Tag Archive | General Vallejo

California Road Trip: Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park

After our day at the Point Reyes National Seashore, we didn’t really have much planned before heading into San Francisco.  Jon had originally thought he wanted to spend the day in Sonoma and do some wine tasting, but the day dawned and he just wasn’t feeling it.  So we decided to spend it a little more low-key.  We went and checked out the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, which is just outside of Petaluma.

The Petaluma Adobe was built and owned by General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo.  Vallejo was born in 1807 in Monterey, California, when California was a Spanish colony.  Once Mexico achieved its independence in 1821, he enrolled in the military and rose up through the ranks.  When the Spanish Missions were secularized, he oversaw the secularization of the Mission San Francisco Solano (in Sonoma), founded the town of Sonoma, and built the Presidio of Sonoma to guard against the nearby Russians at Fort Ross.  He was rewarded with a land grant that became Rancho Petaluma in 1834.  At its largest point, the ranch was 66,000 acres; approximately 100 square miles!

Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park

Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park

Vallejo built a large adobe ranch house in 1836 – the largest privately owned adobe building ever built – it was a quadrangle of two buildings on an open courtyard with a total size of 200 by 145 feet.  Sadly, the east wing of the adobe had fallen into disrepair and collapsed by 1880, so one U-shaped wing is what you see now at the park.  There is a photo of the adobe from 1880 that shows the crumbling ruined wall.  The adobe building has about 80% of its original adobe bricks, and 20% of the original wood.

Married Servants Quarters - Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park - The Married Servants Got Beds and Curtains to Divide the Their Part of the Room

Married Servants Quarters – Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park – The Married Servants Got Beds and Curtains to Divide Their Part of the Room

The park shows the Adobe as it was when Vallejo lived there, with servants quarters, storerooms and family rooms.  There is a clear distinction between the rooms that were occupied by servants and the rooms where Vallejo and his family stayed.  The servants rooms and work rooms were very plain, with the adobe walls visible and small, open windows.  The family rooms were much fancier, with plaster on the walls and ceilings,  paint, chandeliers (they would have been candles at the time) and glass in the larger windows.  They seemed like they would have been quite comfortable to stay in.  However, we do enjoy a different standard of living today, as back then all of the family (and their guests) would have slept in the same large bedroom, with blankets sectioning off different areas from view.  Contemporary accounts of the period describe visitors eating a late dinner in the dining room with Indians sleeping wherever there was an open space on the floor.

Dining Room - General Vallejo's Living Areas Had Plaster Walls, Paint and Real Glass Windows

Dining Room – General Vallejo’s Living Areas Had Plaster Walls, Paint and Real Glass Windows

General Vallejo's Bedroom - The Whole Family Slept in One Room

General Vallejo’s Bedroom – The Whole Family Slept in One Room

During its heyday, the rancho had about 12,000 head of cattle and 3,000 sheep; income was generated by the slaughter of about one quarter of the cattle each year and the selling of their hides.  Curiously, most of the meat was wasted.  The rancho was self-sufficient, and many of the 2,000 Indians who worked on the property also made tallow, candles, saddles, wool blankets and boots and shoes for military troops.  In 1846, once the Mexican American War began, Vallejo was imprisoned and American General John C. Fremont requisitioned most of the animals and supplies for his army in Vallejo’s absence.  Many of the Indians fled from the California 49ers on their way through the area to find gold.  At the end of the war, the rancho had already begun a long, slow decline, and Vallejo tried to lease it out for several years and finally sold it in 1857.  After Vallejo sold it, the building was used for other purposes.  In 1910 a group purchased it and preserved it – it was purchased by the state of California in 1951.

A Stack of Hides - Floor to Ceiling - At the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park

A Stack of Hides – Floor to Ceiling – At the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park

The Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park has a very reasonable admission price of $3;  and for that price you even get admission on the same day to the Presidio, General Vallejo’s home and the Sonoma Mission on the same day.  Sadly, it is one of the California State Parks that has been threatened with closure with the economic issues facing California.  I find it sad that there is so little interest in history (we were alone the whole time we were there, but there was another couple coming in as we were heading out) – because this park was well worth the visit.

After the adobe, we browsed in a few antique shops and shabby chic home decor shops in downtown Petaluma.  We weren’t feeling in the mood for a restaurant lunch, so we hit up Raley’s market for a deli lunch, where I had a delicious Cobb salad and Jon had some smoked turkey; we shared an Orzo pasta salad.  I also tried to find the Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc that I had enjoyed the evening before, but we had no luck.  Oh well, it was time to head to San Francisco!

And on to Sonoma Valley

The next day of our wine tour we decided to go to the Sonoma Valley, which is just southwest of Napa Valley.  Napa focuses on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, where Sonoma focuses more on Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.  We decided to make our first stop Cline Cellars.  We tried a Cline Syrah from the grocery store on our first night, and we were so impressed that we had to make a visit.  They have very reasonably priced wines, starting at $11 a bottle.  We stopped by at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning, and this place was hopping!  There were already almost a dozen people tasting, including a local character who had the whole tasting room laughing.  Our server, Rene, was excellent – personable, down to earth and he knew a lot of the wines.   I did stump him though, when I asked questions about one of the rare varietals.  I liked that he admitted he didn’t know the answer, instead of trying to pretend.  And then he pulled out an awesome book with every grape varietal known to man!  Their Syrahs were good, their Zinfandels were very good, and Jon and I both enjoyed their Mourvedre and Carignan (a varietal that I have not heard of before).

Cline Cellars

After our tasting, we enjoyed a picnic lunch at their picnic table with wine, cheese and pepperoni that they also sell onsite.  We toured the grounds, which included a fishpond complete with turtles and frogs, and two mini-donkeys that the kids can feed carrots.  And to top it all off, they own replica models of the 21 California missions.  These models were made for the 1939 World’s Fair using the original blueprints for the missions.  It seems that when they were going to be auctioned off piecemeal, Cline’s owner bought them all, and then built a museum on the grounds to display them.  They were very cool – an unexpected treat.  We will certainly be back again!

After Cline, we went across the street to Jacuzzi Winery.  They are owned by the same family, but while Cline focuses on Zins and Syrahs, Jacuzzi focuses on the Italian varietals, some of which I had never even heard of.  They did have some good wines, but unfortunately, the experience we had there didn’t make their wines worth it.  Our server barely looked at us, and when I asked him which he thought were the best wines to taste (you get to choose 5 from the list), he informed me, “I can’t tell you what you’ll like.”  Well, duh, but surely you can tell us which ones are your best wines.  It irked me, because any winery that doesn’t specialize is going to have some that are better than others.  The snooty server also said, “I won’t tell you that our wines are better than Cline wines, but they are.”  Wow, selling out your own partner winery just isn’t cool.  That said, we liked their Pinot Noir, and their Dolcetto, but left without buying anything.  We tried to taste their olive oils, but it was so busy and crowded there, we gave up.  All in all, I thought Jacuzzi was a dud.

After Jacuzzi, we went into Sonoma’s downtown for a bit, and toured the Sonoma Mission.  It was the last mission built in the string of 21 California missions, founded in 1823.  It was only a religious mission for 11 years.  In 1834, the Mexican government secularized the missions and put General Vallejo in charge of Sonoma.  He founded the town on Sonoma around the mission, and they used the mission as a parish church for a time while the mission started to fall into disrepair.  It was mostly crumbled after the 1906 earthquake.  Fortunately, they started restoration in 1909, and the mission became a museum in 1913.  It is one of two missions that are part of the California Park System.  It is a neat mission and well worth the $3 fee, and is easily toured in about 20 minutes, unless you want to watch the 20 minute video.  You can also see the Barracks, and General Vallejo’s home.

It is certainly worth the visit – it is interesting to imagine what life was like during the period.