You know how they talk about Berkeley being a hotbed of protest? They’re lying. It’s pretty much always perishing cold here. When we went through a (mercifully brief) pro-nudity movement a few years ago that was the question all of us locals were asking: How can they stand the cold?So I was particularly happy when business took me to Sonoma this week. This is a small city of about 10,000 people in Sonoma County wine country. The main attraction is the plaza downtown, beautifully landscaped with a pond so serene just looking at it makes your heart rate slow down. (In a good way.) The early 20th-century City Hall is here, as are the Mission San Francisco Solano and an assortment of shops and cafes.
Sonoma County doesn’t get quite the same kind of press as the Napa Valley next door, but it’s definitely worth a visit. One of my favorite wineries is Benziger Family Winery. For $15, you can take a 45-minute tram tour of the vineyards, farmed biodynamically _ just learning about that is an experience _ and see the fermentation facility, crush pad and barrel caves. Oh, and you get to taste a little wine.
Another good side trip is Jack London State Park, where the author of “Call of the Wild,” etc., lived from 1905 to 1916. There are the ruins of what was to be his dream house, which burned down in 1913, and also a cottage where he lived and wrote. I visited a few years ago and was impressed by his mantra of write 1,000 a words a day, every day. Can’t say I live up to that. Of course, he didn’t have the handicap of being distracted by unbearably cute pictures of cats on the Internet.