Santa Rosa in the Spotlight

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Home / Santa Rosa in the Spotlight

Town of Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa is the largest city in wine country and a thriving center of commerce and culture. It is home to a vibrant downtown district, shopping areas, art and cultural events, great restaurants, famous chefs, and beautiful parks. Santa Rosa is also steeped in history. The first European settlement of Santa Rosa was in the 1830’s by General Vallejo’s in-laws. By the 1850’s, Wells Fargo had established a post and general store in what is now downtown Santa Rosa. Alfred Hitchcock filmed his thriller, Shadow of a Doubt, here and Santa Rosa is the beloved hometown of Snoopy creator, the late Charles Schultz.

Food lovers make a bee line to the Santa Rosa Farmer’s market to sample local produce, artisan breads and cheeses and fresh seafood. Dine at top rated restaurants such as John Ash, Syrah, Monti’s Rotisserie and Bar and ZaZu. Sip and swirl at the many local wineries. Kendall Jackson’s impressive chateau-style tasting room is a good place to start. Visit the mission-style St. Francis winery and you will not only enjoy the wine but the wonderful setting too. Taste the stellar pinot noirs at the Siduri warehouse tasting room; explore the lavender gardens at Matanzas Creek Winery in Bennett Valley, sample Paradise Ridge wines and taste Dutton-Goldfield’s award winning Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.

Santa Rosa has an abundance of recreational opportunities. Golfers will want to hit the links in this year round golf destination with a variety of courses including the celebrated Jack Nicklaus designed, Mayacama course. The Safari West Wildlife Preserve is great for an authentic taste of a Safari adventure. Rent a bike to tour the back roads, soar above the vineyards in a hot air balloon or canoe the Russian River. The parks of Santa Rosa provide abundant outdoor adventures: fishing, camping, swimming, picnicking, trails for horseback riding, hiking or bicycling, quiet coves, sandy beaches, inspiring views, redwood groves, meadows dotted with oaks, sports fields. The 320 acre Spring Lake regional park has a 72 acre lake and trails for walking, hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. Anndadel State Park is a must for wildflower lovers with a variety of flowers and miles of trails. Howarth Park is a delight for families. You can rent a boat, ride a small train or merry-go-round, ride a pony and enjoy the state of the art playground

Local museums include the Charles M. Schulz Museum, Luther Burbank Home and Gardens where the famed horticulturist, Luther Burbank, experimented with plants for most of his 50-year career, the Pacific Coast Air Museum and the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center. The Sonoma County Museum houses an impressive art collection. The annual ARTrails event showcases the work of local visual artists from around Sonoma Country who open their private studios for two weekends in the fall to the public. Who says the only thing in wine country is the wine?!

Things To Do

Robert Ferguson Observatory
This is incredibly cool; who would imagine an astronomical observatory resides in the heart of Wine Country? An easy and beautiful ride up from Highway 12 through the Sugarloaf Ridge State Park brings you to the observatory, near the top of the mountain. RFO has daytime Solar viewing with special telescopes set up for looking at the sun. You can actually see solar flares erupting from the surface as they happen and there are docents that are amateur or professional astronomers who can explain what you’re seeing in plain English.

While the daytime viewing is great, the nighttime is the right time (to borrow a phrase from Ray Charles). There are public viewing nights every month and RFO has three telescopes for different images of the skies and our planetary neighbors. In addition, many members bring large telescopes of their own and set them up outside, and everyone is welcome to take a look.

We suggest you go at dusk to see the park and rent a picnic area where you can barbeque or bring a selection of prepared foods–and, if you’re spending the night, some wine to toast the heavens and the millions of stars sparkling above. You can camp overnight with prior arrangements and then take a hike in the cool morning. The Sonoma Creek originates here and flows down the mountain, through the valley all the way to San Francisco Bay.

You can even rent out the entire observatory and surrounding grounds for parties and celebrations (up to 50 people). They will tailor the evening to your needs, and provide docents and staff for presentations and viewing and stay open as late as you want. We went to a birthday party last year in September that revolved around the autumn constellations, and finally learned how to pick out the mythological figures in the sky that guided our ancestors. We also went on a “planet walk” in the meadow where markers indicate the placement of the planets and you really get a sense of the distance from one planet to another.

Robert Ferguson Observatory provides a terrific experience for families or couples, one that doesn’t exist in any other wine region in the world.

Robert Ferguson Observatory
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood

Local Wineries

Landmark Winery
Truly a family enterprise that is connected to the roots of winemaking, Landmark traces its history to 1837, when, in Grand Detour, Illinois, John Deere invented the steel plow, an event that revolutionized agriculture in the United States. John Deere is the great, great grandfather of Damaris Deere Ford who located the Landmark Winery in Kenwood in 1989.

Damaris, continuing in the footsteps of the Deere family and their strong attachment to the land, saw the potential for the loamy earth at the foot of the spectacular Sugarloaf Ridge Mountain to grow grapes that would produce superb wines. In a collaboration with famed landscape architect, Morgan Wheeler, she turned the 20-acre site into a luxuriant wine estate.

Soon she was joined by her son Michael Deere Colhoun and his wife Mary, who became her partners in the winery. With the goal of creating only the finest wines they brought on the world-renowned Helen Turley as consulting enologist to work with winemaker Eric Stern. Out of that foundation, the winery has won award after award for their sought-after Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah wines.

Michael and Mary are well-known figures in the wine industry and are hands-on at Landmark, so you’ll often see one or the other at the tasting room or at one of the many events there. Designed in a contemporary interpretation of the Mission-style architecture, the winery has a warm and welcoming ambiance with its brick courtyard and splashing fountain. A large mural above and around the tasting bar by noted landscape artist and muralist Claudia Wagar provides a strong expression of the fields of grapes, and the staff there are friendly and knowledgeable.

During summer and fall, you can tour the vineyards in a horse-drawn wagon. Two beautiful draft horses pull the wagon and you’ll get a bit of history and a close-up look at the workings of a vineyard. Ask about the new Rhone varietals recently planted along the west side, where an antique John Deere tractor sits.

We recommend taking time out from wine tasting to try your hand at the bocce ball courts or don your “whites” and head for the croquet wickets or badminton courts. Go as a group or make new friends in a lively game of volleyball on the lawn, then relax with a picnic lunch and your favorite Chardonnay – the Damaris is named for Michael’s mother, the great, great granddaughter of John Deere. You can reserve a table in the picnic area near the pond for an awesome view of the grandeur of Sugarloaf Ridge Mountain.

There are many seasonal events at Landmark and throughout the Sonoma Valley, so be sure to check the Events and Things to Do sections of our site as well. Enjoy!