By: Tamra Bolton
Just north of the San Francisco Bay area lies a county roughly the size of Rhode Island. The famous Sonoma County is known for its wine production and some of the most spectacular scenery in California. The county has more than four hundred wineries and award-winning wines to explore and sample and is a destination that is on every wine-lovers list.
The city of Sonoma is a destination all by itself; where you can take a food, wine and history tour, sample fabulous food and wine-pairings, dive into the culture and history of the area and spend an afternoon visiting some of its most popular downtown establishments. The tour groups are always small (eight max) and private tours are available. Led by locals, these three-hour walking tours are always fun and filling!
Be sure to take photos of the Sonoma Plaza while you’re there, at eight acres, it is the largest town plaza in California. The big name wineries downtown are Ravenswood and Sebastiani where you’ll want to do some extensive wine-tasting before you head out into the countryside.
On the winding roads of Sonoma County you’ll find the Kunde Winery which has over 32,000 square feet of tunnels and actual wine aging caves. You can also visit the Robledo Family Winery; the first winery established in America by a Mexican migrant vineyard worker, all nine of Reynaldo’s children are involved in the winery’s operation. A must see is the Buena Vista Estate, California’s first premium winery, founded by Count Agoston Haraszthy, who arrived in the Sonoma County area in the 1850’s where he planted the state’s first European varietals, the foundation stock of the future Buena Vista Estate Winery.
No trip to Sonoma County would be complete without spending some time exploring the rugged spectacular Pacific coastline, the towering grandeur of old-growth redwoods and the dozens of “off the beaten path” wineries and small towns that are sprinkled throughout the county. Towns like Monte Rio and Healdsburg situated on the banks of the mighty Russian River or you can even walk in the footsteps of the famous author, Jack London of “Call of the Wild” fame, in the tiny burg of Glen Ellen where London lived from 1905 until his death in 1916 at the age of forty. His Beauty Ranch is now the thirty-nine acre Jack London State Historic Park, a definite must see for literary types.
With festivals and other wine events throughout the year, Sonoma County is a pleasure to visit no matter the season. Coming up on September 26th, the Kendall-Jackson Estate and Gardens is hosting the 19th Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival. With garden tours, wine and food pairings, a chef challenge and entertainment by musician Andre Thierry, this years’ festival will certainly be one of the “not to be missed” events in Sonoma County.
Wherever you find yourself traveling this lovely month of September, remember to slow down, get off the beaten path and discover some amazing things for yourself…you won’t regret it and you’ll have a great story to tell when your friends ask, “Where have you been…?”
Enjoy this new season…it won’t last long!