Sonoma is Cider Country

My dad introduced me classic rock which became my first obsession in music. From there my explorations led to blues, then rock-n-roll, to outlaw country and bluegrass. Likewise, cider hasn’t always been my favorite beverage, but I arrived here thanks to another flowing journey of discovery.

The journey began when we were students at Cal Poly SLO where, we spent time learning the intricacies of Paso Robles and Edna Valley wines. After moving to the SF Bay Area, we were put off by the hoity-toity character of Napa and found ourselves diving deep into the much more friendly and casual wine culture of the Russian River. At some point we found we were enjoying Sonoma craft beers too; particularly the hoppy beers from Bear Republic Brewing and pretty much anything from Russian River Brewing’s Belgian-style line up.

My dad has always been into British style cider but I made the mistake of trying American commercial ciders. After years developing a taste for dry wines and complexity, this cider tasted downright raunchy. It wasn’t until a decade later when some other friends introduced us to the joy of dry craft cider! It was a total revelation just like discovering that craft beer was a far cry from the commercial beer swilled down at college parties. Dry craft cider has the astringent fruit-forward character that I like in Paso-style wine but is casual and easy going like craft brew. I used to say that double and triple IPAs were my favorite because I liked my beer to punch me in the mouth. But these days I find I get all the intensity that my life can handle from raising kids and I actually prefer the more mellow yet more refreshing dry craft ciders. Lucky for me, Sonoma County is cider country too!

In this article we feature our favorite West Sonoma cider makers, all of which have a tap room with outdoor space. There is so much to do in the area, that we were able to come up with suggestions on how to turn the cider tasting into an adventure for the whole family!

Horse & Plow

Address: 1272 Gravenstein Hwy N, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Hours: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday from 12-5pm. Monday’s 12-4

Horse & Plow is located on the outskirts of Sebastopol in the heart of apple country. The tasting experience is best enjoyed outdoors in their back garden which has comfortable seating, a nice grassy area, a garden, and chickens. The kids can play in their surroundings while the parents relax under an umbrella on the patio. They have live music Sundays and happy hour every Friday, from 3-6, also with live music and food.

Horse & Plow truly has something for everyone. They have both excellent wine and refreshing cider. Our favorite is Hops and Honey, a classic dry cider infused with hops to give it a floral complexity that raises this cider into the same class as wine. They also happen to have a snack menu including a cheese plate, charcuterie, nuts, olives, and other light snacks.

At this time you can visit with a reservation for groups no larger than 6 people. Reservations can be made on their web site. Walk-in’s accepted, only if tables are available.

Make it an Adventure!

Juice for Kids

If the kids also want some of their own cider or apple juice, then you can drive just a couple minutes down the road to Andy’s Produce Market and pick up some Sonoma County made apple juice or cider. It’s a good size market and has everything you would need from a sweet treat, to picnic fixings, and general groceries.

Visit Well Trained Horses

Tour the ranch and see a professional demonstration of different training and healing techniques. You can even groom a horse! Bring your picnic lunch and enjoy a private table space – outside or in your own decorated horse stall! Craft opportunities for the family as well as holiday gifts for purchase. To reserve your tour click here.

Golden State Cider Taproom

Address: 180 Morris St #150, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Hours: (Starting on 2/27) Thursday – Sunday 12pm – 8pm
Reservations: no reservations needed

The Golden State Cider tap room is one of our favorite stops to make when in the Sebastopol area. Located in the heart of Sebastopol at the Barlow complex, they have 15 taps of amazing dry farmed hard cider. We love their cider so much the we joined their monthly cider club.They offer outdoor seating in the back, and you can order food from several Barlow restaurants to be delivered straight to your table. There is a cider for everyone and a meal for everyone, even this kids.

Make it an Adventure!

Laguna de San Santa Rosa

The Laguna De Santa Rosa is the largest tributary in the Russian River, as well as Sonoma County’s biggest freshwater wetland. It’s a very important part of the Russian River watershed because it acts as a holding tank for rain water, keeping the Russian River from flooding downstream. Birds always can be found at wetlands so you are guaranteed to spot local birds as well as migratory birds.

The 1.8-mile multi-use Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail offers plenty of opportunity for wildlife viewing as it passes through grasslands dotted with oaks and eucalyptus. If you go north on the trail from the Highway 12 entrance you will enjoy distant views of Mount Saint Helena. The trail loops around Kelly Pond, which is nice overlook for bird-watching. In addition to birds, the Laguna is home to grey fox, coyotes, bald eagles, river otters, endangered salmon, bobcats and mountain lions.

Tilted Shed Ciderworks

Address: 7761 Bell Rd, Windsor, CA 95492
Hours: Open only on Saturdays 12 to 5 pm for outdoor seating, limit to 4 people per table (in same household/pod).
Reservations: no reservations needed

Tilted Shed Ciderworks is located in Windsor. They make a variety of ciders including one of our favorite ciders, called Cidre, a California take on the Basque cider style from southern France and Northern Spain. Children are welcome at their outdoor seating area, and they encourage you to bring food or kombucha for the kiddos from two doors down, at the family friendly Barley & Bine Beer Cafe.

Make it an Adventure!

Use an egg Vending Machine

Wise Acre Farm, located at 631 Arata Lane in Windsor is small sustainable free range egg farm. They have a vending machine stocked with chicken and duck eggs. In the pre-COVID times you were welcome to hang around and visit with the farm animals but for now, you can say a quick hello when buying eggs.

Foothill Regional Park

Foothill regional Park is just down the road from Wise Acre Farm, at 1351 Arata Lane, Windsor.  This park is well known for its spring wildflowers, thick oak woodlands, rolling hills, ridge-top views of northern Sonoma County, three ponds for bass and bluegill fishing, grassy meadows, and spring wildflowers. You can take a kid friendly 2 mile walk around the 3 ponds. The best view at this park is on the Alta Vista trail which unfortunately is still closed at this time due to fire damage. For detailed information on the trails take a look at this description from Bay Area Hiker.

This local insight brought to you by your hosts at Lucky Bend Lookout; a modern yet family-friendly Russian River vacation home. Check our availability and book online or call/text Sarah at 415-516-6961 to reserve.