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Sonoma Creek

Sonoma Creeek Map

Sonoma Creek drains a 170 square mile watershed wedged between the Napa and Petaluma rivers. Sonoma volcanic rock dominates the eastern side of the drainage, and hot springs occur in a number of locations. Beneath the volcanic rock are Great Valley Complex and Franciscan Complex sedimentary rocks formed in ancient seas and waterways (link to Geology of Napa Valley slideshow). The Petaluma Formation occurs along the west side of the valley in the Sonoma Mountains. This formation was created by a system of freshwater rivers which drained a series of volcanoes. These volcanoes were located east of San Jose. Due to movement along the San Andreas/Hayward fault system, the Petaluma Formation is now found in Sonoma Valley, many miles north of where it was created.

Oak woodland and chaparral with areas of coniferous forest cover the slopes of the watershed. Sonoma Creek and its perennial tributaries support steelhead trout. Tributary creeks include: Yulupa, Calabazas, Stuart, Mill, Agua Caliente, Carriger, Felder, Nathanson, Arroyo Seco, Rodgers, Fowler, Champlin, and Tolay creeks and Schell Slough.

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Sonoma Valley 2009
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Sonoma Creek is the primary waterway in Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Valley is also known as the Valley of the Moon, a name attributed to the Coast Miwok name “valley of the moon” or “many moons.” The valley has a colorful history of Spanish, Mexican, and American settlement. In 1823, Spanish Franciscan monks built the Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma Valley, the last mission constructed in the state. This mission also had a specific military purpose: to limit settlement by Russians from the Fort Ross area. The mission rounded up local Coast Miwok and Pomo for laborers and many native people died from exposure to European diseases. In 1834, the Mexican government secularized the missions in California, and General Mariano Vallejo took over the Sonoma Mission. He built a large plaza and a grid of streets and turned the mission into a fortress. Vallejo amassed land holdings in excess of 7 million acres and became the military governor of Mexican California. In the 1840s, however, numerous Americans started moving into California, creating friction with the Mexican government.

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Coast Miwok Indians

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Mission San Francisco Solano was built in 1823
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General Vallejo built the original Sonoma Plaza

American John Fremont worked for the Army Topographical Service, headquartered at Sutter’s Fort on the American River along with Kit Carson and 50 other men. In an unprovoked attack, Fremont and his comrades arrested Vallejo and declared California an independent republic in June 1846. They raised a Bear Flag over Sonoma Plaza, giving the event its name as the Bear Flag Revolt. The Bear Flag had a grizzly bear on it, and served as an inspiration for today’s California state flag.

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John Fremont led the Bear Flag Revolt to
free California from Mexican control

In 1846, California became a U.S. territory and in 1850, following the Mexican-American War, California became a state. Vallejo was elected a state senator, and due to some bad investments, lost most of his extensive land holdings.

In the 1850s, Agoston Haraszthy arrived from Hungary and started the first winery in California: Buena Vista Winery in 1857. By 1876 many wineries were flourishing, and over 2.3 million gallons of wine was produced; however, by 1890 phylloxera, a sap-sucking insect that feeds on the roots of grapevines, had decimated many vineyards.

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Buena Vista Winery was established in 1876 by Agoston Haraszthy

During the 1890s, a number of hot springs resorts were developed and a tourist industry grew. Well-known novelist Jack London bought a farm in Sonoma Valley and wrote a novel, Valley of the Moon, about the area.

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Glen Ellen post office and saloon in 1906
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Captain Boyes’ Hot Springs Resort
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Writer Jack London

Prohibition closed most of the valley’s wineries. Only Sebastiani continued operation making sacramental wines. During the 1970s a number of new wineries opened, often located in the restored old buildings of previous wineries.

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Sebastiani Winery
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J. Pedroncelli Vineyard in 1934

 

Certified Sites:

 

Enrolled Sites:

 


Certified

Chateau St. Jean Winery
This winery was developed on the site of a 1920’s country retreat and is known for its beautiful gardens. Visit www.chateaustjean.com.

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Home Ranch – This 200-acre site stretches from the valley floor in Kenwood up to Sugarloaf Ridge. Vineyards on the hillsides are carefully managed to avoid erosion into several year-round creeks on the property. An historic dirt road on the site was revised to improve water quality.

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Grace Ranch – This 1,326-acre site includes 525 acres of vineyard distributed over a number of locations in this large ranch. Rodgers Creek bisects the ranch and is lined with very large trees. This perennial creek supports steelhead trout. In other locations, the owner has implemented wetland and riparian corridor restoration projects. The site managers protect soil and water quality through careful vineyard management practices.

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Robert Sinskey Vineyards
The Robert Sinskey winery was among the first to use all organically grown grapes. In 2007, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance recognized Robert Sinskey Vineyards with an award for Excellence in Water Quality Improvement and Protection. Visit www.robertsinskey.com.

Scintilla Sonoma Vineyard
This 46-acre site in the Schell Slough drainage includes pasture land as well as over 22 acres of vineyards. The northern section of the vineyard has a variety of native plants at the end of each vineyard row. To minimize soil erosion, they till every other row and maintain cover crops of bell beans, grass, and clover. The vineyard owl boxes encourage predators to control rodents as part of an integrated pest management program. Air bubblers in the reservoir keep down the aquatic weeds without the use of algaecides. Visit www.robertsinskey.com.

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Buena Vista Carneros Winery
This was the first winery built in California. Visit www.buenavistacarneros.com.

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Buena Vista Winery in 1910 and in 2008

 

Ramal East Vineyard - This 638-acre site encompasses the historic Buena Vista Carneros Winery, founded in 1857. The vineyard is 497 acres on hills east of Huichica Creek, which runs through the property. As part of the Huichica Creek Land Stewardship project with the Napa County Resource Conservation District, Buena Vista Winery has replanted native species along Huichica Creek, where they maintain a wetland area that includes beaver dams. 

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Tula Vista Vineyards/ Ramal West
This 406-acre site in a bend of Ramal Road includes a 236-acre vineyard. Tula Vista Vineyards uses a large (800 square-foot) basin at the bottom of their site to let the sediment from their vineyard drainage settle out; the basin supports a community of wetland plants.

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Gundlach Bundschu Winery
Jacob Gundlack, a native of Bavaria, purchased 400 acres in Sonoma Valley in 1858 and named the site Rhinefarm. Today the same family owns and operates the vineyards and winery. Visit www.gunbun.com.

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Rhinefarm Vineyards - Rhinefarm Vineyards has been in the family for six generations—over 150 years—and they have maintained an ethic of preserving the land for future generations. The site is 567 acres with 357 acres of vineyards. They farm sustainably, encouraging beneficial predators like owls, bluebirds, beetles, and mites and using intensive pest monitoring so that they can avoid using pesticides. They also avoid pre-emergent herbicides and use cover crops to increase biodiversity and to enrich the soil. They use deficit irrigation, including recycling 70% of winery water with two reclamation ponds to make efficient use of resources. In 2008, they installed solar panels, including floating panels on their reclamation ponds, to run their pumps for recycled water.

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Ravenswood Winery
Ravenswood Winery was one of the first California wineries to bottle vineyard designate wines. Visit www.ravenswood-wine.com.

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Gehricke Vineyard - Nathanson Creek runs through this 14-acre site, and the owners have worked for the past several years to plant native trees along the creek to enhance the riparian corridor. The vineyard is farmed organically. Visit www.ravenswood-wine.com.

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Barricia Vineyard - This flat site is located at the confluence of Hooker Creek and Wilson Creek. The owners have planted insectary rows to attract beneficial insects on this organically farmed vineyard. Micro-sprayers are used for frost control, which saves thousands of gallons of water per year. Visit www.ravenswood-wine.com.

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Upper Hooker Creek

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Silverado Vineyards
Silverado Vineyards was founded by the Miller family in the 1970s with a winery, built in 1981. Visit www.silveradovineyards.com.

Vineburg Vineyard – This flat site along Arroyo Seco Creek has wind machines for frost control to minimize water use, and uses cover crops to minimize sediment delivery into the creek. The managers will be working with FFF program staff to control invasive, non-native plants and install additional native plants along the creek.

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Upper Arroyo Seco Creek

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