Explore & Taste Sonoma!

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Visa Signature Perks

Visa Signature Perks

Sonoma County Vintners offers Visa Signature cardholders year-round exclusive benefits at over 60 wineries. More...

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

3 Days. 200 Wineries and Chefs. One unforgettable Sonoma County experience. Learn more about our annual Labor Day Weekend celebration of wine and food here

Winery in the Spotlight

Alexander Valley Vineyards
Open to Public

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History of Sonoma County Wine Country

Sonoma County Wine Timeline 

1800's
1812 – Russian Colonists planted grapes at Fort Ross (Sonoma Coast.)
1823 – Spanish Franciscan Father Jose Altamira (Sonoma Mission) planted several thousand vines.
1834 – Political upheaval brought an appropriation of all missions by the Mexican government. During this period, cuttings from Sonoma Mission vineyards were transported and planted throughout northern California.
1845 – Bear Flag Revolt in Sonoma; California becomes independent.
1855 – The Hungarian Count Agoston Haraszthy “The father of California Wine Industry” founded Buena Vista winery in Sonoma Valley.  
1856 – Cyrus Alexander plants grapes in northern Sonoma County.
1873 – Worldwide outbreak of phylloxera destroys vineyards.

1920-50’s
1920 – There were 256 wineries. With more than 22,000 acres (8,900 ha) in production, Sonoma County had surpassed Los Angeles.
1920-33 – 18th Amendment launches Prohibition. Home winemaking booms. 200 gallons (757 liters) per household are allowed. California produces 150 million gallons (567 million liters) of home wine. Acreage grows to over 30,000 acres (12,000 ha) in grape production.
1933 – By the time Prohibition is repealed, only 160 of California’s 700 wineries remained. Less than 50 wineries in Sonoma County survive.
1933-1945 – WWII prevented importing of French wines, which helped Sonoma County wineries to slowly build and revive; much of new production went into bulk wines.

1945 – 1955 – Post war grape and wine overproduction showed things down, and pro-ration programs were instituted by the government to deal with the glut. Sonoma County pioneers worked through this to rebuild their wine and grape businesses.

1960s to Present
1960's – As the 1960s redefined so many facets of American life, the decade made its mark on the Sonoma County wine industry.  Americans developed a taste for wine and demand began to grow.
Early 1970s – A second generation of wineries are started, following a nationwide wine boom. Consumption grows at a 40% rate.
1975 – Wine labels are regulated and appellations begin to be important in marketing Sonoma County’s wines. Planted acreage returns toward 1920s levels of 24,000 acres (9,700 ha.)
1980s – Sonoma County made the transition from being known as a producer dairy, grain and fruit crops with grapes in fourth position. By 1989 grapes were Sonoma County’s top revenue-generating agricultural crop. Technological advances in winemaking improved wines to meet the more discerning tastes of consumers.  
1999 – There are over 49,000 acres (19,800 ha) of vineyards owned by more than 750 growers and 180 bonded wineries in Sonoma County.  
Today – Sonoma County has 15 unique AVAs and more than 50 grape varieties are planted here. It is estimated that the wine industry and related tourism contributes over $8 billion to the local economy each year, about 40% of the county's contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

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