Sonoma Valley, California: A county of contrasts

Guerneville's beach on a Russian River.

Guerneville’s beach on a Russian River.

It’s noon in Guerneville and pick adult trucks are parked during a internal gymnasium on a corner of a iconic Russian River. Veterans dressed in checked shirts and low-slung jeans salute a American dwindle waving in a breeze, before sauntering behind to their trucks during a gait so delayed we can hear any root crunch. A few blocks away, a categorical travel is lined with chic cafes portion organic prosaic whites and dishes featuring produce sourced from a surrounding valley.

The vets presumably once worked in a internal joist mills that done a city famous and warranted Guerneville its first name, Stumptown, that is still a nickname today. A few centuries ago, the area was filled with so many redwood trees that internal Indians called it “Ceola” or untrustworthy place, when the area had a greatest biomass firmness on a planet.

I’ve jogged on some overwhelming marks in New Zealand and elsewhere, though we will never forget my one hour run in a Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve beneath 300ft-tall ancient redwoods, some of that are some-more than 1000 years old. The day we conduct in, a haze that smothered Guerneville when we woke had finally lifted. we run beneath a 1400-year-old Colonel Armstrong tree, named after a record worker who chose to safety this partial of a park in a 1880s. we run past a few visitors station underneath a Parsons Jones tree – a tallest there, and a length of a football margin – in one partial of a park.

The Armstrong Redwood Native Park is a inhabitant attraction.

The Armstrong Redwood Native Park is a inhabitant attraction.

As we dodge tree roots, I think of George Guerne, the Swiss immigrant, who arrived and set adult a town’s first logmill in a 1880s. The distinguished trees were felled, withdrawal only this state park, and a city was named after him.

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Given this is Guerneville’s categorical attraction, I’m astounded a marks are so empty. I’ve got a terrible clarity of instruction during a best of times, and we can’t symbol any landmarks detached from nonetheless another redwood, that all demeanour a same. we feel like Hansel and Gretel looking for a glinting pebble signalling where we should turn, until we lope into a park ranger, who happily points me towards a exit. “A integrate of hundred feet down there,” he drawls, shuffling his feet slowly.

Autocamp is a glamping campsite filled with selected airstream caravans and oppulance tents underneath redwoods in Guerneville.

Autocamp is a glamping campsite filled with selected airstream caravans and oppulance tents underneath redwoods in Guerneville.

The redwood forest is on a other side of city from a digs for a night. In a timber of replanted redwoods only adult from a river, a high wooden embankment opens solemnly to exhibit rows of airstream caravans radiant in a splendid sunlight. Our airstream is embellished out in mid-century inspired furnishings, along with a few logs we can cocktail into a possess campfire, along with a bag of jumbo marshmallows.

The final time we scrupulously camped was 5 years ago in Hawke’s Bay, when my tent was dripping by after a week of plain rain, and we scooped H2O out in buckets. No such play during Autocamp, where along with 30 airstreams, a campsite is dotted with oppulance tents, any with a black bed and soothing mattress.

Autocamp is another acquire surprise, only like Guerneville itself. Up compartment now, we had never suspicion there was most to this segment over San Francisco. When we motionless to try a city’s surrounds, my partner suggested we could try 100 kilometres north of a iconic Golden Gate overpass to variegate a trip. 

Taylor Maid Farms shares a plantation to embankment truth of Sonoma County.

Taylor Maid Farms shares a plantation to embankment truth of Sonoma County.

Driving in, we knew we had arrived in Guerneville when a pointer during a town’s opening declared the city “a hate-free community”. That pointer reflects a tensions that flared adult a decade ago between dual impassioned communities vital here – a lumberjacks we speckled on my initial day in a city of 4000 residents, and a magnanimous hipsters who first began travelling here from San Francisco in a 1970s, generally a happy village who fell in adore with a place.

One of those is a hotelier, Crista Luedtke, who left San Francisco some-more than a decade ago during a happy wave. It’s thanks to Luedtke that tourists can now eat food that rivals that served in San Francisco and stay in stylish digs but a cost tag. Her 14-room Boon Hotel is close to a redwood state park. On a calm summer evening, we sup during her restaurant, Boon Eat + Drink, ravenous dishes sourced locally from circuitously farms, and sipping Russian River wines.

It’s interjection to her and other business owners that a “hate-free” pointer is during a town’s entrance, along with “hate-free” stickers they initial placed on emporium windows a decade ago when locals lashed out at gay vacationers.

Dry Creek hollow in Sonoma.

Dry Creek hollow in Sonoma.

Wine country

Guerneville is over a mountain from the Sonoma valley, a segment criss-crossed with grapevines which rivals circuitously Napa Valley an hour west and is home to some-more than 60,000 acres of vineyards and 425 wineries. Russian settlers are believed to have planted a initial grapes here back in a 1830s. They came to a internal seashore to hunt for seals in a early 1800s, withdrawal their symbol on a segment and giving arise to a name Russian River valley.

I’ve seen the Hawke’s Bay wineries from a bike chair so I’m penetrating to do a same in California. We drive 30km south from Guerneville to Santa Rosa, where Randy Johnson meets us during his bike shop, Getaway Adventures. Our guide has this thought that we should go “off a beaten track” to “secret spots”. Minutes later, we’re pedalling along a bike line beside a highway. The penetrating cyclist has told us to conduct for Forestville, that he describes as a subsequent Guerneville, watchful to be discovered.

Francis Ford Coppola's winery is in Geyserville, Sonoma.

Francis Ford Coppola’s winery is in Geyserville, Sonoma.

We cycle on a former railway lane where trains ran until 1984, when a tyrannise was disbanded and a land was eventually bought by a state and incited into a cycle trail.

Hitting a trade again, we arrive in Sebastopol, a honeyed American city portion a circuitously booze industry, where we conduct for a coffee to The Barlow – a 20 hectare outside marketplace featuring internal food, wine, beer, spirits and crafts done onsite by internal artisans. We sip clever organic coffee during Taylor Maid Farms and nip on internal cheeses, lapping adult a plantation to embankment truth distinguished here.

Pedalling for a tiny city of Graton, there’s zero most to see so far, detached from gas-chugging American cars, until we see a red stable squatting amid paddocks. We’re apparently in a apple collateral of California, nonetheless given a 1970s, much of the land has been replanted with vines.

Vineyards have taken over Sonoma County to opposition circuitously Napa Valley as an critical wine-making district.

Vineyards have taken over Sonoma County to opposition circuitously Napa Valley as an critical wine-making district.

The front yard of Hale’s Apple Farm is full of hulk pumpkins intense a fiery orange, and speckled gourds, squash and cucumbers. The third era “farm” (they don’t use a tenure orchard) sells 40 opposite apple varieties by a pound, and one of a workers, Gabriella Mata, cuts me off a square of a winesap apple to try. They’re only off a tree, and so uninformed that a extract dribbles down my chin.

It’s interjection to a integrate of winesap apples that we have adequate appetite to pedal into Forestville an hour or so later. The city doesn’t have Guerneville’s redwoods or hipster charm, and it’s tough to see either Johnson’s anticipation will come loyal as we see a functioning categorical travel filled with cars and a handful of locals erratic about. On a approach behind to Santa Rosa, we cycle adult a mountain to a winery off a beaten track, where we compensate US$25 (NZ$34) for a tasting of 5 representation glasses.

A day later, after a best nap we’ve had in ages in a selected airstream, we confirm to do a full afternoon of cycling and wine tasting. Of a 400-plus wineries in a county, some pull busloads, like Francis Ford Coppola’s winery in Geyserville. The bike emporium owners in another town, Healdsburg, tells us about a integrate of the quieter ones to visit, and so we cycle from Healdsburg’s tree-covered piazza out towards a vineyards using over a hills and plains in a Dry Creek valley.

We could be on a slight lanes of France, or a behind roads of Central Otago or Hawke’s Bay, a perspective rows of emerald immature vineyards using underneath splendid blue skies. The disproportion between a wineries I’ve visited during home and a ones here are that the Californian ones are mostly outrageous empires, with vast, dark wine caves and considerable attic doors.  Buses are often parked out a front, and there’s no such thing as a giveaway tasting.

That is with a difference of places like Dry Creek Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley, on a corner of Healdsburg, where we are given a guided tour. The Sonoma county is aiming to be a country’s initial tolerable booze segment by 2019, and wineries like Dry Creek Vineyard are good on a way. The family-owned vineyard is biodynamic, organic, and totally off a grid, powering a operation through solar panels and recycling a water.

A garden flowers with plants and vegetables to attract pests divided from a vines. Near a quarrel of grapevines, a pen of pigs and piglets squealing in a tray are a winery “tractors”. “We let these guys out. They use their noses like shovels and slice adult a soil, and get oxygen into a ground, creation it healthier,” says a winery’s co-owner. “Everything is composted and put behind into a soil. We don’t supplement anything that inlet doesn’t do.”

At Dry Creek Vineyard, there’s not a redwood or a lumberjack in steer – only rows of grapevines speckled by late afternoon yellowing light. And yet, that other universe is only over a hill, proof that California is packaged with so most farrago that all we need is a automobile – or a bike – to try over a Golden Gate.

More information:

Getting there: Air New Zealand flies to San Francisco. See From there, sinecure a automobile and expostulate north-west to Guerneville, 100 kilometres away.

Staying there: Boon Hotel, 14711 Armstrong Woods Rd, Guerneville, California; Rooms from NZ$305 a night.

Autocamp, Old Cazadero Road, Guerneville. Rooms from NZ$243 a night.

Cycling there: Getaway Adventures, 2228 Northpoint Pkwy, Santa Rosa. Bikes for hire, along with cycle tours.

The author was a guest of Sonoma County Tourism.

 – Stuff

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