Sonoma County - Wines and much more

From small family owned wineries to some of the world’s best known wineries call Sonoma County home.  Here you can explore 16 American Viticulture Areas, (AVA's- appellations or wine regions), each with it’s own unique climate, look and feel.  From Sonoma Valley, which is know for it’s bold Zinfandels, to the Sonoma Coast that grows Pinot Noir and Chardonnays with an occasional new favorite, Malbec.  The amazing range of terroir and microclimates of Sonoma County result in some of the most diverse and special wine-growing area in the world.  Sonoma County stretches from the Pacific Coast to the Mayacamas Mountains to the east of the Pacific Coast.  Sonoma is home to almost 60,000 acres of vineyards and more than 400 wineries  Within its borders are 16 AVA’s each with its own distinctive characteristics.  The warmth of Sonoma Valley, there you will find rich Sonoma Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons, while cooler Carneros produce juicy Pinot Noir, Chardonnays and sparkling wines.  (For more information on Sonoma's AVA's visit Our Sonoma AVA's Page).

While it is only a short 45 minutes from San Francisco, Sonoma stirs a feeling of wine countries half way around the world, and is a land filled with journeys and exploration that can easily fill a day, a week or much longer.  A visit to Sonoma Wine Country is almost like traveling to a far way wine region without the need of a passport or concern of brushing up on a foreign language before you go.  You may find that you decide to make a number of return visits so you can soak-in all Sonoma offers to those who explore an embrace her.

It’s no wonder that California’s early pioneers quickly recognized Sonoma Valley as the ideal location to craft fine wines. Today you can visit wineries that date back to the Gold Rush and the times of the forty-niners. You can immerse yourself in the history of California winemaking, but you’ll find the region’s true legacy in the revolutionary approach to winemaking that was born and still flourishes in Sonoma.  It’s in the knowledge that has been acquired with more that 150 growing seasons and the spirit of a family-first approach to farming that has been passed down from one generation to another.  You can taste it in the remarkable wines that reveal a little of their history and promising future with each and everyone one that you sip.

Wine History or Sonoma

Some of the first grapes that were planted in Sonoma County where at Fort Ross as early as 1812. Padre Jose Altimira planted several thousand grape vines at Mission San Francisco Solano in what is now the city of Sonoma, in southern Sonoma County.  Cuttings from the Sonoma mission vineyards were carried throughout the northern California area to start new vineyards. In 1855, a Hungarian named Agoston Haraszthy arrived and purchased the Salvador Vallejo vineyard in Sonoma Valley, renaming it Buena Vista. Commissioned in 1861 by the California legislature to study viticulture in Europe, he returned with more than 100,000 cuttings of premium grape varietals. Many of the immigrants to the area were Northern Italian or from wine-growing regions of Europe. After the Civil War and before Prohibition, wineries such as Bundschu, Foppiano, KorbelSimi, Gundlach, Quitzow and Sebastiani were established that still exist today.

While it's almost impossible not to compare it to Napa Valley just to the east, Sonoma County takes great pleasure in not being Napa. Sonoma has some advantages just by sheer size.  With more than 1,500 square miles, it's as big as Rhode Island and manages to encompass many of the best of things within the state of California.  Take a stroll through Sonoma Plaza and visit Mission San Francisco de Solano. For really big trees you can enjoy a hike through Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. For some jaw-dropping views walk along the rugged Sonoma coastline and do not forget your camera.


Sonoma Valley's wine history

If anything, Sonoma's wine history reaches even further back than Napa's though they share some of the same roots. The first grapevines were planted at Mission San Francisco de Solano in 1824, and that vineyard was where George Yount got his vines to plant over in the Napa Valley a few years later. In time, General Mariano Vallejo came to own the mission holdings here, built up the town of Sonoma, and planted his own vineyard. The first vintage produced from grapes grown on Jacob Gundlach's farm were poured in 1861--you drive through the vineyard to reach Gundlach to this day.

By the late 1800s, there were in the neighborhood of 120 wineries in the county, including Korbel and Simi; Sebastiani came on the scene just after the turn of the century.  If Napa was the destination for the wealthy seeking a showcase retreat, Sonoma was home to winemaking religious cults, communes, and co-ops more interested in a bit more solitude.  While the old wine houses have grown into major operations now it's still a place where ambitious winemakers still have a prayer of a chance of getting a foothold in the business. The result today - a wide range of wine personalities.