Perching on a wooden fence post with a steaming mug of tea in my hands, I watched the sunrise above the California vineyards.
My early start may have been jet-lag induced, but the rows of autumnal gold and orange leaves glowing through the mist was more than enough to make up for it.
Sonoma Valley may be the lesser known of California’s two major wine regions, with Napa taking much of the attention, but this beautiful county is far more accessible from nearby San Francisco.
It hadn’t taken me long to find a photo-worthy view, just a short hop from my room at the Farmhouse Inn, a collection of buttery yellow barns nestling in a forest.
Getting hungry, I headed back for breakfast.
I ate in the dining room, which, with its real log fire and wooden finishes, manages to maintain a homely feel. This is reinforced by a mural painted around the room featuring members of the Bartolomei family, owners of this award-winning hotel. My breakfast included locally sourced streaky bacon, freshly baked pastries and poached eggs, cooked to perfection.
And the gastronomic delights did not end there. The breakfast room doubles as a Michelin-star restaurant in the evening, with delicious but accessible dishes that are of an amazingly high standard without being ostentatious.
Afterwards, if you have room, you can help yourself to handmade marshmallows and gourmet chocolate to make s’mores around one of the fire pits outside.
Food is at the heart of the Sonoma Valley. In Healdsburg, a small city of about 11,000 and with a number of innovative new restaurants, I joined a food tour with Savor Healdsburg.
We sampled local wines, a West Coast take on meze and flavoursome tapas before stopping for some experimental ice cream at Noble Folk Ice Cream And Pie Bar. The Chinese five-spice flavour was particularly notable.
Any trip to wine country demands at least a few tipples, and local winery MacRostie proved the ideal place. Its terrace displayed views across the valley and was the perfect spot to sample some of MacRostie’s offerings of chardonnay and pinot noir.
For a change of scenery we headed back across the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco for some culture, where we found it in abundance at the newly refurbished San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
With works from some modern greats, including pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, and Pablo Picasso, it’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon. Afterwards, we had a jaunt in the district of Haight-Ashbury, the birthplace of the hippy movement – 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, so there has never been a better time to discover a love for tie-dye.
I stayed at Cavallo Point, a converted army barracks with impossible-to-beat views over the bay area. My room, which had a beautiful fireplace and balcony, was a haven of peace just a short ride from the centre of one of the most metropolitan regions of North America.
Its restaurant, Murray Circle, and the buzzing Farley Bar seem to have…