Sonoma County welcomes you to America’s first wine country. The hills roll to the sky, looking like soft lion’s paws. Small roads wind through redwoods, leading you deeper in the mystery until you top a rise, and buttery light slants through all. With 66 varieties of wine grapes, Sonoma County is the largest wine producer in Northern California, stretching from the wild Pacific to the enchanting Mayacamas Mountains. It’s the wine region with an exceptionally colorful history, and characters. It’s all waiting to be discovered.
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Wine grapes have been central to Sonoma history, and they’re vibrant in her present. Walk the streets of Sonoma’s square and you can feel the sweet, and rowdy, days of old California. Sonoma was the site of the Bear Flag Rebellion and for a short time it was the capital of a new nation called California.
Encouraged by John C. Fremont, mountain man, and later, the first Senator from California, a group of settlers rebelled against the Mexican government and declared California to be an independent republic. U.S. military troops arrived, ending the revolt—but the Bear Flag, raised in Sonoma’s square, is still the official state flag of California.
At the time of the rebellion in 1846, General Mariano Vallejo, the governor of Mexican California, had vineyards that provided an annual income of $20,000. That’s worth approximately $675,000 today—a very nice revenue! When you’re in the town of Sonoma, you can visit General Vallejo’s home. It’s just off the square, has easy access, and rarely crowded. You can feel 19th century life here.
Other vineyards were going in at the time. Another mountain man, trapper Cyrus Alexander, planted grapes in what is now known in the Alexander Valley. Senora Maria de Carillo, Vallejo’s mother-in-law, was called the “feminine vineyardist.” She had 2,000 vines in what would become Santa Rosa. In 1855, Count Agoston Haraszthy, now called “The Father of California Wine Industry,” arrived from Hungary. He purchased vineyards in the Sonoma Valley and founded Buena Vista Winery—it’s still alive and well today.
Sonoma County has the perfect combination of land forms, microclimates, and various soils. There are 18 American Viticultural Areas, or appellations, making it the most diverse, premium winegrape growing region in the United States. Although there are loads of varieties planted, seven make up more than 90% of the vineyards. With more than 425 wineries, and countless award-winners, there will be something that suits your taste, perfectly. (Sonoma County was named the best U.S. wine destination in the U.S. and the second-best in the world by TripAdvisor.)
Take a bottle of delicious red such as zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, a fine blend, or merlot for a picnic under the stars. Enjoy a lighter chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or sparkling wine when it gets hot. Sit beneath redwoods and savor the scent of sun on their bark. Close your eyes and relax. You’re in Sonoma’s laid-back wine country.
Interested in exploring Sonoma’s wonders? Discover our 6-Night Sonoma Culinary & Wine Itinerary.