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: Denver, Colorado

Get a quick view of the Mile High City's geography, business environment and activities.

Profile: Aspen, Colorado

Learn the basics about this little city nestled in the Rocky Mountains

Profile: San Francisco, California

Learn about historic San Francisco with this short profile.

Profile: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Your cheat sheet on Colorado Spring's basic history, demographics and more

Profile: Seattle, Washington

Here's a quick guide on what makes Seattle tick, besides Starbucks.

Best Los Angeles Neighborhoods for Trick-or-Treating

If you want to keep your wee ones happy, healthy, safe and full of the Halloween spirit, here’s the local lowdown.

Denver's Union Station Sees New Life

From Skid Row to trendy LoDo, the revitalization of Denver's downtown continues with the grand opening of the repurposed and restored Union Station and Crawford Hotel.

Real Californians Have Drought-Resistant Lawns

So says one San Francisco-area landscaper, who sees each backyard as a gateway to understanding — and thereby saving — the rest of the world.

Seattle Essentials

From pub crawls to dragon boat racing, check out our guide to the best local places and activities in Seattle.

Colorado Springs: Like No Place Else

Learn about the sights and spots that set Colorado Springs apart from other cities in the Centennial State.

On TV

Flea Market Flip

8:30am | 7:30c

Flea Market Flip

9:30am | 8:30c

Flea Market Flip

10:30am | 9:30c

Flea Market Flip

11:30am | 10:30c

Flea Market Flip

2:30pm | 1:30c

Flea Market Flip

3:30pm | 2:30c

Flea Market Flip

4:30pm | 3:30c

Flea Market Flip

5:30pm | 4:30c

Flea Market Flip

6:30pm | 5:30c

Flea Market Flip

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

Flea Market Flip

8pm | 7c

Flea Market Flip

8:30pm | 7:30c

Flea Market Flip

9:30pm | 8:30c

Flea Market Flip

10:30pm | 9:30c

Flea Market Flip

11:30pm | 10:30c

Flea Market Flip

12:30am | 11:30c

Flea Market Flip

1:30am | 12:30c

Flea Market Flip

2:30am | 1:30c

Flea Market Flip

3:30am | 2:30c

Top GAC Shows

Flea Market Flip

Sundays at 8|7c

Living Alaska

Mondays at 9|8c

Top 20 Countdown

Consult Program Guide

Flippin' RVs

Wednesdays 9|8c

Get Social With Us

Let's explore this country together.