Your Journey to the Beautiful Napa and Sonoma Valleys beings here.
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Shortly after Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, an ambitious young priest named Jose Altimira proposed that a new mission be built in the frontier north of San Rafael. Altimira, who was posted at the San Francisco mission, argued that the unfavorable climate and soils of the Mission San Francisco de Assisi – commonly known as Mission Dolores- were contributing to high rates of disease among the converts. The Mexican governor at the time decided to allow construction of the mission at the more northerly site, partly due to concerns about expansion of a Russian settlement up the coast, Fort Ross. The Russians had established the fur trading post on the Sonoma coast in 1812. Although it is not likely the Russians had any grand expansionist designs on California, the Mexican authorities were suspicious of their presence and were eager to promote more Mexican settlements. In addition to the Russians, the English had small settlement in Oregon, the Americans were pushing ever westward and the French always had several ships in California ports conducting trade and doing exploration.
In 1823, Fr. Altimira realized his dream and founded the Mission San Francisco de Solano at Sonoma. Owing to the temperate climate and rich soils the mission was very successful and quickly became one of the richest and most productive in the entire chain. As was common at most California missions, Fr. Altimira planted grapevines along with the other crops of the plantation. The “mission grapes" as the hearty native variety came to be called, were used to make sacramental wines. It is the Russians, however, who deserve recognition as the California Wine Country’s first winemakers as they too were growing the scrappy local grapes back in 1812.
Tour prices do not include meals, lodging, or park entrance fees unless otherwise noted. We are not responsible for loss or damage of personal property on tours. We are not responsible for delays due to accidents, breakdowns, or adverse traffic and weather conditions on tours. We reserve the right to modify stops, vehicle, visits or activities based on weather conditions, group needs or conditions out of our control. We reserve the right to use other operators and/or subcontractors to operate all and any tours advertised. Trips require a minimum number of participants to avoid cancellation. Cancellations or changes must be made 72 hrs before trip departure to get partial refund. Cancellations and changes are subject to a 10% or $25 fee, whichever is greater.