Northern California’s history is encapsulated in the “Valley of the Moons,” where Franciscan Padres planted the county’s first grapes (1823) at the last of the missions and the rapscallion Hungarian “Count” Haraszthy inaugurated commercial winemaking. Across the street from the Mission, local insurgents staged the Bear Flag Revolt, a premature attempt at wresting California from its Mexican proprietors. Downtown Sonoma’s homegrown cheeses offer the ideal accompaniment to this region’s equal variety of homegrown wines.
Many ancient winery stone shells still stand, a reminder of the valley’s vinous history, while present winegrowers take advantage of a climate warmed by slanting rays of sun and cooled by airflows from both the Bay (to the south) and the Santa Rosa Plain (to the northwest).
In the coolest locations, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are grown for both table and crisp sparkling wines. Up valley, sweet apple Chardonnay continues to hold sway, while currant-laden Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wave the flag for red wines. Higher up, near the ridgelines, Zinfandel comes into its own as a wine of peppered spiciness and zingy, raspberry fruitiness