There’s no ‘e’ in blight; Depot Hotel news; Pot champion; and more

Posted on July 1, 2022 by Sonoma Valley Sun

There’s something a little off about The Sonoma Cheese Factory, namely the ‘E’ in cheese, on the building’s sign. The locale is a major draw, perched as it is on The Plaza. And certainly there’s been plenty of time to fix (at nominal charge; it’s not neon) the bit of blight. But, and this is true of his many other neglected properties around the Valley, owner Ken Mattson doesn’t really care how it embarrasses the town. Lately the gorilla campaign to ‘Put the E back in Cheese’ has emerged, with a pop-up banner, and of course the guy painted yellow carrying a protest sign. For Pride month, there was even a rainbow E, a comment on the Mattson family views on gay rights. It was last seen in the company of General Vallejo, keeping watch on the building from his permanent post across the street. At this point the general might be easier to move than the Mattson company.  

Nearby, action of a sort at the Depot Hotel & Restaurant, which Mattson bought and shut down nearly two years ago. It’s reopened for take-out and self-service dine-in, with a pared-down menu. (Previous owner Gia Ghilarducci and her son Michael, the old chef, are not involved.) The name has been changed to The Depot, so if the other letters fall off the sign, no great loss. 


Sonoma’s July 4th parade is themed “Honoring our Frontline Workers, and the Grand Marshals will be workers from the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, including CEO Cheryl Johnson and Outreach and Event Coordinator Maricarmen Reyes… While we are living our best mask-free lives, Covid is spreading rapidly through our community, says John Hennelly, Sonoma Valley Hospital CEO. “It is infecting and reinfecting residents at alarming speed.” Fortunately, the increased infection rate has not led to dramatic increases in hospitalizations, he says, and SVH is ready to respond. Meanwhile – and paradoxically  – federal relief funding to Sonoma County ends July 1. For starters, 20 staffers will be cut from the county’s COVID response unit. Bottom line: keep those masks (and protest signs, if that’s you) at the ready.

Agoston Haraszthy is widely acclaimed as the Father of California Viticulture, but it was a Native American, baptized as Viviano, who planted and tended the vines. He likely also owned the Valley’s first vineyard (near Fourth Street East and Spain) as its first commercial grower. On May 15, the Native Sons of the Golden West dedicated a plaque to Viviano to note his contribution. “I am very happy to see Viviano, an almost completely unknown Native American, receive recognition for his work in the 1830s,” said Dr. Peter Meyerhoff, did much of the research. The plaque is temporarily on display at Depot Park Museum, awaiting permanent placement. Meyerhoff said Viviano’s work, unrecognized until now, ”more than qualifies him for this honor in the Sonoma Valley, which prides itself on its history and legacy of winemaking.”


Out Glen Ellen way, Mike Benziger has moved on from grape vines to marijuana plants. Glentucky Family Farm took home a gold medal – for a varietal called “La Bamba” –  at the inaugural California State Fair Cannabis competition. “To say we are thrilled would be an understatement,” Benziger said. “Ironically, this award comes 40 years after our Glen Ellen winery won their first wine award at the Sonoma County fair. What an evolution!”

Nationally, the bar for political candidates is pretty low. They seem mean, vengeful and not all that smart (looking at you, Georgia). So if you live in Sonoma and can speak in full sentences, you are already viable by comparison. The City will fill three City Council seats in the November 8 election. The filing period starts July 18 at

The current City Council voted to extend indefinitely the Safe Parking program that allows overnight parking/sleeping in the Police Station parking lot on First Street West. Sonoma Overnight Support advocated for the extension, and its car clients will continue to have access to showers and laundry facilities at The Haven, and meals at the Springs Hall.

Judy Drinkhall took to social to comment on the sad state of butchery after she was told by the young man behind the counter that he couldn’t cut up her whole chicken. He didn’t know how. “That must be why they call it Whole Foods.”


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