Sonoma & Mendocino County: Local Attractions & Things to Do

News This Week: Coastal Getaway and 2019 Garden Goals

Posted on December 28, 2018 by Mark Stevens


1) Sonoma and Mendocino Coast Weekend

Locals know that winter is one of the best times to enjoy the our coastline. This guide will give you the perfect itinerary for a weekend enjoying a few highlights that the Sonoma and Mendocino coast has to offer.READ MORE

2) Habitat for Humanity Plans Local Factory

Habitat for Humanity is planning to open a facility that will build components for prefab homes. The space will help the nonprofit to reach their goal of constructing 600 new homes in Sonoma County in the next eight years. READ MORE

3) Be The Best Gardener You Can in 2019

This list of ten garden goals for 2019 will get you inspired to get back outside. From going non-toxic to teaching kiddos to love to garden, these are some resolutions that we can get behind. READ MORE

4) Your Chance to Own an Amazing Treehouse.

o2 Treehouse, based in Oakland, built an amazing pinecone shaped getaway that could be yours for $150,000. With 64 windows in the 102 sq. ft. space, you will truly feel like a part of the forest. READ MORE


History of the Sonoma Valley AVA: Making Wine For 150 Years

Posted on November 07, 2018 by Mark Stevens

The fledgling town of Glen Ellen has a post office, hotel and cooper shop. The area is home to “some of the most experienced vine-growers in the county . . . a radius of six miles, with Glen Ellen at its center, would, in the opinion of many, include the finest grape-growing section in the State of California.”
—Thompson’s Historical Atlas of Sonoma County, 1877

The Sonoma Valley AVA is the first winemaking region in Sonoma County. Home to one of the original commercial wineries in California (established in 1857), Sonoma Valley produces unparalleled, world class wines that bring in tourists from all around the globe.

*There are 18 AVAs in Sonoma County, encompassing 60,000± acres of planted vineyards & 425± wineries. The Sonoma Valley AVA is in the Southern portion of the county on the border of Napa County.

Sonoma Valley earned AVA status in 1981. It consists of 55 wineries and 14,000± vineyard acres along a 17± mile stretch of the Valley of Sonoma (also known as the Valley of the Moon). This unique and beautiful region is bordered by the Mayacama Mountains to the east and the Sonoma Mountains to the west. Significant towns of the region include Glen Ellen, Sonoma and the hamlet of Kenwood.

The vineyards are planted among groves of ancient Valley oaks. Established aquifers and seasonal creeks provide water year-round. Once home to Native American tribes, pioneers during the California Gold Rush era, grizzlies, Steelhead trout, salmon, migrating birds, tule elk, and pronghorn, the valley is rich in human and ecological history.

Known for its unique terroir, the vineyards of Sonoma Valley have long benefited from the cool air that flows through the valley from the Pacific Ocean and San Pablo bay. The valley has ideal growing conditions for the world-class Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes of the region. Sonoma Valley winemakers have, for decades, transformed these grapes into fine wines that are unparalleled in body and flavor.

Discover a Few of Our Favorite Historical Wineries in the Sonoma Valley AVA

Established in 1857, Gundlach Bundschu is the oldest continuously operating family winery in California. The walls of the tasting room showcase the deep history of the winery. Surrounding grounds offer some of the best picnicking in the area. The tasting room is open daily 11 am – 4:30 pm.

Buena Vista Winery opened just three months prior to Gundlach Bundschu. Now owned by the Boisset Family, you can travel back in time with a tour in the retrofitted original building and caves. Stop by the tasting room any day between 10 am – 5 pm.

In operation since 1904, Kunde Winery is currently run by 4th and 5th generations of the Kunde family. The original winery was located a few miles from the winery you see today. Still, the place is steeped in a deep knowledge and unique history. Tasting room open daily, 10:30 am – 4:30 pm.

Annadel Estate Winery was first established in 1880 by the Bolle family. The Bolle family home still stands. And the old stone walls of the original winery still grace the property. Purchased in 2007 and renovated over the past decade, this estate vineyard is a stunning example of Sonoma Valley history. Tasting is by appointment only.

We are thrilled to announce a new listing for Majestic Oaks Estate Winery in the Sonoma Valley AVA! View the listing: CLICK HERE

Wildlife Wineries of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties

Posted on October 24, 2018 by Mark Stevens

You may already be aware of the importance of sustainable agricultural practices for the longevity of our land, wildlife & communities. These practices minimize the use of pesticide and chemical fertilizers, protecting our waterways and topsoil; maintain wildlife habitat by setting aside acreage for wild plants and animals; and include efforts to reduce water, energy use and recycle material goods in all aspects of the business (aka vineyard & wineries).

Discover our favorite local wineries and vineyards that are making sustainable wines, and focusing on wildlife habitat conservation at the core of their land management plans.

Frey Vineyards

Frey Vineyards manages just 10% of their land as vineyards with the remaining acreage kept as wild forestland. They have placed bird boxes throughout their property, and have eight hives of honey bees.

Preston Winery

Preston produces more than just wine… they also grow olives, heirloom grains, apples, peaches, figs, walnuts, vegetables, sheep, chicken, and pigs. Beyond this agricultural diversity that supports insects and bird life, Preston Winery leaves some of their property wild. They have hedgerows that attract beneficial insects, and use annual cover crops—a method central to organic farming—to build healthy soil.


The Parducci Winery Estate is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, allowing and even encouraging wildlife to life among the vines. To facilitate this partnership between wildlife and their land, they provide nesting boxes for owls and songbirds to help manage pests, and plant cover crops to attract beneficial insects.


Quivira has been a leading voice in preserving and restoring the riparian corridor of Wine Creek, a Dry Creek tributary that has a native Steelhead trout and Coho salmon population. Beyond these restoration efforts, they are committed to composting. In fact, they maintain a 500 cubic yard compost pile that recycles waste from their gardens, animals, and vineyards.


If you enjoy this topic and want to do more for the wildlife in your neighborhood, check out my article from last week about simple steps to increase wildlife habitat in your own backyard: CLICK HERE


Harvest Party at Flanagan Winery in Healdsburg

Posted on October 11, 2018 by Mark Stevens

It was a perfect day for a harvest party in Sonoma County’s signature wine town, Healdsburg. And it was my first. My lucky break came when my boss, Mark Stevens, asked if I wanted his ticket. A scheduling conflict had come up, and alas, he couldn’t attend. I had to think about it for about half a second, then told him I would take one for the team and go. (Later, Eric Flanagan said Mark should be paying me double-time for working on a Saturday….)

I made the short drive from my Windsor home to Healdsburg, parked in a gravel parking lot and was promptly bussed up to the winery on West Dry Creek Road. In exchange for my ticket I was handed a shimmering glass of the signature Viognier, which was creamy but light and the perfect introduction to a day spent drinking wine at noon. I sat on the deck in the sun and admired the view of the famed West Dry Creek Valley. From there I made my way to the tents and felt compelled to go with the Pinot Noir while I sampled the Liberty Duck with Polenta & Fig Jus (which was amazing, I had three of those!). I am a huge fan of Pinot, so that was a no-brainer, and it was deliciously paired with the duck.

Then I headed to the the Hog Island Oysters stand, manned by a biologist who was a wealth of information on oysters. I adore oysters, and I appreciate them even more after learning about all the things that make them so unique and tasty. One of the best things I learned was that oysters, like wine, have a terroir. Hog Island Oysters are grown in Tomales Bay, CA and have a distinct flavor that is unique to that particular spot in the ocean. Ever wonder what that whitish round disc is in an oyster? It’s a muscle and makes the shell open and close. Because muscles store glycogen (another name for sugar), when you eat that part of the oyster you will notice–if you pause to really taste–a distinct sweet flavor.  And I did!

And like wine, every oyster is unique. Some are skinny, some are fat, some are in between.  Which you prefer depends on your taste (like the dark meat/white mean debate). I definitely gravitated towards the fatties, which were marked by a creamy, luscious layer over the main body of the oyster. The amount of fattiness is somewhat determined by sex (oysters are gametes, so they can change sex when they feel like it, based on the environment).  Females–you guessed it–tend to be fattier and more abundant during “good” years. I ate about half a dozen oysters, which was nothing when I discovered another party goer claimed to have downed no less that three dozen! And it almost goes without saying that in order to fully appreciate the oyster, I had to pair it with the signature Flanagan Chardonnay. I am not a big chard fan, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  Full bodied and fruit-forward with just the slightest hint of oak. Very nice.

The pizza oven was energetically worked by two pizza chefs, and though I normally don’t eat pizza, this was not your normal pizza.  It was rustic. Authentic. And had an impressive wood-fire oven to go with it and a seductive, lively fire. It was the archetype of a thin-crust pizza pie, a “pizza margherita”, adorned simply in the colors of the Italian flag: green from basil, white from mozzarella, red from tomato sauce. Oh–and a few, lightly roasted thinly sliced purple onions on top for a beautiful accent of extra flavor. This I paired with the Flanagan Cabernet Sauvignon. I found the Flanagan Cab to be respectable and well-mannered…”structured” as they say. It was not as heavy as some of the Cabs I’ve had recently, and I enjoyed its ability to be serious and casual at the same time. If that makes any sense.

Finally, the grand finale was the Syrah. The very nice woman in charge of the Cab and Syrah station would not let me try the Syrah before the Cab. She warned me: The Syrah is very large, very strong, very bossy.  I love bossy and I couldn’t wait to try it. And this I did, with three of the gorgeous little dark chocolate macaroons, each crowned with a dollop of tart cherry and cream. It was the perfect finish to a perfect afternoon of drinking amazing wine (thank you Flanagan and Cabell Coursey) paired with exquisite culinary delights. I’ll say one thing: those Flanagans really know how to throw a party! Thank you!

And thank you, Mark Stevens.

–Michelle Magnus, Mark’s assistant