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Sonoma County vs. Sonoma

Sonoma: What’s in a name

I  have lived in Sebastopol, a community of about 8,000 people, for about 23 years. Sebastopol is in the western region of Sonoma County. It is a southern gateway to the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).

Sonoma SquareI have been growing grapes about 20 years. I was an early entrant into this now-thriving vineyard region that was once home to as many apple orchards.

When I mention that I make wine from Sonoma County, there is often the confusion that I am speaking about the town of Sonoma or Sonoma Valley. I would like to set the record straight. It is really quite simple. Though the region we are describing is diverse.

Sonoma County is California’s most productive grape growing and wine-producing region. It eclipses its neighbor, Napa, by a long distance. This is not surprising. It hosts over 74,000 acres of vineyards vs. Napa’s approximately 45,000.

Sonoma County includes 15 approved AVAs. These include:

1.     Alexander Valley (15,000 vineyard acres)

2.     Bennet Valley (650 vineyard acres)

3.     Carneros (8000 vineyard acres)

4.     Chalk Hill (1400 vineyard acres)

5.     Dry Creek Valley (10,000 vineyard acres)

Sonoma Coast6.     Fort Ross/Seaview (506 vineyard acres)

7.     Green Valley (3600 vineyard acres)

8.     Knights Valley (2000 vineyard acres)

9.     Moon Mountain (1500 vineyard acres)

10.  Pine Mountain (230 vineyard acres)

11.  Rockpile (150 vineyard acres)

12.  Russian River Valley (15,000 vineyard acres)

13.  Sonoma Coast (2000 vineyard acres)

14.  Sonoma Mountain (800 vineyard acres)

15.  Sonoma Valley (14,000 vineyard acres)

As is evident, Sonoma County is considerably more expansive than the town of Sonoma or Sonoma Valley. The town is a gorgeous example of the Spanish colonial influence. The Valley is a breathtaking swath between Sonoma Mountain and the Mayacama Mountains. Each are but parts of a greater whole. The confusion is understandable given the size and complexity of a region generically called Sonoma.

Sonoma Coast RedwoodsSonoma County is almost 1,800 square miles. Napa County is just under 800 square miles, by comparison. It takes 3 hours or more driving continuously to traverse Sonoma County from one corner to the other.

It is a spectacular experience to span the county. Drive from the windswept shores of Carneros along the San Pablo Bay to the towering cliffs of the Sonoma Coast, crossing through the verdant shores of Russian River Valley and the giant redwood forests along the way. We all feel blessed to live in this place we call Sonoma. Perhaps it is also a gift that we are compelled to explain it constantly.

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