Archive for the 'Wine Country Living' Category

Mustard and Wine Country

filed under: Wine Country Living posted on March 3rd, 2008


We went for a drive yesterday after breakfast (OK, I know, a Realtor’s busmen holiday consists of driving around and looking at property!).   We took all back roads from the house in the Olivet area outside Santa Rosa, crossed over Wohler Road to Westside Road, stopped in Healdsburg for coffee, then back to West Dry Creek Road, Lambert Bridge Road to Dry Creek Road, Lytton Springs Road to Chalk Hill Road (to preview a new country property there) and back all the way down the east side on Chalk Hill to Faught Road in Windsor.   I will try to duplicate the drive on Google Maps, but you can email me if you want the specifics, but we covered the better parts of the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys and got to ogle lots of gorgeous Sonoma County country property on a glorious early spring day.

The mustard, daffodils and acacia trees were at the peak of their yellow blooms, leading us to wonder what it is about the first flowers of spring that so many of them are so YELLOW!


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This weekend or next come barrel taste along the Russian River Wine Road

filed under: Buyers, Wine Country Living posted on February 28th, 2008

Just had lunch today with a group of friends (aka The Russian River Valley Girls) at the new Bistro 29 in downtown Santa Rosa–they graciously opened for us for a private lunch and the food and service were fantastic!  It was a tough day to schedule for a lot of folks who are furiously preparing to host lots of locals and tourists for this weekend’s Russian River Wine Road Barrel Tasting.  Anne Giere of Sapphire Hill Winery, who heroically organized our lunch at the same time she is getting ready for the weekend, reminded me that this is the 30th Anniversary of the Barrel Tasting tour!   It has become such a big success that this year, as in 2007, the festivities stretch to cover two weekends.   Hard on the wineries to staff but lots of fun for the rest of us.  Many of my friends from the Bay Area come up and rent limos or designate a driver and then cover the area vineyards to sample wines not yet committed to bottles.   People have been known to buy copious amounts of cases to bring home and wine futures to pick up at a later date.

“Barrel Tasting is not a food or themed event.  It’s all about the WINE…many wineries offer “futures” on their barrel samples. This is a chance to purchase wine now, often at a discount, then come back to the winery when the wine is bottled, typically 12-18 months from now. Many wines are so limited, buying futures is your only chance to purchase them.”

Help us, help the Redwood Empire Food Bank – $1 from each tasting glass sold is donated back to the Food Bank. This resulted in a $30,000 donation for 2007.Barrel Tasting is not at one location. You drive to the wineries you would like to visit.
We will produce a program that shows the specific wines each winery will offer for the two weekends – you can expect to see that online beginning Feb. 1, 2008.”

posted by Pam Buda // 2 Comments »

Wine Country and Ducks

filed under: Wine Country Living posted on February 25th, 2008

Last night I heard some raucous quacking in several short bursts.  I sleepily wondered if the duck couple that naps by my pool every spring had returned for their sojourn again–one of those wonderful seasonal evidences of the rhythms of the countryside.   As I stepped off a conference call this morning to refill my coffee, sure enough, there they were.   Their nest is nearby and every morning they come for a bath and a snooze on the warm concrete pool deck.  The Papera vineyard is behind the house, 17 acres of old vine zinfandel planted by Charley Papera in 1934, still going strong.   Makes great zin, by the way!   Charley used to own much of this street if not all. It was pasture for cattle and still throws up some good oat hay.  Nice to see the sunshining and the days getting longer.  Not a bad place to be a duck (or a person).

Ducks return to Sonoma wine country in the spring

posted by Pam Buda // 1 Comment »

Where to dine in Sonoma County

filed under: Wine Country Living posted on February 19th, 2008

I guess because it is lunchtime and I am hungry that I am reminded how much I enjoy Heather Irwin’s Press Democrat blog, Bite Club, for the latest Sonoma County foodie news, restaurant gossip and reviews.  Plus fantastic archives that make it easy to find, let’s say, the best chile rellenos in Santa Rosa.  Hmmm…..

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Where to dine in Sonoma County

Wild Stage 1 of Amgen Tour of California finish in Santa Rosa today

filed under: Wine Country Living posted on February 18th, 2008

Juan Jose Haedo of Team CSC repeated his 2006 Stage 1 victory in this the 3rd running of the Amgen tour of California, and the 3rd year that the race has had a stage finish and start in downtown Santa Rosa.   It was an exciting finish including a crash in Railroad Square by then-leader George Hincapie as well as a big lead change in Occidental near the end of the nearly 100 mile race today.  Tomorrow Stage 2 will run from Santa Rosa to Sacramento.   For up to the minute coverage of the Tour of California, the Press Democrat is running a special on-line section.  Santa Rosa’s own Levi Leipheimer exhorted the crowd at the finish to join his website,  to fight the disqualification of his new team Astana’s in the 2008 Tour de France.

On February 13th, the Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) barred Team Astana from competing in any race or event organized by the ASO in 2008. The ASO owns premiere cycling events like Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Tours, and the famed Tour de France.

The ASO cited the doping scandals of last year’s Tour de France as justification.

There can be no comparison between the Astana team of 2007 and the new Astana. The entire organizational structure has been rebuilt under the direction of the team’s new General Manager, Johan Bruyneel, who has thoroughly cleaned house. What’s more, Astana has adopted the rigorous doping controls developed by anti-doping expert Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard, and Astana now spends more money on anti-doping controls than any other team in the pro peloton.”

The Amgen Tour of California brings a lot of excitement to Sonoma county.  30,000 people attended the wild finish dowtown Santa Rosa today.

For some  excellent photos of today’s tours, and other links, head to Spare Cycles.

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How many miles of trails in Sonoma County?

filed under: Buyers, Horses and Wine Country, Wine Country Living posted on February 4th, 2008

Many people live in Sonoma county or want to buy real estate here in order to take advantage of the great access to hiking, horsebackriding and mountain biking trails. Road bicycling is another draw–just ask local bike racer Levi Leipheimer where he trains during the off-season when not competing in the tour de France.

I was curious just how many miles of trails there are–especially for horsebackriding. My personal favorite. The Sonoma County Horse Council compiled a list and I did some totalling. This is a partial picture of a page at their site.

Sonoma County Riding Trails

Sonoma County Regional Parks total 2659 acres of parks with 30 miles of trails.

California State Parks that allow horsebackriding total 16460 acres of parks with 111 miles of trails, including 11 miles of trails along the Sonoma Coast at Bodega Bay–great on a hot summer day! Annadel State Park with over 5200 acres and 35 miles of trails in the heart of Santa Rosa is borded by many horse properties with direct access to the park, and deserves its own post. I think I need to take a ride out there and tell you more about it.

The Army Corp of Engineers runs Warm Springs Dam at Lake Sonoma above Healdsburg which is a spectacularly beautiful location with stunning views and 35 miles of trails on 17,000 acres.

Many of these parks allow camping and some allow horse-camping. Much of Sonoma County is within an hour or so trailer ride to Point Reyes National Seashore and its campgrounds as well.

posted by Pam Buda // 3 Comments »

Leaving the Bay Area for Greener Pastures (Literally)

filed under: Buyers, Country Property, Horses and Wine Country, Market updates, Wine Country Living posted on January 31st, 2008

Horses at rest on a sunny Santa Rosa Sunday morning

Last Sunday I held open a wonderful country property in Sebastopol, listed by my good friend and colleague Izetta Feeny. It is a great value, a four bedroom house on nearly two acres withing good commute range of San Francisco. The family that currently owns the house home schools their four children there and there is an assortment of goats, chickens, geese and two miniature donkeys and four big dogs that round out the family. The house is nicely situated on a knoll with 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside and hills. This morning I bet they can even see snow on some of those hills.

As the house is set at the end of a series of country lanes, I was curious how people found me. It turns out that all of the eight parties or so who came by had found about the open house via our on-line ads. People had driven from as far as Fremont and Oakland with their children to see this one house, and one person came with her realtor. We had a great time chatting and comparing notes. In 1998 I was doing the same thing, driving up to look at properties on weekends from my home in the East Bay.

Like me many of these people were looking for a different lifestyle, but concerned about what they might give up by being “so remote”. I had to laugh because I certainly don’t feel that way any longer. Seems like a lot of people want more room to roam, either for themselves, their children or their four legged friends.

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How storms cause power outages

filed under: Horses and Wine Country, Wine Country Living posted on January 3rd, 2008

As I sit here in my office contemplating the extraordinarily heavy rains falling at the moment, the first of 3 expected to hit Northern California in the next few days, I am checking my supply of batteries and flashlights, firewood and dry hay and feed for the horses. They are safely blanketed with water-proof sheets and two are standing out in the open, the third intelligently under his shelter. Thought I’d take a look at PG and E’s website to see what they suggest for storm preparation, and found this neat new animation about all the various ways our power can go out during a storm. I hope you are staying dry and warm, unless you are a horse!

posted by Pam Buda // 1 Comment »

Sonoma– the brand–tea kettles to purses

filed under: Wine Country Living posted on November 5th, 2007

As a relatively recent (1999) transplant to Sonoma County, I don’t need to be sold on the Sonoma County lifestyle.  I do spend a lot of time with out of town country property buyers showing them what makes Sonoma County special to me:  the stunning views, fabulous food and wine, the gardening paradise and fabulous places to ride and a very active equestrian community.  According to yesterday’s Press Democrat, much of the US is taking it’s appreciation of the Sonoma lifestyle national.  “The name Sonoma can now be found on everything from field glasses by Tasco to a lounge chair at Ace Hardware, tableware by Thomson to tea kettles by Farberware. Coach, the ultimate name in aspirational handbags, featured a Sonoma line of natural grain leather purses that sold in the three figures. Men can order a pair of H.S. Trask “Sonoma” loafers for $170. “Sonoma” is one of the leading house brands for Kohl’s Department Stores, putting Sonoma on blue jeans and bath towels. Montgomery Ward is peddling a Sonoma line of furniture. The even more well-heeled homeowner can capture a bit of Wine Country glamour by logging on to and ordering up the “Sonoma” wicker and mahogany outdoor bar set for $3,263.”

“Co-opting cachet

Sonoma carries what marketing experts call “geographic equity.” Manufacturers, restaurants and retailers can gain an immediate response from consumers, even without marketing, by co-opting the cachet of a place, even if the product was made in China and has no connection to the area at all, said Damon Aiken, a professor of marketing at Western Washington University, who has studied the phenomenon.”

Apparently Napa doesn’t carry quite the same cachet with marketers, being a measly two syllable word, which aside from the obvious wine connotations (an area in which it pre-dates Sonoma in fame–remember the old Sonapanoma Mendocino ads?  That will really date you if you do–Italian Swiss Colony ads from the 60’s cashed in on Northern California cachet.)

Napa apparently resonates with branding experts and marketers in terms of car parts too–less appetizing if you are planning to open a trendy eatery in Washington DC, Dallas or New Zealand.

 What do locals think of this exalted marketing status?  Considering the fact that tourism brings over a billion dollars into Sonoma county businesses, more than doubling from $500 million in 2000, and one of the top 3 industries in the county, along with wine and technology, it can’t be all bad.  More on this later.

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Sonoma– the brand–tea kettles to purses

Setting: the Wild Card in Country Property Values

filed under: Country Property, Horses and Wine Country, Wine Country Living posted on October 29th, 2007

Pricing residential country property is very challenging-there are so many variables to consider beyond beds and baths, square footage and age, location and condition. The size and condition of the septic system, the condition of the well and its capacity and water quality, zoning, expansion possibilities and more. (If you would have told me back at Swarthmore that I would become reasonably expert in any of these issues –especially septic–I would have doubted your sanity. Since a good 70 percent of the properties in Sonoma County are on well and septic, one of the most valuable services I can offer my clients is my ability to work with them, along with a team of experts  to carefully ensure that a property will be suitable for their needs, now and the foreseeable future. There are many great resources and people available to assist in the process, and an agent knowledgeable in country property can streamline the search and buying process for their clients, and help them to avoid pitfalls.

But the true wildcard in valuation of country property is the setting. An exceptionally private, serene setting with pastoral or dramatic views, in a tranquil location of (name your pick) wild hills and orchards, vineyards, horse farms, quaint farmhouses, redwoods or oak-studded hills, or various combinations of these, have a perceived value to the buyer that is very difficult to value.  It seems that many out of town buyers coming to a wonderful destination such as the wine country of Northern California, all want the proto-typical vintage farmhouse with wrap-around porch in a scenic setting.  They dont’t want to see or hear neighbors close by, and they’d probably like to see (or own) a vineyard or two.

 Is the setting wild card factor worth $20,000 per acre, or more? Will a property be so gorgeous or secluded that someone will “overpay” by six figures?  Is it really over-paying if a willing buyer puts the money on the table?

A client and I  viewed a property priced at $1.1 million the other day that perfectly met my buyers’ needs for a weekend home in Sonoma county. By all rights, and based upon extensive touring, the property, in my opinion and the opinion of many agents I know, should have been priced under $1m, possibly closer to $950Kor $925K, even if in perfect condition. However, it was exactly a kind of property that would be a perfect weekend retreat for someone from the city, with privacy and views on a less than 2 acre parcel that would be difficult to match. The property was in apparently poor condition with an older septic system, unknown pest issues and in a low water area.   I told my client that even though the property was extremely overpriced, someone could come in from SF or the peninsula with an out of town agent and pay the premium, since, as one friend said, you can hardly buy an outhouse in Palo Alto  or SF for a million dollars, so what is the big deal if it meets the intangible need for peace and quiet on Sunday morning.

This is every sellers’ secret fantasy:  that Brad and Angelina (or a Google couple flush with exercised stock options) will fly in on their jet and fall so in love with their property that they will throw caution to the winds and over bid.  Sadly, that almost NEVER happens, and the property sits.  I guess every once in a while the exception proves the rule, though. Back to the country retreat I mentioned above.  This summer I have seen almost everything that meets that description in Sonoma County, and sold several country properties to buyers from the Bay Area and elsewhere, some for weekend homes and some for folks who moved up full time from San Franciscio, Belmont and the East Bay.   As we were preparing to write an (perhaps insultingly low) offer on the aforementioned shangri-la, the listing agents informed me that his sellers had accepted a one million plus offer from the SF buyer and his SF agent, and they were “going to take the money and run”.    The property is still in its contingent period, and the price may be negotiated down further once all the inspections are complete, but I learned a lesson–you can never truly put a number the intangible value that a fabulous setting brings to a country property.

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