Wine Country Living

West Sonoma County is Home to Outstanding Plant Nurseries

filed under: West County, Wine Country Living posted on June 22nd, 2015

Go Ahead Stop and Smell Them!

Go Ahead Stop and Smell Them!

Last night I had an impromptu dinner with clients (now friends!) at the lovely estate property we found for them a couple ofyears ago near the Laguna de Santa Rosa, in the heart of the Russian River Appellation.

I remarked how fabulous the landscaping looked, particularly the new raised beds they added. The perennial garden. lavendars and olive trees were looking really lush and healthy. And of course the four acres of vines are happily heading towards the harvest a few months from now.

With ten acres total and a green thumb or two, one is always open to collecting new plant treasures. But where to find them? My client bemoaned the plant choices she saw at the big box and hardware stores.

You mean you don’t know about Emerisa Gardens Retail Nursery I cried? I have made several good friends by frequenting them, and learned enough about a lot of plants to be dangerous! Every once in a while I go by for a good plant fix! Emerisa’s retail nursery in NW Santa Rosa is only open from March through October, but it is a great place to learn about and see interesting perennials, grasses and interesting plants for both sun and shade. Their demonstration garden shows you what the plants look like when full grown and the STAFF are incredibly knowledgeable and very helpful. Chances are, if you hire a landscaper, they buy a good portion of their plants on the wholesale side. They have whimsical pots and garden “objet” plus very good gardening gloves too!

And what about Harmony Farm Supply nursery? Besides a really nice and thorough nursery near Graton in West Sonoma County, including a great selection of bare root trees and berries in winter, Harmony is where you might find me picking up the spare irrigation parts that always seem to be needed, even though my collection in the garden shed is growing! Also very helpful staff and a good selection of veggie starts and various soil amendments and garden tools. Plus they install solar systems! I have learned more than i ever thought I would about drip irrigation in the aisles of Harmony Farm Supply.

And little Fulton, California is home to two of the best nurseries you will ever find. Cal Flora and Urban Tree Farm. Cal Flora specializes in native plants and has some incredibly passionate people working there (including one of my clients!). Urban Tree Farm is ENORMOUS and has acres and acres of every type and size of tree imaginable, plus other plants as well.

And how about Sonoma Horticultural Nursery? Sonoma Hort as locals say? Acres and acres of stunning azaleas, camellias and rhodoendrons, many very rare varieties. A truly beautiful place to visit and picnic too!

And then there is Western Hills Garden just outside Occidental. It is only open one day a week and there is a charge to view the ten acre site but it is worth it. Saved by volunteers, it is really a labor of love and home to many rare perennials. Worth a trip!

I could go on and on–it is not hard to see why Luther Burbank thought of Sonoma County as horticultural paradise1 A lot of other folks do as well. We grow more than grapes here! Let me know your favorite nurseries!

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on West Sonoma County is Home to Outstanding Plant Nurseries

Explore Sonoma County Through Google Glass

filed under: Wine Country Living posted on November 20th, 2014

If someone has never been to Sonoma County they might be surprised at how incredibly huge it is, how diversely beautiful it is and even as a local this quick video reminds me how I can even go on vacation here without really leaving home.  Enjoy!


posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Explore Sonoma County Through Google Glass

Happy Valentine’s Day! Where to Find your Sweetie Some Sonoma County Chocoate

filed under: Wine Country Living posted on February 14th, 2013

chocolate_hearts1We set out to learn about chocolate in Sonoma County this month in honor of Valentine’s Day, Chocolate style. There are a number of specialty candy and chocolate shops here, from Sonoma to Cotati, Petaluma to Healdsburg. We found two that were willing to offer friends and clients a special Valentine’s Day discount! For a coupon or special discount code, email me for details and I will be happy to share!

Did you know that Sonoma County has it’s own manufacturer and online purveyor of fair trade, organic and even Vegan chocolates? I did not until our chocolate investigation team got to work and found Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates in Petaluma! Besides buying some chocolate this month to celebrate Valentine’s Day, be sure to visit Sjaak’s site and read their story, which stretches from Holland and Spain to Eureka and finally Petaluma, here in Sonoma County. Sjaak’s has graciously offered our friends a 15% discount through February 28, 2013, so please email us for a discount code!

Recently I had lunch in downtown Petaluma with a friend. Afterwards we had a sweet tooth so we wondered in to Viva Cocolat at 110 Petaluma Blvd. North. We went straight for the salted caramels but were entranced by the variety of gourmet chocolates from around the world. Next time I am going to stay for a hot chocolate! Or maybe I will take on chocolate appreciation class. Not that I need help in that department. The lovely folks at Viva Cocolat offered our friends a coupon worth 10% off on purchases between now and April 30th. Email me and I will send you a coupon!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Sonoma County!

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Happy Valentine’s Day! Where to Find your Sweetie Some Sonoma County Chocoate

Silicon Valley Says Unplug from Technology–One Way? Stop and Smell the Roses in Sonoma County

filed under: Buyers, Wine Country Living posted on July 24th, 2012

Go Ahead Stop and Smell Them!


Today in the New York Times, one of the most widely shared articles talks about the search for work life balance in Silicon Valley, and the virtues of unplugging from your iPhone, iPad and laptop from time to time, to enrich your life and achieve some balance. The incessant call of technology can distance us from what is real and important, whether you work in Silicon Valley or just have technology so embedded in your life it can be difficult to break away.

That thinking is a FAR FAR cry from the world of Silicon Valley startups I used to inhabit, when I still found it important to duck out for a quick sail or to go horsebackriding. At those unstructured moments, I would often come up with my best ideas. Meanwhile one CEO of mine would boast about how he gamed his email to make it appear that he was on the job at 2 or 3 am. (This was a long time ago so forgive the quaint technology reference!)

My first thought upon reading today’s story was that so many people I know, including me of course, found one solution to this challenge. I just moved someplace so beautiful and interesting that I am forced to have balance every day. I moved to the countryside of Sonoma County!

It’s true–heads up Silicon Valley! Come on up. You can still work from here. ! Many of my clients telecommute. Or we can find you a fabulous retreat for getaway weekends and holidays now, something that might be your full time home one day. So many people I work with on the buying side are doing just that. Coming up most weekends (it is not a long drive to the Bay Area) from SF, or Mountain View, or Oakland. Their plan is to live here full time in one or two or three years.

Some of my clients bought homes here and live out of state. The home of one is a very successful vacation rental that they can only visit a few times a year but it will be a toehold for when they come here full time in a few years. I have other clients looking to do the same thing. One set has a home in France and a home in Healdsburg. Most of them tell me their second home helps them to maintain their sanity.

So OK Silicon Valley leaders, yoga and meditation classes are just fine. There is even a conference, Wisdom 2.0  But if you really want to nourish your soul, spend some quality time in the gorgeous valleys and hillsides of Sonoma County. Take a walk outside first thing in the morning and visit with your horses, or pluck some fresh eggs from the hen house. Stroll through your vineyard. Had an intense conference call. Take a break and prune a rose for ten minutes, then get back to it. Sit back with a glass of wine at the pool overlooking some vineyards and redwoods. Listen to the quiet.

It will refresh, restore and recharge you. And you can still stay plugged in. Just ask some of my happy clients!

(Please note–I do not want to trivialize the concerns expressed in the article–I am glad to see them being discussed.  I am just proposing one possible solution!)

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Silicon Valley Says Unplug from Technology–One Way? Stop and Smell the Roses in Sonoma County

Not Quite Summertime but the Living is Easy…

filed under: Wine Country Living posted on June 15th, 2012

It's easy to take it easy with Mom keeping watch

It’s not quite summertime but it’s going to be very hot this weekend. You might want to take it easy like these two-week old foals at my neighbor’s place.

Courtesy of Crissi Dillon of the Press Democrat newspaper

Or there is plenty to keep you occupied if you want to get up and go!

Tomorrow morning at 6:30 am the Hot Air Balloon Classic begins at the Sonoma County Airport. There are tethered balloon rides and you can get up close to watch them launch and land for a six dollar admission fee.

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Not Quite Summertime but the Living is Easy…

Glen Ellen’s Got a New Star

filed under: Country Property, Wine Country Living posted on June 8th, 2012

The New Kid in Town: Glen Ellen Star Restaurant

Yesterday morning I went over to Glen Ellen to check out some new country properties on the Sonoma Broker Tour. As agents we hold our new listings open so that the agent community can preview the new inventory without having to make an appointment. We just show up. Ideally refreshments are provided Sometimes there is a drawing for a bottle of wine or a gift certificate. Yesterday I was able to look at two beautiful new country property listings in Glen Ellen and also to check out the hottest new restaurant in town. Glen Ellen must have one of the highest ratios of restaurants to business establishments of just about anywhere, and now there’s a new spot to check out. We ran in to look at the menu–it is only open for dinner. Looks promising. And here is a link to Heather Irwin’s first look review in Bite Club, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat foodie blog.

Oh, and those new listings were pretty interesting too.

The first is on 26 acres on Enterprise Road.  It has a rambling country house with nice views of the surrounding countryside and the horse pasture below the property.  This really is a “Wine Country and Horses” property as it also has a several acre zinfandel vineyard.  You can ride in to Jack London State Park and come home and sip wine from your own property afterwards.  Not a bad combination.  The house was very comfortable with beautiful old wide plank floors and woodwork with a lot of character.  The master suite had some of the best views on the property.  If you want my opinion on the asking price of $4.2 Million, please call me to discuss.

We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # 21213674 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.

The other property is on Chauvet Road and you could easily walk to the Glen Ellen Market or any of the MANY good restaurants in town. You could also get up in to Jack London pretty easily from here as Chauvet runs in to London Ranch Road.  I should do a post on Jack London State Park as it is easily one of the most beautiful and interesting places in Sonoma County, whether you bring your horses or hike or drive in.

This particular new listing on Chauvet will probably sell very quickly because it is the type of country property that will strongly appeal to someone looking for a second home.  Interesting contemporary design and construction details, a pool and pool house.  The fact that it is tucked away at the end of a lane and not visible from the street provides the kind of privacy that many people are looking for in their wine country home.  The listing agent is reviewing offers at noon on next Tuesday June 12.  I suspect it will sell quickly.

We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # 21213483 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.


posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Glen Ellen’s Got a New Star

Wine Country Busman’s Holiday: Visiting the “Other” Wine Country in Napa

filed under: Wine Country Living posted on May 28th, 2012

I had a great time with family and friends on Memorial Day.  What did we do?  We visited the other wine country.  We headed to Napa (the city of) for the afternoon.  Since I live and work primarily in Sonoma County, it is fun to have a getaway in the wine country!    Downtown Napa is quite pretty, and the city and county of Napa are working to increase tourism there.  It doesn’t hurt that a whole raft of excellent restaurants are walkable downtown:  Celadon, Angele, Ubuntu (on sabbatical?) and others.  We had a great lunch at Angele, sitting outdoors right on the Napa River.  Angele is a collaboration from Claude Rouas, legendary for L’Etoile on Nob Hill in San Francisco, Auberge de Soleil, further north in Rutherford (one of the most stunningly beautiful settings I have seen for a restaurant) and more recently, Redd in Yountville.  The restaurant is built in an old ship chandlery, right downtown, and a great spot for a delicious but casual lunch or dinner.

After lunch we walked a mile or so over to the Oxbow Market and I have a new (for me)  foodie destination for a quick meal or snack when I am in the area.  I would actually drive out of my way to stop here.  Oxbow is a wine country spin on the concept of the Ferry Plaza Marketplace in SF, bringing together food and wine from seafood to ice cream, wine to cheese, charcuterie to fine coffee and more.  Most of the products are locally sourced or from local vendors, following the locavore trend.

Anyway, I didn’t intend to write a PR puff piece for Napa.  It is just that I live driving over the county line, and feeling like I am on an instant vacation!   Back to your regularly scheduled Sonoma County programming shortly!


posted by Pam Buda // 3 Comments »

Sonoma Horticultural Nursery in Sebastopol

filed under: Sebastopol, Wine Country Living posted on May 27th, 2012

Sonoma Hort ( is a must see but only if you love beauty and lots of flowers, in this case, masses of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, hostas and more, all on 8 acres in South Sebastopol.  The second owners have had it since the seventies and it is a retail/wholesale nursery masquerading as an amazing park, with 1.5 miles of trails winding through it, a pond and a meadow and altogether enough picnic tables and benches to have a lovely meal or snack (Just make sure you take all your leftovers with you.)  Sonoma Hort is just one of many truly special gardens and large scale nurseries which make Sonoma County such a wonderful place to be.

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Sonoma Horticultural Nursery in Sebastopol

“You Don’t Need to Retire to Move to Paradise…”

filed under: Sebastopol, Wine Country Living posted on May 22nd, 2012

My friend Hollyn D’Lil moved to Sonoma County ten or 12 years ago. She has fully embraced life in the community of Graton, in West Sonoma County. She knows I work with many newcomers to Sonoma County to help them find their ideal wine country homes. Consequently she referred me to the new book by Dewey and Susan Watson called “Shift and Shout: Two Urban Boomers Prove You Don’t Need to Retire to Move to Paradise.” I moved to Sonoma County from the Bay Area and my high tech career in the late 90’s and Hollyn was right, Dewey and Susan have really captured much of the essence of life here in Sonoma County from a newcomer’s perspective. While some of the emphasis in the book is on the Watson’s boomer niche, I personally think that many of my younger non-boomer clients/newcomers to the county share many of the same sentiments, e.g. Chapter 9, “Why is Everybody so Darned Pleasant?”. I remember being shocked that the mailman would stop to shoot the breeze with me as he made his way through his route! Anyone with an ounce of garden can relate to “Finding your Inner Gopher”. I had no idea that one of the reasons the Russians may have abandoned their agricultural pursuits in Sonoma County were the gophers, though I can relate. And who knew that Caddyshack was based on the truth about gophers!

You can move to paradise without retiring!

Cover shot from Shift and Shout by Dewey and Susan Watson

And seriously, Dewey and Susan give a nice overview of the varied communities and the high points of Sonoma County’s history. Good stuff for anyone considering moving here.

Shift and Shout.

Here is a link to Hollyn’s Review in a local paper. Let me know what you think!

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on “You Don’t Need to Retire to Move to Paradise…”

Tales of the Wine Country: From the South of France to Healdsburg

filed under: Buyers, Healdsburg, Wine Country Living posted on May 21st, 2012

Recently I was working with some long term clients who, though American, had been living in Provence for the past seven years, and London prior to that. They decided it was time to return to the states permanently, and had the entire 50 states from which to choose, as they could work anywhere. I was referred to them by an agent to Santa Barbara, who was introduced to me via Twitter through mutual colleagues. A decidedly high tech (at the time in 2009) connection!

I had originally met them when they first decided to return to the US from France. I introduced them to all of the beautiful towns and Sonoma and Napa. Unfortunately family stuff kept them in France until recently. We stayed in touch via email and phone–we shared some common interests in good food and wine and they kept an eye on the market. Just recently they decided it was time to return to the US.

Of all the places in the world they could go, they chose Healdsburg. I couldn’t agree more. Sonoma County and especially Healdsburg is a beautiful place to be.

My clients flew in from France to get started on their new home search. It was mid-January and there was almost nothing on the market. They had decided they wanted a quality vintage home walking distance from the Plaza in Healdsburg, ideally with a decent sized lot as they were coming off five acres and loved to garden. Guest quarters and a pool, with some architectural interest and high quality rounded out the bill.

Being well connected to our local real estate market, By networking with other realtors all over the county, not just in Healdsburg, I was able to find the perfect property that was not yet listed on the market. I knew it was a good bet when two different agents both suggested it. We had about six properties to look at and a weekend to find them something as the shipping container was shortly to be filled with their possessions and strike out across the Atlantic.

My clients loved the “stealth” house, made a good offer and got into contract almost right away. Just in time to as threats of two more offers came in just hours after our offer was accepted and the seller’s friend tried to buy it out from under us once he found out the property was being sold.

Fortunately, we were in contract before any problems could start.

My clients are now flying back to France to finalize the sale of their Provence home and will be returning to Healdsburg and their new dream home. Meanwhile, I arranged for all the necessary inspections and attended them, and arranged for bids on some of the items that came up in the initial round of inspections. They were back in France packing like mad. We handled the entire escrow and final negotiations via phone and email and electronic signatures.

A couple of months later, they were firmly ensconced in their new home in Healdsburg, and we have managed to celebrate more than once over some of that good wine country food and wine.

Call me if you would like to find your dream home in the Wine Country.

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Tales of the Wine Country: From the South of France to Healdsburg