- SONOMA (CALIFORNIA) -
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THE SONOMA VALLEY is just under 20 miles long and is situated north of San Francisco and some 20 miles inland from the Pacific coast. To the east, the more famous Napa Valley runs parallel to the Sonoma Valley on the other side of the Mayacama Mountains. lndigenous people lived here for twelve thousand years prior to the arrival of the Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans.
Within fifty years of the Europeans' arrival, hardly any indigenous people remained most having succumbed to privation, and diseases brought in by the new settlers. A Mexican outpost, led by Lieutenant, later General, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, took over the control of the area.
The first grape vines were planted by Father Jose Altimira in 1824 to supply sacramental wine for the local mission. When the mission was closed by the Mexican government in 1834 the wines derived from the replanted vineyards were sold to merchants in San Francisco. In 1846 American farmers took General Vallejo prisoner, seized control of Sonoma town situated at the lower end of the valley and declared California as an independent republic. The United States appropriated California some three weeks later and the short-lived independent republic was abolished.

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For its first hundred years as part of the United States, the Sonoma Valley remained a quiet country area yet developed a flourishing wine industry that managed to survive the devastating phylloxera epidemic of the 1870s.

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After WWI, the coming of Prohibition with its taxes on alcohol and restrictions on its use almost destroyed the economy of the valley. Many valley wineries had to close down. Only 'Sebastiani', which was licensed to make sacramental and medicinal wines, was able to continue as a winery.
Despite Prohibition the area remained "wet" during the following twelve years, with several illegal enterprises continuing their operations and selling alcohol locally. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 the wineries reopened, but were not entirely successful for many years, due to the Depression and neglect of the vines over the previous decade.

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Following WWII the population increased rapidly and vineyards now cover over 6000 acres of valley land. In spite of becoming a major center of the California wine industry and a growing tourist destination Sonoma has managed to retain much of its original charm and beauty.

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