Friday, January 19, 2007

More History in Sonoma

Up the valley from the city of Sonoma is the small town of Glen Ellen. Just up the hill from the center of town is Jack London State Park; located on the site of Jack London's Beauty Ranch.

Jack London is one of America's great writers. Born in San Francisco and raised in Oakland, Jack London wrote extensively about nature, politics, and the social conditions of late 19th and early 20th century America. After becoming successful, London and his wife, Charmian, purchased land overlooking the Sonoma Valley that they named the Beauty Ranch. Here London wrote, farmed, and supervised the construction of his dream home, the Wolf House. Tragically, the Wolf House was destroyed by fire shortly before the Londons were to move in. The cause of the fire was never discovered.

There is a museum in The House of Happy Walls, which Charmian built as her home after Jack died. You also can see the Wolf House ruins and remnants of the Londons' farm. Hiking, biking, and horse riding trails provide beautiful views of the Sonoma Valley.

If you are a Jack London fan, or just want to learn more about this charismatic author, I recommend a visit to Jack London State Park. It is located just up the road from Benziger winery, which I wrote about on June 10, 2006, so you can combine history with wine tasting.

If you would like to take a private tour of the Sonoma Valley that includes a visit to the Beauty Ranch, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Historic Sonoma Plaza

The town of Sonoma is important in California's history. The last of California's 21 missions, Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma (better known as Mission Sonoma) was founded in 1823; the only mission to be established under Mexican Rule. Nearby are the old barracks and the home of General Mariano Vallejo, a central figure in California's Mexican era as well as the first years of statehood. All of the historic buildings in Sonoma comprise the Sonoma State Historic Park. If you have some time while you are in Sonoma, take a walk back in time by visiting the park. If you are tasting wine with your children in tow, a visit to the Mission will provide them with a nice break from watching you savor your Chardonnay and Cabernet.

Sonoma was also the sight of the Bear Flag Revolt. On June 14, 1846 a rag-tag group of Americans captured General Vallejo and declared California to be independent. William B. Ide became the first and only President of the California Republic. The Republic was short-lived as the American navy sent a detachment to Sonoma on July 9, lowered the Bear Flag, and raised the American Flag. A monument to the Bear Flag revolt is located in the northeast corner of Sonoma Plaza, near the Mission.

If you would like to take a private Sonoma tour that includes a visit to Mission Sonoma, please call me at (866) 326-4237 or e-mail me by clicking here.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Winetasting for Non-Drinkers

Sometimes my tour groups include one or two people who do not drink. Since watching others taste wine is not much fun, I try to visit wineries that would also be enjoyable for the non-drinkers.

Wineries that are interesting to visit for both tasters and obstainers are those with art galleries. The Hess Collection, on Mount Veeder in the Napa Valley, has a large gallery of contemporary art. Three floors of modern art will give the nondrinkers plenty to do while their friends taste Hess' wines in the pretty tasting room. Mumm Napa Valley, producer or quality sparkling wines, has a photography gallery with a regular exhibit of works by Anselm Adams as well as rotating exhibits. Turnbull Wine Cellars, also in the Napa Valley, produces excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and other wines and has a gallery of excellent black and white photographs. Imagery Estate Winery, in the Sonoma Valley, has an on-going exhibit of the original works of art used for their wine labels. Lastly, Clos Pegase Estate Winery, in the northern end of the Napa Valley, has a sculpture garden with works by some of the twentieth century's best known sculptors.

Non-drinkers also enjoy visiting architecturally interesting wineries. Sterling Vineyards sits on a knoll overlooking the Napa Valley. Visitors travel to the winery in a gondola and upon arrival are treated to beautiful views of the valley. In the Carneros Region, Artesa Winery is an architecturally stunning building atop a hill. Great views may be had from the entry way to the winery as well as from the deck outside the tasting room. The winery is also home to a resident sculptor and a small museum on the history of Carneros.

If you are planning a trip to San Francisco with a group that contains both folks who enjoy wine as well as those who do not, I'd be happy to plan a Wine Country tour that includes stops at wineries that all will find interesting. To schedule a tour, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.