Archive for the 'Wine Country Living' Category
Harvest in the wine country is a long drawn out affair, beginning in August in the eastern vineyards of Napa, and with the grapes going to sparkling wine. The long harvest season closes with the old vine zinfandels in my part of the Russian River Valley in October. If your grapes are in a cool spot like mine are, that could even mean a Halloween harvest, with prayers that the rains wait till the sugars get up there.
This year harvest got started late due to an exceptionally cool summer. Tomatoes are barely ripening, let alone wine grapes. Then the frigid days were interrupted by two days of SEVERE heat, which saw the temperatures rise from 48 degrees to 108 degrees in only a few hours. This left grapes, trees and many plants in shock and with sunburn. Some growers told me they have lost as much as 30% of their crop to sunburn–let’s hope those earlly estimates were pessimistic and not accurate.
After the mini-heatwave, we immediately returned to ten days or so of cool weather, and only now are we experiencing consistent lovely warm (but not too warm) days with our typical cool evenings. The scent of autumn, and the crush, are definitely in the air. I love this time of year!
This year marks the 100th! Anniversary of Sebastopol’s first ever Gravenstein Apple Fair in 1910. Billed as “The Sweetest Little Fair” in Sonoma County, it is a celebration of Sonoma County’s long tradition of agricultural delights. Now many of the apple orchards have given way to vineyards, and Sonoma County apples have long been less competitive on the world markets than those from Washington State and China, but the early ripening Gravenstein apple is still a hallmark of the best in local farming and fruit! Thanks to Sonoma County Farm Trails for keeping this tradition alive! If you can’t make it to Sebastopol this weekend, Sonoma County Farm Trails offers a great on-line and printed guide to year round food tasting activities and events at Sonoma County’s many small farms and markets.
Today’s rain should clear up and bring sunny skies and warmer temperatures for the second weekend of this year’s Barrel Tasting Event sponsored by WineRoad, a group of northern Sonoma County wineries from the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valley appellations. If you are like me, perhaps your first exposure to the Sonoma wine country and our gorgeous back roads came from visiting friends during tasting events such as this. After many repeat visits, you begin to think, after a long weekend of wine tasting, gee, if I lived here, I’d be home by now. Last year, hundreds of home buyers in Sonoma County shared that sentiment, moving here from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, New York, Japan and Europe. I love to work with out of town buyers seeking the wine country lifestyle, feel free to contact me if you would like to explore the possibilities, and cheers!
Meanwhile–this video does a good job of capturing the flavor of barrel tasting weekend, and has scenes shot last week at Joseph Swan, Bella, Stryker and other Sonoma County wineries.
It has become a springtime blog ritual to write about the arrival of the ducks in my backyard, in 2008 and 2009. Kind of like the return of the swallows to Capistrano, or the running the bulls in Pamplona.
Spring is in the air! The sun has come out this week, it is coming up earlier in the morning, and setting later. We are all acting a little goofy after so many weeks of (much needed) rain. I wondered, “When will the ducks be back in the pool?” Right on schedule, the mallards returned. They arrived just after dawn, take a liesurely swim and then sit under an apple tree on the warm pool deck, napping and drying off. Not a bad life. They are the picture of contentment.
This morning, I wondered “How am I going to make my Ducks in Wine Country Post, Part Trey, the sequel any different than the first two?” (Side note: Do I need to? After all the joy of the seasons is in their repetition. I guess the same could apply to seasonal blog posts.)
Then, serendipitously today, I learned what the ducks and Sonoma County residents both know.
Courtesy of Nathan Halvorsen and the Press Democrat newspaper:
Do you have a smile on your face and a little extra pep in your step? Well, so does your neighbor.
A massive study released Monday determined that people in Sonoma County are happier and healthier than anywhere else in California — and ranked fifth overall in the nation.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, based on interviews with more than 353,000 Americans during 2009, asked people to assess their jobs, finances, health habits, mental attitudes and communities.
A large scale study of 300,000 plus Americans, including 750+ from Sonoma County, sponsored by the Gallup organization, determined that Sonoma County, specifically the Santa Rosa-Petaluma area, is home to the happiest people in California, and the community is fifth ranked in the nation for happiness and quality of life, also reported in USA Today.
Yesterday afternoon I took advantage of the first sunny day in a while and drove to the town of Bodega Bay with a friend. We went to pick daffodils on Bay Hill Road, taking advantage of some of the first sites of spring–all the yellow flowers starting to bloom, from daffodils to mustard to gorse. I love the variety of Sonoma County, and I never feel it so much as on a little jaunt to the coast. INSTANT VACATION!
This time of year there is an extra good reason to visit the coast. From January to April, if you are lucky you may spot Pacific gray whales as they make their way both north and south between Alaska, where they do their feeding, to the lagoons of Baja Mexico where they give birth to their babies. Here is a link to details. You can find out about volunteers who will be happy to help guide your whale watching.
Yesterday the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau released version 1.0 of an iPhone app promoting local wineries, restaurants, hotels, spas and more, from your iPhone. It is sort of like a private label version of Yelp dedicated to all things Sonoma County. It has a handy wine finder for example which lets you select a varietal–let’s say Carignane–and then view all the wineries within a certain radius of your location that offer that type of wine.
I already use my iPhone in so many ways when with clients and this tool will be a welcome addition.
So far I have used the iPhone out on location
to show maps, routes, and traffic
to take pictures and videos
to show pictures and videos from listings
to determine the orientation of a home with the compass
to send and search emails and review contract documents
to locate and make lunch reservations
to view the multiple listings,
to make blog posts or Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook updates
do calculations and more.
Now I can quickly point out what wineries are in range of a given weekend home, point out the latest upcoming tasting event or festival, recommend hotels, etc. I am not a golfer but this app finds all the golf courses within radius of a give property. It looks pretty good for a start and takes advantage of the iPhone environment. Check it out!
Many of my friends and clients are entrepreneurs and small business owners in the community. From time to time in 2010 I plan to showcase them so that you can learn about some unique and vital services to Sonoma County and beyond.
Christian Wright and Gerald Simpkins were friends and fellow Vizsla owners long before they became clients in 2003 when we found them an astonishing 1915 farmhouse on acreage in Sebastopol, since lovingly restored. We sold their charming cabin in Guerneville near the Russian River so that they and their dogs would have more room to roam, and also to be closer to their full-time home in San Francisco, where they ran a successful interior design business, Wright-Simpkins, Inc., serving clients all over the United States.
Gerald and Christian have progressed along a path somewhat typical of second home owners in Sonoma County. At first they left San Francisco on Friday evenings and returned home Sunday afternoon. Eventually Friday reverted to Thursday and Sunday became Monday, stretching the weekend to nearly four days. Holidays meant two week stays whenever possible and they became increasingly involved in the community of Sebastopol and Sonoma County. The house had already had some extensive restoration by the previous owners and Gerald and Christian took it and the grounds to the next levels, so much so that the house and gardens have twice been featured on the West County Garden tour sponsored every year by Food for Thought in Forestville.
In 2008, Gerald and Christian decided to move to Sonoma County full time, and sold their home in San Francisco. The recently opened a small studio and shop in Sebastopol at 2833 Old Gravenstein Highway on the way to downtown Sebastopol. If you care to stop by and visit, you might call first, to 707 829-9177 to make sure they are in.
Oh, and in their spare time in 2009, they neared completion of a project in Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii. If you, like I, are thinking of tropical weather these winter days, take a look!
Downtown Forestville in Sonoma County is hopping as last minute shoppers crowd tiny Nightingale Bakery, one of many artisan purveyors of local foods. In addition to wonderful baguette, foccaccia and sourdough, you can find local goat cheeses, butter and locally produced salumi. I have never seen this new litlle shop so busy!Happy Holidays!
# end Sent from my iPhone
A cold storm is blowing down from Canada tonight and may bring snow to the upper elevations of Napa and Lake Counties, which are visible from here in Sonoma County. In a couple of days all the leaves will be gone from the vineyard but there are stragglers hanging on. It seems that only a couple of weeks ago it was the peak of fall color.
Soon it will be time to think of pruning, which has already begun in the Dry Creek Valley in Healdsburg. Next week the daffodil shoots will poke up their heads in the garden. Two months to go till the mustard is up and early spring gets underway.
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