Posts Tagged 'Russian River'

Barrel Tasting on the Russian River


Barrel tasting is a tradition in many wine areas and a great deal of fun in the Russian River area.  No – you do not taste the barrel but you taste the wine that  is still in  the barrel!  This is a great time to try new vintages before they are bottled and you can get them at reduced prices which are referred to as “futures”.

Check inThis year I passed on the daytime tasting to go to a private barrel tasting at Dutton Estates which is at the corner of Hwy 116 and Green Valley Road – between Sebastopol and Forestville. This was for wine club members only and is much less crowded.  Plus we were able to taste from the barrel and do a vertical tasting  of the last couple of years.  Yes, each vintage is different but to experience the maturation of a wine with time in the bottle is always fun.

This is not a food pairing or themed event.  IT IS ALL ABOUT THE WINE!  And it is happening all over again next weekend, March 14 and 15.  Check out the website and see if your favorite winery is participating and learn about some new ones.


Tasting from the Barrel


Pouring from the Bottle

Pouring from the Bottle

Preparing for the Holidays

ImageEvery time of the year I marvel at the beauty of Sonoma County.  The scenery is diverse and always stunning.  The picture above is taken on Occidental Road just east of High School Road outside of Sebastopol.  The lighting was so perfect that every driver with a camera was pulled to the side of road to take a snapshot.  Cold, foggy and flooding all disappeared with the serene beauty of the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

With the love of my local area at front of mind, I decided that my shopping for holiday gifts would be focused at home.  I shunned the Internet and headed to Bodega Bay for some shopping.  I hit the jackpot at East Shore Outfitters and Gourmet au Bay.  Sissy does a great job of selecting wonderful merchandise without the “tourist trap” prices.  I then headed to Occidental to the annual craft sale.  I must admit that I bought two sweaters for me – one from Wild n’ Wooley out of Mt. Shasta to keep me warm on those cold and windy mornings and a light weight one from another vendor that will be perfect in Hawaii.

Dec12 044The next day I ventured all the way to Sebastopol.  It was a Sunday and the Farmer’s Market was in full swing.  Today (Sunday) the rain is coming down and a thick fog has enveloped the garden.  I have built a fire to conserve on propane and I will be home long enough today to enjoy the ambiance.   But last Sunday the temperature was 70 degrees and I was thinking I might never wear the heavy knit hoodie that I had purchased the day before.  The Sebastopol Farmer’s Market is a year round event.  The number of stalls is less in the winter but the atmosphere is always Sebastopol.  I wandered Main Street and found a few more gifts and bopped into Whole Foods to see what the latest in food goodies they had to offer.  An absolutely spectacular day.


My Christmas shopping was almost complete but yesterday I stopped by Forestville to visit Frame of Mind – the best framing shop in my overall experience of framing.   Leslie is not just a framer of great talent but a creative artist in her own right.  She doesn’t let a piece leave the shop that does not look spectacular. Then I dropped into Moshin Winery for  the best pinot noir along the Russian River.    I was blessed to have a lovely dinner at Cork’s outside of Forestville with dear friends on my way home.

P1020815The magical barn down the way on Joy Road is open for local artists the weekend after Thanksgiving weekend (does that make sense? 9 days after Thanksgiving.)  It is the closest shopping available with clever surprises for young and old.  If you live near or are visiting that time of year, you should put it on your calendar now for 2013 so that it isn’t missed.

It looks like I will have my shopping complete before I leave for the holidays and will not have purchased anything further than 12 miles from my secluded home.  The evening sunset through the redwoods on Joy Road is a frequent reminder of the magnificence and peace my world holds.  Wonderful community, great friends and local products abound in my life.  In case I do not have the opportunity to say it to you in this upcoming week, may your holidays and the coming year be your brightest.  Peace on earth to all.


Resorts In Bloom

Casa Panama - Vacation Rental in Jenner


Another week has flown by.  I really believe that we have entered into summer.  With the rain going on and on, I was not the only person who thought it might slip back into winter mode.  But now the mornings are warm with blue skies and the evenings are like having a light blanket wrapped around the world.  I love this time of year.  I want to roam the garden in the morning and take it in from the porch in the evening.  It is a great time to show property and I will be doing that today.  

Last Saturday I was given two tickets to a new fund-raising event in the Russian River area – Resorts in Bloom.  It was a great way to spend a few hours with my dear friend, Phyllis.  The advertised concept was to visit the gardens of various lodging options around the Russian River and raise money for local charities.  Being gardening people, we could not pass it up.  We saw some beautiful outdoor vignettes but mostly we saw some great get-a-ways.   

Casa Panama is a vacation rental in Jenner which is where Hwy 116 (the road that travels from Hwy 101 through Sebastopol, Forestville, Guerneville and Monte Rio) ends at Hwy 1.  Jenner is a cute coastal town with a couple of good restaurants and spectacular views of the Russian River and Pacific Ocean.  I remember when the house that is now Casa Panama was on the market a number of years ago.  Wow, what a difference!  The terraced garden is spectacular and the home was reconfigured to give maximum advantage to the views.  You can check it out at    

Russian River from Casa Panama


 Equally private and just as beautiful in a very different way is CazSonoma Inn outside of Cazadero.  This establishment has been around for many, many years as the Cazanoma Lodge.  Don’t let the bumpy dirt road deter you from making it out to this delightful oasis in the redwoods.  It is nestled up against Kidd Creek and offers in lodge rooms and private cabins.  The restaurant is open May through Thanksgiving for dinner and Sunday Brunch.  Thought provoking and informative talks from astronauts to filmmakers are offered throughout the summer.  This is a hidden West Sonoma County gem.  Learn more at  

The Deck at CazSonoma Inn


 The gardens at the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville were beautiful, labeled and informative.  We were sorry to see that the rose garden in front is replaced with a lawn.  We rose people are just that way!  Applewood Inn has lovely grounds and a great feeling of privacy.  Oh, I could go on.  But then what would be the incentive to come and stay at one of the wonderful places?  You can learn about Resorts in Bloom at  I bet that it will be happening again next year. 

We finished out tour with a wonderful lunch at Howard’s Cafe in Occidental.  Since moving to Joy Road, I am now a frequent eater at Howard’s.  Great place to get a super breakfast or tasty lunch.  The summer is starting out to be a great one.  

Driving Up to CazSonoma Inn

Weekend in West Sonoma County

The summer has definitely begun.  First – and most appreciated – the weather is warm and there are no signs of rain.  Second, there are so many things going on that decisions must be made for the weekend.  Many years ago I met a young couple at the Forestville Firemen’s Pancake Breakfast.  They described to me their weekly quest for Sunday breakfast at the bargain price of $5 each. From Memorial Day to Labor Day they can find a Sunday pancake breakfast within Sonoma County.  I have since learned that there are breakfasts, lunches and events each weekend to keep any local or tourist fed and entertained.

This weekend is no different.  Tonight (Friday) began the weekend with an Art Opening at Wine Emporium on Main Street in Sebastopol.  The featured artist is Charles Beck (his Artist Profile from July 2006 follows) and events at Wine Emporium sport great food and wonderful wines.  You can see the Wine Emporium Newsletter at Emporium is just one of the many gems found in West Sonoma County.  Wine Emporium has a wide variety of local and international wines covering the whole price spectrum.  I discovered Chono Reserva Syrah from the Elqui Valley of Chile – a wonderfully drinkable and tasty wine for a mere $15.

Interior of Wine Emporium


The art was spectacular and Tara Linda, a wonderful singer and musician serenaded us throughout the evening.  I had arranged to meet a friend there who had two tickets to Resorts in Bloom for this weekend.  Resorts in Bloom is a charitable fund-raiser for West Sonoma County Heath Services, River to Coast Children’s Services and West County Community Services.  You can learn more about the event at  Tomorrow I will be off visiting the wonderful gardens of Russian River Resorts.  And, again, I will remind everyone that you still have time to visit artist studios this weekend with Art@theSource.   Summer is truly here. 

Here is the article on Charles Beck from 2006.  I cannot believe that it has been that long since we sat on his deck taking in the splendor of Joy Road. 

Salmon Creek by Charles Beck


Artist Profile – Charles Beck 

All artists are independent thinkers, of sorts.  Some are just a bit more independent in the “doing”.  Charles Beck is definitely an independent doer.  A man of few words and quiet demeanor, Charles has taken the less traveled path to pursue his interests in nature, art and life.  

Charles has good roots for independent doing.  His grandmother was a trail blazer when she purchased property for her summer home at Salmon Creek in the 1920’s.  Boulder, Colorado had a mystical draw for the California youth in the 1960’s but when it came to settling down, there was no place like home.  After attending school at University of Colorado and Sacramento Junior College, Charles finished his formal education at Sonoma State majoring in Art.  After spending summers in this pastoral environment, the selection of Sonoma County as home was natural.   No other landscape could pull him away – except for the Pacific Ocean. 

Charles recalls an art appreciation class in Sacramento as a turning point in his interests.  The proximity of The Crocker Museum and the celebration of the Bay Area Figurative movement had a profound effect on his desire to paint.  Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff and David Park were in nearby Berkeley and taking the American art world by storm.  Their strong technique and raw subject material moved many into action.  

As many artists are aware, art is not the easy way to earn a living.  When putting food on the table for his young family became a necessity, Charles put down his paint brushes and became a commercial fisherman.  Well, he put down his paintbrushes while he was a sea but savored the blocks of time that the profession gave him to paint.  It is not surprising that another favorite artist is Winslow Homer who is renowned for his depiction of fishermen and the untamed sea. 

The fishing days are now behind Charles and his inspirational activity is bicycling.  By his own admission, Charles is a “passionate bike rider.”  He rides the roads of Sonoma County and takes in the countryside – the hillsides, the vineyards, the orchards, streams, the clouds, the shoreline.  Sometimes he will snap a digital picture.  Sometimes he will go back and recreate a scene at the easel.  Most likely he will imprint a shape or a ray of sun into his memory for future use.  His desire is to draw from his collective experience and produce a work that has a reality at the core.  His current paintings fall into the category of landscape but to call them “landscapes” does not capture the essence of them.  The painting captures an experience that goes beyond the superficial subject matter. 

Charles is currently re-incorporating the figure into his work.  The emphasis on water and land has given way to still lives of apples from the orchard at his home.  The inclusion of people in his paintings brings him full circle to the movement that inspired him in his youth.  To own a Charles Beck painting, one must deal with Charles Beck.  That independent “doing” shuns all but the most special outlets.  So, yes, you can see a few small pieces at Quicksilver Mining Company in Forestville, but otherwise, you need to contact Charles.  Charles participates in the two local open studios each year, Art @ the Source in June and Art Trails in October.  Paintings are displayed across the Beck property on Joy Road.  You can contact Charles at or take a peek at his work at

Thanksgiving in Sonoma County

Autumn Morning in West Sonoma County

Autumn is definitely here when the mornings are cold – even frosty – and the days are only brisk enough to encourage a hardy walk in the afternoon.   I love to snuggle in the covers knowing that I will have wonderful temperatures for doing fall garden cleanup.  This year I am planting a draught tolerant garden in place of the water hogging lawn in the front so a lot of the cleanup is just not happening.  Yesterday was perfect for walking 20 acres of undeveloped land in hopes of finding the perfect building site for clients.  Is there a time of year that I do not love Sonoma County?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  The preparations are enough to know that something special is going on but the duration is limited to a couple of days at most.   Over the years we have celebrated Thanksgiving by hosting an extended family and friends gathering (often including those people with whom we worked that did not have local family) to intimate family gatherings of 4 to 6.  A few years ago it was only going to be the two of us and we did not know how to deal with that.  Solution – friends invited us to their traditional celebration.  It was great fun with meeting new people, helping in someone else’s kitchen and being introduced to “sock” golf.  It was so much fun that we have gone every year since.  This year our son, daughter-in-law and new granddaughter were included in the festivities which made the day as close to perfect as possible.

Practice Range for Sock Golf

“So, What is sock golf?”, you ask.  Sock Golf is a take off on golf where instead of a ball and club you have a sock with the toe filled with sand/dirt/rocks.  The goal is to get the sock into the coffee cans associated with a particular course.  Most holes are par 3 and they all seem to have a tree or shed or fence as an obstacle.  There is a technique to flinging the sock and, sometimes, it goes behind you or only a few feet forward.  There are penalties for losing your sock and landing in the flower beds.  If you hit a turkey, you are allowed to take away a stroke just as long as you do not hit a grapevine.  If a player is over 80, they get a two stroke handicap which comes in very handy.  The team with the lowest “best sock” score is awarded a prize after dinner.

Resting and Eating after Sock Golf

Once nine holes of sock golf are in the bag, the food starts coming out.  With about as many cooks are eaters, the kitchen is usually full.  My specialty to bring is the cranberry sauce which has become an expected condiment.  My recipe calls for dried apricots soaked in sherry and then cooked with the fresh cranberries, honey and sugar.  It is always a hit where ever I take it.  Tom took some of his cheeses so he had a number of great conversations about fermentation.  This group is largely drawn from Palo Alto, previous home of our hosts as well as us, so there is a broad spectrum of techical folks who want to get into the nitty gritty of what is happening scientifically.

The Spread for Warming Up to Eating - including Cheeses by Tom

Dinner was a group activity with turkeys, dressing, gravy, brussel sprouts, sweet potato salad, cabbage, green beans and mashed potatoes.  Great Russian River pinot and lively conversations topped off the meal – a good time was had by all.  We are so fortunate – even in these times of depressed housing costs and high unemployment – to live in a country, county and community that protects our surroundings and nutures our souls.  I wish everyone a heart full of thanksgiving.  My your table be laden with health and your bodies full of love.  Namaste.

One of the Two Thanksgiving Tables

Efren Carrillo’s Fiesta


Fiesta at the Guerneville Veteran's Building

Friday night was a big bash in Guerneville.  A fiesta in support of Efren Carrillo, 5th district supervisor for Sonoma County, brought out the town.  Well, more than the town since we were there from Forestville and we even saw some Sebatopolians and Santa Rosans.  I believe that all the living past 5th district supervisors were in attendance – all looking much less stressed than when they were in office.  There was a contingent of activists sporting T-Shirts asking that the landfill remain in the hands of the county.  (There is a proposal that the landfill be sold to a private company who would then get all of the garbage from Sonoma County.  It is a long story and can be read by googling “Mecham Landfill Sale”.)  Generally the 300+ people were there to thank Efren for representing the community in the multitude of issues that effect us – use of the Russian River, building codes and land use are just a few that are on the minds of Russian River residents.


Sveta Lynch with the Kitchen Help

The event was held at the Guerneville Veteran’s Memorial Building.  Food was provided by  class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=”by “>Taqueria La Tapatia, the almost famous Mexican restaurant of Guerneville.  The kitchen staff was a mix of politicos and fun loving people.  Oh, maybe they were all some of each.  The margaritas were small and the wine was plentiful.  The beverage people all seemed to be my old cohorts from the Frank Howard Allen office in Guerneville.  The Mariachi band was loud and authentic.  It was great to see everyone having a good time.


Efren Carrillo helping in the Kitchen

Showing Sonoma County to a Canadian Rosarian

Last week Tom and I were visited by Shari-Lyn Safir, president of the Canadian Rose Society.  We met Shari-Lyn while in Vancouver for the World Rose Convention and became fast friends.  That probably had more to do with Shari-Lyn’s engaging personality than either Tom or me – whatever the case, we had a great time with her in Vancouver.   She expressed an interest in visiting Sonoma County and we extended the invitation to stay with us.  While Tom did his best to keep us fed – except for lunch which we took care of ourselves quite well, Shari-Lyn and I traipsed across the countryside.  Another post will discuss the eating!

The major focus of Shari-Lyn’s trip to visit us was to visit rose gardens in Northern California.  Her primary impetus in coming to California is to judge the rose trials in Whittier which occur in early October.   First on our local itinerary for Sonoma County was Russian River Rose Company outside of  Healdsburg.  Jan and Michael Tomalsoff took time from their very busy schedules to discuss their rose perfume and rose water which launched this last Saturday.  Jan then gave us an extensive tour of the gardens and nursery.  Not only were there fabulous roses but some tall, reblooming irises that are currently in bloom. 

Rose Babes in the Garden - Barbara Shula, Shari-Lyn Safir and Jan Tolmasoff

Rose Babes in the Garden - Barbara Shula, Shari-Lyn Safir and Jan Tomalsoff

Going to Russian River Rose Company is a real treat.  

Welcome to Russian River Rose Company

Welcome to Russian River Rose Company

The rose collection is extensive and the companion plantings create a unique landscape.  Over 650 varietals of roses from species to the latest introductions surround the Moorish stucco  home.  The scent garden extends the stimulation of the senses.  A rose allee with eight arches leads out to the vineyard.  Monarch butterflies and hummingbirds know a good thing and flutter around the garden as if it were only for their enjoyment.  Fortunately this display garden is for anyone’s enjoyment.  From Spring to Fall, the Tomalsoff’s open their garden wonderland to visitors.  Mother’s Day offers a tea in the garden with roses in their Spring flush and this last Sunday was the perfume launch with Rose Sparklers, a combination of rose water and non-alcoholic sparkling wine.  Most Saturdays of the spring, summer and fall months, Jan is found at the Healdsburg Farmers Market with exquisite bouquets or wreaths filled with roses, rose hips and other treasures from the garden.  You can learn more about Russian River Roses Company at  I managed to get out of there with only two roses, Julia Child, a fabulous yellow rose that maintains a petite size even though it is names after a very large woman and Teddy Bear, a miniature that actually remains miniature.  Teddy Bear is a rich terra cotta color and I love it.   A couple of reblooming iris made it into my car, also.  I can’t just have roses.

Zowie Zinnia

Zowie Zinnia at Russian River Rose Company

To complete the Healdsburg tour, we visited Ferrari-Carano Winery to see the formal gardens and then tripped across Dry Creek to the antithesis of the formal garden at Preston of Dry Creek.   Don’t get me wrong as I love the gardens at Preston.  Those of you who have read earlier posts in July will have already gotten to know my admiration of Lou Preston and his organic gardening methods.  I definitely wanted to share his garden with Shari-Lyn.

Garden Valley Ranch is a famous nursery for field grown cut roses.  The founder of the ranch, Ray Reddell, is known for his exquisite books on roses.  I knew that I was totally bitten by the rose bug when I was able to read A Year in the Life of a Rose straight through and there is not a single picture!   When we first moved to Sonoma County, I would just hang out at Garden Valley Ranch when I had a spare moment.  Between Garden Valley Ranch and Russian River Rose Company, I purchased over 100 roses in my first two years to adorn my otherwise flowerless yard.  If there was a rose that GVR was going to toss because it was in such sad shape that it could not be sold, it went into my pickup.  I have a fabulous Just Joey that only needed a bit of patience and TLC – well to tell the truth it needed a whole lot of TLC but it now is huge.   
Garden Valley Ranch in Petaluma

Garden Valley Ranch in Petaluma

The current owners of Garden Valley Ranch, Mark Grim and Ron Robertson, purchased the property in 2005.  Over the last few years, they have renovated the gardens and transitioned the whole nursery and rose fields from chemical sprays to aerated compost tea.  The nursery and gardens are open Wednesday thru Sunday.  There was a time that Wednesday was to be avoided because of all the chemicals sprayed on Tuesday.  That is no longer the case and I now feel free to stick my nose into any rose and have no fear of chemical poisoning.  Ron spent over an hour with Shari-Lyn and me strolling over the nine acres.  While I took many pictures during our visit, none compare to those on their website:  Visit the website and see the extensive bounty at Garden Valley.  You can stay in the cottage, have a spectacular wedding or simply browse the property.  Do not leave without a rose plant or a companion plant.
Continuing on in the Petaluma area, we had to visit Cottage Gardens of Petaluma (there is also an outlet in Bennett Valley).  Cottage Gardens is not a rose nursery, although they do have roses.  I love Cottage Gardens for their overall esthetics, interesting garden accessories and their healthy, unusual plants.  Aside tempting succulents are sculptured goats – daisy table and chairs offer a respite for weary legs – stepping stones in the shape of pillows, known as Tuffits, play with the mind.  Check out Cottage Gardens at  This is just a delightful stop on any day that you need a gift for a friend or just a smile in your soul.
Grazing at Cottage Gardens of Petaluma

Grazing at Cottage Gardens of Petaluma

As you can tell from these pictures, we had a terrific time.  This is only the Sonoma County portion of our garden tours and does not include those private gardens where we dropped in on friends.  Look for a second edition of our trek in Oakland and the East Bay.

A week in Sonoma County

This last week has been really full of Sonoma County fun.  It started on Monday with a party at the home of some friends outside of Forestville whose daughter is leaving for Madrid to get her MBA.  Katherine is a beautiful, vivacious young woman who seems to know everyone in West County.  It is not often that we find ourselves in a crowd of 20-somethings.  Great food (there were a good number of local chefs in attendance), a tango demonstration and beautiful scenery.  Why is she going to Madrid?  Wednesday I was sitting at my desk and my phone started beeping – I had forgotten that it was Wednesday!   Wednesday is my afternoon to play golf with EWGA.  That stands for Executive Women Golf Association.  We meet up around 4:30 at Oakmont East golf course and play 9 homes.  Oakmont EastOakmont is a planned community with two golf courses.  Oakmont West is an 18-hole regulation golf course.  Lots of views and some challenging holes.  Oakmont East is a par 63 executive course.  It is a lot of fun because none of us take ourselves too seriously and we just play to have a good time.  After our nine holes, we meet up at the clubhouse and have a glass of wine and a few nibbles before we all go home for dinner.  I cannot believe that I got so involved in work that I almost missed it!   Thursday is our day to have dinner with my friend, Phyllis, who I know through the rose society.  This Thursday was so busy that we decided to meet at a local diner on Fulton Road in Santa Rosa, Louie’s.  We were pretty quiet but had great down home food – Tom had liver and onions, Phyllis had the cheese omelet and I had a chicken taco salad.  Friday was a long work day for me.  After visiting a couple of past clients with magnificently remodeled homes, I headed for San Jose to show property.  I got home around 11.  Saturday was six hours of work and then another party.  This party was  outside of Guerneville on a hill that has views forever.

Looking over the pool at Pool Ridge

Looking over the pool at Pool Ridge

  It was the 70th birthday of our host and was quite an event.  Not many 20-somethings but there were about 12 kids under age 8.  We headed out to the river early and just hung out in Monte Rio and Guerneville before we went up to the party.  Interesting people and more great food.  I was the designated driver so I skipped the array of wines but one really doesn’t always need wine!   Sunday was the Redwood Empire Rose Society annual picnic.  This year we had our luncheon at Western Hills Nursery and Garden outside of Occidental.  It is an exceptional botanical garden with some exotic plants that you will not find in other gardens.  We wandered the garden and enjoyed the company.  It was a spectacular day.  To top the whole week off, my compost pile was around 125 degrees F.  Not bad for a hand turned compost pile.  Now it is another Monday.  No great party tonight but after last week, I need a quiet night at home.

Walking down Memory Lane, Guerneville

Memory Lane is a short street on the most eastern side of Rio Nido.  The street is one way and climbs up above the road and comes out onto Canyon One near the entrance to Rio Nido.  There are a number of very nice homes on this lane and the one in these videos is up with the best.  It was built in 2004 and is currently on the market for $289,900.  There have not been many sales in Rio Nido since the market began to slow in 2006.    This is a special one.



New Listing on Canyon Three in Rio Nido

With the high demand for properties under $200,000 in the Russian River area, I was delighted to see this new listing come on the market today. The asking price is $199,000 and I think that it is priced right! Here are two videos: one is of the outside and neighborhood and the other is of the inside. Enjoy!


Outside view:

Inside view:


February 2023


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