What crop is at the heart of Sonoma County? In the last few decades, grapes have been all the rage. But look a little closer at local history, and you’ll discover a diversity of plants. Botanist and horticulturist Luther Burbank famously experimented with hundreds of varieties of fruit at his Santa Rosa home – from potatoes and tomatoes, to cherries and plums. In 1890, Burbank became instrumental in bringing another crop to the area when he advised local farmer Nathaniel Griffith on planting Sebastopol’s first Gravenstein orchard.
The Gravenstein, derived from Europe and named after a Danish palace, soon transformed west Sonoma County into one of the world’s premier apple growing regions. In the 1940s, nearly 15,000 acres in the county were planted with apples. In 2016, that number had declined to just over 2,000. Nevertheless, apples remain one of the county’s million-dollar crops.
Today, some local orchards grow Gravenstein, Granny Smith, Pink Lady and other apple cultivars to use in fermented, alcoholic ciders. With some 10 cideries and a growing number of taprooms, Sonoma County’s cider scene is reviving the local apple industry. In time for the Apple Blossom Festival on April 21 and 22, sample the legendary local fruit – in its liquid, golden state. Click through the gallery above for the best places to sip locally made hard ciders in Sebastopol.