Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages 2004
About the Region
Sonoma winemakers like to think of their region as a quieter, less glitzy alternative to the Napa Valley — though in fact it produces roughly 50 percent more grapes annually, covers more than twice the ground, and boasts about three times the population. Sonoma had grapes earlier than Napa did, too, with the first plantings in 1812. A Hungarian writer and entrepreneur named Agoston Haraszthy, called "the father of California viticulture," bought a property in Sonoma and in 1857 founded the still-extant Buena Vista winery there (it is the oldest commercial winery in the state). He later traveled around Europe collecting vine cuttings and is said to have introduced some 300 new varieties to California (among them, according to legend, zinfandel — though this has been disputed). There are various soil types and microclimates in the county, and many grape types have thrived, with chardonnay and pinot noir being perhaps the most famous, though Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley is notable for its zinfandel, and there is excellent cabernet sauvignon and merlot made throughout the region.