Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

One of Our Hidden Gems: Sonoma in California

By Elizabeth Beal, March 21, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Beal

With over 340 stores (and counting!), we’ve got a lot of hidden gems out there. Get the story behind the store in this eight-store series. Maybe your local store will be featured next! (Read on to find out how you could win a $50 gift card to Whole Foods Market®. UPDATE: Thanks to everyone that entered. Congrats to our randomly chosen winner, Courtney F.!)

Today we’re talking with Paul Barron, the new Marketing Team Leader at the Sonoma store in California.


What’s the best-kept secret at your store?

It’s got to be HelloCello’s Limoncello di Sonoma. So good.  And grown, produced, bottled and sold right here in Sonoma County. It’s made with ingredients from small farms in Northern California, like organic lemons, grappa distilled from biodynamic grapes, as well as fairly-traded agave sugar. It’s only available online or at our store, and it’s a citrusy, fresh and crisp true taste of Sonoma!

Rafi's WrapWhat’s the tastiest dish in your store right now?

Rafi, one of our Team Members in the Whole Body department, is a sandwich genius. The sandwich she custom built one day in our Prepared Foods department is so good we decided to make it a feature. Rafi’s “That’s a Wrap” is tuna, kale, feta, tomatoes, shallots, walnuts, lemon juice and walnut oil in your choice of wrap. It’s super popular, and only available through the end of March. Get it now and thank Rafi later.

Tell us about one rock star Team Member.

If you’ve ever shopped at our store, you probably already know our Team Leader in Specialty, Chris Moonsammy. Team Members and shoppers absolutely love this guy. He’s spent years working in Michelin-starred and award-winning restaurants like Cindy Pawlcyn’s Mustard’s Grill, so not only does he know a ton about wine, cheese and really any other ingredient, but his customer service is exceptionally great too.

For example: a customer asked about the difference in three different colors of miso. Chris stepped in and gave a full tutorial (hint: it has to do with how they’re processed. If you want to know the full scoop, stop by and ask Chris!). And when our store had to stop carrying Devonshire Cream, Chris was able to tell a customer how to recreate it with basic ingredients she probably already had in her home. He always goes the extra mile, and we’re so happy to have him in Sonoma!

What’s the most popular local product your store carries?

Dips and spreads from the popular local restaurant The Girl and The Fig fly off our shelves. Clover Milk and cheeses from Vella and Cowgirl Creamery are also super popular. But I’d have to say the Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Elder Double India Pale Ale is the winner here. We get limited amounts and it sells out in a flash. And actually, this is a timely question because during the first week of April, we’re doing a pop-up booth in somewhere in Sonoma and we’ll be serving Pliny the Elder… watch for us (or just come by the store and pick up your case early!).

Whatcha got going on with local schools or non-profits?

I am so excited about these. First, we’re finalizing a title sponsorship for the Valley of the Moon Certified Farmer’s Market! We’ll be in the Plaza every Tuesday with local farmers to support them as they share their amazing products with around 2,000 shoppers. One of our Core Values is Caring about our Communites, and this is one way we can directly do that.

We’re also building a partnership with La Luz Center, which provides English language and computer skills training, distributes food, offers crisis and medical services and supports multicultural events among the Latino community. We’re starting by sponsoring a Cinco de Mayo potlock there; we’ll roast a whole wild boar, bring all kinds of tasty sides and make a party of it.

LimoncelloWhat else makes your store a “hidden gem”?

A lot of people don’t know we have some great value options. We’re a “hidden gem” because we’re a one-stop shop for all your wine country vacation and picnic needs – and with coupons and the 365 Everyday Value brand in the basket, shoppers can really save money. This, of course, is great because it leaves more in your wallet to purchase the delicious wines you taste while you’re here!

Plus, we’re close to the Square, where open containers are allowed. You can buy some Limoncello di Sonoma and a Rafi’s Wrap and head to the Square for a lovely evening.

Now that you know what makes our Sonoma store shine in California – tell us: what makes your local store a hidden gem?

Share your comment below by Sunday, March 31 and you’ll be entered to win a $50 Whole Foods Market gift card. Enter once on each “hidden gems” blog post, running from March 20 – March 29, for more chances to win.

The fine print: No purchase necessary. Promotion ends 3/31/12, 11:59 PM CDT. Must be a legal resident of the US or Canada (except in Quebec, where it is void) age 18 or older to participate. Taxes on prize, if applicable, are the responsibility of the winner. Employees of Whole Foods Market, Inc., are not eligible. Void where prohibited.

Category: Company Info, Contests




Jannifer @ iGOZEN.com says ...
I love the sandwiches at Whole Foods. They are always made with so much creativity.
03/21/2013 10:41:33 AM CDT
Heather says ...
I recently came back from Italy (Naples and Rome) and love hearing that Limoncello is at Whole Foods! I'll give it a go! (and I would love to win the $50 Whole Foods gift card! I've been budgeting pretty hard lately)
03/21/2013 11:22:21 AM CDT
Lisa Joy says ...
I'm from Indiana, and I've been to that store! On a trip to CA last summer, my husband and I stopped in at WF in Sonoma to pick up breakfast items. I still dream about the goat Brie I acquired there!
03/21/2013 12:08:45 PM CDT
caitq says ...
Wish I lived in Sonoma to visit this store!
03/21/2013 1:33:26 PM CDT
K Forsythe says ...
OK - Just saw this. I shop there all the time. My favorite parts of the Sonoma Whole Foods Market: 1. The cheese guy with the handle bar moustache (I'm embarrassed I don't know his name). Not only has he given me OUTSTANDING recipes, but he has shown me the best coffee in the world for my commute. 2. The team member who showed me Graeter's Ice Cream. Are you kidding? the Blackberry chip is like nothing I've ever had! 3. The fun cool people at the checkout who have mastered the art of asking if you are in the Tuesday club (senior discount) without making you feel like you should be in a walker. LOVE THEM. 4. the produce guy who gives me little pieces of fresh herbs because he knows it's me, cooking for just me - and he says to tell them at the checkout that it's from him. Awesome store, and a bit of welcome non-conformity in an otherwise very traditional town. They keep us light. thanks.
03/21/2013 5:17:07 PM CDT
Stefano says ...
Local Store "Hidden Gem" Factor: Locally-grown, vine-ripened, organic tomatoes. (Yellow, Orange and Red).
03/21/2013 9:59:13 PM CDT
Ket V. says ...
Whole Foods San Ramon is a wonderful store filled with amazing and friendly employees, always happy to assist. They support the wonderful community of San Ramon through many fundraisers and donations to various wonderful charities. Marlisa is one amazing marketing team leader in making this a community store that gives back. It's a real hidden gems in all aspects from top quality produce, meats, etc along with fun events held thru out the year from holiday tastings, annual Christmas Gala, gluten free tours to kids classes. They have everything you need for your family including your pets. It's really more than just a grocery store!
03/22/2013 1:58:33 AM CDT
Courtney F says ...
My husband and I will be visiting Sonoma shortly and I'm happy to know Whole Foods is there for last minute snacks!! And I love that we will be able to shop locally for small gifts without driving all over the place .. Leaves more time for drinking, um, tasting :o)
03/22/2013 3:09:59 PM CDT
Belinda Abraham says ...
The one thing that makes my store, Cottonwood Heights, UT, a gem are the Gluten free products. I love shopping here, because I can find all or most of my Gluten free products and get them for a really good price. I really like Pamela's cookie products, especially the Ginger Cookies with Sliced Almonds. I rarely find Gluten free cookies that I truly enjoy.
03/22/2013 4:29:53 PM CDT
Angie Mahaydik says ...
I love the Sonoma Whole Foods. All the employees are so helpful and nice.
03/22/2013 6:53:44 PM CDT
Jeff Chenier says ...
Coming to Sonoma in June for our honeymoon and very much looking forward to visit!
03/23/2013 9:08:03 AM CDT
Senia says ...
"It's a Wrap" just made my stomach grumble -- sounds delicious! Wish I could escape our never-ending Minnesota winter and make it to California by the end of March to try it out for myself (I'm sure it'd taste even more delicious in the sun!).
03/24/2013 8:10:29 AM CDT
Megan says ...
I just moved to Bend, Oregon so I haven't experienced the hidden gem here yet, but I wish I'd known about that Limoncello when I was in Sonoma Co last month!
03/24/2013 5:38:17 PM CDT
j.J. says ...
Definitely appreciate the cheese selection at the Kentlands. That and the produce keep me coming back regularly.
03/25/2013 12:02:34 PM CDT
so glad we have a WF in our town...it is gem because it is so close to us...I love love that store..
03/26/2013 8:36:37 AM CDT
Michael says ...
I'm not one that likes pizza at many places but I sure do love the pizza that is served at the Whole Foods in Woburn MA. The team that does the brick oven pizza are just true artisans and put together an appealing pizza as it is so fresh and colorful because my favorite one to order is the veggie. The chocolate and gelato display is always in tip-top shape with tantalizing items as well.
03/26/2013 8:39:42 AM CDT
Amy says ...
Whole Foods in Raleigh (maybe everywhere) recently started giving bag discounts for using my own containers for bulk items. Great!
03/26/2013 9:00:18 AM CDT
LISA says ...
Can't wait for my store to come to Cherry Hill next year! #excited
03/26/2013 9:04:44 AM CDT
Michelle March says ...
I love the brick oven pizza @ Whole Foods in Charleston, SC. Not to mention fresh salads, soups and sandwiches!
03/26/2013 9:43:27 AM CDT
pamela browning says ...
hello, i love this store and i find a lot's of hidden gem and everyone was so helpful to me so this is my NEW STORE FOR LIFE thanks
03/26/2013 10:05:23 AM CDT
Annette Moulder says ...
I believe the Cottonwood Heights Whole Foods in Salt Lake City is a hidden gem because of their awesome customer service! When I am stuck for dinner ideas, I go to the meat counter and ask anyone of the butchers there. Once, one of the butchers gave me a free sample of some seasoning for my chicken and told me how to cook the chicken with the seasoning. It was delicious! Since then, I have been back to by the seasoning for my chicken. I always get great ideas on cheese courses from the folks at the cheese counter. I love the fact they will sample any cheese I am interested in which helps me in figuring out what cheese to buy. I love the store over all, but it's the people and their knowledge of the food which makes this store a hidden gem.
03/26/2013 11:26:32 AM CDT
Marjie says ...
We stopped there once on our way to Train Town. Love Petaluma Creamery cheese we picked up there. If I win the gift card, I'm going to make a return trip to buy Limoncello!
03/26/2013 5:47:57 PM CDT
Karen Pennington says ...
The Whole Foods in Belmar, (Lakewood, CO) is awesome. I love the fact that in every department the employees encourage you to sample the product. Just last week my daughter and I spent a good half hour in the bulk department as we were encouraged to try everything from pepitos to trail mix. Several new varieties of nuts came home with us that day too. Other times I have had employees take me thru different sections of the spice department. The butchers and deli folks are so helpful and have greatly expanded my families menus. Often the service continues right up to the register where I am reminded of coupons that are in the current flyer for products I am purchasing. It is a great store with great customer service.
03/26/2013 7:12:05 PM CDT
sarah ziadpour says ...
i love whole food.every where i go for vacation i look for a whole food store.
03/26/2013 10:45:37 PM CDT
Karen Pennington says ...
The Whole Foods at Belmar ( Lakewood,CO) is a hidden gem. The staff is the reason why. They are always suggesting new to me items. Last week my daughter and I were stopped in the bulk foods section and offered a filled pretzel sample. I refused since I'm Gluten Intollerent. That did not stop your employee, he suggested pepitos and several trail mixes and nut selections. Each came with samples. Another day one of your chefs took me through the spice section of the bulk department. She had me sample by taste and smell a number of new selections. My cupboard has several new tempting spices. The meat and deli departments are equally as helpful. Your wonderful employees have greatly expanded our family menu with exciting new choices. Thank you.
03/26/2013 11:36:16 PM CDT