by Karen Misuraca, published in Horizon Air
To celebrate his 67th birthday this spring, the movie director, Francis
Ford Coppola, invited 2,000-plus of his Sonoma County neighbors to his
new wine estate in the rolling hills just north of Santa Rosa. Francis
Coppola Winery is the newest of the over 250 premium wineries that make
this county world famous.
"I'm a movie director, so I have to have a theme," Coppola said at the
party. "The theme for our Sonoma property is life. I want to create a
happy Italian family feeling."
As in Italy, the mild, semi-Mediterranean climate here is perfect for
grape-growing and for fruit orchards and vegetables. More than one
hundred farms on the quiet country roads of the Sonoma County Farm
Trails are open for pick-your-own produce, and such hands-on fun as
trout fishing, olive oil pressing, carriage rides, petting llamas and
learning to make artisan cheese.
Fresh Dungeness crab and salmon are worth the drive, too, from Santa
Rosa through the Russian River Valley to the village of Bodega Bay,
where sea lions, sailboats and windsurfers share the harbor with the
fishing fleet. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the promontory of Bodega
Head is a prime whale-watching and hiking site. From Bodega Bay north
is the Sonoma Coast State Beach, actually a string of sandy strips and
rocky coves, accessible from Highway 1 along a rugged coastline dotted
with spectacular sea stacks and natural arches.
Along the Russian River are small vacation towns, sandy beaches,
fishing holes, vineyards and wineries. Near the riverside town of
Guerneville, walking trails in Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve meander
below some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world. On warm summer
days and nights, Guerneville hosts the annual Russian River Blues
Festival, and Jazz on the River.
On the north end of the river lies the Victorian-era town of Healdsburg
in the winery-dotted Dry Creek Valley. In the Sonoma Valley, the town
of Sonoma is anchored by an historic plaza surrounded by 19th century
adobe and Victorian houses, and an original California mission church.
Nearby Sonoma, tens of thousands of fans flock to Infineon Raceway for
NASCAR, IndyCar and superbike races.
In the heart of Sonoma County, the city of Santa Rosa is headquarters
for hotels and inns, restaurants and shopping. A long-time city
resident, the late Charles M. Schultz was the creator of the "Peanuts"
comic strip. His life and his characters--Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy,
Woodstock and the gang--are celebrated at the Charles M. Schulz Museum,
where visitors can see original cartoons and Schulz's studio, watch
movies and learn to draw cartoons.
Bronze statues of Charlie Brown and Woodstock stand in Depot Park in
the city's Historic Railroad Square, which is surrounded by early 20th
century stone and brick buildings housing antiques shops, cafes and
nightspots. The Santa Rosa Visitors' Center is here in the 1904
landmark Northwestern Pacific Railroad Depot.
The city named Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport for their
favorite son. Starting March 20, 2007, Horizon Air will provide nonstop
service from the regional airport to Los Angeles and Seattle. In the
meantime, Horizon and Alaska Airlines offer wine country vacation
packages to Sonoma County with flights into the San Francisco Bay Area.
At the airport, on view are antique planes and military aircraft at the
Pacific Coast Air Museum. The museum hosts the annual "Wings Over Wine
Country" air show in August, when military flybys and skydiving thrill
the crowds, who also get a chance to climb onboard jet fighters and
other historic flying machines.
In the fall of 2007, the bronze figures of Charlie Brown and Linus will
be unveiled as permanent greeters of airport arrivals.