It’s time to abandon your low-carb diet (or let it lapse into a momentary hiatus) and allow yourself to indulge in all of the glories of Sonoma—including fresh baked breads and pastries. Cycle through quiet country roads, redwood forests, and along rugged coastlines, then stop for a cinnamon roll and a cappuccino to fuel the rest of your ride. Here are three of our favorite bakeries in Sonoma.
Wild Flour Bread
We first fell in love with the little hamlet of Freestone years ago, stopping to visit the Joseph Phelps’ Freestone tasting room. Nowadays, Wild Flour Bread has become the true highlight of our visit.
“We are happy to trade for Meyer lemons” boasts the home-printed sign on the door. Nestled in the heart of Western Sonoma, 10 miles from the ocean, where the open cattle fields meet the redwoods, Wild Flour is unlike any other bakery. Murals with iconic images of the region adorn the walls—tall redwoods along one side, golden Sonoma bluffs along another, plus an incongruous elephant, which stares you down from the back wall. A pile of daily bread rests on a table toward the front, while a wood-fired oven sits in the back.
The assortment of breads and scones changes daily, highlighting seasonal ingredients. Quality standards—light and dark rye breads, whole wheat, French white, and baguettes—live alongside unique favorites like their fougasse (the ingredients change daily, but on a recent visit I took home a loaf of a potato, garlic, rosemary, jack, cheddar, and swiss fougasse). And then there are the sticky buns. These are no ordinary sticky buns; they are the size of a full loaf of bread, moist and overflowing with cinnamon, sugar, and nuts.
Owner Jed Wallach credits the brick oven for producing the highest quality bread, with thick crusts infused with excellent flavors and a long shelf life. The Eucalyptus-burning oven is kept hot around the clock so it reaches 550°F by 4 am each morning to begin baking the day’s bread. When the bakery is closed (Tuesday–Thursday), the staff light a fire to keep the oven heated to 1200°F, providing heat mass for the remainder of the week.
Outside the bakery, you are invited to visit the Wild Flour garden. Overflowing with vegetables, berries, and fruit, the lush plot is a gardener’s dream. It is a constant test of self-control to listen to the signs that ask you not to pick the rows of luscious raspberries. On warm weekends, children scramble through the garden, hiding in the tunnel of nasturtium while parents settle into the picnic tables in the adjacent orchard to enjoy their favorite breads.
If you’re lucky, Tomales Bakery will still be open, but you may have to bike quickly to get there in time. On Thursday through Sunday, and the occasional lucky Monday, Tomales Bakery opens its doors to the 200 residents of Tomales and many hundreds more passers-by along Route 1 (road trippers and cyclists alike). They open at 7:30 am, and close when all of their goodies are gone. Want more information? The contact us page on their website contains no form and no email address, it simply reminds you “We’re an old-fashioned kind of a bakery, which means that the best way to contact us is to come in or call during business hours.”
Recently, we were lucky to arrive in the town of Tomales (which is technically in Marin, but a mere six miles from the Sonoma border) right on time. Breads and baked goods glistened in the sunlight of this little corner shop. As we squeezed our way in, this jewel box of a bakery—which can barely fit three guests at a time—was bustling. One young baker piled chunks of butter onto a baking sheet for the next round of pie crusts as a local chatted with her over coffee. The other served Danishes filled with lemon curd and raspberries or cream cheese and blueberries. The savory cheese-twists were already gone for the day, but their legend gives us excellent cause to return.
We might have stayed all day, transfixed by the baking culture of the tiny kitchen, 20 years in the making. Alas, there are more California hills to conquer and stops to explore.
Gold Coast Coffee and Bakery
Five miles inland from the crashing waves of the Pacific Coast, Duncan Mills, CA consists of a long-abandoned railroad station, a rodeo stand, a pub, and Gold Coast Coffee + Bakery, where beans are roasted daily and a brick oven churns out delicious serve-yourself pastries.
As a guide who gained my cycling legs in Italy, I became conditioned to the mid-ride espresso stop. While few California locales can rival the brisk, efficient espresso pull at a bar in Tuscany, Gold Coast Coffee comes mighty close. The espresso drinks are the best in the region, thanks largely to the in-house roasting of top-quality beans.
Locals, tourists, cyclists, farmers, and more choose daily from the spread of impeccable croissants, seasonal fruit galettes, or a slice of their famous pizza. Pulling into Gold Coast, our groups welcome the break and enjoy the sun-warmed patio, latte and pastry in hand.
Craft is critical in the Sonoma culinary scene. Foodies flock to the region for the tradition of perfectionism in the production of each glass of wine, mug of beer, bite of cheese and loaf of bread. These bakeries and more contribute to the vibrant culinary scene in the region, and enrich each DuVine day. Join us on a 4-Day Tour in Sonoma, or a Napa Wine Country tour to explore the revolutionarily traditional bakeries of Sonoma Valley for yourself.