a day in Sonoma, California

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Of our four days in Sonoma County, one was spent in and around Sonoma, a historic city in northern California at the heart of the renowned Sonoma Valley wine-making region. Its history is fascinating.

According to VisitCalifornia.com, “In the mid-1800s, the town now known as Sonoma was just a collection of ranchos, governed by Mexico. Even though the U.S. government and the State of California took over the territory not too long after that, you can still sense its heritage. The centerpiece of town, Sonoma Plaza, is still anchored by the northernmost Franciscan mission in California—and it’s even the birthplace of the California State Bear Flag, created by Americans rebelling against Mexican rule. Today, however, Sonoma Plaza is lined with charming shops, tasting rooms and popular restaurants.”

Here’s how we spent our day in Sonoma:

Stop 1: Jack London State Historic Park

The path leading to the museum at Jack London State Park in Sonoma

Jack London was born on January 12, 1876. By age 30 he was internationally famous for his books Call of the Wild (1903), The Sea Wolf (1904) and other literary and journalistic accomplishments. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963, Jack London State Historic Park is a magnificent tribute to the prolific writer and his wife Charmian. It features 29 miles of hiking trails covering 1,400 acres, a museum, his writing cottage, the ruins of a 19th century winery, a 2,000-year-old Redwood Tree that’s 14 feet in diameter, Beauty Ranch, the ruins of the Wolf House and stunning views. Because we were on a tight time frame and it was pouring, we only visited the museum. You should plan to spend at least half a day there.

Stop 2: Cline Family Cellars

Lovely welcome at Cline Family Cellars

Family-owned and sustainably farmed since 1982, Cline Family Cellars’ wines are distributed in all 50 states and throughout the world. They’re known for their Zinfandels—including the 2016 Ancient Vines Zinfandel that was the top-ranked Zin of 2018 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List—but produce many excellent varieties. Some of our favorites in addition to the zin listed above were Nancy’s Cuvée, the 2017 Estate Pinot Gris, the 2017 Farmhouse Red and White Blends, the 2017 Mouvèdre Rosé and the 2015 Big Break Zinfandel. Make sure you plan to spend enough time to get a tour of the grounds. Watch this video about the winery.

Founder Fred Cline’s maternal grandfather, Valeriano Jacuzzi, taught Fred the fine art of old-world winemaking. This led to our next stop.

Stop 3: Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Located just across the road from Cline Family Cellars, the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards has an entirely different feel, as though you left California and stepped into Italy. Valeriano was one of seven Jacuzzi brothers who were pioneers in American aviation and water pumps—including the bath and spa that bears their name—before they turned to farming grapes. Fred Cline opened Jacuzzi Family Vineyards in 2007 as a way of honoring his beloved grandfather.

The Olive Press tasting room and gift shop at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Since this wasn’t originally on our itinerary, we just had time for a quick visit. Our favorite wines were the 2015 Rosso de Sette Fratelli, which features all seven brothers on the label, and the Pina Asola Prosecco, which unfortunately is not distributed. The Olive Press has a tasting room and shop in the same building. I found several things there I could not do without!

Stop 4: Gundlach Bundschu Winery

The old tasting bar at Gundlach Bundschu; the one they currently use is much larger

That’s a mouthful, and I’m not talking about the wine. Pronounced Gun Lock Bun Shoe, Gundlach Bundschu been around since 1858, making it California’s oldest family-owned winery. From the Gundlach Bundschu website, “For six generations and more than 150 years, our family has farmed our Rhinefarm estate vineyard at the crossroads of the Sonoma Valley, Carneros and Napa Valley appellations. Today, we focus on making small lots of ultra-premium wines from this distinctive and historic property.” Many of their wines are not distributed, but I think one or two will find their way onto the shelves of our liquor store. The 2018 Gewürztraminer, 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Mountain Cuvée and 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon were our favorites, oh, and the 2016 Pinot Noir that we special ordered for ourselves! The tasting room also features a lovely gift shop. I did not leave empty-handed.

We didn’t make it to the charming and historic downtown Sonoma this time, but it’s on the list for our next California wine trip. Don’t miss our favorite eats in Sonoma County!

Thanks for reading Tales From the Empty Nest. Stay tuned for more wine country adventures.

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