The bar in the tasting room at Cellars of Sonoma is an enigma. Nobody seems to know its exact origins, although the ornate bar has been a fixture in Santa Rosa for decades, and people always seem to gravitate to it.
The bar looks like it could be in an old western film, dating back to the late 1800s. It has three arches with smoked mirrors in each, with the upper part of the bar mahogany and the bottom, oak. There are also carvings that might suggest a French origin, although there are no stories to support that idea.
What follows is a Q&A with tasting room owner Scott Jordan about the puzzling bar.
1) What are the various scenarios of its origins?
One story is that the bar was built by the Brunswick Company in Ohio. It made bar backs from 1819 – to around 1830. The bar then traveled around the horn (South America) to San Francisco and this is where the story changes depending on who you talk to. Some say there were three bars made just like this one and ended up in different locations throughout Sonoma County. One other story said that the bar started in San Francisco at Tommy’s joint and was moved to Mendocino County and then to Santa Rosa as the Silver Dollar during the ‘30s or ‘40s. One story is that the bar was also at Coddingtown in an old bar that is no longer there. Everyone that visits has a slightly different story about its origin.
2) What is the most likely origin?
There seams to be more people that agree that the bar came around the horn to get here and that would suggest it was built by the Brunswick Company, but we are not sure what happened once it landed here. During the late 1800s it had to arrive in Port San Francisco and then it had to travel by horse and buggy to Sonoma County. Most people have very strong opinions on what the true story is, but we only have a matchbook cover, business card and article from the Press Democrat that covers the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s.
3) As a tasting room owner, you have a birds-eye view of tasters. How do you spot the most passionate?
When they come in they know just what to do and make a decision on which tasting to do right a way. They have a very strong opinion on the wines they like.
4) What is it about wine that makes people passionate about it?
The diversity of wine and how each varietal can be so very different from each other depending on where it’s grown and the winemaking style. It’s always a new experience for them and a tasting room like ours where they can taste wine from eight boutique wineries all in one location makes them very excited and brings out their passion for the wine.