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No, the Kincade Fire Didn’t Level Sonoma County. So Go Visit.

Posted on November 13, 2019 by michelle_magnus

Photo Courtesy of A. Rafanelli Winery

A. Rafanelli Winery in Dry Creek Valley is among Sonoma’s many wineries hoping to welcome travelers after the Kincade Fire. “We’re here. We’re ready. We’re waiting,” says winemaker Shelley Rafanelli.

Article courtesy of AFAR.com by Matt Villano


No, the Kincade Fire Didn’t Level Sonoma County. So Go Visit.

This past Monday was a glorious afternoon on the plaza in downtown Healdsburg. Not a cloud in the sky. Brisk, fresh air to inhale. Over by the fountain, a toddler busily placed leaf after leaf on the surface of the water and watched his “boats” float away. Under the gazebo, a gaggle of teenagers strummed guitars. Across Healdsburg Avenue, inside Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, servers were buzzing around the dining room preparing for the dinner crowd. Through the windows at nearby stores, you could see shoppers buying shoes, clothes, and locally made art and knickknacks as souvenirs to bring back home.

Yes, this is the same Healdsburg that was threatened by the raging Kincade Fire last month. And, yes, that same fire destroyed more than 140 homes and most of a historic winery as it churned through nearly 78,000 acres of a largely unpopulated area in the northeast corner of the county. There’s no question that the fire harmed Sonoma County; days of forced power and gas shutdowns from the regional utility affected the entire San Francisco Bay Area.

Cal Fire declared the Kincade Fire 100 percent contained on November 6. A few days before that, this part of wine country was back to being as beautiful and vibrant as ever.

In Geyserville, Healdsburg, and Windsor, the three communities closest to the fire, small businesses run by local artisans are open for business. Restaurants, from hole-in-the-wall taco stands to the Michelin-starred Single Thread, are cranking out delicious meals. Heck, even Soda Rock Winery, which lost nearly all its modern production and visitor-oriented facilities in the blaze, is back to hosting weekend tastings in a 100-year-old barn that survived.

“People have a tendency to see images of burning houses or hear, ‘Natural disaster!’ and think the worst,” says Dave Hagele, Healdsburg’s mayor and a long-time resident. “The truth is that while this fire did a number on a whole bunch of wild land to the north and east, the part of wine country that people know and love is carrying on with business as usual.”

Understanding “the burn zone”

Perhaps the best way to explain the situation in Sonoma County is with simple math. There are 1,131,520 acres of land in Sonoma County, and about 78,000 of those were burned. That means less than 7 percent of the land in Sonoma County was affected by the Kincade Fire. Which means that more than 93 percent of the county was unharmed and today looks exactly as it did on October 22, the day before the fire started.

Sam Bilbro, owner and winemaker at Idlewild Wines, was frustrated with some of the negative press the region was getting after the fire, so he created an Instagram post that tells this story with a picture. The image depicts a map of the county with the burn zone delineated in red. Compared to the rest of the map, the red part is minuscule.

“You look at this map and you realize the fire was a really small part of Sonoma County,” he says. “Our cities, our forests in West County, our coastline, and the Sonoma Valley are as they’ve always been.”

Kendall Jackson Family Wines Picks Up Adorable Boutique Winery In Anderson Valley

Posted on October 15, 2019 by michelle_magnus

Above: Balo Winery in Philo, CA closed escrow with Jackson Family Wines in October of 2019. Article courtesy of Press Democrat by Bill Swindell, 10/14/19. Mark Stevens with The Agency Real Estate in Healdsburg, CA represented the Seller as did Trevor Codington with Abbey Law in Santa Rosa, CA

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Jackson Family Wines of Santa Rosa on Monday said it expanded in Mendocino County by acquiring the winery, vineyard and tasting room of Balo Vineyards in the Anderson Valley.

Jackson, the ninth-largest wine company in the United States, did not disclose the price that it paid for the winery, which was founded by the Mullins family in 2003. The property, which includes almost 7 acres of planted vineyards, previously had been listed for $4.7 million by a real estate agent.

“Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke fell in love with Anderson Valley in the late 1980s, when only a handful of wineries were in existence in the region at the time,” Rick Tigner, chief executive officer of Jackson Family Wines, said in a statement. “With the purchase of the winery and tasting room we have enhanced our presence in the valley, adding a resource for our small-lot winemaking and the opportunity to host wine lovers in the region.”

The property will give Jackson its first opportunity to have a tasting room in Mendocino County even though the company has been sourcing grapes from there since buying the Edmeades estate in 1988.

This deal will add to the wine company’s portfolio in the Anderson Valley — known for its well-regarded pinot noir and premium chardonnay used in sparkling wines — built through acquisitions of the Skycrest, Sable Mountain and Maggy Hawk estate vineyards and boutique wineries Siduri and Copain.

Jackson also has many brands that use fruit sourced from the region, such as its top sellers Kendall-Jackson and La Crema.

The company expects to take more than a year to refurbish the Balo tasting room and decide which brands in its portfolio would be featured there. Balo is located next to Domaine Anderson and across the street from the Drew Family Cellars, Goldeneye and Smith-Story tasting rooms, spokeswoman Kristen Reitzell said.

“Jackson Family Wines has been a winegrower in Anderson Valley for quite some time, and we are thrilled by this new commitment that will allow for them to have a greater presence and connection with the community and consumers alike,” said Courtney DeGraff, executive director of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association.

 

#MerlotMe Campaign for October Merlot Month Aims to Break Record

Posted on October 02, 2019 by michelle_magnus

Worldwide Merlot Month Movement Engages Millions

by Press Release
October 01, 2019

Napa, Calif.—Beginning October 1st wine lovers and producers from around the world will join together for #MerlotMe, a month-long, global movement celebrating the Merlot grape. The seventh year of the #MerlotMe movement aims to hit a record number of social posts using the hashtag to reach millions of wine lovers.

#MerlotMe unites passionate wine lovers to celebrate this lavishly textured, dazzling versatile noble red grape varietal. Wine producers and consumers across the globe will celebrate Merlot online during October with the hashtag #MerlotMe, sharing wines while toasting and tasting at events, in wine stores, restaurants, and homes everywhere.

How to #MerlotMe:

Get your hands on Merlot! Share online with #MerlotMe.
Visit MerlotMe for the latest on where to taste, recipes, and follow participating wineries for Merlot news all month long.

Visit your favorite winery and mention #MerlotMe for special offers and tastings.

Participating wineries, restaurants and retailers will feature #MerlotMe inspired tasting flights, food bloggers are posting Merlot-paired recipes with #WinePW Twitter chat on Saturday, October 12th at 10 am CST, spotlighting the food-friendly nature of the varietal. Winery tasting rooms in California, Washington and beyond are featuring special tasting flights, reserve and library pours and special pricing in honor of Merlot Month.

Merlot Momentum

In just the last five years the #MerlotMe celebration has generated more than 62 million social media impressions and reached a worldwide audience in 40+ countries and nearly all 50 states with almost 15,000 social media posts. Merlot is one of the most popular fine wine varieties in the world with more than 720,000 acres planted worldwide. Merlot is the third leading red varietal after Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Blends purchased by Americans today *. Merlot is the #1 red most consumed wine varietal according to consumers in a Wine Intelligence August 2018 survey of more than 4,000 wine consumers across all ages and drinking preferences. Merlot led social discussions online versus other varietals during the majority of months over the past year and Merlot received 43% of social mentions during the past year**. California Merlot consumption was approximately 19 million cases in 2017 in the U.S., growing from the 2.8 million cases sold in 1994*.

Visit www.merlotme.com for more information on events, recipes, participating wineries, materials for the wine trade, and how to #MerlotMe.

Article courtesy of WineBusiness.com

 

See one our vineyard listings that features merlot:  Annadel Winery

Invitation to Yellowstone….or, How Lucky Can I Get???

Posted on October 02, 2019 by michelle_magnus

Braving taciturn mules, grizzlies and inclement weather, we headed off to Montana for a pack trip in the remotest regions of Yellowstone National Park……

This year I was honored to be invited by long-time client and friend Jed Steele (of highly acclaimed Steele Winery) on his annual 5-day packing trip into Yellowstone National Park at the end of August. As the day arrived to depart, I was ready to realize a dream: packing into some of the most remote regions of Yellowstone National Park on horseback with a mule train of supplies for our adventures.

Leaving Sonoma County wine country in the high 80s I arrived at Livingston, Montana in the low 40s…..complete with scattered showers and icy northern blasts. Weather in the high country is no joke, and even though it was August, winter-like weather was making an unwanted visit.

Despite the chill and in between rain showers, the sun made its welcome appearance and turned yellowing aspen leaves into light-filled expanses of gold. My trip to Yellowstone was everything I had hoped it would be: spectacular high-country scenery, grizzly bears viewed from a distance (thank goodness), elk, bison, and a big 18” cutthroat trout that I managed to catch—and then release–off the shores of Heart lake. My trusty horse “Brush” couldn’t have taken better care of me, and my REI sleeping bag and down jacket lived up to the name. An unexpected treat was getting a first-hand experience of mules—they are so cool! Similar to horses, but at the same time so very different.

Now returned to our beloved Wine Country, I am reminded of how scenic beauty can take numerous forms and have many different looks and feels. Here in Sebastopol it is now October, and the days have just begun to feel like fall. In comparison to Montana, fall here is a mellow affair and one full of plenty and harvest. Meanwhile, I am already looking forward to a repeat performance at Yellowstone next year…..what do you say, Jed?

 

–Mark Stevens

October 2019

 

 

 

One Last Summer Getaway in Northern California….

Posted on September 09, 2019 by michelle_magnus

Though summer is winding down and the kids are heading back to school, there are still plenty of opportunities for grown-ups to savor the season. From full moon sailing trips to scenic day or weekend getaways, here are four of our favorite end-of-summer activities in and around Northern California.

SAN FRANCISCO BAY HARVEST MOON SAILING TRIP – Make the huge Harvest Moon on Thursday, September 12 one to remember by booking a two-hour evening cruise on 80-foot sailboat, the Freda B. Board in Sausalito at 6pm. Sail around the most iconic parts of San Francisco Bay—think Alcatraz, the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. If weather permits, you’ll catch the Harvest Moon and the glittering city skyline before heading home.

APPLE HILL – Located about two hours outside of San Francisco, near the Eldorado National Forest, Apple Hill is a scenic spot popular for all kinds of seasonal fun—and early autumn’s apple season is an ideal time to visit. Stop by High Hill Ranch for apple pies, donuts, fresh-pressed cider, hay and pony rides.

MENDOCINO AND FORT BRAGG – With its rugged coastline and mysterious fog, a trip out to Mendocino—about 150 miles north of Napa Valley—provides a healthy dose of natural beauty any time of year. Head to the town of Fort Bragg and book a seat on the historic Skunk Train, a 130-year-old rail line that travels through towering old-growth redwood trees, over wooden trestle bridges, and through awesome stone tunnels. Or, go at your own pace and book a railbike for two.

LAKE TAHOE – Take a weekend to dip your toes into Lake Tahoe, the second-deepest lake in the country—fair warning, the water will be cold. Come here to kayak from beach to beach, bike or hike the Tahoe Rim Trail or take on part of the Pacific Crest Trail. For unparalleled lakefront views, make a reservation for a meal on the deck of Sunnyside restaurant in North Shore. If you’re feeling lucky, head to the blackjack tables at Harrah’s, Harveys or the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Tahoe’s South Shore.

 

–Excerpted from The Agency Blog on Northern California

Middle Reach of the Russian River

Posted on August 23, 2019 by michelle_magnus

One of the many perks of living in beautiful Sonoma County is having the Russian River at our doorstep. In addition to feeding numerous highly-acclaimed Russian River Valley vineyards, it offers an amazing riparian playground for us to enjoy.

The Russian River is the second largest river in the Greater San Francisco Bay area (after the Sacramento River) and was originally called the Ashokawna river by the Pomo Indians, which means “east water place.” In the early 19th century it began to be called the Slavyanka River (meaning “slav river” or “russian river”) by Ivan Kuskov of the Russian American Trading Company. They established three ranches near Fort Ross, one of which, the Kostromitinov Ranch, was along the Russian River near the mouth of Willow Creek. The redwoods that lined its banks attracted loggers to the river in the late 19th century. The Russian River has its origins at the Laughlin Range near Willits and is a southward flowing river that drains into Mendocino and Sonoma Counties.

If you’re into kayaking, boarding or rafting, here’s a little known but delightful section which you can access just below the Healdsburg Memorial Beach Dam that my wife and I recently discovered. The route is about 8 miles or so with the last mile at the level of the fish ladder dam below Wohler Bridge. This makes for good progress with a gentle fall for most of the ride and exposes a beautiful stretch of the river, in particular if you are a bird watcher…..

If you do not have a professional raft, rubber ducky or hard-shell Kayak you will be restricted from entering the river at Memorial Beach.  You can rent very sturdy inflatable Rafts for 1 to 3 people from Russian River Adventures, (RRA) (707) 433-5599, 20 Healdsburg Avenue near the Healdsburg Bridge. They provide parking and return from Wohler Bridge for a reasonable fee.

Keep Russian River Adventures on your speed dial—they are fantastic and a great resource for anyone interested in fun on the river. My wife and I had our own inflatable Kayak but for a small fee they brought our truck down to the Wohler Bridge Education Center where we were able to load our raft up and take off for home without the “Two Car Tango”.

This is a great service by RRA, because the education center parking area is closed to the public during the “Tourist Season” (to protect the downstream fish ladder dam). The parking area opens up for fishing season late fall thru the winter.

This is an idyllic scenic stretch of the Russian River that is relatively quiet and not bordered by roads or river front homes, etc.  Our day on the river was so enjoyable and made even moreso by an encounter with a very inquisitive Common Egret as tall as me!

–Mark Stevens, August 2019