By: Eric Alexander Hamilton

Drive north of San Francisco for about an hour and you’ll be in the town of Sonoma, in the midst of the Sonoma Valley, an area so beautiful that the famous writer, Jack London (author of “Call of the Wild”), nicknamed it “The Valley of the Moon”. The entire Sonoma Valley is part of California’s Wine Country. Unlike the Napa Valley, its more famous, expensive, and trendy “neighbor”, the Sonoma Valley is a peaceful, romantic place with vineyards, wineries, parks, hiking and cycling trails, restaurants, and beautiful scenery. Far less publicized than the Napa Valley, the Sonoma Valley has much to offer. If you like historic monuments and sites, fine wine, and good food, especially superb cheese, then you’ll enjoy visiting Sonoma and the surrounding Sonoma Valley.

More than likely, wherever you live in North America, you have already had a taste of Sonoma, literally. That hamburger, enchilada, or tortilla that you recently ate probably had Sonoma Jack cheese on it. That white cheese which adds a zest to burgers, omelets, and vegetables originates from the Sonoma Cheese Factory. Built in 1931 and located in downtown Sonoma, the factory sells Sonoma Jack and Cheddar cheese with a variety of flavors: mushroom, red pepper, onion, jalapeno, peppercorn, sun-dried tomato, and many others. Drop into the factory, try its sample cheeses; then have an outdoor lunch at the Factory’s patio restaurant: try their charbroiled barbeque hamburgers, ribs, or sausages.

Sonoma CaliforniaNext, explore the town of Sonoma. The Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau can tell you about the many places to visit. This town may be relatively small, but its significance in California’s history is huge. California used to belong to Mexico. When American settlers arrived in the Sonoma Valley in the 1840’s they soon discovered that only Mexican citizens could own land. In a fit of outrage, a group of American settlers seized control of Sonoma in 1846 and made its Mexican ruler, General Vallejo, and his men prisoners. The settlers then declared California an independent republic. About 25 days later, the American Government annexed California to the United States of America.

Thankfully the Californian government has preserved many of Sonoma’s historical sites. For example, next door to the Sonoma Cheese Factory is the Toscano Hotel, built in 1850 and completely restored to its previous grandeur. It’s a two-story wood-frame building that was converted to a hotel to house the many miners that flooded into the region in search of gold. With its solid oak bar, card tables, and piano, the lobby of the hotel looks like a saloon from an old western movie.

Beside the Toscano Hotel is the Sonoma Barracks, a two-story adobe structure building built between 1836 and 1840 to serve as the headquarters of General Vallejo and his troops. The entire downtown area has many historical places to visit, even a winery: the Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery offers tours and a tasting room where you can sample Nouveau Beaujolais, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay wines.

Take time to visit some of the wineries nearby, such as Kenwood Vineyards, in the small town of Kenwood about 10 miles north of Sonoma. It dates back to 1906 and is a certified organic winery. Its specialties are Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Jack London Zinfandel wines. Also, in Kenwood is Chateau St. Jean, built in 1920 with a tasting room, hospitality center, and gift shop. This winery’s specialties are: Fume Blanc, Johannisberg Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Gewurtztraminer wines. On your way back to Sonoma, stop in at the Benziger Family Winery in the small town of Glen Ellen. It has beautiful picnic grounds, a Viticulture Discover Center, which explains how wine is made, a tasting room, a wine shop, and a winery tour, one of the best in North America. This winery’s specialties are: Pinot Gris, Syrah, Muscat, Canelli, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay.

If you prefer not to explore the area by car, then consider taking a bike tour. Such tours have become increasingly popular, and are a great way to experience the beauty of this valley.

About the author:

Eric Alexander Hamilton lives in Vancouver, Canada. He loves travelling and has lived in several cities such as Paris, London, and Zurich. His passions in life are photography and writing, particularly about travel, self-help and spiritual topics. To him, writing and photography are a natural match, as witnessed in his web site, With each passing day, he is trying to follow the advice of the famous American writer, Jack London:, who said: “The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.” It’s advice we should all follow.