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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ten Reasons to Love Sonoma County

It's not just the wine, but it's also the food as they go together. Lots of artists are drawn to the area. Winemakers and chefs are artists, too.
Vineyards in the summer

The
weather. It's a Mediterranean climate meaning it's dry for six months and will rain on-and-off during the winter. It's about the micro-climates: If you don't like the summer temps then drive 15 minutes to find a cooler or warmer place. In the Santa Rosa area the average high temp. is about 80, plus-or-minus five degrees, from May through Oct. The diversity in climate (and so many different soil types) is why Sonoma can grow so many different premium wine grapes so well.

Geography
. The Pacific on the west; Napa Valley to the east. San Francisco is south. Hills and valleys everywhere. If you prefer straight and flat roads this is not the place for you. A great place for a sports car or motorcycle.

It's Sunday afternoon and you're bored? Well, there's over a hundred
tasting rooms to check out (okay, maybe you should visit just three or four of those). If that's not what you're looking for there's always a walk on the beach or through a thousand year old redwood forest.
Outside dining at Healdsburg Bar & Grill
Rated as having one of the best burgers in America
Image from ca.delish.com

You can go to the little town of Healdsburg for dinner, pop. 11,000, and have a choice of over a dozen great restaurants--
or just go to a favorite locals joint, the Wurst Grill, for a sausage and beer. Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma County, is ranked as one of the top cities for foodies. Heck, even Graton (pop 1,800) has a couple very nice eateries.

The
community college will teach you how to grow grapes and make wine. It's hands-on, not theory. The college even has a vineyard. But you can get some wine education by visiting the wineries or even listening in on conversations in local restaurants and watering holes as you can often overhear someone talking about crop sizes or sugar levels. Sonoma State University has a Wine Business major.

Free thinkers (an artistic part of the culture). California isn't very old as there wasn't much interest in it until gold was discovered in 1849. There's not a lot of tradition to hold people back. If there were then we'd never have New World style wines or people talking up biodynamics and Muscato. Sparkling red wines? Check. Syrah/Zinfandel blends? Check. The area has lots of high-tech start up companies, too. More innovative thinkers.

The brewpubs all have wine lists of a dozen or so local wines available by the glass just in case someone in your group isn't a beer drinker. By the way Sonoma County is home to one of the highest rated pubs in the country and a beer that received a perfect 100 point score--that's Russian River Brewery. The Bear Republic and Lagunitas breweries are also rated among the best in the country.
Sonoma Coast

The Sonoma County
Airport (prop-driven airlines only) will let you check on a case of wine for free. I wonder if folks in San Diego and Seattle realize they're just a couple hours away from all this?

Outdoors. Since the weather usually cooperates you can spend lots of time outside. There are nearly 50 county parks and a dozen state parks. These include everything from the Pacific Ocean to ancient Redwoods to an old Russian fort to views of the Golden Gate.

Okay, so it is about the
wine. There are over 300 wineries making everything from sparkling wine to late harvest zinfandel. Many are available to sample before you buy. Some large and spectacular, some operate by appointment only out of a warehouse. So many choices.
Carol Shelton Winery. Ain't much to look at but the wines are dee-licious