The Heart of West County
Nestled among fertile foothills and plains, the small town of Sebastopol is only seven miles from the bustle and box stores of county seat Santa Rosa, but it feels a world away. A cheerful mix of historic rural roots and a Berkeley groove make a welcoming place for all types. This charming pedestrian-friendly town, at the intersection of rural highways and beautiful bike trails, offers homespun goods, Michelin-rated cuisine, excellent schools, a year-round farmers’ market, mainstream and alternative health options, a vibrant senior center, red-hot arts and music scene … the list could go on and on.
Founded in the 1850s, the town was not named for the area’s Russian heritage, but probably thanks to an epic bar fight which residents likened to the then-famous Siege of Sevastopol. Once the railroad came to town, Sebastopol became the center of the local apple industry, with much of the town dedicated to storage, canning, and shipping of apple products well into the late 20th century.
Today, Sebastopol continues to celebrate its agricultural history, and is rightfully proud of its locally produced food. The town’s eastern half sits on the Santa Rosa Plain, which famed Victorian era horticulturalist Luther Burbank once termed “the chosen spot in all the world as far as Nature is concerned;” Burbank then set up shop among Sebastopol’s rolling foothills to conduct his most important experiments. Visitors can still see living examples of his ingenuity at the Gold Ridge Experiment Farm, and rumor has it that the surrounding area owes much of its unique “wild” vegetation to Burbank’s efforts.
While no longer a railhead, Sebastopol still thrives with agricultural commerce. The tradition lives on with the area’s organic farmers, dairies, creameries, winemakers, brewers, distillers, locavores, and of course the many backyard growers who benefit from the area soil’s incredible fertility. Year round, residents can enjoy mouth-watering local produce at the farmers’ market or from their own yard.
The town celebrates its apple heritage with two annual festivals, among many other frequent faires and fetes which bring together locals and visitors. Modern times have seen the area’s Russian River AVA wineries thrive and gain widespread recognition, in particular for the pinot and chardonnay which love this climate. Even with the inevitable changes time must bring, Sebastopol blends the best of past and present, and remains the heart of west Sonoma County.