Long considered Napa Valley’s sleepy cousin, Sonoma is ripe with vineyards and rugged valleys that are now just tame enough to conquer.
Author Sarah Horne
WANDER THE STREETS OF AFFLUENT HEALDSBURG, the symbolic heart of Northern California’s Sonoma County, and there’s little doubt that these valleys and rolling green hills—once unkown—are now a world-class destination for oenophiles and food lovers. Among the winemakers and rugged fourth-generation locals, there are more and more glitzy types clad in linen or draped in cashmere, and they feel right at home. Sonoma has arrived.
To its detractors, hippie-dippy Sonoma is a cultural no-man’s land where oddball characters cavort in the hills. Of course, that’s exactly how the locals like it. After all, only the scrappiest of pioneers made their way to this stretch of the remote West, digging in and adapting to its dramatically varied microclimates. In the generations that followed, hardworking farmers, largely Italian-American immigrants, worked the land for lumber and produce. Importing their family winemaking traditions from the old country, they discovered something vital: The local wine was pretty darn good. Visitors soon began to understand all the fuss over the region’s soil and air, and all the care that’s put into everything produced here, from lettuce to cheese and wine.
Though Sonoma is quickly becoming the next big thing, it still contains many hidden corners you’ll feel as if you discovered on your own. And the locals, finding you off the beaten path, will welcome you with a wink, and let you imagine that you have.