If you saw this title and thought this article would be a bashing session on Napa, you will be disappointed. I am a Napa native. I love Napa. I don’t believe you have to bash Napa in order to talk about why Sonoma is awesome. That’s like bashing the beach so you can point out how awesome the mountains are. That’s crazy. The beach and the mountains are totally different and yet equally wonderful. That’s what this article will focus on.
SONOMA IS BIGGER:
The first way that Sonoma is different than Napa is that it’s about twice the size of Napa, and that’s only because East Napa has a bunch of land around Lake Berryessa that is hardly accessible. Sonoma starts in the Carneros reagion, goes all the way up to Cloverdale and stretches all the way west to the Pacific Ocean. Within Sonoma County you get mountains, valleys, redwood forest, rivers, and the coast. You can spend 2 hours driving and still be in Sonoma Country. People often make the mistake of thinking they can visit wineries in Sonoma Coast, Dry Creek, and Carneros all in one day. We also see people make a hotel reservation in Santa Rosa with dinner plans in Sonoma Town. They may look close on a map, but they aren’t that close.
SONOMA GROWS A WIDE VARIETY OF GRAPES
Sonoma has more diversity in the grapes they grow. As we mentioned Sonoma is quite large. That means it has very diverse climates and soil types from one end to the other. Carneros, Russian River, and Sonoma Coast are the cooler climates so they are best known for pinot noir and chardonnay. However, one end of Russian River butts up against Dry Creek Valley, so that part of the Russian River area can grow zinfandel or even cabernet. The same goes for Carneros. I personally have always been a big fan of Carneros Merlot. But the Sonoma Coast region pretty much is just pinot noir and chardonnay. If you want a Napa-like cab Knights Valley, Alexander Valley, and Sonoma Valley are for you. If you like Zinfandel and fruity cabs, you should spend the day in the dry creek valley. There is truly something for everyone in Sonoma County.
SONOMA IS RICH IN HISTORY
Sonoma has wonderful and important California history. In the town of Sonoma, right on the square, is Mission San Francisco Solano. The last mission built in California. Across the street from the mission are the Mexican Army barracks. Across the street from that is a monument of the Bear Flag Revolt, the small revolt that led to California becoming a state. If you keep going down the street you can visit General Vallejo’s home. For about $5 you can see everything and learn about our history.
Not only does Sonoma have California history, it is covered with important wine history. Buena Vista is the oldest winery in California established in 1857. Korbel was not far behind, popping up on the scene in 1882 to make champagne. But even more fascinating to me are the old vine vineyards you can see while driving all over Sonoma county. (Napa has them too, but not nearly as many as Sonoma). You can tell an old vine vineyard because the vines are individual bushes with big gnarly trunks and branches. Most of these are zinfandel. Most old vine zinfandel vineyards are actually field blends. Field blends are a mish mash of all types of grapes that are grown together, harvested together, and fermented together. Acorn Winery is a great place to visit and learn about field blends.
SONOMA HAS A RIVER, A COAST, AND A FOREST
Sonoma County has a long coastline and Bodega Bay. If you’ve had enough wine for the day and just want to relax at the beach you can go to Doran Beach. If you get hungry you can go to Spud’s Point for the best clam chowder ever. Many guests like to go to Armstrong Woods and see our wonderful redwood trees. Or if it’s summer and you want to float down the river there are many places where you can do that down the Russian River, including downtown Healdsburg.
Sonoma is a wonderful and diverse county and we always recommend that folks who visit Napa also spend a day or two in Sonoma. The experiences are NOT the same, though they are both wonderful and beautiful in their own way and both have the best wines made in California, maybe even the world!