Profile: Sonoma, California

Discover some interesting facts about California's birthplace.
By: David Bolling
Related To:

Population: 10,000

USDA Hardiness Zone: 9b

Major Airports: Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport

Companies with a Major Presence: The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, Sebastiani Vineyards, Buena Vista Vineyards, Gundlach Bundschu (the oldest family-owned winery in the West)

Sonoma is the true birthplace of both California and the California wine industry, but that’s just one slice of the historical pie. It’s also where Franciscan friars built the northernmost California mission. It’s the capital of the short-lived Bear Flag Republic that preceded statehood. It’s the site of the West’s oldest winery and home to the biggest town square in California. In short, Sonoma is overflowing with wine and history.

But don’t assume that grapes alone define the town. There’s a lot more to it than that. Sonoma is both old and sleepy, and young and hip, with a social calendar that fills almost every weekend. It has petanque courts, an annual jazz festival, an A-list film festival, two competitive drink-fests (Martini Madness and The Battle of the Bartenders) and a world-class racetrack hosting NASCAR, the IRL, NHRA national drags, the Jim Russell Racing School and several weekends of classic car events.

Still, wine is what keeps Sonoma at work and on the map. The city of 10,000 is nestled between low mountains in the picturesque Valley of the Moon. The Valley has enough romance, scenic beauty, culinary options and, of course, great wine to stimulate a pinch-me reflex among new arrivals.

In a frequently repeated scenario, people visit for the wine and then find a way to stay. Despite its fairy-tale charm, Sonoma is a real community where most people still don’t lock their doors and architecture ranges from Mediterranean and Victorian to Craftsman. There are stunning estates and modest bungalows. Before the subprime crash, the average selling price was close to $900,000.

There’s not a lot of industry in Sonoma and much of what there is connects in some way to tourism and wine. Sonoma’s historic neighborhoods, its wooded hillsides and ridge-top estates are home to numerous notables including Pixar’s John Lasseter, Tommy Smothers and numerous cashed-out dot-com millionaires.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Profile: San Francisco, California

Learn about historic San Francisco with this short profile.

Profile: Sacramento, California

Get the basics on Sacramento's demographics, economy, history, and more.

Profile: San Diego, California

There's a lot to love about this West Coast urban beach town.

Profile: San Jose, California

Learn about San Jose, CA with this visitor guide that includes relocation information, top local destinations and more.

Profile: West Palm Beach, Florida

Learn about the economy, history and demographics of this seaside city.

Profile: Kansas City, Missouri

Get a brief overview of this Midwestern city that some call the Heart of America.

Profile: New York City, New York

Get a quick run-down of New York City with this profile.

Sonoma Essentials

Take advantage of Sonoma’s best dining, entertainment and more.

5 Great Neighborhoods in Sonoma

Get to know the best places to call home in this historic California town.

On TV

Music Videos

10am | 9c

Music Videos

11am | 10c

Time Capsule

1pm | 12c

Living Alaska

6:30pm | 5:30c

Living Alaska

7:30pm | 6:30c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Living Alaska

8pm | 7c

Living Alaska

8:30pm | 7:30c

Living Alaska

9:30pm | 8:30c

Living Alaska

10pm | 9c

Living Alaska

10:30pm | 9:30c

Living Alaska

11pm | 10c

Living Alaska

11:30pm | 10:30c

Living Alaska

12am | 11c

Living Alaska

12:30am | 11:30c

Living Alaska

1am | 12c

Living Alaska

1:30am | 12:30c

Living Alaska

2:30am | 1:30c

Living Alaska

3:30am | 2:30c

Top GAC Shows

Flea Market Flip

Consult Program Guide

Living Alaska

Tuesdays 9pm | 8c

Top 20 Countdown

Consult Program Guide

Flippin' RVs

Wednesdays 9|8c

Get Social With Us

Let's explore this country together.