In just three nights I will be at my hotel room in Santa Rosa, in the heart of Sonoma, resting up for a three day whirlwind tour of one of America's most famous wine regions. This will be my first visit to Sonoma, so my perspectives today are those of someone who has "never been there".
Grape growing began in the region in the early 1800s, but all sources point to a Hungarian Count, Agoston Haraszthy, as the father of the local wine industry. Arriving in the mid-1800s, Count Haraszthy is credited with being among the first to plant European varietals and promote California as a place to produce fine wine. Founded in 1857, his winery (Buena Vista) still operates today.
Today Sonoma's 1,800 grape growers and >250 wineries produce wines from 65,000 acres of vineyards. Chardonnay is the dominant grape (16,000 acres), Cabernet Sauvignon (12,000 acres), Pinot Noir (10,000 acres), Merlot (7,500 acres), Zinfandel (5,000 acres) and Sauvignon Blanc (2,500 acres). I have to confess, I was a bit surprised by these stats, as I think of Sonoma as Zinfandel country - already learning...
Situated so close to Napa, Sonoma is often overshadowed by it's famous peer (visited by Joe last year). Geographically and viticulturally diverse, Sonoma's twelve AVAs cover a wide range of soils, microclimates, and grape varietals. Unlike Napa, Sonoma doesn't have a signature grape or wine style, and it is this diversity that makes it so daunting to study. And yet this is what excites me about the trip - surely there are some unheralded gems just waiting to be discovered?
I look forward to visiting, tasting, purchasing and writing about the wines.
PS - Some useful links: Sonoma Vintners, Sonoma Growers, and Sonoma Touristy Stuff.