We thought that it might have been a little prejudicial as Sonoma is more up Sunset's alley- they are not big on the corporate style so dominate over in that "other" wine country. On top of which the Sonoma side of the story was written by Rod Smith, husband to one of the Farmhouse Inn proprietors, Catherine Bartolomei-Smith. (Perhaps just a little partial to Sonoma and the lifestyle they enjoy here.)
Here's an excerpt from Rod's take on Sonoma County: "The county’s 1,576 square miles are a sprawling garden of organic produce, free-range meats, and since 1824, grapes. (George Yount planted Napa’s first vines in the 1830s, using Sonoma cuttings.) Napa offers the thrill of tasting wines few can afford and eating trendy food cooked by the employees of celebrity chefs. In Sonoma, you can access countryside, towns, and tasting rooms—sans appointment—to try some of the most distinctive and innovative wines available. True, pockets have trended upscale. Limos? Check. Celebs like Lady Gaga looking to buy? Check. But at heart, this is authentic country open to visitors—casual and wine snob alike."
Even though we were excited about the article (and seeing Rod's byline) and the outcome we were hesitant to crow too loudly. But then Sunset took a vote from their readers and Sonoma won hands down (at one point the voting was 10164 votes for Sonoma against a mere 236 for Napa). Those Sunset readers really know their stuff. So take that Napa! We are no longer the poor little sister.
But now we really do have something to crow about! The new Travelers Choice Award for Wine country destinations just came out from TripAdvisor. The destinations are rated by the millions of travelers that use the TripAdvisor site. And Sonoma County came out #1 in the U.S. (yes, in front of and on top of Napa) and #2 in the WORLD (just behind Tuscany- and Napa didn't even get on the world list). So watch out world...we are on the map!
The Top 5 destinations in the U.S. list:
1. Sonoma County, California (that's us)
2. Napa Valley
3. Willamette Valley, Ore.
4. Finger Lakes, N.Y.
5. Long Island, N.Y.
(My sister-in-law is so stoked that her native Long Island is on the list...)
And the top 5 in the world:
1. Tuscany, Italy
2. Sonoma County, California (that would be us, again)
3. Hunter Valley, Australia
4. Stllenbosch, So. Africa
5. Mendoza Province, Argentina
TripAdvisor travelers seem to love the "laid-back, unpretentious vibe of the wineries". In speaking with our guests we often get comments like that and many guests have told us that Sonoma reminds them of Tuscany and is what they thought the wine country is supposed to look like.
Friday morning the front page of the Press Democrat (local Santa Rosa newspaper) headline screamed "No. 1 in the Nation" and says "Quaff that. Napa Valley snobs." Now this doesn't mean there is not some great wines over the hill on the Napa side. They truly do produce some amazing wines but as far as a destination we have them beat in so many ways. We have so much more on the Sonoma side (which by the way is the size of Rhode Island); rural country back roads and stunning scenery, old growth redwood forests, the Russian River (home to amazing Pinot Noir), quaint and still friendly towns like Healdsburg and Sebastopol, the glorious Sonoma Coast, the focus on organic and sustainable food and local producers of such...the list goes on and on. So the rivalry is alive but Sonoma is at last getting the recognition it deserves. Oh, and we have outstanding wines too!
And amazing tasting rooms...as we often tell our Farmhouse guests, you are likely to meet someone who actually has something to do with making the wine...not just someone paid to pour, spout the story, and make the sale. I have often pulled the winemaker out of the bottling room to pour me a taste, or talked to the winemaker over the destemmer/sorting table.
If you are not already a convert make sure Sonoma County is on your bucket list...the #1 Wine Country Destination in the U.S. Yeah, baby!