California Wine Country, Part 2: Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Valley (also known as The Valley of the Moon) is another of California’s largest producers of wine grapes. In fact, it far out-produces the Napa Valley region. The first vineyards in this valley were actually planted by Franciscan monks at Mission San Francisco Solano in 1823, and today, there are over 250 wineries in the valley, which collectively contribute over $8 billion to the local economy annually. This area is known for its unique terroir (the set of all environmental factors which lead to a wine’s character), with Sonoma Mountain protecting it from the wet, cool influence of the Pacific Ocean, while the mountains to the west help protect it from excessive rainfall.

Although the region, like Napa Valley, is practically synonymous with winery tours, numerous other activities in the valley include (by interest):

  • Nature:
    • Hiking along the scenic Overlook Trail while viewing the wildflowers
    • Pedaling the many bike paths that wind through vineyards and farmland
    • Touring any of the multiple state and regional parks
    • Wandering the cutting-edge garden installations at Cornerstone Sonoma
    • Experiencing the stunning landscapes of Quarryhill Botanical Gardens, which hosts one of the largest collections of wild Asian plants in the world
    • Viewing the scenery from the air while taking a hot air balloon ride
    • Seeing exotic animals from the Serengeti at Safari West, featuring over 900 animals representing 90 different species in of the largest wildlife enclosures in the country
  • History:
    • Touring Sonoma’s historic Mission and barracks
    • Riding a model steam engine
    • Visiting Jack London’s cottage at Jack London State Historic Park
  • Sports:
    • Fishing
    • Golfing
    • Skydiving
  • Epicurean:
    • Shopping at the farmer’s market
    • Learning to cook like a true epicurean at a world-class culinary school
    • Touring one of the many breweries and distilleries
  • Relaxation:
    • Reclining poolside at one of Sonoma’s destination resorts
    • Indulging in a grape seed-oil massage at a full service spa
    • Practicing yoga at an outdoor retreat center
  • Visited: Nov 1994

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