Monday, June 20, 2016

Sonoma, CA May 2016

Last month, we had the opportunity to revisit Sonoma, California. Like most who come to this region, we intended to visit several wineries. In the end, however, we only had time to stop at Korbel. Established in 1882, Korbel has been America’s favorite Champagne for over a century. The tour offered at the winery provides an overview of the company’s history as well as an introduction to the process of making champagne. While Korbel is best known for its Brut and Extra Dry Champagne, a variety of other sparkling and still wines is available only at the winery. The sparkling Chardonnay, and sparkling Riesling that we tried were quite enjoyable. What we enjoyed best was Korbel’s Natural Champagne. has been served And where most wineries now charge for a tasting, Korbel still offers a free sample for up to four of their wines.

After our leisurely visit to Korbel we drove to the town that gives this county its name, Sonoma. While the region is famous for its many award winning wineries, the town of Sonoma should not be overlooked. Founded by Mexico as part of its Alta California empire, Sonoma is designed classically around a central plaza. Within the tree-shaded square a statue now marks the spot where California’s Bear Flag was first raised in a declaration of independence from Mexico in 1848 just before California’s gold rush.

Opposite the Northeast corner of the plaza is the Mission San Francisco Solano. Built in 1823, this was the 21st and last of the Franciscan Missions that still give California one of the strongest links to its history as part of Mexico. A visit to the Mission with the gracefulness of its traditional design, is both educational and a great opportunity for some memorable photos.

Elsewhere around the perimeter of the plaza are examples of Gold Rush era buildings and a wide range of home-town shops and restaurants. You can spend an interesting afternoon just strolling and exploring with breaks to enjoy a meal or a drink at one of the many restaurants and cafes that surround the square.

While Sonoma is most often associated with some of California’s best wineries, another famous product also comes from this region, Jack Cheese. In supermarkets across the country it’s easy to find a product labeled Jack Cheese. But such cellophane wrapped, soft textured, and bland products are pale imitators of the various varieties of Jack Cheese to be found here, particularly Dry Jack Cheese. Perhaps the best example of Dry Jack Cheese can be purchased at the famous Vella Cheese Factory. Here wheels of Jack Cheese are aged for 1, 2, 3 years or longer. These are as different in taste and texture as mozzarella cheese is from Parmesan. If you are a fan of aged Gouda, you will undoubtedly love Dry Jack cheese.

Ending an afternoon of exploring downtown Sonoma, it’s nice to sit across from the Plaza at one of the Sunflower Cafe’s sidewalk tables enjoying a glass of wine and perhaps having a grilled cheese sandwich made with the local Dry Jack cheese.

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