Situated slightly past downtown Sonoma at the intersection of East Napa Street and 8th Street East, abutting the soon-to-be bicycle-rail trail, is a little gem of place with a witty name, Sonoma’s Best. The owners, Gayle and Tom, aren’t bragging that it’s the best, although it is darn good. That would be too boastful for this creative and energetic couple.
Instead, they are telling us that they have provisioned their extensively remodeled and updated century-old store with the best products Sonoma County has to offer, including artisan foodstuff, olive oils, vinegars, chocolates, coffee, craft beers and, of course, wine. There is a lot to Tom and Gayle’s story that people will find interesting, and anyone visitingSonoma should stop and visit there.
The daily fare at Sonoma’s Best includes special salads, wraps, panini and sandwiches of every variety. They make fresh homemade soups each day, which are served with their crunchy bread. Entrees range from Tortas to Tamales and Eggplant to Deviled Eggs. Their locally famous meatloaf and macaroni & cheese are house specialties.
An important facet of Sonoma’s Best business model of bringing the best to Sonoma is its wine shop. Here you will find as many as 50 local wineries’ wares, as well as lower priced imported specialties from Italy and France. It is hard to find wines under $20 per bottle in California Wine Country, but many are available at Sonoma’s Best. Finding some supremely drinkable gems is another good reason for stopping off at this handy little specialty emporium.
SB has become a local haven for its innovative evening wine tasting parties – at least two per week during July, 2011. Usually they include the winemakers or vineyard execs speaking on the virtues of their vintages. What better way to discover a wine you like than to hear about it from the people actually making it! No matter where we travel, learning the provenance of the foods and wines we consume always makes them taste better, especially if you know the producer personally.
In addition to the market, there are four historic one-bedroom cottages, called Les Petites Maisons. Extensively remodeled and artistically decorated, each cottage has a fully equipped kitchen, including blender, coffee maker and a full set of Calphalon cookware. This is after all, the center of California Cuisine and you might be in the mood to create something exotic, instead of going to a restaurant. The cottages also contain premium linens, comfy robes, wifi, and of course, wine glasses. There are outdoor patios for al fresco respites, and bicycles for local adventures.
Regarding local exploration, Sonoma’s Best/Les Petites Maisons is about the only overnighting place in Sonoma where you can walk (or bike ride) to a bunch of wineries. There are four well-known wineries offering tours and tastings, within a short distance. If you try the tastings, go easy, you don’t want to get a BWI (Biking While Intoxicated) on the way back!
Originally serving the railroad, the market and cottages fell into serious disrepair for years until Gayle and Tom showed up to invest their time, energy and love into the property. They faced enormous problems getting the physical work done, because of its age, regulations and cost, but they prevailed and their pride of accomplishment reveals itself in the charm and warmth of Sonoma’s Best. It was obvious even to us, as short-time visitors, that their customers, many of whom were on a first name basis, simply liked coming there. You will, too.
1190 East Napa Street