Most of us head to Napa when we say the generic term, “The Wine Country”. But Sonoma has been an equally formidable area of great wine production, destination resorts, and all around good fun and shopping. It is also perhaps a little more family friendly, and certainly, a lower key type of vibe. We are headed to Sonoma to meet some dear friends for dinner, and spend the night sobering up, before heading home on Friday. Buddy will be staying at Chateau Clarice.
Perhaps the defining part of the city is the Sonoma Town Plaza, always a point of reference when directing someone to a place of business, restaurant, or winery. Sonoma was the capital of the California Republic, and has a strong Mexican colonial past. Sonoma is a nationally recognized center for the California wine industry, though the population is only about 12,000 people. I am certain that somewhere in my past, I was banned from the Plaza for disorderly conduct.
Rather than bore you about California history, let’s give just due to the Native Americans (Miwoks), and the Mexicans (General Vallejo), and move on to what we all want to talk about, WINE! It is Sonoma that is considered the birthplace of the California wine industry. The father of California viticulture, Agoston Haraszthy, was credited with the introduction of the zinfandel grape varietal. Silly me, I always thought it was Ernest and Julio Gallo with their rot gut mountain red, almost suitable for gasoline. Maybe I will look for Boone’s Farm, or Bartles and James (both fictitious).
To the east of the city are the Mayacamas Mountains, and the Sonoma Mountains to the west. State Route 12 goes through town. Sonoma Jack cheese was named after the town. GMC also has a truck called the Sonoma. Intel has a series of processors called the “Sonoma Series”. One of the cutest parts of town is the Sonoma Traintown Railroad, a quarter scale train in a ten acre park. Kids love it!
The very first time I went on a public wine tasting outing was in Sonoma at the Sebastiani Winery just outside of town. Now, there are so many wineries, and so little time. At last count, over 170 vintners make up the Sonoma County Vintners, a non-profit organization that promotes the wines and wineries of the county. Over 55,000 acres in Sonoma County are planted with grape vineyards. Some of the better wine growing regions within the county, and some of my favorites are: Alexander Valley (Silver Oak), Dry Creek Valley, and Sonoma-Carneros (Domaine Carneros). The grape crop accounts for over $300 million in revenue, or 61% of the total agricultural output of the county.
The predominant varietals are: Chardonnay (16,000 acres), Sauvignon Blanc (2,500 acres), Cabernet (12,000 acres), Pinot Noir (10,000 acres), Merlot (7,500 acres), and Zinfandel (5,000 acres). These wineries range from small family farms to large corporate concerns. Also among my favorites are: Gloria Ferrer, Matanzas Creek, Kenwood Vineyards, and Benziger Family Winery.
So, after a nice visit at the hotel, we headed out to a nice Sonoma dinner. We are meeting dear friends, Ken (the former Surgeon General), and Lisa (the former First Lady of Medicine), and their daughter, Emily. Most of time, we end up going out to Great Falls, VA, and the greater DC area to visit them. But it is Spring Break, for even the precocious Emily. As most of you know, Ken and I went to graduate school together in Berkeley, at the UC School of Public Health. He is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We are joined by their “cultural exchange student” Amber, and Ken’s Chief of Staff, Ginny.
See you in SoNapaNoma!!!!!