For many; there isn’t much better than a tantalizing weekend sipping wines, exploring vineyards and indulging in enriching cuisine. As a wine enthusiast it is easy to strictly think about the taste and quality of the grapes that go into our favorite wines. What if you knew that the wines you drank were grown sustainably on organic farms, and the food you ate was sourced from mere footsteps away. More wine growers are making the leap to be sustainable and Sonoma County is leading the way.
If you are unfamiliar with Sonoma County, it is one of the premier wine regions in Northern California. Located next to Napa Valley, Sonoma has almost twice as many vineyards and a plethora of other things to do. As a wine region it is known for its amazing chardonnays, sparkling wines, pinot noir’s and red blends. Sonoma blended seamlessly with nature, runs along the Russian River. Following the Wine road you can start on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, wind your way through Redwood forests, kayak down the Russian River, stay in a solar powered B & B, eat locally farm raised foods and sip on a delectable selection of organic wines.
Sonoma County recently announced their commitment to become the first 100% sustainable wine region in America by 2019. Already 60% of the Sonoma vineyard acres have been certified sustainable as well as 40 wineries themselves.
When it comes to sustainability there are a few exemplary vineyards that stand out above the rest.
Jordan winery has been a Sonoma Green business since the 1990’s. Located in Healdsburg, it is a beautiful property with a chateau that looks like it just emerged from the french countryside. Sip on Chardonnay and Cabernet while indulging in olive oils, hors d'oeuvres and chef selections. Walk the gardens or go on an estate tour. In July and November they also host vineyard hikes which take you on a picturesque hike through the vineyards. These include a continental farm breakfast, amazing views of their lakes, fantastic organic wine and some exercise.
The Winery Chateau is fitted with an energy efficient cool roof and they use solar power. Saving tremendous amounts of gas every year and even becoming completely carbon neutral in 2014. Generators capture ambient air that is later reused in the winemaking process. A large portion of the winery has also been dedicated to natural habitat with two lakes that provide habitat for many birds and wildlife.
Single Thread Farm is located on five acres between the Russian River and the historic San Lorenzo Ranch in Healdsburg. It consists of an Inn, restaurant, farm and vineyards. It has just five thoughtfully appointed guest rooms that make for an unforgettable stay.
The owners have made it a mission to work with artisans, chefs, foragers and farmers. The farm supplies almost everything that the restaurant needs from fruit, herbs, flowers, honey, eggs, olive oil and vegetables. The head farmers are brother and sister and along with a great team of hands they raise chickens and cattle as well as grow heirloom fruits, olives and other vegetables as well as maintain several bee hives. Surrounding the farm are the vineyards where Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Chardonnay are grown.
Gundlach Bundschu is just five minutes from the Sonoma Plaza and at the foot of the Mayacamas mountains. This vineyard is convenient for visitors from both Napa and Sonoma. It's the oldest family owned vineyard in California and has been in operation since 1858. They are all about giving visitors the most fun around with an underground Cave area for dinners and tastings. A house bar that is raved about by all visitors and even fish friendly farming. You can explore the steep hills and more than 320 acres aboard their army vehicle, while tasting wines and enjoying nature. They also recycle more than 70% of their winery waters, use biodiesel in their tractors and get 60% of their electricity needs from solar.
Benziger Family Winery remains a leader in the eco-friendly movement with biodynamic gardens and wines and countless accolades for their green practices and farming over the years. The estate is earthy and beautiful, the tours informative and nature-filled. Their entire portfolio of wines are certified sustainable, organic, or biodynamic. Their wine called Tribute which is a robust Cabernet blend, was the first Demeter-certified Biodynamic wine from Sonoma Country and one of the first in Northern America. Hop on their tram for a tour of their biodynamic vineyard.
You can choose to take an environmentally wine tour with companies like California Wine Tours who use hybrid vehicles or Pure Luxury Wine Tours who offer organic and biodynamic wine tours. Contact Getaway Adventures if you’d rather ride a bike through the various vineyards .
When your stomach starts to moan you can pick from dozens of farm to table restaurants. A few of my favorites.....
Restaurants & Places to Stay
Stop in the town of Guerneville for a dinner at Pinoli. Part of the eco boutique Applewood Inn, this complex is run off solar power and gets many of its ingredients from its own gardens and orchard. The menu changes seasonally depending on what they can source. Stay for a night at this great Inn and you will be treated to a breakfast that changes daily. Indulge in fresh fruit bellinis and relax in your oversized room with soaking tub & fire pit.
Located in Petaluma, much like its brother location it has all the fine goodies; pizza, piadine, antipasti & insalati all made with locally purveyed ingredients from the McEvoy Ranch. It also has a Latteria” or cheese bar and assortments are made fresh every hour. Try the roasted octpus tossed with parsons homegrown tomatoes, smoked paprika oil and chiles. For cheese try the homemade burratta with proscuitto di parma.
Girl & The Fig- Sonoma
Classic French destination on the Sonoma Plaza has delicious seasonal plates with a menu that changes every Thursday. With options like smoked pork chops with roasted sweet potatoes and bacon jam or wild flounder meunieure. The backyard garden patio offers the best seats in the house. Asl for the extra special plates of the day.
FarmHouse Inn & Restaurant- Forestville
Restaurant and hotel. White tablecloths drape the tables at this Michelin Star restaurant owned by siblings Catherine and Joe Bartolomei.
Though the food and drink is serious, there’s a warm, friendly mood, and playful dishes like the signature Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit, bringing a petite roasted rack, loin cut into thick coins then wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon, and leg confit draped in velvety whole-grain mustard sauce alongside Yukon potato. Chef Steve Litke’s shops daily for his frequently-changing, luxurious, Cal-Mediterranean menu showcasing mostly local ingredients.
Zazu Kitchen & Farm
If you want the freshest meat possible then you will love dining at the Zazu Farm. Chef-Owner Duskie Estes and her husband & butcher John Stewart raise pigs for their Black Pig Meat co. Try some of the mouthwatering bacon, salami or pork chops crafted in the Zazu kitchen. Produce is also grown on raised garden beds around the restaurant from artichokes to zucchinis. Their other chef makes her own pastas, gelatin and pizza. What they can't get at their own farm comes from local purveyors to hep make their eclectic Italian inspired kitchen. Try the fussili with crispy edged Pork belly.
6770 McKinley St. (at The Barlow), Sebastopol, 707-523-4814
Glen Ellen Star - Cal-Mediterranean inspired bistro with just 24 seats. The head chef Ari Weiswasser spent stints at French Laundry and Picholine in New York. They are known for their wood burning oven which serves up wonderfully roasted vegetables, pizzas as well as meats, poultry and fish.
Peter Lowell's- Described as a purveyor of hyper local food this Sebastapool Cal- Italian restaurant gets almost all of their ingredients from purveyors right in the neighborhood.
Sonoma County has miles of hiking and adventure too. For a break from the vineyards you can walk among giant Redwood Trees at Armstrong Redwood State Park, rent a canoe and paddle down the Russian River or just take an afternoon nap at the beach. Sonoma County's dedication to sustainability is a great step forward for tourism and farming. A trip through Sonoma will show you a new connection between nature, wine and cuisine.
Whatever you decide; a trip to Sonoma county will be an unforgettable experience for nature and wine lovers alike.
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