Wine Country Living

West Sonoma County is Home to Outstanding Plant Nurseries

[caption id="attachment_1859" align="alignleft" width="300"] Go Ahead Stop and Smell Them![/caption] 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...

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

We 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! ...

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

[caption id="attachment_1859" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Go Ahead Stop and Smell Them!"][/caption]   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...

Not Quite Summertime but the Living is Easy…

[caption id="attachment_1793" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="It's easy to take it easy with Mom keeping watch"][/caption] 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. [caption id="attachment_1799" align="alignleft" width="430" caption="Courtesy of Crissi Dillon of the Press Democrat newspaper"][/caption] 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. ...

Glen Ellen's Got a New Star

[caption id="attachment_1776" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="The New Kid in Town: Glen Ellen Star Restaurant"][/caption] 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. [idx-listing mlsnumber="21213674" showfeatures="true" showlocation="true"] 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...

Wine Country Busman's Holiday: Visiting the "Other" Wine Country in Napa

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!  ...

Sonoma Horticultural Nursery in Sebastopol

Sonoma Hort (www.sonomahort.com) 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. ...

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

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...

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