine, and a bit of muscle.
45. best caterer
Elaine Bell Catering
Don’t trust the wife’s 40th birthday surprise party to anyone but…
46. best night spot
Murphy’s Irish Pub
The beer runs like a river and there’s always fun afoot.
47. best-kept secret
Room after room of fragrant delights for her, for him, for every body.
48. best place for live entertainment
Murphy’s Irish Pub
Waken your inner River Dancer, mate, the music is blazing.
49. best place to buy a gift
Sweet little trinkets you’d never buy for yourself but secretly covet. When it’s Etre, getting is at least as good as giving.
50. best local entertainer
Serious pipes, and she’s easy on the eyes, too.
51. best business mascot
Clo the Cow of Stornetta
Warm cookies and a tall glass of white direct from the company CE-Clo.
52. best local radio host
That throaty laugh, the liquid silver voice, and a revolving cast of luminaries will light up your Monday afternoons.
53. best real estate agent
Dan Casabonne is no stranger to community accolades – from 2002 to 2006 he sold the most homes in Sonoma Valley and was Frank Howard Allen’s “Top Producer” for the same stretch. With Frank Howard Allen’s Wine Country Group, Casabonne has focused his field of expertise specifically on the Sonoma Valley market, which accounts for legions of happy home buyers.
54. best plaza drink
The Glariffee at the Swiss Hotel
The Swiss Hotel’s famed Glariffee (an amalgam of GLAZED-IRISH-COFFEE in both name and ingredients) is the invention of 92-year-old proprietress Helen Dunlap, who has kept the family recipe a secret since the beverage’s creation 57 years ago.
55. best local radio show
The Kathleen Hill Show
Kathleen Hill’s garrison of gustatory guests is veritable who’s who of the culinary world. Kathleen can make one’s mouth water and heart soar at the same time as she serves up a heaping portion of wisdom and commonsense. Bon appetite!
56. best place for ice cream
Thirty-wonderful flavors and all the fixins.