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Wineries are the dynamic, fun, and somewhat mysterious businesses that roll through California’s golden hills and lush valleys.  Except they are so much more than businesses.  They are a life-style.  They are a pleasure.  They are a center for local conversation, art and music.

The grand wineries can be a bit intimidating. Family wineries are a real experience.  And, wineries hold the history of California. Wineries in the Napa Valley tend to specialize in rich, quite distinctive wines.  They also can be a bit pricier.  Some of the winery buildings are architectural award-winners, and they house museum-quality art.  They also offer hand-crafted good from the area plus artisan cheese and breads.  And, we cannot forget Calistoga’s famous mud baths.Sonoma wineries are more laid-back, but look for the truly relaxed wineries in the north part of the County and along the Russian River.

Wine is part of Sonoma’s history.  In 1824, Father Jose Altimira planted Sonoma’s first vines.  They were originally intended for sacramental purposes, but one thing led to another, and the residents wanted wine on their tables every night.  Who can blame them? In 1834, General Vallejo, one of the leading men in California’s turbulent history, replanted those vines and became, among other things, a wine merchant to San Francisco.

The wineries around Sonoma number about 35, and there are some 200 in the County.  Most wineries have lovely grounds for a picnic and offer tastings.  Some offer food and wine pairings, vertical tastings, and library tastings.  These must be arranged in advance.

Visiting wineries is like stepping into another world.  Actually, it is stepping into another world.  A world where joy, taste, abundance and a love of the land and sun are paramount.  Enjoy!