California's riverside town of Petaluma, about an hour's drive north of San Francisco, was historically known for chicken farming. During the early 1900s, the town was a world leader in the poultry industry, with hundreds of farms and an estimated 4 million hens.
Today, Petaluma's rolling hills have melded with a burgeoning wine country as growers discover that the cool, breezy climate is a sweet spot for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. The Petaluma Gap AVA is situated at the southern end of Sonoma County and covers more than 200,000 acres, with 4,000 planted among 80 different growers.
The town of Petaluma sits in the heart of the Petaluma Gap AVA. Many of its turn-of-the-century buildings remain and have been repurposed as antiques shops and boutique stores, restaurants and tasting rooms. The historic Hotel Petaluma, renovated in 2017, is within walking distance of the small downtown. For a glimpse of Petaluma's flair, we've profiled two standout restaurants.
Adobe Road has a small tasting room and ambitious expansion plans along the Petaluma River, to be completed in 2020. There is also a handful of tasting rooms and wineries downtown and nearby.
If your visit to Petaluma coincides with the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, Oct. 5-7, the event is an easy half-hour drive away and offers the opportunity to try more than 300 local wines.
The Drawing Board
There's been a recent shift in food trends in California, with attention given to ancient preparations, practices and ingredients—think fermented and foraged. The Drawing Board capitalizes on this movement, offering a seasonal menu with many gluten-free and vegan options that don't skimp on flavor. In the carrot "lox" dish, cured, thinly cut carrots are spread over slices of levain bread with cashew cream cheese and foraged seaweed. But it's not all vegetables: There are hearty, sustainable meat options such as braised lamb, and roasted chicken with sunchoke puree and housemade sauerkraut.
The intriguing cocktails are made with local herbs and botanicals, while the wine list offers a well-rounded mix of local and international selections that skew biodynamic and organic. The decor is unique and welcoming. Light pendants and plants dangle from the high ceiling amid exposed brick and wooden beams.
This casual restaurant, a local staple for 15 years, epitomizes the region's farm-to-table food culture. Chef Tony Najiola raises pigs and hens and grows much of the produce on his organic farm. Breads and pastas are made from scratch. The menu offers dishes such as wood-roasted vegetables with lemon tahini sauce, as well as housemade charcuterie, pizzas and wood-grilled meats. The 80-selection wine list spans the globe and focuses on organic, biodynamic and sustainable selections that are both wallet- and food-friendly.
Where to taste in Petaluma
Adobe Road Winery
6 Petaluma Blvd. N., Suite 1A
5875 Lakeville Highway
5935 Red Hill Road