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Taking the redwood out of wine country

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Daedalus Howell/Index-Tribune

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Not to be outdone by the upcoming State of the Union and State of the State addresses, Sonoma County has its own State of the County address. Next Friday, Economic Development Board director Ben Stone and his team will talk shop about the economic bounty of the county at Rohnert Park’s DoubleTree Hotel (full disclosure: the EDB is a client of CMedia for which I’m executive director).

All bodes well as Sonoma County seems to be continuing its decade of unprecedented change. But then, all change is unprecedented otherwise it wouldn’t be change.

Remember when Sonoma County used to be branded the “Redwood Empire?” I’m presuming this was because of trees or something. Or maybe that was just its color. According to paint store Kelley Moore, which proffers a redwood-hued paint, we could just as easily have been the Sierra Brown or Driftwood Empire. We chose well.

But now, the woodsy name hasn’t the same cachet. Sonoma County equals wine country. Unless you’re in Napa County, then it’s Wine Country and the further east one goes the more capital letters it picks up. In Virginia, I believe, it’s WINE COUNTRY, only because they have to shout it to get anyone to believe it. (Incidentally, some of their terroir is a distinctly redwood color – go figure).

But, Sonoma isn’t merely wine country, it’s also an epicurean epicenter. I hear there’s a movement afoot to have gustatory great and erstwhile Glen Ellen resident M.F.K. Fisher sainted.

We could at least get our epicurean empress a statue and perhaps replace some of the Charlie Brown statuary that dots the county seat like an invading cartoon army.

It would certainly help the county be taken seriously and contribute to its concerted effort to take the “So?” out of Sonoma and the “Cow” out of Country. Excepting, naturally, artisanal meats and dairy products – then we definitely want to keep the cow but squeeze in a sheep and a goat or two as well. Sonoma could Cowsheepgoa-nty.

As they say in action flicks, “It’s crazy but it just might work.”

In my occasional conversations with Stone, I’ve become acquainted with his desire to help cultivate the county’s burgeoning creative industries. Of course, someone forgot to inform him that most creative types, at least the ones I know, bristle at the notion of being anywhere but bed at 7 a.m. when the breakfast address occurs.

I’m going myself to A) prove that I can actually wake up that early and B) to get the lowdown for my colleagues who will be sleeping off the inspiration from the night before.

With a little bit of effort, Sonoma County – so the thinking goes – could be Ashland South, Hollywood North and Austin West. I suppose we could also become Guam East – I hear they have quite an arts scene. However, I suggest you start your Guamanian collection now before the rising sea level reduces the island nation to a floating art barge.

That said, all boats rise right? Perhaps Sonoma County’s art scene will be buoyed by a tide of wine beneath it. It’ll either be its salvation or its destruction. Art is immortal, livers not so much – just ask our foie gras industry.

As M.F.K Fisher’s grand-nephew Luke Barr writes in “Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste,” “Sonoma County is saturated with sophisticated flavors and ambitious cooking and, more than that, with an unmistakable sense of craftsmanship and idealism.”

If you replace “flavors” and “cooking” with “arts” and “artists” in the quote above, the “craftsmanship and idealism” still pertains. In fact, then our artists could afford some of the local cuisine about which Barr rhapsodizes.

Then our State of the County could also be state of the art.

The Sonoma County Economic Development Board, 2014 State of the County event, commences 7 a.m., Friday, Jan. 24 at the DoubleTree Hotel, 1 Doubletree Drive, Rohnert Park. For tickets and information, edb.sonoma-county.org.

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