Snooth Blog

Snooth User: John Andrews

Sonoma Valley

Original post by John Andrews, Mar 16, 2009.

When the guys at Snooth recently introduced the concept of page ownership on the site, I felt that I should step up and take on the ownership of Sonoma Valley. It is a very cool feature ( find more info here ) which, I believe, will help people understand what the region brings from the basis of what Snooth is about … a community based review. As the curator of the Sonoma Valley I thought I should share with you what makes Sonoma Valley special.

Sonoma Valley History

The thing that surprises me the most about Sonoma Valley or Sonoma particularly, is that no one knows the origin of the word ‘Sonoma’. Some people suggest that it originated from a Native American word. The Native Americans that resided in the area referred to Sonoma Valley as the Valley of the Moon, which, Sonoma Valley is often referred to and there is a winery using the name ( Valley of the Moon Winery ). In fact, using the name Sonoma as place you are going to visit could mean three different things:

1. Sonoma County - which is a huge region that incorporates a number of great wine regions including Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley , Dry Creek Valley , Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Valley and more

2. Town of Sonoma - which is a fun little town that is very much oriented to the wine business. In fact BottleShock was filmed in the town of Sonoma because it resembles Calistoga in 1976 more than Calistoga does.

3. Sonoma Valley - which is an incredible diverse wine appellation with a great number of wineries.

According to a number of websites Sonoma Valley was one of the first areas in California to be planted with grapes. Franciscan monks were the first to do so in 1823. One of the first commercial wineries in California was also started in Sonoma Valley, Buena Vista Winery , in 1853. Buena Vista is still around today but source most of their grapes from what is Carneros now.

Where is Sonoma Valley?

Sonoma Valley is just 45 miles north of San Francisco. It borders Napa Valley (to the east) and in many ways Sonoma Valley resembles Napa Valley in many ways. Both Sonoma and Napa are long narrow valleys that are bordered by mountains to the east and west. Mayacaymus Mountains to the east and Sonoma Mountains to the west for Sonoma Valley. The both valleys open up to San Pablo Bay in the south and in the north they both open up into other valleys, Russian River Valley for Sonoma and Alexander Valley for Napa. Sonoma Valley is protected from excessive coastal rainfalls by the Sonoma Mountains but gets substantial cool air and moisture from the bay. I can personally vouch for the temperature drops as I have ridden my motorcycle home from work on summer’s evening and felt the chilling air. The mountains and valleys and air channels allow for a large number of microclimates to exist. The weather from one end of Sonoma Valley to the other is often very different.
From an appellation stand point:

• Sonoma Valley is part of the Sonoma County appellation

• Borders with Napa Valley Sonoma Coast and Carneros

• Sonoma Valley actually has three different appellations:
o Sonoma Valley
o Sonoma Mountain
o Bennett Valley

• Sonoma Valley extends into the west end of Carneros

What does this mean? Well, simply, there is a ton of diversity in Sonoma Valley. There are 25 different varieties of grapes grown in Sonoma Valley including: Alicante Bouschet, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon , Carignane, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvedre, Muscadelle, Muscat Canelli, Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Silvaner, Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier, Zinfandel.
This shows is a wide diversity in climates and soils that permit so many different grape varieties to be grown. The soil content varies dramatically throughout the valley but is mostly a volcanic base. Unlike European laws, there is no restriction to what can be grown in Sonoma Valley and the vineyards in the area take advantage of that to see what works.

What makes Sonoma Valley Great?

Each region in California has something it excels at; Napa is known for Cabernet, Russian River for Pinot Noir, Dry Creek for Zinfandel, and, for me, and the thing that Sonoma Valley excels at is diversity. There are great Cabernet vineyards like Monte Rosso. There are great zinfandel vineyards like the Pagani Ranch (planted in the late 1800s) and awesome Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Syrah from Les Pierres, Durrel Ranch and Parmalee-Hill. The remarkable thing is that all these grapes are grown within 5 miles of each other.

There are two main events in Sonoma Valley each year. There is the Holiday Open House which happens the two days after Thanksgiving and there is Barrel Tasting Weekend which takes place the third weekend in March. The first event is very much like a celebration of the year’s harvest as well as a celebration of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The second is a celebration of the New Year and new wines. The wineries will have barrel samples available to try and a chance to buy futures on those wines. Both events are highly attended and a lot of fun.

Working in Sonoma Valley I have a true affinity for it and I truly believe that Sonoma Valley has something for everyone. There are wineries and wines that appeal to everyone. The valley is anchored by a few big producers and supported by numerous small and medium producers. It is not unusual that the wine maker of will be pouring wines in the smaller tasting rooms. It is home to numerous great restaurants and lodgings. There is diversity and character. It is a lot slower passed than some of its neighbors. It can offer a much different experience. To me best of all, when you visit Sonoma Valley you feel like you are a part of the family, a local and not just some visiting.

To find out more, consult the websites below or simply drop me an email.

Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau
Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce                                                                                                  Sonoma Valley Vinters & Growers

John Andrews is a software product manager during the week and is a professional Tasting Room staffer at Loxton Cellars in Glen Ellen, CA on the weekends.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 16, 2010.

You might want to start your own thread for this inquiry, gingenie...

Reply by outthere, Jun 16, 2010.

The closest winery to the Hidden Oak is Sebastiani which is a short walk from the town square. Lots of history at that facility. You can book private tours/tatsings rather than have them do the public tasting room.

Reply by gingenie, Jun 16, 2010.

Thank you for the recommendation! I will make a booking. Wish I was going! 

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