A visit to California’s wine country is often about a little indulgence, am I right? If you plan to spend your time relaxing and sipping wine amongst the rambling grape vines, you may as well tack on some excursions to some of the area’s outstanding local bakeries and sweet shops.
As much as he loves exploring the local craft beer scene, Stephan also enjoys seeking out the best patisseries whenever we arrive in a new city. Needless to say, there were plenty to explore across both Napa and Sonoma Valleys. If you too have a sweet tooth, keep reading to find out some of our favorite spots. We hope these recommendations come in handy.
Bouchon Bakery (Yountville)
Right in the heart of Napa Valley sits the tiny town of Yountville. It’s got a miniature but charming little main street lined with restaurants, and a number of wineries pepper the countryside around the town center.
While its namesake is American pioneer George C. Yount, the town could consider the alternative moniker of Kellerville. Yountville is home to the numerous culinary pursuits of acclaimed chef and restauranteur, Thomas Keller. Boasting a total of seven Michelin stars and multiple best chef titles, the man’s resume of culinary accomplishments is quite staggering.
Keller’s most famous restaurant, The French Laundry, is tucked in a quiet corner of downtown Yountville. In addition to its three Michelin stars, the eatery is routinely including on lists of the best restaurants in the country and is also a seemingly permanent fixture on Restaurant Magazine’s Top 50 Restaurants in the world. While it’s most known for its elaborate tasting menus, The French Laundry’s also famous for being a restaurant of ‘impossible reservations.’ It’s one of the most difficult places to secure a reservation, with tables selling out within seconds of going on sale. Reservations open at 10 a.m. Pacific on the 1st of the previous month you’d like to dine and, if you’d like to score one, you’d better be ready with a Tock account, an ultra-precise computer clock, one hell of a reflex in your index finger, and a prayer to your deity of choice. The good news? Even if you have all of these things going for you, you’ll probably still miss out.
With the French Laundry being outside the budget for most diners (prices start at $390 per person before add-ons), and reservations being an elusive dream for hardcore foodies, you can still taste some of Keller’s creations at one of his more accessible establishments. One of those: Bouchon Bakery.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option for tasting something off one of Thomas Keller’s world-famous menus, Bouchon Bakery is the place to go. Known for their traditional breads and viennoiserie, this is a great place to grab a freshly baked croissant for breakfast, a handful of macarons, or a buttery kouign amann.
The Model Bakery (St. Helena, Napa)
With two locations in Napa Valley, one in St. Helena and the other in the town of Napa, The Model Bakery has been a local institution for more than 90 years. The business began in St. Helena in the 1920s as an Italian bakery. The original steam-injected ovens are still used today and all of the bakery’s breads, muffins, and cakes are skillfully baked in these ovens without a thermostat.
In 2008, The Model Bakery expanded its presence in the valley when it opened a second location in Napa’s bustling Oxbow Market. In addition to its reputation for outstanding sourdough breads, the bakery’s English muffins made Oprah’s list of favorite things two years in a row. While I can’t vouch for their amazingness as they’re not vegan, Stephan, my mom, my dad, my best friend and her mom all declared them the best English muffins they’ve ever eaten… by a landslide. My dad was perhaps the biggest fan of all, repeatedly exclaiming that they didn’t even taste like an English muffin thanks to their pillowy texture.
Les Pascals (Glen Ellen)
A tiny bakeshop in the town of Glen Ellen, Les Pascals offers a dizzying assortment of breads, tarts, pastries, cookies, and sandwiches made with locally-source ingredients from around Sonoma Valley.
Earning itself a People’s Choice Award from the Sonoma Index-Tribune, this out-of-the-way bakery is certainly popular with the locals. We popped in on a Saturday morning and the line was out the door and up the sidewalk. When we finally made our way to the counter, Stephan attempted restraint but instead rattled off an order for a lemon rosemary cake, a lemon tartlet, a meringue, and a handful of other goodies. Luckily, all were hits.
Della Fattoria (Petaluma)
Unlike most of the other places, I can’t offer much insight into Della Fattoria’s history. Their website is very much a work in progress and one that was wicked bare bones when I first attempted to peruse it back in the spring. The only thing I can provide is a history of their location in Petaluma. The historic bakeshop dates back to around 1860, when it was once the U.S. Bakery building. While it has changed ownership and names a number of times since its inception, the building has supposedly housed some form of bakery for its entire 150-year history.
Although their past remains an enigma, their present-day legacy is certain: this is an awesome place for some scratch-made bread. While Della Fattoria offers a variety of breakfast and lunch items, as well as various pastries and cakes, their real claim to fame is their sourdough. Since San Francisco is famous for its sourdough, you’d expect to find a pretty good selection just north of the Bay. This is indeed the case, and Della Fattoria is undoubtedly the place. The bakehouse’s Meyer lemon rosemary sourdough is killer, and the boules are seriously humungous.
Unpopular opinion: I am not typically a fan of bread. I don’t know… it just doesn’t do it for me. Della Fattoria’s Meyer lemon rosemary sourdough, however, I could eat every day for the rest of life! We paired it with a rich olive oil and white peach balsamic from Sonoma’s The Olive Press, and the entire combination was without question one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. If you’re in Sonoma Valley, stop by these two places and procure these items immediately.
Stellina Pronto (Petaluma)
This amazing Italian bakery and sandwich shop can be found on 4th Street in charming downtown Petaluma. The owners of Stellina Pronto previously owned a highly-regarded Italian restaurant further south in Point Reyes, but made the decision to close during the COVID pandemic. Seeking a fresh start after a crippling time for restaurants around the country, the owners returned to the food scene with Stellina Pronto.
Although it’s only been open for a couple of years, this place is already an absolute gem. The bakery is gorgeous, the staff is friendly, the menu is extensive, and the treats are all to die for. The case is brimming with sweet and savory Italian pastries, including olive oil cakes, warm focaccia, cookies, biscotti, and a huge selection of sweet and savory puffs. As you’d imagine, they also offer espresso as well as a handful of sandwiches and salads. Additionally, the shop offers a small assortment of artisanal local and imported goods, such as chocolates, jams, spreads, and fancy sardines.
Since it was a quick, twenty-minute drive from Sonoma, I made a few visits to Stellina Pronto during our stay in wine country. Each time, Stephan was more than pleased with the assortment I brought home. The focaccia was excellent, and all of the various puffs he described as flaky, buttery, and flavorful. As Stellina’s owners continue to expand their new vision, they intend to soon offer a selection of wood-fired pizzas, piadine (an Italian flatbread), zeppoli, and cannoli. Stephan’s only wish is that he were going to be nearby to sample everything as it all comes together.
Quail & Condor (Healdsburg)
Like Petaluma, Healdsburg boasts an absolutely adorable downtown (and this one with a lovely town square). Just outside the downtown area, and right off Highway 101, you’ll find Quail & Condor. Like most others on this list, it’s a small neighborhood bakeshop that’s quite popular with locals (another place you’ll often find a line in the morning). Quail & Condor offers coffee as well as sundry breads and pastries. They also offer cooking classes, focusing on things like quick breads, pastry, or pies and tarts.
The day we stopped in, they had a special seasonal item on the menu – a choux pastry filled with fresh peaches and cream. It was beautifully presented and Stephan thought it was absolutely delicious. He came out of the bakery with an impish grin on his face, feeling pretty stoked to have grabbed the last one in the case. And while I didn’t sample anything from the bakery (there were no vegan goodies), I can say that I adore their logo. I mean, who doesn’t love a ridiculously cute birdie duo?
Patisserie Angelica (Sebastopol)
This Parisian-style bakery is located in Sebastopol, just around the corner from the hip market district, The Barlow. Patisserie Angelica was founded by a team of two sisters – one a classically-trained pastry chef who spent a chunk of her career working in some of Paris’ famous patisseries.
While the bakery has changed hands in recent years, the new pair of owners also have accomplished culinary backgrounds and like-minded values, including ethical farming and the use of natural, local ingredients. It’s also maintained its reputation for creating elegant and intricate wedding cakes.
Stephan sampled their chocolate beet cake, gateau Basque (similar to a pound cake), lemon meringue tart, and a couple of macarons. Everything he had was exquisite in look and also in taste.
Wildflour Bread (Freestone)
If you’re looking to get out into a rural section of wine country that’s home to tiny communities of artists and nature lovers, consider a drive along the ten-mile scenic route known as the Bohemian Highway. At the southern end of this thoroughfare, and just six miles west of Sebastopol, you’ll find Wildflour Bread. The beloved local bakery sits in the unincorporated hamlet of Freestone: Population 32.
For an isolated bread shop, Wildflour is wildly popular with both locals and tourists alike, and at least half their patrons travel from outside Sonoma County to sample the famous bread. This hype was evidenced when we arrived on a Saturday morning to find cars lining the street and several dozen people lined up for bread. One thing to note (and rationale for the line): the bakery only takes walk-ins. While they’ve recently started accepting credit cards, there’s still no online ordering or pre-orders by phone.
Wildflour offers a mouth-watering assortment of freshly-baked sourdough breads as well as a variety of scones. The breads are baked in a wood-fired brick oven, which gives that characteristic hard crust encasing a light, fluffy, open crumb. Some of their more unique breads include the Egyptian (fig, pear and ginger), Olive (Greek olives, nigella seeds and za’atar spice), and Occidental (cranberry, raisin, nuts and cardamom). Their scones have similarly interesting flavors, and include both sweet and savory options as well as a couple of vegan and gluten-free selections. This small bake team hand makes an impressive 900 loaves and several hundred scones daily. Whatever doesn’t sell by the close of shop is donated to local food pantries. We love it.
As a lover of all things seeded, I chose their Superseed sourdough when we visited. Again, not typically a big bread fan, but this one was delicious. It was airy and wheaty and – had we been living a little bit closer – we certainly would have sampled much more off their menu.
Kollar Chocolates (Yountville)
A chef, artist, chocolatier, and avid cyclist, Chris Kollar seems to be a jack-of-all-trades. After working as a savory chef for over 25 years, Chris began to take an interest in chocolate. As he became more passionate about transitioning to sweets, he made his dreams of becoming a world-class chocolatier come to life by studying chocolate in France, Italy and Switzerland, and eventually training with chocolatiers as he moved around Europe.
Chris has since earned the title of one of Dessert Professional Magazine’s Top 10 Chocolatiers in North America, crafting his award-winning confections using high-quality, ethically-sourced ingredients. He also made an appearance on Food Network’s Chopped back in 2020. If you’re a fan of the show, you can check out Chef Chris’s appearance on the ‘Sweet and Salty Success’ installment (season 42 episode 3).
One of Kollar Chocolates’ signature confections are the bonbon collections. Each sweet is a little work of airbrushed art made with enticing flavors such as passion fruit, Espelette chili (a mild French pepper), match yuzu, sunflower seed praline, and orange Grand Marnier. The unique fennel pollen bonbon even won a gold medal at the International Chocolate Salon. With no previous knowledge of the box’s award-winning bonbon flavor, Stephan easily selected the fennel pollen as his favorite as well.
Conveniently, Kollar Chocolates is right across the street from Bouchon Bakery. If you’re just passing through Yountville on your way through Napa Valley, you can stock up on all the goodies at once!
Screamin’ Mimi’s (Sebastopol)
This small-batch ice cream shop in Sebastopol was started in 1995 when the owner’s husband encouraged her to make a go at selling her homemade ice cream. Clearly, it was a good decision. Every year since opening nearly three decades ago, Screamin’ Mimi’s has been voted best ice cream in Sonoma County by local residents. In addition to making good ice cream, the small-business owners are community-minded, supporting local schools, farmers and artists as well as the 4H club. The scoop shop also hosts an annual Pint for Pint Blood Drive, where all blood donors are rewarded with a free pint of ice cream.
In addition to its local acclaim, Food & Wine ranked Screamin’ Mimi’s 6th on their list of the 35 Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S. For those hardcore ice cream lovers out there, others on this list we can attest to include Molly Moon’s in Seattle, Salt & Straw (Seattle & Portland), Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco, and Mt. Desert Island in Bar Harbor.
Given their celebrated reputation, we had to take my parents when they were in town (my mom is a major ice cream enthusiast). While they didn’t have the English toffee Stephan had been dying to sample, everyone still left satisfied (including Sanchez with her usual scoop of vanilla). What’s more, I was thrilled that they had a selection of about a dozen vegan ice creams and sorbets to choose from, and wish I could have had a flight of at least half of the flavors.
Sweet Scoops (Sonoma)
For our final sweet stop, we ended up just down the street from our house at Sweet Scoops. Owned by a local husband and wife team, Sweet Scoops is a favorite spot for homemade ice cream. Seeking a more laid-back lifestyle for their family, the two quit their busy jobs in Colorado, moved to Sonoma and, in 2015, opened an ice cream parlor. In addition to their lifestyle of making people happy through ice cream, the two support local schools and youth programs including La Luz and Boys & Girls Club Sonoma Valley.
You can find the scoop shop on the east side of Sonoma’s sprawling central plaza. The historic greenspace is the largest plaza in California and was first laid out in 1835 by the city’s founder, General Mariano Vallejo. The square is beautiful, with towering cork oaks offering tons of shade, and bits of history peppering the park. Registered as a National Historic Landmark, Sonoma Plaza makes the perfect place to sit down and enjoy a scoop of delicious ice cream on a warm afternoon.