The perfect trip: California
‘It’s a great drive up West Dry Creek,’ says Adams. ‘You’ll feel like you’re completely lost, then discover someplace you hadn’t heard of, and suddenly it’s your new favourite winery.’
Where to eat
At Zazu, husband-and-wife team Duskie Estes and John Stewart use local ingredients. John raises heirloom pigs, which he transforms into salumi, and Duskie makes her own pasta using eggs from their own hens. With dishes inspired by rural-Italian cooking, this is one of Sonoma’s top tables for seasonal, local cooking (mains from £17).
Where to stay
Set on a late-19th-century farmstead in rural Sonoma Valley and surrounded by rolling hills and fields of horses, Beltane Ranch is the most atmospheric place to stay in Sonoma County. Wicker rockers sit on wide, wraparound porches and the decor, a mishmash of antiques, matches the house. Guests have their own entrances and complete privacy (except on the shared outdoor decks), and unlike at some b&bs, the owner will never demand you pet the cat. There is also a tennis court and walking trails to experience (from £104).
Sonoma -Mendocino coast: Best for sea escapes
The middle of the Sonoma-Mendocino coast is around 120 miles from Sonoma Valley, 2½ hours by car.
Forget the California you’ve seen on TV: the rugged north coast is nothing like the Baywatch beaches. Rocky headlands jut into the sea, studded with pines, not palms. The ubiquitous fog keeps the air cool, even in July; there’s a reason Tippi Hedren wore fur as she drove along this coastline, en route to the town of Bodega Bay, in Hitchcock’s classic The Birds.
The Sonoma-Mendocino coast is largely undeveloped, looking pretty much as it always has and, best of all, there’s not a single traffic light for over 150 miles.
‘Where else can you go in California and be the only person on the beach in the middle of summer?’ asks Renata Dorn, proprietor of Mar Vista Cottages in Anchor Bay. ‘It’s a place to focus on yourself, not on shops and other distractions. People come here to connect with nature.’
Like they do at Bowling Ball Beach, where rows of near-perfectly round boulders line seaweed-covered rock alleys, an other-worldly scene that only emerges at low tide. Or at Stornetta Public Lands, surrounding the Point Arena Lighthouse. From the top of the 35m-high tower, you can spot the San Andreas fault line slicing between the coastal hills. Dorn says, ‘The land here is full of Pacific drama – the crashing, curling surf, birds and bobcats busy with their prey, and even wild pintos on the hill above Point Arena.’
At Manchester State Beach, where the fault dives into the sea, a 3½-mile strand unfurls beside undulating dunes. Unlike most California beaches, Manchester faces northwest and gets pummelled by long, rolling breakers: the surf positively roars.
Hardly anyone stops here. For that matter, hardly anyone drives this stretch of coast, preferring the inland freeway, Route 101, towards Mendocino, a 19th-century village of salt-box cottages, built by homesick New England whalers. It’s like a Cape Cod town plunked on the California coast. Charming yes, but lately it’s become a parody of itself, with too many b&bs decorated with cabbage-rose wallpaper. After a day of gallery-hopping and shopping, nothing beats heading back south to solitude, off the tourists’ radar, and napping in a hammock at Mar Vista with a book on your face.
Where to eat
Surf Supermarket: This well-stocked supermarket caters to finicky weekenders from San Francisco staying at second homes in nearby Sea Ranch. Assuming you’re staying at Mar Vista, you’ll need all the basics to fill your kitchen: coffee, local cheese and wines, grass-fed steaks and free-range chicken to complement the salads from the garden. If you don’t feel like cooking, or you’re just passing through, Surf makes tasty sandwiches to order and runs a car-park barbecue on weekends.