5 (Make that 3) Things I Love About Sonoma

March 12, 2011 § 2 Comments

While living in Northern California, there was nothing I loved to do more than take a spontaneous drive about 70 miles southwest of where we lived to the stunningly simple and picturesque Sonoma Valley.  Ah Sonoma, the name itself which means “Valley of the Moon,” or “Earth Village,” (depending on who you ask), conjures feelings of wonder and nostalgia at the same time.  It is different yet familiar all at once; from the bevy of rolling hills dotted by rows upon rows of grape vines, to the old Mission San Francisco Solano where, if  walls could talk they would tell stories about conquistadors, Catholicism, and the ensuing battles between European, Mexican, American and Native American peoples to occupy this most arable land.  And there is something for everyone, from bike riding from winery to winery, or sorting through second-hand treasures at The Church Mouse Thrift Shop near the Plaza.  Not to mention my personal favorite picnicking among the vineyards.  With all of these experiences to be had, it is no wonder HGTV made this the site of their Dream Home Giveaway in 2009 (which I desperately tried to win through consecutive days on online entries), and it is not surprising that this region’s mediterranean-like climate and fertile soil made it a popular destination for the Miwoks, Wintuns, Wapo, Miyakmahs, Pomos, Koskiwok, and Patwins, some of the first 5000 inhabitants of Sonoma Valley.  That said, I began to wonder amid the grey haze of my late-winter backdrop, “What other things are there to love about Sonoma and its surrounding area?”  I found a few:

1) Birthplace of Women’s History Month

Apparently little known to me, Sonoma County was the founding site of the National Women’s History Month, which we in the U.S. celebrate during the month of March.  In 1978 the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration.  News of the celebration’s success spread throughout the country and inspired similar programs and celebrations in other counties.  Eventually in 1980 “President Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week” (http://www.nwhp.org/whm/history.php). This was soon followed by  a Congressional Resolution of the same kind in 1981, and eventually in 1987 “Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity.  A special Presidential Proclamation is issued every year which honors the extraordinary achievements of American women.”  If you are just tuning in to this, do not feel bad, we are only 12 days into the month and there are still many ways to celebrate.  For some ideas of upcoming or ongoing events check out the National Women’s History Project website.  In addition you can likely find related events taking place at your local library, women’s organizations, museums or churches.  If you don’t have time to go out, but still want to reflect upon the meaning of the month check out a book on any one of a thousand fascinating women, or do an oral history interview with a woman you find fascinating.  P.S. check back later this month for my profile of a fascinating woman I know.

2) DeLoach Vineyards

DeLoach Vineyards, located in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley stood out to me not only because it pioneered Pinot Noir wine growing in the Russian River Valley (and who doesn’t love to say “I’ll have a glass of Pinot”), but also because its current owners, the Boisset Family, strongly adhere to eco-friendly, growing practices in order to produce their wine.  Some of you may be saying, “eh-what’s so great about that, how harmful can it be to produce wine?”  Well, not that I’m an expert, but it seems that wineries, like any other farming operation can produce varying degrees of waste and  have impacts on their larger environments.  By adhering to sustainable and in particular biodynamic growing practices the DeLoach winery is able to do more than just take care of its bottom line, it is able to take care of the soil, and that is good for everyone.  The essence of Biodynamic farming, which in my limited opinion goes a little further than organic is “to treat the land as a self-contained, self-sustaining ecosystem that creates and maintains its health and vitality without external or unnatural additions.  Soil, plants, farm animals and humans work together to create a holistic, living organism…” (See Reclaiming the Winery in Natural Home Magazine March/April 2011).  In addition, the Boisset family discusses their relationship to the land in ways that seem, dare I say it, Biblical.  They talk about being good stewards of the land and putting back into it what they take out.  And if that doesn’t put them on your own list of things to love, their winery also has an organic garden where visitors can pick their own greens!  If anyone actually tries one of their wines, do tell me how it tastes.

3) The Sonoma Diet

While I have read and own the book of this same name and loosely refer to it here.  It is the grander and I think less procedural application of the phrase that I use.  That is, to eat as if one were living in Sonoma with a lush backyard garden.  This would mean to eat fresh, great tasting foods such as:  Whole Grains, Olive Oils, a bevy (second use in one post) of greens, beans and other things that grow from the ground up.  It even means eating all that good-for-you fat from sardines, olive oil, and almonds, and tempering it with that extra good-for-you resveratrol from locally produced red wines.  It may also mean to prepare your food slowly, linger over it and share it with a friend as you watch the moon rise.  And, according to the Sonoma Valley Visitor’s Bureau, “modern-day visitors can see for themselves if the moon indeed rises and sets several times nightly over the eastern Mayacamas Mountain Range, as ancient travelers claimed.”  So you might want to prepare enough food, because they may stay a while.

So there you have it, the newest three things that I love about Sonoma and its surrounding region.  While I won’t go into any Napa vs. Sonoma rivalries here (check chowhound for a good run-down), I will say that if you have the chance to visit, you shalln’t be disappointed.  And I know I said there were going to be five things I love…but let’s be honest, this is a blog, not a travel brochure.  If you have any ideas about the other two, do share them with us.

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