Given my never-ending crusade to preserve Sonoma’s brand equity, imagine my surprise when I discovered poachers siphoning our identity from our own backyard.
In San Francisco, at the corner of Bush and Van Ness, is a hotel named the Sonoma Inn. I initially assumed it was a residential hotel, by which I mean flophouse, of the ilk where pensioners and burnouts share quarters with romantic visions of alcoholic writers and sad-luck dames. You know, the kind of place that would boast a plaque that reads “Charles Bukowski slept here.”
Not to disparage the residents, or Bukowski, whom I’m sure don’t need some snarky media type from a tony wine country suburb making digs at their digs. But still – did they have to use the name Sonoma? Just so there’s no confusion, when I say “Sonoma Inn,” I don’t mean any place of overnight accommodation in, around or even near Sonoma, such as the Sonoma Valley Inn, the Inn at Sonoma, the Sonoma Mission Inn or even the Sonoma Creek Inn. Those we can differentiate from the pretenders by virtue of the fact that they’re actually in Sonoma and have never been listed, say, in the Bedbug Registry, where I found this post from an apparently disgruntled guest of San Francisco’s Sonoma Inn:
“Yesterday, June 18, 2009, I rented a room there. One of the residents told me they had just been inspected and were told to spray something like three times in six weeks and that they were non-compliant to that request. The bugs are alive and biting. I don’t know any details other than they bite and I have raised welts on my skin that itch terribly.”
And they dare put “Sonoma” in their name? Deplorable.
Of course, I had to call. On my second attempt a woman answered the phone with a wan “Hello?”
I tried to confirm that I had reached the venerable Sonoma Inn and after a moment – a rather long moment – she decided that I had. I asked if she had any vacancy.
After another long pause, I realized it was incumbent upon me to define “vacancy.” I asked if there were “rooms available.” She said no. I asked when she might have a room and she said “Maybe tomorrow.” The rate? $50 plus tax.
By comparison, a real Sonoma room is anywhere between $134.99 for a king bed and complementary continental breakfast to $255 for a non-smoking room with a queen bed at the winter discount.
Just for kicks, I checked Craigslist and found a “LOVELY Sonoma Studio approximately six blocks from Historic Sonoma Plaza” with “ample parking” and a “queen feather bed, twin bed, flat screen TV, kitchen bath with shower and tub, WI-FI” with a bonus “bottle of wine, coffee, tea and of course chocolate with your room.” $160, no tax. It seems we pay a premium for bedbug abatement here in the real Sonoma.
Let me needlessly add that if you stay at my house, it’s free, but it means you’ll probably have a hangover.
I first became acquainted with Sonoma while covering the then-Sonoma Valley Film festival for the San Francisco Chronicle.
These were the days of heightened festival largesse when media, as well as filmmakers, were put up in guest rooms throughout town.
I arrived weary from the drive up from LA and followed the directions as best I could, unaware at the time that the city once had a crisis of creativity when naming its streets and doubled up the numbered streets emanating from the Plaza.
I had already unpacked and was disrobing for bed when the homeowner kindly asked why I was decamping in their guest quarters. I introduced myself, which only confused matters further.
Mercifully, Sonoma is a very hospitable town and the inadvertent host very generously directed me to the correct address without so much as calling the police to report a half-naked trespasser squatting in their granny unit.
Of course, a night in jail would have been cheaper than all the above and also comes with a complementary continental breakfast, but in this instance, one might come to miss the bedbugs.