Napa Valley is the most famous of the wine regions in the United States, but it may come as a surprise to learn that it is not the largest in the country, and isn’t even the largest in California. The largest in the state is Sonoma County, which has roughly 60,000 acres of vineyards, not to mention 16 different appellations (AVA’s) spread across the county. These Sonoma vineyards produce more wine grapes than any other in the state, which also means that the number of varietals made from said grapes are more numerous than you find in many other regions across the country.
The first Sonoma vineyards were planted as far back as 1812, in the area that is now home to the city of Sonoma. These early vines showed that the climate and soil in the region were perfect for producing grapes to make quality wines. By the time the 1920’s rolled around, there were more than 20,000 acres of vineyards spread across the rolling hills of the county, not to mention over 250 different wineries producing wines of many different varieties. Business was booming, but it hit a serious wall when the prohibition era came to pass. Once prohibition was repealed in 1933, there were less than 50 wineries still operating in the region.
The recovery in the region was slow, and by the time the 1960’s rolled around, there were still only around 12,000 acres of vineyards growing in Sonoma. Many regions in the US were having similar issues, but the next couple of decades saw Americans take to wine in ever growing numbers. As the 20th century drew to a close, Sonoma vineyards were spread across 49,000 acres, with over 750 different growers in operation. The number of wineries now doing business in the region is back at the levels they were during the boom times, with that number continuing to rise as the popularity of wine in the US also continues to grow.
It is no real surprise then that Sonoma County has become one of the top destinations in the US for wine lovers. The majority of wineries that operate there have their doors open to the public to allow them to sample the wines made there. A look at the Sonoma social calendar also shows countless events taking place throughout the year, with wine related events and festivals very much dominating the scene.
The Sonoma vineyards and wineries are spread out over a massive area, and that means visitors to the area have an incredible number of choices when it comes to hitting the wine trail. If you are looking to be at the heart of all the wine action in Sonoma County, you might consider starting in Healdsburg, as that is the gateway to many of the appellations in the region. There are plenty of great little small towns to be found along the way if you want to adopt a slower pace through this particular wine country. Either way, you will sample great wine, delicious food, and a level of hospitality that you simply cannot find anywhere else.