Register | Forums | Log in

Travel website ranks Sonoma County as premier wine destination

A group of friends who formerly lived in New Orleans, but are now scattered across the country, met up for a week in the wine country and are seen tasting at Matanzas Creek Winery on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012.

(John Burgess/The Press Democrat)
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 6:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 6:34 p.m.

Quaff that, Napa Valley snobs.

The influential online travel site TripAdvisor has ranked Sonoma County as the nation’s premier wine destination, and among the top five in the known universe.

Napa Valley was ranked number two in the nation and — cue the sound of shattering glass — did not make the list of top five destinations across the globe.

“It’s been a long time that we’ve been a little sister to that valley,” crowed Debra Mathy, proprietor of Dutcher Crossing Winery in Healdsburg. “The country and the world are seeing us for what we have to offer.”

TripAdvisor, relying on ratings from its site users, ranked Sonoma County second behind Tuscany in Italy as the world’s best wine region, ahead of Australia’s Hunter Valley, Stellenbosch in South Africa and Argentina’s Province of Mendoza.

In North America, Sonoma County beat out Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the Finger Lakes region in New York and several other wine-producing locations in California, including Paso Robles and Temecula Valley.

The fact that Mendocino County did not earn a mention raises questions about the TripAdvisor survey — or the wine knowledge of those who use the site.

TripAdvisor did not provide data on how many votes were tallied — other than to say rankings were “based on millions of valuable traveler reviews and opinions” — or how the subjective nature of the reviews were factored into the system, raising more suspicion about the methodology used for the contest.

To which fans of Sonoma County’s Wine Country say, “details, details.”

A TripAdvisor press release stated that the site’s users love Sonoma County’s “laid-back, unpretentious vibe” and ability to unwind at a spa after a “strenuous day of wine-tasting.”

One reviewer on the website wrote that Sonoma Valley has “everything from old hippies growing wine to slick MBA-fueled marketing machines.” Another stated it was “lovely and laid back — Woodstock for seniors.”

Still another reviewer wrote that “even our teenager thought Sonoma was stunning.”

Many reviewers compared and contrasted the Sonoma and Napa wine regions in their reviews. The two areas long have had a sibling rivalry, one that has led to sniping and some unfortunate stereotypes.

Napa Valley’s main highways are clogged with tourists in rented convertible Mustangs, limousines and ginormous buses. Sonoma County’s bucolic byways, by contrast, are pure joy, aside from the occasional car-swallowing pothole and g-force turn.

“I had claws in the car getting here,” Kate Pellarin said Thursday as she and her husband sipped wine at Matanzas Creek Winery on Bennett Valley Road near Santa Rosa.

The Orlando, Fla., newlyweds said they were enjoying their time in Sonoma County more than in the Napa Valley, where their itinerary included a visit to Castello di Amorosa, a massive replica Tuscan castle near Calistoga.

“We’re from the Disney area, so we know a tourist spot,” Kate Pellarin said. “We’re like, ‘We are in the game here.'”

Matt Pellarin said he felt like everyone in Napa Valley was “trying to sell us wine,” just before he plunked down $26 for a bottle of Matanzas Merlot.

Other visitors who had been to both Napa and Sonoma wine regions this week held praise for the latter.

“This is much more what you expect wine country to be,” said Austin Kemink of Tacoma, Wash.

His father, Jeff Kemink, said Sonoma County was a “bucket list” destination after he lost his wife, Roxann, to cancer.

“I’m ready to move out here,” the Minneapolis resident said.

David Corkett, tasting room manager of O’Brien Estate in Napa, acknowledged that with the TripAdvisor rankings, Sonoma County is “getting the recognition it deserves.” And he copped to the Napa Valley being more “pretentious.”

But he’s not worried.

“I could honestly not care less,” he said. “We are rated No. 2 on TripAdvisor (for attractions in the Napa Valley). We get plenty of visitors.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.)

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top