More than just a treasure trove of vineyards, farm-to-table cuisine, and natural splendor, Sonoma County is a leader in the sustainable wine movement. Local winemaker Ashley Herzberg of Amista Vineyards gave us a tour of the area's best food, wine, and sites.
SONOMA COUNTY, — It's 8 a.m. on a quiet foggy morning when I arrive at Amista Vineyards. The property is nestled on twenty acres in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley and is cradled by regal redwood trees and a lush backwater pond. I'm greeted by winemaker Ashley Herzberg and a serving platter of glasses filled with blanc de blanc.
Welcome to wine country, where bubbly at 8 a.m is not frowned upon but rather encouraged.
I'm here because five years ago Sonoma County embarked on an endeavor to become the nation's first 100-percent-certified sustainable wine region. They've already made great strides: There are 495 wineries in Sonoma County, and they've reached an astonishing 99 percent so far. Amista Vineyards is one of them.
Becoming certified sustainable isn't a one-size-fits-all situation. Growers must complete a self-assessment that includes 138 best practices, followed by a plan that focuses on everything from water conservation to energy efficiency. These self assessments are then reviewed by third-party auditors — environmental scientists, biologists, and colleagues of this ilk — and it's only their approval that gives vineyards the certification.
The diverse wine growing regions in Sonoma County produce more than 60 varietals. The varied geographic conditions — mountain ranges, valleys, lakes, coastal fog from the Pacific Ocean, hillside terroir, high elevations — are like being in five different countries at the same time. If you have a sweet tooth for wine, Sonoma County is the candy shop.
Of course, there's more to do here than revel in before-noon wine tastings. The farm-to-table food scene is flourishing and only getting stronger. And let's not forget that we're in California, land of glorious outdoor activities. Cue the hiking, kayaking, and cycling. Wine, cuisine, and connecting with nature is how time around here is best spent.