Sonoma

14 miles west of Napa; 45 miles northeast of San Francisco.

One of the few towns in the valley with multiple attractions not related to food and wine, Sonoma has plenty to keep you busy for a couple of hours before you head out to tour the wineries. And you needn't leave town to taste wine. There are more than two dozen tasting rooms within steps of the plaza, some of which pour wines from more than one winery.

The

valley's cultural center, Sonoma, founded in 1835 when California was still part of Mexico, is built around a large, tree-filled plaza. If you arrive from the south, on wide Broadway (Highway 12), you'll be retracing the last stretch of what long ago was California’s most important road—El Camino Real, or "royal road," the only overland route through the state. During California’s Spanish and Mexican periods, it ran past all of the state's 21 missions: beginning at San Diego de Alcala (1769) and ending at Mission San Francisco Solano (1823). This last mission still sits in the center of Sonoma.

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