The Wine Country Online

Tailgate Picnic

Exploring the Country Roads

by Jack Burton

Janette relaxes in the Ranger-Lounger

Pack a basket, a blanket, your binoculars and pull on a heavy sweater. Sonoma County has dozens of drives with spectacular scenery and plenty of places to pull off and enjoy an impromptu picnic.

As our winter weather pattern of sometimes torrential Pacific rainstorms interspersed with clear, crisp and sunny days sets in, we clear out the back of our old Ford Ranger in preparation for some mobile picnicking. If a clear day coincides with a day off, we're gone bird-watching, whale-spotting, to a ridgetop vista, or the deep woods. The choices go on and on, but decisions are easy. "Hey, let's go to the beach and picnic with the cows," says my wife, Janette, " up on the Coleman Valley Road."

"Yeah, with the cows, the hawks, and the kestrels!" I enthuse.

There is a place of great beauty up there. It's an easy choice to make. You can drop the gate on the truck an sit dangling your legs out over the enormous panoramic view of wind-ripped pasture falling away to the surf mist and deep blue sea.

Start your day by finding your way to the town of Occidental. It is a tucked-away and interesting town fast in the redwoods between Sebastopol and the coast. Occidental has a couple of nice country markets where you can lay in your picnic gear.

You will see the Coleman Valley Road heading west up the hill behind Negri's Italian Dinners. Not recommended for campers or large trucks, this scenic winding road is one of our favorite drives.

Happy motoring!
Chef Jack

P.S. For a more complete description of this fantastic picnic drive, as well as many others, you might want to visit the Book Shop and order a copy of Chef Jack's Sonoma Picnic   A California Wine Country Travel Companion.