Sonoma County Wine Library celebrates 30 years
The Sonoma County Wine Library is filled with natural light, comfortable seating and a vast archive of treasures sure to delight even the most jaded oenophile.
A quiet hideaway, it’s housed in the back of the Healdsburg Regional Library on Piper Street.
The wine library provides primary source archives for all aspects of viticulture, winemaking and the wine business. Dedicated in 1989, it offers more than 5,000 books, including nearly a thousand rare volumes dating, primarily, from 1850 to 1950. The most valuable and fragile tomes have been digitized.
Its oldest book, Libri de re Rustica, a detailed description of agricultural practices, was printed in Latin, by hand, in 1514.
“We’re a hidden gem for tourists and locals, who discover us when browsing the main library,” said Megan Jones, the wine library’s curator.
Students in the Sonoma State and Santa Rosa Junior College wine studies programs and industry researchers frequent the library, as well as writers and passionate wine lovers seeking to expand their knowledge of the grape.
Jones said wine enthusiasts head for the maps of American Viticultural Areas (designated wine grape-growing regions), oral histories of winery families, documentary films and “even wine-related murder mysteries.” The library includes a fast-growing collection of audio and video histories of Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino County winery owners and winemakers.
“My favorite part of the collection is the ephemera and memorabilia of wineries from around our region, which we are currently organizing and digitizing, everything from old letters and manuscripts to wonderful vintage photos, posters, and beautiful labels,” Jones said.
She grew up in a wine industry- related family in the Napa Valley. She worked in wine libraries there until taking the reins in Healdsburg.
The Sonoma County Wine Library was the brainchild of Millie Howie, a renowned columnist, wine industry publicist and all-around industry guru who died in 2011. When vintners and grape growers who wanted to bring more attention to the industry in north county started calling for a site to share information about wine, its history and its science, she pushed for it to be located within a library.
Locals since have turned to the library to plan their vacations, borrowing guidebooks to wine regions in the U.S. and around the world. They browse the latest food-and-wine news in four dozen or so current periodicals, ranging from journals of enology and viticulture to Sonoma-Marin Farm News and Wine Spectator.
Tasting room hosts come here to bone up on the history of their wineries and to learn more about the wines they pour and sell.
Would-be sommeliers study for their professional wine certification testing, and log into the International Wine Research Database on the library website. “The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste,” “What Makes a Wine Worth Drinking,” and “Flawless: Understanding Faults in Wine” are popular new books, while the movie, “Sideways,” is a favorite among the DVDs.
The Friends of the Sonoma County Wine Library funds myriad library projects, such as oral histories and digitization of historical documents, and sponsors various special events throughout the year, from wine tastings to talks by winery luminaries.
This summer, it will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Wine Library dedication at the second annual “Evening with Sonoma County Wine Legends.” A date for the event has yet to be announced.
Julie Pedroncelli St. John, the board chairwoman of the group and a third-generation winery owner, said the panel will be moderated by wine writer Linda Murphy. It will include: Ana Keller of Keller Estate; David Ramey of Ramey Wine Cellars; David Stare from Dry Creek Vineyard; Bob Cabral of Three Sticks; and Richard Arrowood from Amapola Creek.
“This will be a grand gala event, and we plan to include wine, food and an auction,” Pedroncelli St. John said.
In addition to the wine legends event, the Friends organization also will lead on Saturday a walking tour of the historic Oliver Ranch, a 100-acre Sonoma County estate whose proprietors have commissioned a dramatic outdoor exhibition of artworks.