Those who have suffered more than a half an hour of my company know my penchant for evangelizing the virtues of Sonoma. Some may only see the “So?” in being a Sonoman, but I see the “Man,” and on some days I even aspire to be him. Of course, this aspiration is only unveiled during those few hours that I’m not working for him, and, of course, when he’s not looking.
The Man communicates to me with messages in a bottle, the missives are as laconic as those in fortune cookies. This is how last night’s message read: “Sonoma = brand name.”
This was the inevitable splash back from all the good wine poured around these parts. It creates a bon homme with which marketers love to be associated. As a barometer go online and note the relative dearth of wine-themed Internet domain names currently available. Entrepreneurs from hither and yon are scouring the web for names that reference vino, but don’t run-on like that polysyllabic Mary Poppins number. A fellow from New Jersey is currently squatting WineChannel.com, another in Canada is awaiting the perfect moment to launch WineCzar.com. Local lifestyle maven Diva Donna of WineCountryDivas.com was smart enough to get her URL early as well.
In my observation, there is also now a scarcity of domains with “Sonoma” imbedded in them. SonomaLife.com is awaiting birth by Santa Rosa design firm. Less sexy SonomaLifestyle.com is also incubating somewhere in cyberspace. I recently acquired SonomaWino.com in both its single and plural forms, to point to wine columns stowed on my personal site. I resorted to the wino motif after frustrating myself in a vain search for something that would portray me as a little less down-market (but, hey, honesty is the best policy, right?). I ask: Is the day far off when SonomaThis.com and SonomaThat.com collide in a web traffic jam? As of this writing those domains are available, by the way. I wager that by next week they are both gone.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised: Sonoma has been evolving into a brand ever since entrepreneur Chuck Williams hyphened “Sonoma” to his surname and launched what would become a houseware industry giant. That was half a century ago this year and in the intervening decades the name “Sonoma” has found itself on myriad nationally marketed products and is currently fattening the bank accounts of those behind the Sonoma Diet.
Epicurean and lifestyle magazines routinely ornament their covers with Sonoma’s triple vowel word-score (though it’s just as often paired with our conjoined twin Napa). Some may bristle at the notion of our wine burg becoming a buzz-worthy boomtown, a town that heretofore that has largely turned its back on the world but has always kept an eye looking over its shoulder. A media colleague of mine refers to Sonoma as The Island for what she perceives to be this very mentality. Perhaps it’s a bit true, but Sonoma has always been an island, one that people like to visit, tourists and corporate conquistadors alike.
A tipster recently suggested to me that organic supermarket juggernaut Whole Foods, soon to land a location at the site of the former Ralph’s, chose our town so as to foster an association between its brand and the world’s growing interest in ours. When one considers that Sonoma’s population hardly merits its own store, especially since there is one just over the hill in Petaluma, the notion seems more like market savvy than a conspiracy theory.
The question that looms, Dear Readers, is what are YOU going to do with the Sonoma brand?