January 5, 2020 | Ralph Sands
There is not one day in my life that goes by that I do not think about Sonoma county and the numerous towns that represent this beautiful wine country. The reason is simple, I’m 64 years old with an eye on retirement and of all the places on earth I would love to retire, Sonoma County is my dream spot.
To be honest the exact destination really does not matter to me as the entire area, the people and their communities are all very beautiful and very special. Moving from the Southern boundary to the North you will find the towns of Petaluma, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, Windsor, Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale.
The last few years have been nightmarelike in Sonoma County with devastating fires in the fall of 2017 and 2019 caused by turbulent southwest winds, causing high voltage power lines to malfunction, igniting trees and wild brush that encompass Napa and Sonoma County. In 2017 entire residential neighborhoods were wiped out in Santa Rosa by the Tubbs and Nunns fires, burning 76,000 acres and causing 44 deaths. On October 23rd 2019 the Kincade fire started in the small town of Geyserville, where only one week earlier I had a delicious lunch at Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria. By the end of the next week the owners were cooking all the food they had in the restaurant for fireman, first responders and PG&E workers in the dark as there was no electricity. Hat’s off in tribute to the ownership and staff at Diavola for their generosity and support for the responders trying to defend the people and property of the region.
These fires also burned hundreds of buildings and led to the evacuation of over 2.5 million people. Amazingly very few vineyards and wineries were damaged, and the lessons learned from the 2017 fires led to one great statistic; no deaths were recorded from the 2019 fires.
Sonoma County has a real sense of community while being strong and resilient; and now once again is 100% open for business.
My first experience with the beauty of Sonoma started well before I was 21 and not old enough to enter the wineries, but I still managed to get a hold of some wine and sneak into the vineyards of Sebastiani for some really nice picnic lunches with my girlfriend.
Fast forward to today January 4, 2020; I’m completely burned out from the craziness of the holiday season like everyone else in the business of wine and looking forward to finding a relaxing spot to recharge my batteries. For me, Sonoma County is exactly that place. I’m very much looking forward to February 14th and Valentine’s weekend where I will relax with my wife and friends in beautiful Healdsburg. We will attend the 11th Annual Winemaker Dinner at Kokomo Winery and taste some of the great Kokomo Dry Creek Zinfandel and “Ruth’s Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon from the dynamic Co-Ownership team of winemaker Erik Miller and grape grower Randy Peters.
The next day we will have the Dry Creek Valley at our footsteps and visit some of my favorite estates in my 40 years in the wine trade. Place’s like Preston, Unti, Quivira, Nalle, Seghesio, Ridge Lytton Springs, Mazzocco, Lambert Bridge, Raffanelli, Teldeschi, Spragia and Dutcher Crossing. For dinner great food and more tasting rooms in downtown Healdsburg line the town square with wineries like Ramey, Pezzi King, Siduri, Banshee, Hartford Family, La Crema and Lioco.
So much great wine, so little free time. The beautiful rolling hills and natural beauty of Sonoma with it’s warm welcome is undeniable; and I guarantee you that a few days in this relaxing, wonderful corner of Sonoma will spoil you forever, inspire you to come back soon and make you think of avoiding the Napa Valley for a very long time.
Happy New Year to all of you from San Francisco and let me be the first to wish you a Happy Chinese New Year of the Rat.
Cheers to you and Sonoma County in 2020!
PrimeCellar Consultant and Senior Wine Specialist at K&L Wine Merchants in California.
January 5, 2020 | Ralph Sands