The Franciscans planted the county’s first grapes in 1823 at the last of their missions – Sonoma. Ancient winery stones and foundations still stand, and today winegrowers take advantage of the same climate those early friars enjoyed. It is an area warmed by soft, buttery sun and cooled by air flowing from the Bay to the Santa Rosa plain. In the Valley’s coolest locations, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are grown for both table and crisp sparkling wines. Up the Sonoma Valley, sweet apple Chardonnay continues to hold sway, while currant-laden Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot take center stage for red wines. Near the ridge lines, Zinfandel comes into its own as a wine with jazzy zing. The volcanic soils of the hot mountainsides and the rich, ancient floodplains of the valley floor make Sonoma an ideal growing area for an astounding variety of grapes.
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