Sonoma County Wine Country (photo by Howard E. Daniel)
The following column (op-ed), which I wrote, is scheduled to appear in tomorrow’s (May 6, 2019) North Bay Business Journal. Because subscribers to the publication generally receive their copies in the mail on the preceding Saturday, I am taking the liberty of republishing it here, on my blog, today (May 5). I’m told the piece will be posted online (www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/opinion) in several days. [P.S. North Bay Business Journal posted it on May 11 at https://bit.ly/2WCA1Rr.]
Several weeks ago, on a business trip, I caught a flight to Denver from our great local airport. It was wonderfully convenient to take advantage of this new service and fly from an airport so close to home. How much better than the trek to SFO!
As I was about to check in, I spotted a sign with the name of the airport — Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport — and then it hit me. This airport is in the heart of Wine Country. Why doesn’t its name say that loud and clear?
I suspect that a great many residents of Sonoma, Napa and northern Marin see our airport primarily through the same lens that I have — till now. I believe most of us view it mainly as a convenience to local folks, especially since it’s begun serving many new destinations.
Sonoma County Airport (photo by Alvin Jornada, The Press Democrat)
But our airport is more than that. It’s also a growing gateway to Wine Country for visitors from all over the United States (and beyond). And it’s not just one of several gateways. It’s arguably the most convenient way for tourists — a pillar of our economy — to get here.
The airport’s proximity to wine destinations in Sonoma County is a no-brainer. But what about Napa? Should travelers heading to Napa consider landing in Sonoma?
Yes! The Visit Napa Valley website tells the world that the Sonoma County Airport is the most convenient way to reach Napa. It shows travel time between Napa and regional airports. Sonoma County Airport wins hands down at “about 1 hour.” The losers: Oakland (1.5 hours), Sacramento (1.5 hours), San Francisco (2 hours).
Moreover, it’s widely understood that if asked to pinpoint the location of California Wine Country, most Americans will say “Napa.” But the quality and quantity of Sonoma County vineyards and wineries ought to place Sonoma right on par with Napa. How can we get better recognition?
One way could be to rename our airport. Why not call it Wine Country Airport? Why shouldn’t its very name proclaim it as the gateway to Wine Country?
Gateway to Wine Country (photo by Kent Porter, The Press Democrat)
After all, it’s the only airport in Wine Country that serves commercial flights. Private planes can land at Napa County Airport, but tourists fly the airlines. That is a tremendous advantage for Sonoma. We are the logical point of entry to Wine Country.
Let’s present vacationers with Wine Country Airport as the place where their Wine Country adventure begins the moment they step off the plane.
The Wine Country adventure begins the moment they step off the plane (photo by Kent Porter, The Press Democrat)
Of course, several hurdles may stand in the way of a name change. We are all very fond of Charles M. Schulz. Perhaps a renamed airport could still include his name. And perhaps the word “Sonoma” as well. There are many possibilities — Wine Country Sonoma/Charles M. Schulz Airport or Wine Country Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport. Greater minds than mine will come up with just the right wording. But “Wine Country” should be front and center.
Think about it. The region’s only commercial airport is an incomparable resource. Let’s harness it. From the perspective of name recognition, what is Napa County’s answer to an airport? A nationwide sprinkling of auto parts stores? Sonoma is holding an ace. Let’s play it.