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Friday, January 18, 2013

Around the Sonoma Plaza

The town of Sonoma is located in the southern part of Sonoma County. It's relatively close to San Francisco (an hour's drive) and the rest of the Bay Area so the town gets many visitors.
The old city hall in the Sonoma Plaza

Sonoma has a lot of history. It is the home to the northernmost Spanish Mission in California, and the youngest, founded in 1823. Sonoma is known for its plaza--a park area that takes up the center of town. Sonoma was the original county seat, but Santa Rosa was more centrally located and outgrew Sonoma. The two towns argued over who should host the county government until Santa Rosa "won" by raiding the records office one night and taking the county documents.

The town of Sonoma has become quite a mecca for wine country tourists. There have always been a few wineries in the area, like Buena Vista and Gundlach-Bundschu, some restaurants, and the Sonoma Cheese Factory.

Things have changed in the last five years. You can pick up a wine tasting walking guide listing 18 wineries, plus a few wine bars, hotels with bars, restaurants with bars, wine shops with bars--you get the idea. There must be about the same number of places to eat on the square. The rest is made up of various clothing and gift shops. Trip Advisor lists 77 restaurants in Sonoma (pop. 10,000) though not all are near the town plaza.

Most of the wine tasting rooms around the plaza are from very small wineries you've never heard of--places like Bryter, Kamen, and Rumpus. Most charge five or ten dollars to taste and most refund the tasting fee if you purchase. The popular spot seems to be Roche Winery next to the most famous restaurant in town, The Girl & the Fig. Roche has indoor and outdoor bars, charges just $5 to taste and is open late on weekend evenings during the summer. It always seems to be crowded. Okay, not on the Thursday afternoon in January when I stopped by, but during the summer and early fall.

If you like to be trendy, the hot restaurants in town seem to be  Cafe La Haye, Harvest Moon Cafe, and LaSalette.

The town plaza is host to numerous events during the spring through fall from art shows to wine tastings. The Fourth of July parade and celebration is a big event.

Photos from Jan 17, 2013
Click on to enlarge

The mission

The Sebastiani Theater and Ledson Hotel
Both are said to be haunted

Sonoma Cheese Factory

Girl and the Fig Restaurant
With Roche wine tasting just to the left
Handy if you're waiting for a table

Lots of California history everywhere

The old Tascano Hotel

An alley of tasting rooms

Afternoon on the plaza