Where to Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in Sonoma County

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month recognizes the  millions of Asians, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islander communities in the U.S. It’s celebrated in May for two reasons: 1) to commemorate the arrival of the first known Japanese immigrant to the U.S. on May 7, 1843; and 2) to honor the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, which upwards of 20,000 Chinese workers helped to construct. 

Here in Sonoma County, we proudly honor our AAPI neighbors for their historical role in building local communities and the agricultural economy, as well as enriching local culture with delicious food and wine, products that improve daily life, and the preservation of ancient traditions that prepare us all for a healthy future. 

Here, we highlight some of the businesses, products and people with whom to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month 2024 in Sonoma County!

Written by Melanie Wynne

Wineries & Distilleries 

Barber Lee Spirits, Petaluma

Aaron Lee, distiller and co-founder of Barber Lee Spirits
Aaron Lee, distiller and co-founder of Barber Lee Spirits 

San Francisco entrepreneur Aaron Lee was already a fan of Lorraine and Michael Barber’s single-vineyard wines when he tried some of the couple’s micro-batch rye whiskey in their Hotel Petaluma tasting room — and knew they were onto something special. A second-generation Chinese-American looking to start a legacy business, Lee partnered with the Barbers to form Barber Lee Spirits. In 2019, the trio opened shop in a 1910 warehouse in downtown Petaluma, where they happily co-create single-malt rye whiskey, corn bourbon, white rum, apple brandy, absinthe, and moonshine. 

Freeman Vineyard & Winery, Sebastopol

Akiko Freeman, owner/winemaker of Freeman Vineyards & Winery
Akiko Freeman, owner/winemaker of Freeman Vineyards & Winery

Born and raised in Tokyo, Akiko Freeman founded Freeman Vineyard & Winery with her husband, Ken, in 2001. Inspired by her grandfather’s affinity for Burgundy wine, Akiko makes highly sought-after organically farmed, small-lot, and cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that can be tasted by appointment in the winery’s own wine cave.

Ron Noble Wines, Petaluma

Yun Chu, winemaker for Ron Noble Wines
Yun Chu, winemaker for Ron Noble Wines

Yun Chu and her husband, Ron Noble, create a welcoming environment at their Ron Noble Wines. Born in South Korea to Chinese parents, Chu speaks fluent English, Mandarin Chinese, and Korean, a skillset she often employs when greeting Asian guests. A gourmet cook who spent many years in the food and restaurant business, she is fond of suggesting ideal pairings for the winery’s single-vineyard and blended Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. 


Hana Japanese, Rohnert Park

Kenichi Tominaga of Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park
Kenichi Tominaga of Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park 

A native of Tokyo and graduate of Japan’s Akasaka Cooking School, chef and owner Kenichi Tominaga — who died on May 23, 2022 — made Hana one of the Bay Area’s leading Japanese restaurants by blending the secrets of sushi masters with his own style. His legacy continues at his Rohnert Park hotspot, which uses local Sonoma County produce, the highest quality fish, and hand-pulled udon noodles, and offers the advice of an in-house sake sommelier. 

KS Tian Yuen Restaurant, Cloverdale & Windsor

Dim sum from KS Tian Yuen Cuisine in Windsor
Dim sum from KS Tian Yuen Cuisine in Windsor 

Taiwanese-American couple Ming Cheng Kuo and Mei Jung Shih (K for Kuo, S for Shih) opened their original Cloverdale restaurant in 2007 to focus on diverse, healthy Asian specialties from Taiwan, Thailand, China, Japan, and Vietnam. The extensive menu includes clay pot, rice, and noodle dishes, as well as a full array of soups and sushi. They’ve since opened a second outpost in Windsor that features a similar menu, but rather than sushi, the star attraction is traditional dim sum. 

Taste of Tea, Healdsburg

Ramen from The Taste of Tea in Healdsburg
Ramen from The Taste of Tea in Healdsburg 

Nozomu (Nez) Tokugawa, executive chef of this tea shop/restaurant one block north of Healdsburg Plaza, prepares authentic Japanese food using ingredients sourced both locally and from Japan. In addition to a concise menu of traditionally prepared ramen, rice bowls, and noodles, Taste of Tea also offers adult tea cocktails, loose leaf tea, sake and beer.

Terrapin Creek Cafe & Restaurant, Bodega Bay 

Liya Lin and Andrew Truong, chefs, spouses, and co-owners of Terrapin Creek
Liya Lin and Andrew Truong, chefs, spouses, and co-owners of Terrapin Creek 

Husband-wife chef/owners Liya Lin and Andrew Truong bring passion and a lifetime’s worth of restaurant experience to Terrapin Creek, their cozy, casual neighborhood spot in coastal Bodega Bay. Specializing in creative Californian comfort fare, the couple offer a concise menu of locally sourced surf, turf and produce, as well as house-made pasta and desserts. 

 More AAPI-Owned Eateries to Visit

Traditional Filipino dishes from Tambayan Filipino Cuisine
Traditional Filipino dishes from Tambayan Filipino Cuisine


Dry Creek Peach & Produce, Healdsburg

Gayle Okumura Sullivan and her husband Jim, owners of Dry Creek Peach
Gayle Okumura Sullivan and her husband Jim, owners of Dry Creek Peach 

The only dedicated, certified organic peach farm in Sonoma County, Dry Creek Peach has been owned by Gayle Okumura Sullivan and her husband Jim since 2000. Grown on a Dry Creek Valley farm that’s produced high-quality fruit for more than 100 years, the Sullivans have elevated their delicious Dry Creek Peaches to cult status throughout the Bay Area — including the kitchen at Chez Panisse.

A highly prized Dry Creek Peach
A highly prized Dry Creek Peach 

June is the beginning of peach season in Sonoma County, just missing AAPI Heritage Month — but Dry Creek Peaches simply keeps the celebration going. Keep an eye out for them (as well as peach jam, Bellini mix, and other fruits) at the Sullivans’ farmstand, as well as the Healdsburg and Santa Rosa farmers markets. 

Small Businesses

Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce

Justin Gill and his grandmother, Bachan, with their barbecue sauce
Justin Gill and his grandmother with their Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce

This saucy delight was created by Bay Area entrepreneur Justin Gill to honor his grandmother, known to his family as Bachan. Born in Sebastopol in 1936, Bachan originally made this sauce with her family to give as holiday gifts. Gill brought her original recipe to market in 2019, and has since added Hot and Spicy, Yuzu, and Gluten-Free versions; all can be found in gourmet shops and markets throughout Sonoma County, as well as on the company’s site and far beyond. Pick a recipe on the website, fire up the grill, and slather on some authentic Japanese goodness.

Botany Zhi, Santa Rosa

Botany Zhi, a plant shop in downtown Santa Rosa
Botany Zhi, a lovely plant shop in downtown Santa Rosa 

This indoor plant jungle in downtown Santa Rosa features rare indoor plants grown by Lewis Deng, who’s originally from the Chinese province of Chengdu, but moved from Virginia to Sonoma County with his husband during the pandemic. Lewis began growing indoor houseplants when his mother was diagnosed with cancer to provide an oasis of healing (which worked wonders), and first sold his plants on Facebook Marketplace. With a constantly changing stock of greenery, he’s now created one of the most soothing, engaging shops in the county. 

Happy AAPI Heritage Month from Sonoma County! 

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