A Sonoma-style Revolution

By: Ben Ford

The Bear Flag Revolt led to California’s independence from Mexico, but it began on the morning of June 14, 1846, as a very Sonoma-centric revolution.

With a motley crew of revolutionaries, sometimes mistaken for pirates, a makeshift flag with a hand-drawn bear and a retired Mexican general inviting his captors inside for drinks, where else could the Bear Flag Revolt have begun but Sonoma?

The 55th annual Bear Flag Celebration will begin 11 a.m., Saturday, June 10, at Sonoma Plaza at the Bear Flag Monument. Click here for details.

Stories vary from account to account, but most agree on the basic details of the Bear Flag Revolt.

A small group of Americans, worried Mexico would push them out of the then-Mexican territory of California, decided to take action after meeting with U.S. Army Brevet Capt. John C. Fremont with a 62-man exploration expedition.

On the morning of June 14, 1846, 33 Americans, many of them roughly dressed mountain men, arrived in Sonoma, home of an abandoned Mexican military outpost. The men surrounded the home of retired Mexican Gen. Mariano Vallejo, who invited a group of the men inside and servants served drinks.

Negotiations went on at length, and Vallejo, who favored annexation of California by the United States, told the men he supported their cause. However, the men believed they were under orders from Fremont to take him captive.

An early leader of the California revolt, William Ide, urged the small group of men in Sonoma to start the Republic of California. A makeshift flag with a red stripe at the bottom made from the donated section of a petticoat, and with a badly drawn bear that looked more like a hog, flew over the outpost. But the Bear Flag rallied about 100 Californians from across the region, and when Mexico attempted to retake Sonoma on June 24, 1846, the revolutionaries won, suffering two dead to Mexico’s five or six casualties.

Less than a month later, on July 9, the U.S. military occupied the Sonoma outpost, and the Republic of California ended. The U.S. military marched throughout California planting the flag, with more fighting occurring between officers than with the Mexicans, according to many accounts.

The Bear Flag Revolt moved California one step closer to becoming the 31st state in the Union on September 9, 1850.

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Muscat Love

By: Kevin Hess

Break out the party hats and the fancy wine stoppers because May 9 is a day many wine lovers can appreciate – National Moscato Day.

A quick trip in history, Moscato is an Italian wine born in the Piedmont region. Made from the muscat grape, the wine has distinct floral smells and overall sweeter taste.

Typically, Moscato has a low alcohol content with a moderate acidity level. Interestingly, Moscato comes in both a red and white form and has flavor notes of orange, peach and apricot. A versatile wine, Moscato comes in three styles: Moscato d’Asti, a slightly bubbly wine; still moscato; and dessert moscato.

With its sweet taste and light texture, Moscato pairs beautifully with spicy cuisines, particularly Asian food. However, it also complements chicken, turkey, duck and some seafood. If meat isn’t for you, try it with carrots, mango, green onion and even tofu.

Below, we’ve listed a few of Sonoma’s Moscato producers:

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards
24724 Arnold Drive (Hwy 12)
Sonoma, CA, 95476

Robledo Family Winery
21901 Bonness Road
Sonoma, CA, 95476

Favero Vineyards and Winery
3939 Lovall Valley Road
Sonoma, CA, 95476

Ravenswood Winery
18701 Gehricke Road
Sonoma, California

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How to Completely Rule BottleRock 2017

By Maria Dontas

Since 2013, BottleRock Napa Valley has married music’s hottest acts with wine country’s best brews, wines and chefs. The three-day event features over 80 bands, gourmet food, craft beer and specialty cocktails. Headed to the festival but staying in Sonoma? Even better. We’ve got tricks for navigating the terrain so your weekend can really rock and roll.

Where to Stay

  • Stay at the Sonoma Creek Inn. It’s a 5-minute drive or Uber from Sonoma Plaza – the bus pick-up and drop-off location provided by BottleRock.
  • Stay at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek. Not only are you within 10 minutes of the Bennett Valley Road Park and Ride where the BottleRock shuttle will pick you up and drop you off, but you’re also within 30 minutes of several beloved Sonoma wineries, including Matanzas Creek, St. Francis and the Benziger Family Winery. Downtown Santa Rosa and historic Railroad Square is just a stone’s throw away.
  • Other hotels:
    • Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn: 550 2nd St W, Sonoma, CA 95476
    • Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa: 100 Boyes Blvd, Sonoma, CA 95476
    • The Cottage Inn and Spa: 310 1st St E, Sonoma, CA 95476

Getting There
You can take your pick of airports that get you near Sonoma, including San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK), Sacramento International Airport (SMF), Santa Rosa/Sonoma Airport (STS) and San Jose International Airport (SJC). Sonoma County Airport now has routes from Phoenix, Minneapolis, Alaska, Hawaii and Southern California.

Once you’ve landed, you’ve got choices for getting to BottleRock, too. Daily shuttles run at regular intervals from Sonoma Plaza in Sonoma and the Park & Ride at Bennett Valley Road in Santa Rosa. There’s also Sonoma County Transit and, of course, Uber and Lyft.

If you’re staying near Glen Ellen, and consider yourself an expert biker, you might consider adapting the NAPA DRY CREEK-TRINITY-CARNEROS LOOP (https://ridewithgps.com/routes/12235524) to get to BottleRock. Complimentary bike parking will be provided near the venue, and don’t forget to bring your lock. Of course, safety is a priority, so we only recommend this option if you think you’ll be heading back before it gets dark and are an expert biker. Trinity Road is mountainous, windy and steep.

If you’re driving, the festival has designated parking a short walk from the venue and parking passes can be purchased ahead of time using the BottleRock website.

Insider Scoop
We’ve got some first-hand experience tips for rounding out the details of your trip.

  • Rent a locker. It’s a great place to throw in an extra layer for when it get’s chilly in the evening.
  • Don’t take off your wristband. Your wristband is your key in and out of BottleRock. You can leave and re-enter the festival, but only if you’ve got your wristband on, so leave it on until you’re heading back home.
  • Use Tap and Pay. Food and drink vendors throughout the festival will feature Tap & Pay Fast Lane signs. Load up your Android Pay and Apple Pay accounts to spend less time waiting in line and more time enjoying your favorite bands.
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Celebrate the Unofficial Start of Summer

By: Katie Bouloubassis

Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, has become a day to enjoy the outdoors. From cookouts to boating, you can enjoy the natural beauty of wine country throughout the long weekend.

If you’re looking to host a cookout, be sure to stop by some of our favorites for barbecue essentials. Thistle Meats, located in Petaluma, is a whole animal butcher shop. Thistle Meats offers house made charcuterie and terrines. They also offer a wide range of poultry eggs and local cheeses. If you want to host a cookout without the work, you can grab prepared meals here. Oliver’s Market has stores in Cotati and Windsor and two in Santa Rosa. It’s a great place to grab appetizers, meats and adult beverages. For vegetarian options, stop by Green String Farm. Beyond sustainable, Green String offers only seasonal produce from their on-site farm. And the produce is super affordable! Don’t forget to stop by your local winery and pick up a few bottles to pair with your picnic favorites.

For an enjoyable and active day, check out some of these great activities to do out on the water. Petaluma Stand Up Paddle (PSUP) allows you to freely explore the waterways of Petaluma. You can rent a paddleboard to go on a self-guided excursion or you can participate on a tour with a PSUP guide. If paddle boarding doesn’t seem to be your thing, you can find boat rentals for the day from Lake Sonoma Marina’s Resort Area. Have a great day on the water fishing, tubing or wakeboarding ending with the perfect lunch on board. Just grab your inner tube, sunscreen and set sail! If relaxation is your main idea for the weekend, Johnson’s Beach on the Russian River is the spot. There are activities for the kiddos to do such as, kayaking, canoeing and paddle boating all while you are soaking up some rays!

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend!


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Skip the Hotel and Stay….in a Treehouse?

By: Shawn Nesaw

When choosing your home away from home, it pays to research the variety of accommodations a city or region has to offer. Upon a quick Google search of “places to stay in Sonoma” results populate from all the usual suspects, Google, Trip Advisor, Kayak, Expedia, etc. with lists of large hotel chains where you can expect a perfectly fine, normal hotel room and experience. You’ll be in Sonoma where “good” and “normal” just won’t do.

We’ve complied a list of what we think are some of the best places for you to rest your head in Sonoma. From cottages and one of a kind hotels to bed and breakfasts and even tree houses, whatever your accommodation needs are to get some shut eye, Sonoma has you covered.

Eucalyptus Grove Tree House
Nestled high up in a grove of Eucalyptus trees, this rustic tree house provides an adventurous and memorable experience. After climbing a set of stairs crisscrossing through the trees, guests will enjoy a cozy first floor living area. A canopied bedroom opens onto a beautiful deck overlooking the countryside makes up the second floor. Don’t worry though – you won’t need to forage for your food or use the forest as your restroom. The tree house is equipped with many of the modern conveniences of home including electricity, running water, bathroom with shower and a kitchen.

Sonoma Water Tower
Located on a 15-acre vineyard ranch in the Sonoma Valley, sits this secluded, beautiful two story water tower. This property offers a unique vacation experience for those who want to relax and enjoy all Sonoma has to offer. The newly remodeled tower sleeps two and is outfitted with a fully stocked kitchenette, half bath and is beautifully decorated with a mix of antiques and modern décor. You get a rustic, outdoorsy experience with the private outdoor shower and outdoor soaking tub in a secluded yard.

Wildlife Glamping
The words “luxury” and “tent” don’t usually go together but at Safari West in Santa Rosa, they do. Safari West is an African-style safari experience with luxury accommodations – custom-built, heavy-duty tent cabins. Outfitted with modern amenities and beautifully decorated with authentic African décor, these luxury tents provide a fantastic camping experience without any of the trouble camping can bring. Each tent includes a shower, bathroom, indoor plumbing, cozy beds and hand-made furniture. Safari West provides complimentary breakfasts for all guests. To truly experience Safari West, book a driving or walking safari to see cheetahs, cape buffalo, lemurs and over 800 other animal species. One thing is for sure, you’ll never look at camping the same way again.

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Tips to Taste Wine like a Pro

Tasting wine isn’t a science and you don’t need to be a sommelier to enjoy the experience, but there are a few tips and tricks to having a great tasting experience and truly learn about the wines in your glass.

Don’t wear perfume, fragrant lotions or hair products. Half the flavor of the wine is in the nose, or smell of the wine. The aromas of the wine, prior to the first sip, tell the taster the flavors and nuances of the wine. If you have perfume, fragrant skin products or hair products, you and your fellow tasters sense of smell will be diluted. Same goes for cigarettes.

Skip the toothpaste and your coffee. We know you probably need that cup of coffee to drive to the tasting room safely and the dentist says to brush your teeth every morning, but the lingering flavors of toothpaste and coffee dull your taste buds. If you do have coffee and brush your teeth, try to wait an hour or so before your first tasting. We also recommend packing a few wine tasting essentials.

Pack water and flavorless crackers. If you are going to more than one tasting in a day, we recommend packing a few bottles of water and some crackers. Staying hydrated and fed not only will help prevent you from getting intoxicated, but some water and food will cleanse your palette between tastings. Most tasting rooms and wineries have water and some breadsticks, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own just in case.

Don’t try to pack too many stops in one day. By the time you get to your fourth or fifth tasting room, your palette is totally shot so you won’t be able to accurately taste the wines. This isn’t a problem if you’re just in it to drink, but if you really want to learn about and understand the wines, follow this tip.


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Where the Locals Go

This week we sought to find the local hotspots – where everybody knows your name. Talking with local “Sonomans,” we pulled together their list of top spots and everything you want to know to travel like a local. 

Winemaker Caroline Guthrie is a huge fan of Glen Ellen Star. “Glen Ellen Star, my favorite sport in Sonoma County for a couple years now.” Tucked in the village of Glen Ellen, the Star, as locals call it, is led by Chef Ari Weiswasser and his wife, Erinn Benziger-Weiswasser. The menu features local produce and proteins, many cooked in cast iron skillets in the kitchen’s wood-fired oven.

El Molino Central is a favorite of farmer and sommelier William Henpenn. Just north of Sonoma proper in The Springs neighborhood, El Molino offers Mexican street food, taken to a whole new level. Known for its made-to-order guacamole, seasonal dishes and fresh masa, ground every morning, this place is a foodie magnet. Locals often swing by in the morning to get hot-off-the-griddle corn tortillas.

Hana Japanese Restaurant, private chef Kendyl Bilenkij’s go-to spot, is located in an inconspicuous building in Rohnert Park. Chef-owner, Ken Tominaga is a sushi genius. Sourcing only the best local ingredients, Tominaga’s meals are creative, inspiring and absolutely delicious.

If you are looking for a great breakfast or lunch spot, look no further than one of long-time resident Dany Harnisch’s favorite spots, Water Street Bistro. A quaint little restaurant on the Petaluma, Water Street Bistro is a great place to enjoy lunch, a croissant or coffee. The French-inspired menu changes daily, featuring only the freshest ingredients. Once a month, chef Stephanie Rastetter hosts a multi-course dinner. Spots fill up quickly with those who are in the know and frequent the bistro.

When he’s not at his winery, winemaker Kieran Robinson frequents Iron Horse Vineyards. Iron Horse is in West County in the Russian River American Viticulture Area. Iron Horse makes a variety of wines, but specializes in sparkling wines. Robinson particularly enjoys the late disgorged sparkling wine, but it’s limited production and hard to get.

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Egg Hunts and a Great Brunch: How to do Easter in Sonoma

Spring has sprung and the bright, pastel colors of the season are upon us. As Easter rapidly approaches, Sonoma has a variety of fun seasonal activities planned, including egg hunts and amazing brunch specials. Hop to it and mark your calendars!

Easter Egg Hunts
April 15: Easter “Hoppining” Event at Francis Coppola Winery – Kids are the stars at Coppola’s “hoppining” event of fun Easter surprises. Tickets are just $12 for kids and adults are free when accompanied by a child. The events begin at the vineyards in Geyserville at 9 a.m.

April 15: Comstock Wines – Comstock Wines steals the show with a free, old-fashioned scramble to find decorated eggs in the estate’s vineyards. The race to see who can find the most eggs begins at 11 a.m.

April 15: Easter Egg Hunt and Painting with Marc Katano – The Museums of Sonoma County invites families to enjoy an egg hunt for kids under the age of 13. The Museums join with artist Marc Katano to help kids make maps and other decorating projects. Adults who yearn to feel like a kid again are encouraged to join in the decoration festivities. Admission is just $7 for children and attendees are encouraged to bring their own Easter basket. Be sure to arrive before the action begins 1:30 p.m.

April 16: The Barlow – The First Annual Barlow Easter Egg Hunt features a morning of family fun on Easter Sunday in Sebastopol. The Barlow Marketplace features some of the area’s best food and wine connoisseurs in a vast open marketplace. Get your tickets fast–registration is limited to the first 80 participants!

Easter Brunch
Ramekins – Ramekins’ Easter Sunday spread includes menu items for all taste preferences, including waffle, omelet and pork and prime rib stations. The farm to table options include various yogurts, salads and fruits. Those with a sweet tooth can get their fill with a selection of pastries and other sugary satisfactions. Then, wrap up the day with Easter egg cookie decorating for the little ones. Ramekins features a picturesque location, within walking distance to the Sonoma town square. The Easter brunch options feature seatings at 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., so get your tickets while they still last.

Amista’s Sparkling Easter Brunch – The hunt for the special Golden Egg is on at Amista, where a delightful brunch menu and entertainment from Adam Leib awaits. An egg hunt in Morningsong Vineyards highlights the occasion under the warm spring sun. How many will you find?

Depot Hotel – A three-course meal is a brunch-goer’s dream with a plethora of main course options including short-rib hash, poached salmon and crab cannelloni—and that’s just the beginning. Offered from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., you will not leave the Depot hungry!

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Going to the Dogs

Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt  

For canine lovers, dogs are a part of our families, so we often want to travel with them. However, it can be a challenge to find places where our doggy friends are welcomed. That’s why we’re going to look at some dog-loving locations right here in Sonoma County.

Luckily for us animal lovers, dogs are quite welcome in Sonoma. There are a lot of off-leash, fenced dog areas in regional parks like Ernie Smith Regional Park. This area offers a half-acre of fenced-off park space specifically for dogs to play in, with a pet drinking fountain for those extra warm days. There’s also Ragle Ranch Regional Park, where there is another half-acre of land especially for dogs, and special times each day where it is reserved exclusively for smaller pooches.

Many of our wineries welcome dogs with open arms and treats! Kunde Family Winery, Kivelstadt Cellars and Nalle Winery. Mutt Lynch in Windsor takes dog friendly to the extreme. Dogs are featured on their labels, they host Yappy Hour and a portion of all their proceeds are donated to local animal rescue organizations!

Throughout the County from Sonoma proper to Petaluma to Healdsburg, you can find pet-friendly lodging. The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, Best Western Dry Creek Inn and Hotel Petaluma all welcome dogs. Airbnb also has many rentals that are dog friendly. Just add pet friendly to your search filters.

Sonoma even offers special events for your dog. In conjunction with Sonoma Community Center’s Trashion Fashion Show, Dogs on the Catwalk, on March 26, is where you can showcase your original dog costume creation. Throughout the year many other dog events occur including Paws for Love Auction, Valentine’s Photos with your dog, Blessing of the Animals and Pet Photos with Santa throughout the county.

Host Your Own Event
If you’re planning a dog-friendly event, there are many elements to consider: venue, weather, amenities for dogs and their humans, dog-safe food and entertainment. Extremely loud noises or fireworks could scare the canine attendees.


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Best Places to Wear Your Green

By: Maria Dontas, SAS Writer

Each year, millions of Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with parades, music, religious observations, and of course, beer. As the festive holiday draws near, it’s time to break out your shamrock necklaces and the greenest of your green sweaters. In honor of the patron saint and the vibrant Irish culture we all embrace, we’ve curated a list of Sonoma’s Irish pubs sure to get you in the spirit.

Stout Brothers – 527 4th St., Santa Rosa

Stout Brothers’ corned beef and cabbage can’t be beat, so if you’re looking for a spot to grab Guinness and a good meal, look no further. You can bet all the classic brews are on tap, but what’s really great about Stout Brothers is their extensive liquor list. This is the perfect spot for a stellar Irish Mule, or better yet, a Stout Brothers’ Irish Coffee to really put a pep in your step.

Murphy’s Irish Pub – 4641st St. E, Sonoma

Get a real taste of Ireland’s local charm and hospitality at Murphy’s Irish Pub nestled right in heart of Sonoma. Founders Larry and Rose Murphy, and proprietors Bill Pollock and Bob Smith, have truly captured the feel of a local Irish pub. Murphy’s comes complete with several classic Irish beers on tap and some authentic menu favorites like their Guinness-battered fish and chips. Expect some serious celebrating, live music, and some incredible Irish step dancing.

Maguire’s – 145 Kentucky St., Petaluma

Great food, great drinks, great people. That pretty much sums it up for Maguire’s Pub. Located in historic downtown Petaluma, Maguire’s is an inviting, spacious spot right in the Old Opera House Building on Kentucky Street. With nine TVs, 16 beers on tap and a menu complete with Shepherd’s Pie and Bangers and Mash, Maguire’s is your one stop shop for a festive St. Patty’s Day. Stop by their Facebook page and see what live band they’ve got lined up for the festivities, and make sure to get there in time for the Irish dancers!

Patterson’s Pub  – 9057 Windsor Rd., Windsor

Since October 2005, Patterson’s Pub in Windsor Town Green has been serving up traditional Irish pub food and spirits to locals and tourists alike. This wood-clad bar makes you feel like you’ve walked right into a true Irish “local.” The taps are stocked with some classic Irish favorites including Harp and Magners’ Hard Cider, and you’ll find a number of delicious Irish staples on the menu. St. Patrick’s Day is also a great time for scoring some awesome deals, so make sure to ask your server or bartender about holiday specials!

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