On a recent spring morning in Sonoma County, Calif., I found myself in the heart of Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. There, under a canopy of towering redwood trees in an ancient forest, a yoga instructor, Bridget Boland, led a class through an hourlong session of vinyasas and deep breathing. As we stretched upward toward the sky and down to the cool earth, taking in the grandeur of our surroundings, we succumbed to profound relaxation.
Who said a trip to Sonoma is all about the wine? Wine has long been the main attraction of this photogenic region, home to 40 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline interspersed with farmland and redwood forests. Sonoma has more than 400 wineries and 60,000 acres of vineyards, and is four times the size of Napa. Its silky pinot noirs are world-renowned, and its crisp chardonnay and bold cabernet sauvignon are prolific too.
But imbibing wasn’t the point of my trip. I was there with my husband, Mahir, to discover Sonoma’s growing non-wine wellness culture: The area has more than 40 parks with miles of trails ripe for hiking and biking, a robust industry of olive oil production and an increasing number of wineries that are welcoming nondrinkers with activities such as vineyards walks, horseback rides and garden tours.
The yoga in the redwoods was only part of the day we had booked with Getaway Adventures, a local company offering active tours of Sonoma. Owner Randy Johnson also took us on a two- hour hike in Sonoma Coast State Park, where the sight and sound of the crashing waves as we walked on sandy beaches and up and down grassy knolls was as meditative as the yoga in the redwoods. Given more days and enough stamina, we would have had Mr. Johnson take us on two of his most popular excursions: kayaking on the Russian River and biking along vineyards.
Mr. Johnson said that when he started Getaway Adventures in 1991, he was one of Sonoma’s few active touring companies; now, there are more than 30 others. “People came to Sonoma only to drink wine, but lately there’s a big interest in active vacationing,” he said. Five years ago, Mr. Johnson and his team ran 100 tours a year; today, they run upward of 500.
Hotels, too, are part of the wellness movement. Catherine Bartolomei, the co-owner of Farmhouse Inn, an upscale boutique property in the town of Forestville, recently introduced several health-focused amenities like maps of the surrounding parks with hiking and biking trails marked, and calorie-conscious to-go meals and snacks for guests to enjoy on their excursions such as low-sugar granola bars and kale and quinoa salads.
Ms. Bartolomei’s family has lived in Sonoma County for five generations; she said that what’s new for visitors is the norm for locals. “Wine is only sliver of what Sonoma is about,” she said. “Locals have always relied on the olive oil and produce, and hiking and biking is how we spend our weekends.”
Ms. Bartolomei is incorporating elements of the Sonoma she knows into Farmhouse. The hotel’s spa, for example, has a 90-minute muscle-relieving treatment where guests lay on a body pillow filled with indigenous alfalfa and lavender. The treatment was inspired by Sonoma’s farmers, who have long used alfalfa to help with sore muscles.
And while Farmhouse has regularly hosted Sonoma winemakers for wine tastings, the region’s relatively unknown olive oil producers have become a significant part of the guest lineup. Colleen McGlynn, the proprietor of DaVero Farms & Winery, for example, not long ago walked a dozen guests through a tasting of her extra-virgin and Meyer lemon oils. “We discussed mouth feel, aromas and health benefits of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil,” Ms. McGlynn said.
Tourists also can visit olive oil producers like Ms. McGlynn at their farms for tastings and tours. At Trattore Farms, owner and producer Mary Louise Bucher took me on the “Get Your Boots Dirty” tour where we walked through the olive groves so I could see the different kinds of trees she grows. She then showed me the production center, where olives are crushed in mills and then mixed in vats, where they release their oil. Afterward, I sampled some of her 14 extra-virgin oils including the Mediterranean blend using fruit varietals from Italy, Greece and Spain.
Perhaps unexpectedly, part of Sonoma’s eye toward wellness is being driven by the wineries the region is famous for. Lynmar Estate, a winery situated in the heart of the Russian River Valley, for instance, hosts hourlong walks several times a year through the property’s expansive produce garden, during which guests are encouraged to pick herbs like rosemary and mint.
“We want people to have a full sensory experience here by smelling the fruits, vegetables and herbs and feeling the air,” said Anisya Fritz, who owns the winery with her husband, Lynn.
For those who want to taste what they see can, Lynmar’s executive chef, David Frakes, offers three-course vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free lunch menus using the garden’s bounty.
Jordan Winery, known for its award-winning cabernet sauvignon, recently introduced half-day hikes, held eight times a year, through its 1,200 acres of hilly terrain comprising vineyards, a garden, meadows and a lake. The reward at the end of the heart pumping trek? A picnic lunch served underneath a shade of oak trees.