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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

 

2019 Harvest Begins in Napa Valley

Posted on August 13, 2019 by michelle_magnus

Photo credit: Sarah Anne Risk

Average crop size and spectacular quality anticipated from 2019 growing season

Napa, CA (August 13, 2019) – The Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG) is pleased to announce that harvest has begun in Napa Valley. As is traditionally the case, harvest typically begins with the sparkling wine producers and Rodgers Vineyard will begin picking Pinot Noir for Mumm Napa Valley today. Throughout Napa Valley most white varieties will be harvested through the end of August, while the Cabernet Sauvignon harvest will likely begin mid-September.

“We have had favorable ripening conditions in Napa Valley over the past 30 days,” said NVG President Paul Goldberg, who is also president of Bettinelli Vineyards. “The very mild, early-season temperatures have led to an incredible growing season.”

Heavy rains in March and April cultivated robust cover crops, which organically enriched the soil with an abundance of nutrients. The heavy rain also delayed pruning and bud break by a few weeks in some parts of Napa Valley, but that hasn’t had any effect on the overall crop. The rain in April created a bit of shatter in Chardonnay clusters during bloom but didn’t significantly reduce crop size. Growers compare it to the same amount of reduction that occurs normally during crop thinning and they call the April rains “nature’s way of thinning.” Fruit set was right on course during the spring for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Napa Valley received more rain in May, followed by a heat spike in June, which sparked canopy growth. Since that initial short heat wave, the weather throughout the summer has been moderate and veraison has been “beautiful and even” according to Goldberg. Veraison is an exciting time in the ripening cycle when white grapes transition from green to gold and red grapes transition from green to red, a sign that harvest is just around the corner.

“With the late-season rains, vine growth took off, so crews were still leafing and hedging the vineyards when – boom – it was time for harvest,” added Kendall Hoxsey-Onysko, a Napa Valley Grapegrowers board member and the business manager for Yount Mill Vineyards. Yount Mill Vineyards grows five varieties for Mumm Napa Valley: Pinot Meunier; Pinot Noir; Pinot Blanc; Pinot Grigio; and Chardonnay and will harvest their first fruit for Mumm this Saturday, August 17th.

Each year, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers hosts the definitive summary on the valley’s harvest and streams it live for thousands of viewers world-wide.  This year’s Harvest Press Conference will be aired on Facebook October 15th.  A media alert will be circulated with timing and other details.

About Napa Valley Grapegrowers
NVG is a non-profit trade organization that has played a vital role in strengthening Napa Valley’s reputation as a world-class viticultural region for over 43 years.  Its mission is to preserve and promote Napa Valley’s world-class vineyards.  NVG represents 725 Napa County grapegrowers and associated businesses.

For more information, visit www.napagrowers.org Follow Napa Valley Grapegrowers on Facebook and Instagram

Article courtesy of Wine Industry Network

The Significance of Rental Price Increases for Real Estate

Posted on July 23, 2019 by michelle_magnus

According to Inman, “Rents in the US just keep going up and up…..The average rent was up 3.2% year-over-year in June. Last month also saw the biggest average rent increase in more than a year….”

In a nutshell, it’s a perfect time to buy rather than rent. Reasons why include:

  • Very low interest rates
  • A real estate market that has “softened” over the last year more in the direction of buyers
  • Tax breaks that come with buying and owning
  • Control over the place you call home
  • Realizing the “American Dream”
  • Building equity/apprecation over time (a house can be like a big piggy bank)
Zeroing in on Sonoma County, here’s what we have:
And take note: the “doldrums” of summer is the perfect time to visit open houses, get pre-approved for a loan, and make an offer. The market is typically “slow” this time of year, with more inventory and less bidding, so you are more likely to get something you want at a price that works.
Need help finding the right place? Give us a call. We are here to help you find your dream home!
Mark Stevens & Associates, 707 322 2000
Graphs courtesy of RentCafe

The Latest on the Sonoma County Housing Market

Posted on July 17, 2019 by michelle_magnus

As reported in the Press Democrat, July 17, 2019

When Paul Saharoff tried last year to sell his Santa Rosa home on Alta Vista Avenue for almost $1 million, Sonoma County’s red-hot housing market already had started to cool.

From late March to June 2018, Saharoff, 77, couldn’t get any buyers for the home he’d owned for 33 years. “I could feel the market braking,” Saharoff said. “It was also breaking my heart.”

Finally, he’s set to close a deal to sell the 3,228-square-foot, four-bedroom house. Saharoff cut the asking price by about $75,000 to put the house within a buyer’s reach and was helped by lower mortgage interest rates.

At the halfway mark of 2019, the county housing market remains somewhat sluggish. The median single-family home price in June was $658,500, a sharp drop from the all-time record $700,000 median in June 2018, according to The Press Democrat’s latest monthly housing report compiled by Rick Laws of Compass real estate brokerage in Santa Rosa. Meanwhile, there were 422 houses sold last month compared with some 429 home sales last June.

Through the first half of the year, there have has been 2,000 single-family homes sold countywide, a 6.45% decline from the comparable period last year when 2,138 homes were sold.

 

 

Last year, the local housing market was fueled by post-wildfire demand, which caused a price spike and a surge of sales. After shifting downward during the second half of 2018, the market has leveled off this year and buyers are slowly coming off the sidelines looking to use their leverage to get a good deal, real estate experts say.

“Right after the fires, we had a spike in prices even though the interest rates were going up. That is not a normal market,” said Erika Rendino, the real estate broker who helped Sarahoff sell his house.

Rendino, co-owner of Re/Max Marketplace in Cotati with her husband, real estate agent David Rendino, said at the start of 2019 interest rates began to decline and have continued that trend. But Rendino and other local real estate experts say buyers still are spooked from last year’s record-high pricing and many still haven’t realized that they can get more house for the same downpayment.

David Rendino said it’s going to take buyers at least three more months to realize they now have more “buying power.” It’s not technically quite a buyer’s market, but it’s leaning toward buyers, he said.

“The lowering of interest rates has given some buyers the opportunity to purchase homes previously out of reach,” he said, adding that every ¼ of 1% decrease in interest rates roughly translates into a $10,000 increase in purchasing power.

Ross Liscum, a Santa Rosa real estate broker affiliated with Century 21 NorthBay Alliance, expects low interest rates to continue boosting housing market activity in the coming months.

“It feels like we’re experiencing what we had in the past,” he said, referring to pre-fire housing activity. “For properties that come on the market that show nicely and are priced competitively, we’re seeing offers within the first week or two,” Liscum said. “You have better buying power. You can buy more home with a lesser payment than you could have last year.”

Otto Kobler, a mortgage broker and branch manager of Summit Funding in Santa Rosa, said Monday current interest rates for conventional fixed-rate 30-year mortgages were roughly 3.99%. Meanwhile, 15-year fixed mortgage rates were about 3.30%.

Kobler said high interest rates last year were part of the reason the area housing market slowed after last summer’s peak in prices. He said buyers that calculated their purchasing power based on last year’s interest rates have not readjusted to today’s lower rates.

“They’re just not really hearing it,” he said. “We bottomed out with rates last week. I wouldn’t be surprised if rates move up a little bit more maybe by next week. They do move around quite a bit.”

Low mortgage interest rates, notwithstanding, there are a number of factors in the local economy keeping potential homebuyers from entering the housing market.

Jordan Levine, deputy chief economist California Association of Realtors, said although lower interest rates make mortgage payments more affordable, overall home prices remain too high for many Californians.

“Affordability is already at the point where two-thirds of Californians can’t afford the median price home,” Levine said.

There’s also a great deal of uncertainty about the current 10-year economic expansion, he said. Though not as robust as previous expansions, it is the longest in American history.

“That brings with it fears about whether that can be sustained,” Levine said.

And the available supply of homes for sale is “still very low from a historical standpoint,” he said. Statewide, there’s an inventory equal to 3.4 months of sales, whereas for several decades before the 2008 recession the available home listings in California were equal to six months of sales, he said.

Dave Corbin, broker with HomeSmart Advantage Realty in Santa Rosa, said although the number of home sales in Sonoma County has declined by 15 during the first six months of the year the total value of those sales is $5 million higher than the six-month stretch a year ago.

In the first half of 2018, Corbin’s agency represented 72 buyers and 47 sellers. This year, he said, the agency thus far has represented 63 buyers and 41 sellers.

“I’d rather see a lot more units sold,” he said. “It’s just a little harder to come by in terms of listings this year but we’re still doing all right.”

The general consensus locally among homebuyers and sellers is that the housing market is “cooling,” David Rendino said. However, he said that perspective comes from comparing the current market to a six-month period in 2018 that was historically abnormal.

“The reality is that with this interest rate (on mortgages), it’s actually changing into a more balanced market,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

Fun Things to do in Sonoma County for the Fourth

Posted on July 02, 2019 by michelle_magnus

Whether you’re looking for a small-town bike parade, a symphony concert or a spectacular fireworks show, there’s no better place to celebrate the Fourth of July than Sonoma County.

SATURDAY, July 2

Bodega Bay: Fireworks show over the bay starts at nightfall, Westside Regional Park, 2400 Westshore Rd. visitbodegabayca.com

Monte Rio: Big Rocky Games with inner tube, swimming, potato sack races, ice cream and watermelon eating contests, hula hoop and rock-skipping contests, canoe and kayak races, water balloon toss. Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m., Monte Rio Beach. Firehouse barbecue, Saturday noon to 5 p.m., Monte Rio Firehouse.

Guerneville: Uncle Sam’s River Dance on Main Street, 8 p.m. to midnight, will feature food trucks, wine, beer, craft cocktails, a DJ and a Fourth of July laser show. Suggested donation of $5.

Penngrove: Rancho Adobe Fire Department Pancake Breakfast, 7 to 11 a.m., Rancho Adobe Fires Station, 11000 Main St. All proceeds benefit the Rancho Adobe Fire District. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for kids. For more information, call 795-6011.

Clearlake: Lakeshore Parade presented by the Lions Club, 11 a.m. starting at Redbud Park and ending at Austin Park, where a car show, vendors and entertainment is planned. Fireworks show at nightfall.

What’s So Special About Anderson Valley?

Posted on June 11, 2019 by Mark Stevens

See our latest Anderson Valley vineyard listing…..

Still somewhat of a secret in the viticulture world, Anderson Valley is to Pinot Noir what Hog Island is to Sweetwater oysters. Meaning, its “terroir” is perfect for two continually trending grape varietals, namely Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Our newest offering for a 15+acre vineyard planted exclusively to Pinot Noir in the Anderson Valley AVA brings this popular varietal into sharp focus.

Like the Sweetwater oysters of Hog Island, not a lot of places can create a decent Pinot Noir, much less a great one. Because of its unique valley formation stretching from the inland 101 corridor to the Pacific coast and flanked on either side by mountains surrounding rolling to nearly level alluvial terraces, Anderson Valley is the perfect configuration for Pinot Noir vineyards. Elevations range from sea level to 2500 feet and annual precipitation ranges from 35-80 inches. The valley delivers the critical one-two punch of cool, ocean-tempered nights with heat-laden, sugar-forming days for fruit that is described as “elegant yet powerful.” As they say, Cabernet is the king of wines (nod to Napa) but Pinot makes kings. Most would agree that a great Pinot Noir can be confused for a nuanced Cabernet, and this is the type of fruit we are talking about here.

The Anderson Valley is 2,500 acres and home to approximately 88 individual vineyard plots and 49 winemaking operations. The valley runs along more of an east-west axis than the more typical north-south alignment. This orientation permits Pacific fog and breezes to penetrate further inland, making for an overall cooler microclimate. Grapes in Anderson Valley are on average three weeks behind grapes from most other California winemaking districts due to its proximity to the Pacific ocean. The Navarro River runs along the lower length of the valley, acting as a cooling influence for the hills on either side. Vineyards are seen at elevations approaching 2,500 feet, but most vines are planted in the low-lying foothills. It is not uncommon, especially in the more southerly half of the valley, to see vines planted right up to the edges of redwood groves. Because Redwood trees like to grow in cold soil it is thought to indicate soils that will grow premium Pinot Noir. Unlike Sonoma and Napa counties, if there is a heat event in the area the vines can easily and quickly recuperate, and the grapes will continue ripening steadily. This makes for a rare combination which produces Pinot Noir fruit that is unique. Hot days combined with a 40- to 50-degree drop in temperature at night results in concentrated fruit on top of elegant tannin structure that has both power and elegance.

Anderson Valley is roughly 16 miles long and for every mile from Boonville to Navarro an average of 1 degree in temperature is lost. As such, when it’s 85 in Boonville, it’s 70 in Navarro. Boonville makes for sassy, fruit-forward pinot. Five miles down the road in Philo the pinot is more piquant with darker fruit. At the end of the Valley–known as the “deep end” and closest to the Pacific–the fruit is herbaceous and spicy.

Anderson Valley’s soils vary but tend to be rich in loam, with differing amounts of rock and
gravel. A recent survey showed that of Anderson’s 2,500 acres, nearly 70% (1,700) were Pinot
Noir, with Chardonnay (559) second, followed by Gewürztraminer (103), Merlot (73), Pinot Gris
(41), and Riesling (22). The aromatic whites, especially those of Navarro, Handley, and Husch,
are often the best in the state. Though produced across a spectrum of sweetness, the most
successful are bone dry in style. Pinot Noir has long been the regional star and tends to land
somewhere between the more citric, high acid style that typifies the Sonoma Coast and the
soft, generous style associated with Carneros. Historically, Chardonnay has taken a backseat in
Anderson Valley but has recently been enjoying a sudden surge in quality.

Being somewhat new to Sonoma County by way of Colorado, I was exposed to this hidden gem of a place–Anderson Valley–through my work as a license real estate assistant for Mark Stevens, a realtor of 30-years who specializes in country estates, wineries and vineyards. It still surprises me how many Sonoma County residents know so little of Anderson Valley, and have actually not been to the valley. Some of the things I love about Anderson Valley is just how plain gorgeous it is, with grassy oak-dappled hills flanked by redwood forested mountains. The feeling is definitely country, with a good dose of farm-to-table gourmet offerings, and of course, amazing wineries and tasting rooms. There is good hiking and camping at Hendy Woods State Park, recreating on the Navarro river, and the promise of the ocean down the way.  Anderson Valley is a great secret worth discovering.

Check out our new listing, Philo Hillside Vineyard

Cheers, Michelle Magnus

June 2019

Michelle Magnus at Hendy Woods State Park in Philo, CA