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Sonoma County Information

Historical Sonoma County

Sonoma County, California is place of natural beauty, excellent dining and wineries and interesting history. Only 35 miles north of the bustling city of San Francisco, those visiting or considering relocating to Sonoma County will find small quiet towns, endless wineries and great lodging. Sonoma County's climate also makes this place an enjoyable year-round vacation spot, with highs in the 80s during the summer, and temps in the 60s and 70s in the fall and spring. The average low in winter is a warm 57 degrees.

Rich in history, Sonoma County was first inhabited in the early 1800's by settlers from Mexico. Mexican rule had lasted for nearly 50 years, until American settlers came into the area, and ended their rule in Sonoma County in the 1840's. Sonoma County was one of California's first counties established in 1850. Sonoma County also has Native American roots; the word "Sonoma" is a Coast Miwok Indian name meaning "Valley of the Moon."

Sonoma County is probably best known for its world-recognized wine making. There are close to 200 wineries in the county, with 1,100 growers. Sonoma County ranks seven in the production of grapes of the nation's counties. Common wine varieties produced in Sonoma County include some red wines like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir and zinfandel and white wines like chardonnay. There are 11 distinct American viticultural areas including the valleys of Deep Creek, Russian River and Dry Creek. The wineries in the Dry Creek Valley area are known for its zinfandel wine variety. About 80 percent of the agricultural land in Sonoma County is used to produce grapes.

Sonoma County can be split into seven areas, each with its unique attractions and reasons for visiting. The areas are Central Sonoma County, Northern Sonoma County, Russian River, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Valley, Southern Sonoma County and Western Sonoma County.

In Central Sonoma County to the north, the city of Santa Rosa can be found. Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma County, is full of great dining, shopping, arts and culture. While in Santa Rosa, take a stroll down the historic Railroad Street for some antiques and specialty store shopping, great coffee and a nice spot for lunch. Fourth Street is also a highlight in Santa Rosa, also a great area for shopping and relaxing dining. The arts are also prominent in Santa Rosa; the city is home to the gardens of Luther Burbank, famous horticulturist, who introduced more than 800 varieties of fruits and vegetables. The gardens are open to the public, and tours are offered of the grounds and greenhouses.

Moving to Southern Sonoma County, travelers will find the quaint towns of Petaluma and Healdsburg. Petaluma has been named one of the "Top 10 Boating Destinations," due to the ability of boaters to pull right up to its historic downtown, dock and visit the areas' restaurants and nightlife spots. Petaluma is also home to many unique shopping areas, and offers many interesting walking tours that feature the town's historic areas and homes. Petaluma is also a place for the arts and culture seekers; the town is home to the Healdsburg Museum, the Raven Theatre and Film Center. Petaluma and Healdsburg are also home to 60 wineries, spanning the area among the Dry Creek, Russian and Alexander river valleys.

If visitors want to discover more wineries, there are also several famous wineries in the area near the city of Sonoma, in the Sonoma Valley area. Sonoma contains the famous wineries of Buena Vista Cameros, Sebastiani Vineyards and Ravenswood Valley. While in the city of Sonoma, also see the Sonoma Plaza. This town center contains historical sites, remarkable dining and shopping. Some of the historical sites in the City of Sonoma trace back to the beginnings of Sonoma County, as early as the Bear Flag Revolt, when the Mexicans lost the county to the United States.

When traveling to Western Sonoma County, stop into the town of Sebastopol. When coming into Sebastopol, travelers will notice the rolling hills, vineyards and orchards all around. Apples are the biggest harvest from the orchards in this area, and there are a couple of annual celebrations in the Sebastopol town area for the apple harvest annually in April and August. Sebastopol is also a good area to get on a tour of the area; locals lead excellent tours around the surrounding area covering the natural history of this part of the county.

No trip to Sonoma County would be complete without a visit to Bodega Bay. Bodega Bay is located right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, in the Sonoma Coast area west of Santa Rosa. It is a small inlet area with a bustling fishing livelihood. Bodega Bay was the setting for the 1950s movie with Alfred Hitchcock, "The Birds." For the nature lover, Bodega Bay offers a superior place for bird watching, including blue herons and egrets, and migrating butterflies. Also in the winter, from December through March, migrating whales can be seen in Bodega Bay. In Bodega Bay, there is also horseback riding, golf and specialty shopping. The Bodega Bay area was a fur trading post in the 17th century run by Russians.

An historical site to see in the Sonoma Coast area is Fort Ross. Fort Ross was a Russian fur trade post. It was established by the Russian-American Company in 1812 to prey on the fur of the sea animals in that area. The Fort's significance started to dwindle in the 1920s, as the animal population decreased and Russians were moved out of the area. Fort Ross is a National Historical Landmark.

More beach areas to visit in the Sonoma County Coast area are Goat Rock Beach and Blind Beach. These are not the pristine white sand beaches, but very unique with their course, rocky sand and presence of sea lions and harbor seals. Near Jenner, California, Goat Rock and Blind Beach are on either side of Goat Rock, the area where the Pacific Ocean and the Russian River meet. The area of Goat Rock beach can be seen in the movie "The Goonies."

Sonoma County is a diverse area, with temperate weather and endless areas to visit from beaches to valleys, through the wineries and unique towns, there is more than enough to discover and explore in Sonoma County.

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