[By Richard Sheppard in Cloverdale, CA] Years ago, when I lived in San Francisco and worked in Mill Valley, driving across the Golden Gate Bridge was an everyday occurrence. Even after years of commuting, I never tired of the fog spindling past the golden spires or the city lights twinkling on the far side of the bay. When traffic slowed to a crawl, my busy mind relaxed with the sight of sail boats effortlessly skimming across the water.
For travelers heading north, the Golden Gate Bridge has always been the gateway to wine country. Construction began in 1933, the year prohibition ended, and was completed April 19, 1937. The newly constructed bridge gave local residents a reason to celebrate. Up until then, the best route north from San Francisco was by ferry.
The weeklong opening celebration began on May 27, 1937, and on that first pedestrian-only day, an estimated 200,000 people crossed by foot or on roller skates. From Washington the next day, President Franklin Roosevelt signaled the official start of vehicle traffic across the Bridge, and the celebration continued with corks popping.
Over the years, the Golden Gate’s popularity has only grown. During the summer months, fog often surrounds the bridge’s towers in drizzly gray, making the weather feel wintry. But the unfamiliar weather does little to ward off tourists, since many shiver in shorts while bracing against the windswept chill.
(The sketch of the Golden Gate Bridge above was painted outside the Legion of Honor Museum looking towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Although I stayed relatively dry under a canopy of trees, a breeze carried the little droplets of rain that dotted my drying painting and made it look like snow).
(Windsor Town Green)
To get to where I live in Sonoma Wine Country, drive north over the Bridge on Highway 101 and through Marin County where the landscape gradually transforms from city to suburb to country. Trees replace skyscrapers and concrete gives way to fields of grass. The weather gets warmer around Petaluma, and temperatures continue to climb heading north. Just beyond the county seat of Santa Rosa, the town of Windsor bills itself as “The Gateway to Wine Country,” and it’s justified, since north of town, the landscape transitions from grass lands to vineyards.
(Healdsburg's Clock Tower)
A bit over an hour’s drive from San Francisco sits the City of Healdsburg. If Windsor is the Gateway, then Healdsburg is the Heart of Sonoma County Wine Country. With a population of just over 11,000, it’s an eclectic community founded on agriculture and livestock that now thrives on vineyards, art galleries, and restaurants. Despite the cultural changes, the town is still wrapped in old world charm. Like many other mid-19th century towns, Healdsburg’s streets fan out from a central plaza that defines and unifies the downtown area. Lined with wine tasting rooms and gift shops, the Plaza provides a natural venue for community events like the concerts, art festivals, and antique shows that fill the summer months. But it’s the wine industry that most often draws people to Healdsburg, along with award winning restaurants, art galleries, and community theater.
(Healdsburg's Tuesday night concerts are held thought the summer)