Simply Sonoma

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This Special Place

Columnist: Mike Martini
May, 2014 Issue

Mike Martini
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Key West, Fla., is beautiful this time of year. Actually, Key West is beautiful all the time, but what does that have to do with Sonoma County? Blame it on a column written by someone who’s never written a column. When asked to do this, I was honored. I have a lot of respect for NorthBay biz, its valued content and professional writers. I couldn’t imagine wanting to read a magazine that had me as one of its authors any more than I wanted to live in a town that would have me as its mayor. But I did the second, so why not give the first a try?
Key West was the recent venue for our family reunion. Ours is a large clan scattered around the United States that tries to get together each year. You know the drill. The first day is about hugs, kisses and alcohol. Days two and three are spent looking at old photos wondering which baby is which and why dad took so many pictures out the window of an airplane. By day four and five, the conversation turns to religion and politics and we’re all reminded why it’s best we don’t live in the same town.
In this age of smartphones and laptops, each morning started with a check of the weather back home. There was a competition for the lowest temperature, and wind chill counted. It was -4 degrees in Wisconsin and 5 degrees in the Finger Lakes. With glee, I announced that Santa Rosa was a balmy 78 degrees, which wasn’t that different than Key West—without the humidity. The family wasn’t impressed.
But I’m impressed and remain so. Wherever I travel, returning to Sonoma County is the best part of the trip. We recognize the climate and natural resources as world class, but there are other beautiful places. What sets Sonoma County apart is its people and their passion for this area in which we live.
Years ago, then Congressman Doug Bosco told a gathering how proud he was to represent this land of redwoods, how everyone loved the trees. The only problem was that 50 percent liked them vertical while the other 50 percent liked them horizontal.
Sitting in the council chambers, you hear it all. I’m convinced that someone could propose a plan to end world hunger and the next five speakers would explain why it couldn’t be implemented. Everyone speaks from the heart.
There’s also relativeness to Sonoma County. In my family, I’m one of the most liberal; I’m considered a communist at best and a subversive to most. In Sonoma County, I’m a conservative. My family finds that amusing.
Perhaps the conservative label is because I identify myself as a businessperson. I’m proud of that label and make no apologies for it. I think of myself as an entrepreneur. I work with incredible people who are dedicated to the land and who produce world class grapes from which we make wine. It’s something you can hold in your hand, something that has a value greater than the sum of its parts.
I’m responsible for the business. I have to answer to my family, employees, customers, investors, bankers, government and community.
While my family is the highest priority, my employees are a part of that family. The customer is king and my investors are my friends. Bankers are a necessity and government isn’t the answer to everything. The community is owed my time and my service. I also believe no one who hasn’t faced the daunting challenge of meeting a payroll should make decisions regarding others.
Over the next months, with the help of good editors, I’ll write about this special place that’s Sonoma County as well as its people and their passions. I hope to be a catalyst for conversation.
Back in Key West, I asked the cousin from Wisconsin why he remains in the frigid Midwest. His answer was the one you hear most often. He loves the changes in the seasons. Winter gives way to a rebirth in spring. Spring is replaced by the lazy days of summer, with humidity and mosquitos. Summer fades into fall, with cooler days and falling leaves. Fall becomes winter as the temperature plummets and you hope for the next spring.
I love the season we have here. I call it Simply Sonoma.
Mike Martini is one of the founding partners of Taft Street Winery and serves as its general manager. He’s active in the Sonoma County business community and served on the Santa Rosa City Council for 10 years, and as mayor from 2000 to 2002. He lives in Santa Rosa with his wife, Susan. You can reach him at



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