France has historically been the top of the heap when it comes to wine production. Northern California has certainly given France a run for its money in the last 40 plus years. The Sonoma County wine region is one area that doesn’t get as much attention as it should, but it has a ton to offer.
Sonoma County is located above San Francisco and sits close to Napa Valley. Although located above San Francisco, the best way to access the area is through the Oakland airport. Regardless, an hour or two later in a rental car will deliver you to an absolutely beautiful set of valleys that are lined with wineries. This means vineyard after vineyard, a site to behold for both the eyes and palette.
Sonoma County is roughly a square in size with 50 miles per side. There are 260 wineries in the County. Over the roughly one million acres in the county, sixty thousand of them are planted with vines. There are 13 different American Viticulture Areas [AVA] in the county. Of these, Chardonnay is the dominant choice with over 15,000 acres planted. Cabernet Sauvignon comes in a somewhat distant second with over 10,000 acres planted. Overall, Sonoma Country produces between five and seven percent of the total wine tonnage in California every year.
On a personal front, I can tell you Sonoma County has much to offer in both the quality of wine produced and the general culture of the area. Napa Valley is the undisputed media darling of Northern California, but this also makes it a hectic place when it comes to tastings and such. Sonoma County is the opposite. Unlike Napa, you can head over to a quality winery like Stag’s Leap and talk personally with the vintner [makes the wine] and viticulturist [grows the grapes]. It is a quaint and friendly experience that reminds you of years past when California was a hidden secret when it came to wine production. For better or worse, those days are long gone.
Sonoma County is often overshadowed by Napa. If you are considering a trip to the area, try Sonoma County for a relaxed, education experience in fine wines at fine wineries.