General

“Affordable” Housing in Sonoma County? Yes!

Posted on September 15, 2020 by michelle_magnus

Sticker shock was in full force when I moved from Northern Colorado to Northern California in 2016. In Colorado, $350,000 could get you a modest three bedroom, two bath rancher along the Front Range. In Sonoma County wine country? Not so much.

I had about $80,000 as a down payment and a new job and after adjusting to the new market metrics, I began to get acclimated to my environs and the crazy California housing market. I was renting a downtown Santa Rosa apartment for about $2200 a month…..renting. It was driving me crazy because who wants to throw away that much money every month towards something you don’t own and that pays someone else’s mortgage? For the past twenty years I had owned my own home and I knew the value of owning rather than renting. In addition to having your investment appreciate in dollars, there is also the psychological value of knowing that you are in charge of where you live (meaning, no landlord to raise the rent or end your lease or decide to sell).

After getting my ducks in a row and working with a good realtor, I discovered an established town home complex called Courtyards East in Windsor and fell in love. The complex is mostly owner-occupied and surrounded by heirloom oaks and mature Redwoods and maples. Located near the 101 highway it also made for easy commuting. Once I discovered all the nearby hiking trails, I really fell in love and felt like I had stumbled upon a secret that not many others seemed to know about. And the town of Windsor is so quaint and cool–Oliver’s Market, Russian River Brewing Company, and weekly town green concerts in the summer (pre-COVID). And there are so many other great places nearby….world-renowned Calistoga is a mere 30 minutes around the corner, and the  same for funky Russian River towns like Guerneville and Monte Rio with the coast just a few minutes further. And don’t forget Santa Rosa and all its conveniences is a short drive down the highway, with Healdsburg only five miles north and always a draw for wine tasting, shopping and dining.

Three years have passed since I got my foot firmly lodged in the Sonoma County real estate market and it’s time to let someone else do the same and take advantage of “affordable” housing in Sonoma County. My beautiful town home, which holds so many great memories, is now available as I transition into a new life in a new home with a great guy (soon to be my husband). If you are done with renting and want a home under $400,000, and want to take advantage of today’s crazy-low mortgage rates, come take a look at my place at 216 Courtyards East in Windsor. You’ll be glad you did!

Live the Good Life in Healdsburg

Posted on July 21, 2020 by michelle_magnus

Healdsburg is a small, tourist community in Sonoma County in the heart of California’s beautiful Wine Country. Healdsburg truly takes the pleasures of life seriously with natural beauty, world-class wineries, farm-fresh food, and friendly residents. Considering moving to Healdsburg? Get ready to experience life in what is frequently ranked as one of the Coolest Small Towns in America and one of the Best Small Towns in the U.S.

The Sonoma region is best described as a haven for wine lovers and a grown-up’s theme park with restaurants that are less pretentious than in nearby Napa Valley yet just as chic and three of America’s top wineries all within reach.

The population of Healdsburg, CA is 11,721 and it’s one of 30 communities in Sonoma County, CA ranging from small coastal villages and quaint towns to major cities like Santa Rosa. The city has a median age of 44.6 years old, far above the national average 36.8 years, and this reflects the community’s high share of professionals, retirees, and highly educated residents. About 28% of people in the city have at least a bachelor’s degree compared with just 19% of the United States as a whole. Healdsburg is somewhat diverse with an ethnic composition of 62.6% white alone, 33.7% Hispanic of any race, 2.2% two or more races, and 1.1% Asian.

Looking for a safe place to live and raise a family? It’s hard to beat Healdsburg’s low crime rate. This safe city has far lower reported crime rates for theft, property crime, burglary, and violent crime than the California and national averages.

If you’re considering moving to Healdsburg, CA, you probably already know that life in central Sonoma Valley isn’t cheap. Healdsburg’s cost of living index is about 170 compared to the national average of 100 and the California average of 138. Much of this is attributed to high housing costs in Healdsburg, CA.

The average home price in Healdsburg is $647,600, nearly three times the national average, and the homeownership rate is slightly below average. Still, you can find homes that run the gamut with condos and townhomes priced below $250,000 to beautiful estates topping $3 million. You can start searching for Healdsburg, CA homes for sale to get an idea of what you can get with your budget.

So, how much does it cost to live in Healdsburg as a renter? Average rents in Healdsburg are around $1,466, according to RentCafe. That makes the city more affordable than nearby Santa Rosa where rent tops $2,200.

As a small city with just 4.5 square miles of area, Healdsburg doesn’t have many neighborhoods. That doesn’t mean you don’t have plenty of choice in where to live in Healdsburg, though. Every area of the city is highly rated for safety, great schools, and outdoor recreation.

One of the best places to live in Healdsburg if you like to be near the action and vineyards is the City Center. This is where most of Healdsburg’s businesses are located along with a handful of homes and apartment complexes. It’s here that you’ll have the best luck finding an apartment for rent in Healdsburg.

The Powell Ave/University St neighborhood is home to the Healdsburg Golf Club at Tayman Park and many residential developments with single-family homes. There are plenty of parks to explore in the neighborhood and one of the city’s famous vineyards.

The Lytton/Simi area is the largest area of Healdsburg and it’s home to the most open space, beautiful views, and spacious homes. If you want room to explore and more privacy from your neighbors, you’ll probably want to be in this area farther from the city center.

Take a look at our featured listing for Healdsburg: Turn-Key Craftsman Charmer


Article courtesy of Jesse Lovan. Access full article here: https://mentorsmoving.com/blog/moving-to-healdsburg-ca/

 

San Francisco Sourdough & the 49ers

Posted on January 23, 2020 by michelle_magnus

Mark Stevens and his famous San Francisco-style sourdough….a labor of love.

San Francisco Sourdough & The 49ers

What do those two things have in common? You may be asking. Last weekend, during the final playoff game of the San Francisco 49ers versus the Greenbay Packers, I spent the day before furiously making batches of sourdough bread (recipe included later). Like the 49ers, San Francisco-style sourdough bread is unique; and, like the 49ers’ entry into the 2020 Super Bowl, it takes a lot of work and dedication. But it’s well worth it in the end….much like our favorite team here in the North Bay.

Sourdough is arguably one of the most scientifically fascinating foods out there. It relies on Saccharomyces exiguous…a wild yeast. What’s that? You may be asking. Surprisingly, wild yeast is easy to make: One way is to take some grapes, place them in a bucket and let them ferment. Add the fermented by-product to flour and water, and Voila! You have the start of your “Starter” or “Mother Batch.” As the wild yeast digests the flour and water it creates carbon dioxide, which is what gives sourdough bread its distinctive airy, holey consistency (holes which are perfect for capturing melted butter, I might add). It’s also considered a “probiotic” which has taken the Wellness world by storm lately (think kombucha and so forth).

What your “Starter” should look like

Once you have your Starter going, you will add some of that to traditional bread ingredients (flour, water, and sometimes more “active” yeast that you can purchase from the store); this is usually a two or three day process (like the 49ers, greatness doesn’t happen overnight!). And to keep your Starter ready for next time, you need to add more flour and water, in a one-to-one ratio, so it can grow again. In theory, a single batch of sourdough can last forever….or at least a lifetime. As such, it carries with it a much loved and unique history all its own and has “heirloom” status (much like our beloved 49ers since 1946!).

Note the distinctive holey-character of sourdough bread from the carbon dioxide activity.

Despite the claim San Francisco has over sourdough bread, sourdough can be made anywhere in the world and in fact is the oldest form of leavened bread, dating back to ancient Egypt. (It’s theorized that bread dough was left out and wild yeast from a nearby fermented food product drifted into the dough and began the first sourdough starter.) So what’s the hype with sourdough bread being so much better when it’s from San Francisco?

Here’s scientist and food specialist Robert Wolke explaining it to NPR: “The sour flavors come from lactic and acetic acids produced by inevitable environmental bacteria, which are working on the flour’s sugars along with the yeast. Different bacteria make different sour flavors; San Francisco is awash in local bacteria species that make its sourdough bread famous. So sourness, per se, in some ryes and many other breads is quite desirable.” One could argue that the silver lining for San Francisco being “awash in local bacteria” (kind of an icky thought) is that it produces the ideal terroir for the best darn sourdough bread on the planet……at least in my opinion. Much the way our beloved 49ers are the best darn football team in the nation (again, my opinion).

So, when you’re wondering what to bring to the 2020 Super Bowl party this February 2nd to help the 49ers triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs, bring some San Francisco sourdough! And for inspiration, here’s my favorite San Francisco sourdough recipe:

 

San Francisco Sourdough Bread Recipe

Note: Plan ahead for this recipe because it could take 4-8 days to make depending on where you’re at with your “Starter”

  1. Your Starter must be from San Francisco to be the Real Deal….the authentic, heirloom mix (containing the highly sought-after SF bacteria), can be purchased from Vitacost or Cultures for Health, and comes as a dehydrated packet mix; or if you actually live in San Francisco, mix wild yeast, flour and water and leave out for several days at room temperature until bubbly and fruity smelling. If you are buying the dehydrated mix, you will need to prepare it and then leave in a warm place for 4-8 days until bubbly and fruity/yeasty smelling. After that keep it refrigerated. (Note: if you use 1 cup starter for your bread, remember to add one cup water and one cup flour to the remaining starter and leave out again to achieve fermentation for your next bread-making journey.)
  2. Ingredients: 4.75 cups bread flour; 3 tablespoons white sugar; 2 tablespoons butter; 2.5 teaspoons salt; 1 package dry yeast; 1 cup warm milk; 1 egg; 1 tablespoon water; ¼ cup chopped onion*
  3. In a large bowl mix 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and dry yeast plus the milk and butter; stir in the starter (roughly 50% of all flour added to the bread part of the recipe, so a little under 2 ½ cups for this recipe). Gradually mix in the rest of the flour.
  4. Place dough on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes; oil a bowl and plop the dough into the bowl and turn it over; cover with a clean cloth for about an hour or until the dough doubles in size.
  5. Punch down and let rest for 15 minutes, then form into loaves and leave for about an hour or until doubled in size
  6. Brush egg mixture over the tops of the loaves and sprinkle with the chopped onion (if desired*)
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes

 

 

A historic harvest and a changing market: Napa’s growers navigate grape glut

Posted on November 25, 2019 by michelle_magnus

Article courtesy of Napa Valley Register by Sarah Klearman

They’re the classic drivers of any market: supply and demand. Experts say that unfavorable conditions in both have presented the region’s wine industry with a grape glut — a challenge in the form of oversupply.

It’s not that this year’s harvest was particularly large, according to Jon Ruel, CEO for Trefethen Family Vineyards, but rather that last year’s harvest is on the mind — and in the tanks — of many wineries.

“When we talk oversupply, it’s the hangover from 2018,” Ruel said, noting that 2018 gave way to a harvest of historic proportion. “For wineries, it’s not hard to remember just how big 2018 was, because a lot of (the wine) is still in the pipeline.”

On the demand side, according to Glenn Proctor, partner of the wine brokerage firm Ciatti Company, the market for wine experienced a “pullback” beginning in 2017. The majority of 2018’s harvest was contracted — meaning grapes were spoken for — but the size of the crop itself, the largest picked to date in California, “exacerbated” the glut situation the industry finds itself in today, Proctor said.

In 2018, wineries crushed a staggering 612,833 tons of grapes, up more than 20% from 2017. Harvest was especially flush in Napa and Sonoma counties; growers harvested a crop that was about a third larger than usual, according to Proctor. He said spot market prices for uncontracted fruit this year hit a steep decline, with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes—a relative market strength—selling for less than half of what it sold for in 2018.

“2019 has been a year where it’s tough to sell grapes and bulk wine, because most of the buyers — wineries — already had sizable inventories because of 2018,” he added.

John Hughes, owner of H&H Wine Brokerage in Napa, said he’d seen notable price deflation in the market this year. Earlier this season, he brokered a deal that saw Napa Valley Cabernet go for $12 a gallon — about a third of its regular price. Even starker, he said, was the price at which some Napa Valley grapes were selling: his firm saw “quite a bit of movement” at $1,500 per ton. That’s just a fourth of what grapes — at around $6,000 or more per ton — normally sell for.

“The market just won’t sustain that anymore,” Hughes added. “(Distributors) aren’t picking up wine at previous prices, so we’re marketing to a different group of folks.”

Those ‘folks’ are largely the millennial crowd — a group with a taste for “a different bottle of wine” than has been traditionally marketed by Napa, Hughes said, and a weak point for the wine industry. Proctor also cited competition from beer, spirits and new additions to the alcoholic beverage market, like increasingly popular spiked seltzers and even hard kombucha.

“It may not be focused at (all) age groups, but it is really interesting,” Proctor said, of the drinks. “We’ll see how the consumer chooses, which is good: the wine industry has to remain competitive and produce a high quality product.”

Ruel believes that won’t be difficult: though 2018 was notable for the quantity of the crop it produced, he says the quality of the fruit was notable, too.

“Napa’s wineries are in a position of having more wine than they need, so they’ll get to be especially choosy (with their fruit),” Ruel added. “That makes this a great time to be a consumer.”

There are a variety of ways with the oversupply, Ruel added. He’s spoken to vineyard owners strategically replanting some acreage this year, delaying future fruit production to correspond with market rebound. Wineries, on the other hand, could be purposeful with moving inventory, creating tank space for grapes.

That’s been the tactic at hand for Cliff Lede Winery, according to COO Remi Cohen. Lede Family Wines grows all of its own grapes and saw a large 2018 harvest, in line with industry trends, Cohen said. It helps, she added, that the harvest in 2017 was under average — globally, it was the lowest level of production in 16 years.

Cliff Lede Winery has a tank for each of its vineyard blocks, Cohen added, meaning it isn’t strapped for space. Still, though, the winery plans to push the release and thus the sale of its 2017 vintage up earlier than originally planned.

“Then we’ll be able to release 2018 early, and have more time to sell that — that’s our main strategy,” Cohen said, of moving inventory, adding that the excess is “a good problem” to have.

“We could have had two other problems: not enough fruit, or too much mediocre fruit. This is an opportunity,” Cohen said.

Proctor noted that in speaking with clients, he’s observed “adjusting on the supply side.”

“No one was making a whole bunch of wine, hoping there would be a buyer. People were cautious,” he said.

Hughes said much would depend on the size of the harvest in 2020. A smaller harvest could correct the oversupply — though Ruel noted that growers, as farmers, “never hope” for a small growing year. And Proctor pointed to the ever-cyclical nature of agriculture, which has long been at the mercy of supply and demand.

“Growers aren’t overjoyed, but they see a path forward,” Proctor said. “They’ve been through this before.”

We Live in a Beautiful Place

Posted on November 25, 2019 by michelle_magnus

Mark Stevens, November 2019

I took a few days off at the beginning of November to celebrate my wife’s birthday at a place that we both hold dear: West Point Inn on the wind-swept ridges of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. For three days we hiked the numerous trails surrounding the Inn, ate delicious meals, and enjoyed the company of our two grown daughters who made the trip up to join us from their busy lives in the Bay area. This was a rare treat!

For those who are unfamiliar with the story of West Point Inn, it was built in 1904 and was a brief stop on what was then known as the “crookedest railroad in the world” where passengers could meet a stage coach bound for the beach. The railroad is gone now but the West Point Inn remains as an “off the grid” haven for hikers and a monument to the rich historic heritage of our region. The Inn offers sweeping panoramic views of the East Bay, parts of San Francisco, the Marin Headlands, one tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Pacific Ocean.

Back in the day, it was a place where trains met a horse-drawn stagecoach from Willow Camp (today’s popular Stinson Beach) and it provided hospitality for visitors at the westernmost point of the railroad—hence the name “West Point Inn.” The stagecoach service ended in 1915; between 1918 and 1920 the Inn’s porch was enlarged and a dining room added. The West Point Inn and its cabins are the only things left of the railroad and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1930 the railroad abandoned operations and the Inn came under the jurisdiction of the Marin Municipal Water District. The Inn became popular with weekend hikers but was abandoned during WWII due to lack of profitability. In 1943 volunteers began running the Inn and their ideas are the basis of how the Inn is run today.

West Point Inn remains a unique destination for many and a rite of passage among serious mountain bikers, where it’s argued that Mount Tam was the birthplace for that sport. To get a reservation at the Inn, members pay a $20 fee and volunteer for three workdays or public pancake breakfasts and can reserve 120 days in advance. Non-members are limited to a 90-day reservation window. The Inn hosts seven rooms in the inn, and five cabins where you can bring your camping gear and meals.

This time around we spent three lovely days at the Inn, hiking, relaxing and spending time together as a family briefly reunited. It was a lovely and much appreciated pause from our everyday routine.  West Point Inn is truly a unique gem in our region and if you’ve never been, be sure to put it on your bucket list.

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.