Local Attractions & Things To Do

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

 

Guide To Mendocino Wine Country

Posted on January 09, 2019 by michelle_magnus

Mendocino County is quickly becoming one of California’s top wine destinations. Featuring the famed Anderson Valley and highly acclaimed Pinot Noir wines, Mendocino is a beautiful mix of charming small towns and rugged nature.

Mendocino seems to have more than its share of natural beauty— the county is expansive, with many diverse regions, ranging from the expansive coast to the warm interior valleys. Defined by soaring redwoods, flowing rivers, an expansive coastline and, of course, lush vineyards, this county will not disappoint.

If you want to make a part of Mendocino County your own, check out our great listings in the area:

Take some time out in Mendocino and be sure to check out the following vineyards and resources as you plan your visit.

Balo Winery and Estate—This ultra-premium winery is located in the in the heart of Anderson Valley—far enough from the city to experience quiet country charm, yet close to the comforts and modern conveniences of town to attract plenty of wine enthusiasts.

Yorkville Highlands Vineyards—These vineyards represent approximately 30% of the entire Yorkville Highlands Viticulture Area. The property is comprised of eight parcels and offers numerous estate-building sites with spectacular views.

Talmage Vineyards—103± acres of premium vineyards in Mendocino County. This property includes 2 homes, an irrigation pond, plus barns and staging area’s developed for amazing events.

Towns and Regions

Check out this guide from VisitMendocino.com to you wrap your head around the various parts of the county. Explore the website to find a ton of useful articles and event listings as well.

“Mendocino County is not so much a place as a state of mind. Spectacular scenery, a sense of isolation, an aesthetic sensibility, and a strong sense of community are the standout highlights of a trip to Mendocino County.” READ MORE


Appellations

This article is a good overview of the various appellations in Mendocino County. In it you will find descriptions of the AVA’s and which notable producers call them home.

“The overarching “Mendocino County” appellation is home to a total of eleven American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).

One of them is named, simply, “Mendocino AVA” which largely nests together six smaller AVAs that you may be familiar with (Anderson Valley, Yorkville Highlands, McDowell Valley, Potter Valley, Redwood Valley, and America’s smallest AVA, Cole Ranch).

In addition, “Mendocino County” appellation also encompasses “Dos Rios” AVA, “Covelo” AVA, and “Mendocino Ridge” AVA.” READ MORE

 

This article from GuildSomm describes both the history of wine in Mendocino, as well as a detailed descriptions of the various AVA’s and their exceptional features.

Mendocino is a county with two faces. One face, the softer side, is well known. This is the coastal half that contains Anderson Valley, where delicate Pinot Noir and exceptional sparkling wines are enjoying increasing, and deserving, renown. The other face of Mendocino resides further east, in the cache of old vines that sprawl across the Redwood Valley appellation and surround the towns of Ukiah, Talmage, and Hopland. Here the vines have long labored without fanfare, their fruit blended into anonymity across county lines. But a growing number of vintners, both local and ex-county, are waking up to the remarkable quality contained within these venerable vineyards, and more attention is sure to follow. As exciting as the lacy creations of the coast may be, it’s time to turn our backs to the sea and our eyes toward the remarkably preserved historic legacy of inland Mendocino.” READ MORE

 

*map courtesy of mendowine.com

Ultimate Guide: Wine Caves

Posted on December 10, 2018 by michelle_magnus

Visiting wineries in Napa and Sonoma Counties is a bucket list experience that draws wine enthusiasts from all around the world, but wine tasting is really just the tip of the iceberg. Top your visit off with a visit to a wine cave for a truly memorable—even magical—experience.

The cave is where perfect temperature and humidity allow wines to age gracefully and transform from goodto award-winning. Caves provide the ideal storage environment for wine. The temperature remains constant—usually around 58℉ in California—and the humidity is relatively high. This, in turn, minimizes evaporation of the wines as they age.

The Soul of the Wine

There may be something intangible that caves add to wine as well—this is where the magic comes in. Martha McClellan, the winemaker at Sloan Estate, suggests the caves add to the soul of the wine. In her own words… “The cave’s purpose is to provide a tranquil, peace-filled atmosphere for the wine to rest and age for two or more years. In the end, this beauty contributes tothe soul of the wine, nurtured from vine, to tank, to barrel and ultimately to bottle.’”

Benefits of Caves

The constant temperature and humidity is not only good for the wines, it is good for the wineries and our world at large. By utilizing the stable cave climate there is no need to use expensive and energy intensive equipment to store wine. And by building underground, wineries leave the valuable real estate above ground available for planting.

Then to Now: The Evolution of Gourmet Caves

Caves were constructed in Sonoma and Napa Counties beginning in the 1870’s, but the caves that are built today are a far cry from their predecessors. Today’s caves are used for much more than just storage—they are designed to play a vital role in the hospitality of the wineries. Caves are used for tasting rooms, retail shops, office space, special events, private dinners, and even music venues.

This diversity of functions is great news for visitors, because the magic of being in a wine cave is an experience that you will not want to miss!

Go Deeper

Check out this fabulous guide to caves in Northern California that you can visit today!

Want a cave of your own? We are offering a well established winery off the iconic Silverado Trail with a 4500± sq. ft. cave of its own. LEARN MORE

 

*Quote from Martha McClellan courtesy of californiabountiful.com

*Featured image courtesy of Far Niente Winery

 

 

Art Trails of Sonoma County – Like a Treasure Hunt (but better!)

Posted on October 10, 2018 by michelle_magnus

Sonoma County Art Trails goes onto my schedule, every year, twice a year, without fail.  And this isn’t just because I live next door to the talented Carole Watanabe.  Well, that could be part of it… but more so, Art Trails creates a great excuse to get out & about to new places in Sonoma County.  As we are driving down numerous hidden back-country roads toward our next stop on the Art Trails, we have the perfect excuse to stop off at a nearby winery or restaurant for refreshment and sustenance.  After all, looking at so much great art is sort of like an endurance race, requiring (delicious) food & hydration……

I am proud to call Sebastopol my home of many years. I love its progressive attitude and upscale down-to-earth vibe, among other things. So its no surprise that my town is home to the largest Art Center in California, north of San Francisco—Sebastopol Center for the Arts—responsible for creating this fun adventure known as Sonoma County Art Trails.

If you’re new to Art Trails, here’s a great way to take advantage of this event: Go to the Sebastopol Center for the Arts at 282 S High St, Sebastopol, CA 95472. They are open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10-4 pm and have extended hours over the weekend from 10-5 pm (10/13 & 14 and 10/20 & 21). Once there, you can pick up the Art Trails Catalog and Map, plus view the participants’ paintings throughout the gallery (each artist has one piece hanging in the gallery).  Or simply CLICK HERE for a digital version & print at your leisure.

Meanwhile, enjoy rambling around all the open art studios throughout Sonoma County….and have a great, art-filled weekend!

— Mark

 

Schedule for Sonoma County Art Trails

Sundays and Saturdays, October 13, 2018 – October 21, 2018

Upcoming Dates:

~ Saturday, October 13, 2018 – 10:00am to 05:00pm
~ Sunday, October 14, 2018 – 10:00am to 05:00pm
~ Saturday, October 20, 2018 – 10:00am to 05:00pm

Cost: Free

Location:

Various Sonoma County Art Studios
Sebastopol Center for the Arts
282 S. High Street
SebastopolCalifornia 95472

For More Information:

Contact: Sebastopol Center for the Arts
Local: 707-829-4797
Email: info@sebarts.org

 

*Featured image courtesy of sonomacountyarttrails.org

Sebastopol Highlight: The Barlow

Posted on October 02, 2018 by michelle_magnus

With the holidays around the corner, you may be looking for inspiration and specialty gifts for your loved ones. Look no further than The Barlow in Sebastopol. First opened in 2013, The Barlow is almost a town unto itself, filled with premier shops, tasting rooms, breweries, and restaurants. Set aside a few hours to drink, eat, picnic, walk and shop in this beautiful outdoor shopping center featuring some of the best products Sonoma County has to offer.

Shops

Scout West County has been called “The Barlow’s new modern general store.” They have a wide selection of clothes, homegoods, and gifts focused on sustainability and craftsmanship.
Sonoma Flower Mart brings wholesale flowers to the public. They work with 15+ local farms to source high quality flowers year-round.
Community Market is a full-service grocery store featuring organic and health foods. Stop in to fill your kitchen larder or enjoy prepared food from the deli.

Also check out: Adele Stoll, Tamarind Clothing, Gallery 300, Elsie Green, California Sister Floral, The Passdoor, and Soap Cauldron.

Dining and Drinking

Kosho is a new addition to The Barlow. They offer modern Japanese cuisine utilizing fresh, high quality ingredients.
Golden State Cider (coming Spring 2019) uses the finest west coast apples to make a selection of high quality hard ciders.
Barrio: Fresca Cocina Mexicana serves gourmet Mexican street food in a contemporary style.
Pax Wines is focused on making wines from Syrah, Chenin Blanc, Gamay, Carignan grapes with as little intervention as possible.

Also check out: Seismic Brewing Company (coming soon), The Farmer’s Wife (coming soon), Crooked Goat Brewing, Friedman Wines, Guayaki, Kosta Browne Winery, MacPhail Tasting Lounge, The Nectary, Spirit Works Distillery, Two Dog Night Creamery, Taylor Lane Coffee, Village Bakery, WM Cofield Cheesemakers, Woodfour Brewing, Zazu Kitchen + Farm.

The Barlow also has an event center that is available to host weddings, corporate events or private events celebrating any special occasion.

*images courtesy of thebarlow.net and www.fdc-comp.com

2018 Wine Country Harvest Celebrations

Posted on September 18, 2018 by michelle_magnus

We are thrilled grape harvest is in full swing—full of anticipation for spectacular 2018 vintage. To celebrate the harvest and honor the hard work that goes into turning the excellent fruit of our region into world class wines, check out our favorite events in the area.

Valley of The Moon Vintage Festival
September 28 – 30, 2018
Cost: Varies

The oldest festival in California, this gathering offers a variety of events that appeal to all interests. Enjoy live music, dancing, local food and wines, grape stomping, a “light parade,” and various running races.

Kendall-Jackson
September 30, 2018, 11:00 – 4:00 PM
Cost: $150, $120 for wine club members

Join Kendall-Jackson for their second annual harvest celebration. Enjoy live music, exquisite wine and delicious food from local restaurants—including Single Thread and Two Birds/One Stone. Benefiting the UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County, this unmissable event offers educational seminars and demonstrations that highlight local food and the local wine industry.

Sonoma County Harvest Fair
October 5-7, 2018
Cost: $5 for Gate Admission, $60 for Grand Tasting, $125 for Harvest Fair Dinner

The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is an excellent showcase for some of the stunning products that are grown and made in Sonoma County. The multi-day event celebrates the region’s top winemakers, growers, microbrewers, and artisans—plus it includes opportunities to taste award winning wines, craft beer, and excellent regional cuisine.

Seghesio Home Ranch
October 6, 2018, 10 AM – 1 PM
Cost: $75 General Admission, $60 Wine Club Member

Begin your day with a guided hike through Seghesio’s 120 year old vines up to  Rattlesnake Hill overlooking the beautiful Anderson Valley. With the most delux views in the region, you will be treated to a lunch featuring wines exclusively from Seghesio’s Home Ranch Estate.