Discover the Adventure
Sonoma California

Sonoma: Where California's Premium
Wine Industry Began

Actually, several things had their beginnings in Sonoma:

Mission San Francisco Solano was established - the first and only mission under Mexican, rather than Spanish, rule...

The Bear Flag Revolt - that short-lived revolution when American settlers declared their independence from Mexico...

And probably the most familiar of all - California's Premium Wine Industry had its beginnings in Sonoma

The town rose out of its gritty frontier beginnings to bring a unique blend of pioneering and individualistic spirit that survives to this day.

If Napa embodies the Beverly Hills snob-appeal of California's Wine Country, the contrast of Sonoma is best represented by the Beverly Hillbillies - a bit rough around the edges, but much more personable in our humble opinion.

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A Little California Wine History

I know what you're thinking - the first grapes were planted in Southern California, as the Spaniards made their way north from Mexico

But we're not talking about any ol' wine-grapes-in-general.

We're talking about the Wine Industry and the birth of California's premium wines.

Buena Vista Winery was established in Sonoma in 1857 and is a registered historic landmark.

It was the first premium winery in all of California, but there was a close second...Also in 1857, only three months later than Buena Vista, the Gundlach Bundschu Winery started its operations.

And, while Buena Vista has changed hands several times over the intervening years, Gundlach Bundschu is still family-owned and into its sixth generation of family vintners.

That's why we've put such emphasis on The Wineries; although a lot of people were making wine throughout California at the time, this area pioneered the California Premium Wine Industry and started the process that gave us California's first Wine Country!

And while we're talking wine, here are a few Wine Tasting Tips that'll have you tasting like a pro in no time!

Historical Artifacts,
Boutique Shopping, and Fine Dining

The town is built around a Plaza - a typical Mexican pueblo-style square - with historic buildings, boutique shops, and world-class restaurants.

Originally laid out by General Mariano Vallejo, himself, the Plaza is the largest town plaza in California.

You'll enjoy exploring the various boutique shops, cheese stores, brew pubs, art galleries, and fine restaurants around the plaza.

You'll find part of the story of California as a state in the Plaza's historic buildings: the Mission, the northernmost of the California missions; the Barracks; the Blue Wing Inn; and more.

Eight-acre Plaza Park constitutes the center of the plaza, with its duck pond, children's playground, outdoor amphitheater, grand old trees, and two historic buildings. A perfect place for a picnic lunch!

Outside the plaza, there are more shops, cheese factories, restaurants and hotels, as well as a delightful cooking school called Ramekins (Insiders Secret), where you can join hands-on cooking classes with names like Winter Braising Dishes, Hearty Foods and Micro Brews, Seafood from Mexico, and Hit the Grill Running.

The kidlettes and train aficionados in the family will delight in a one-quarter-scale railroad set up called Traintown. Take rides on the train through a miniature landscape and enjoy the petting zoo, but don't forget the Ferris wheel, the full-size cabooses, and the carousel as well.

Nearby you'll find quaint towns and villages, state historic parks, warm springs resorts, African animals (another Insiders Secret!), hot air balloons, biking, hiking, camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, kayaking, birdwatching, horseback riding - the town of Sonoma makes a marvelous home base for all these activities!

Did we mention? This is a very dog friendly town! Many a shopkeeper - with his or her own four-footed family member on the premises to greet you - keeps a dish of special treats, and a bowl of water out front to make you and your best friend feel welcome!

So what are you waiting for? Let's explore!

  • County Wineries
    200 wineries, 13 varietals, and 12 appellations! You don't need to know that to enjoy the wineries, but you could use it to impress your friends!
  • Valley Wineries
    The Sonoma Valley appellation is world-renowned!
  • The Plaza
    Rich in California history, darling boutiques, award-winning restaurants, and wine tasting rooms - you'll find it all on the plaza!
  • Plaza History
    The Plaza played a very important role in the process of California's statehood, and that role is reflected in the historical buildings on The Plaza.

For some great road trips and more about the fun and interesting things you'll discover throughout Northern California:

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