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Monday, June 14, 2010

Napa vs. Sonoma

So what is the difference between Napa and Sonoma counties? 
(Yes, Napa is a "county," not just a "valley.")

Well, Napa has auto parts! OK, Napa is all about wine because there ain't anything else. Pretty much.

Sonoma has dairy, sheep, fishing, apples, and a lot of high tech stuff though some of those are dwindling as grapes take over. But we also have a whole damned ocean! Take that Napa!

Sonoma Coast


If expensive wine ever went out of favor I don't know what the hell Napa would do. Sonoma would revert back to more livestock, apples and maybe hops. I don't see Napa Valley converting $150,000/acre land into walnut orchards. But if it does you'd want to be the first on the mailing list for the $150/lb. cult walnuts!

Some bad things from Napa Valley have migrated over the mountains into Sonoma. No, I'm not talking about phylloxera. I'm not sure who's to blame for that but I'll blame Napa if I can.  I'm talking about things like tasting room fees.   Did you know that in the old days you could taste for free? It was known as sampling a product before buying, but not anymore in most places.

Being in Napa means eventually you'll have to take your life in your hands and make a left turn onto Highway 29. Good luck! Sonoma means you'll eventually get lost somewhere in Dry Creek and wind up in the Russian River Valley. Oh well, you'll have to unexpectedly sample lots of world-class Pinots.

Driving in Napa means being run off the road by some snot-nosed jerk in a Ferrari. Sonoma means a deer is going to run out in front of you at dusk while your reaction times are slowed by all the wonderful wines you've been sampling.

Sonoma County
Welcome to Napa!

In Napa good luck at finding a decent Cabernet for under sixty bucks. In Sonoma you aren't going to find many wines over sixty. But if you're looking for a large choice of $150 Cabs then Napa Valley is the place to go. You don't even have to ask who has the best Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.

OK, Napa does have Taylor's Refresher and Buster's BBQ. Sonoma has a racetrack (Infineon) -- and an ocean! And they even renamed Taylor's to Gott's or something generic.  Napa has one good brewpub; Sonoma has five.   Napa is about big egos and successful marketing; Sonoma is about generations of farming.  I could go on ...

You can picnic right along the highway at V. Sattui Winery with bus loads of other tourists or you can pick a spot on a hillside in one of the several valleys in Sonoma where there's one or two tables and miles away from any busy road.

Sonoma is more spread out.  You're not going to be able to drink at a rate of eight wineries an hour.  Of course, at an average of a $15 tasting fee times eight wineries times two people you'll be broke before you get two miles along Highway 29.

Napa has Yountville with The French Laundry if you like frou-frou. You'll want to show up in a BMW or Infinity or something similar; no Chevys please. Don't forget to make your reservations four months in advance.  And wear something nice.  In Sonoma show up in jeans and boots and they'll think you're a local. The last time anybody tried for any kind of dress code here was about twenty years ago when a new Hilton opened in Santa Rosa. They kicked out a local guy for being under-dressed.  His name was Charlie Schultz, of Peanuts fame.  Well, that made the paper and that joint has been scorned ever since.

Sonoma is just plain.  Plain relaxing that is.  

If you've never visited the California wine country I suppose you'll want to go to Napa just because. So stop in at Beringer for the 2 pm tour with 150 other people listening to some poor soul give the same spiel for the 400th time. Then get back in your car the get the hell out!  You're only a few minutes from heaven (Sonoma County).

Talk to people who have visited both Napa and Sonoma and ask which they prefer.

Napa has the wine train. Sonoma does not. If that sumbitch ever shows up over here we'll practice the famous Sonoma cow tipping on that thing.

Sonoma does not have a winery that looks quite this, um, what's the word I'm looking for?
Touristy, that's it.

Yes, this is all done slightly tongue-in-cheek.  Just slightly.