Wine Country Living

The Best of Healdsburg and Sonoma County–visit our Open House on the web

My wonderful client Jill is an excellent horsewoman. She and I met riding on Fred MacMurray's beautiful Twin Valleys ranch on the border of Healdsburg and Forestville. It is only fitting that her wonderful classic Healdsburg bungalow be the subject for an innovative open house this Sunday from 1-4 PM. Jill get's what were doing so she was very excited to allow Trulia and me to set up a live webcast on Trulia's blog for the first open house at her home at 414 Piper Street. Only concern she had that it would be like the Truman Show. We thought this home and its fantastic close to the Healdsburg plaza location would appeal to the type of people who would be watching the Trulia blog who may be frequent visitors to Sonoma County and appreciate the finer things that a community such as Healdsburg has to offer. While Healdsburg is about 80 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, it is a very sophisticated community with country charm. Since the early 80's when I used to visit good friends Joan and Larry Franceshchina, I fell in love with the wine country of Sonoma and eventually made a home here. Since 414 Piper Street would make a great weekend getaway or fantastic tele-commute location I thought it would be a great fit for the folks on Trulia to see and appreciate. So tune in Sunday from 1 to 4 pm or thereabouts. Maybe you will fall in love with 414 Piper Street, Healdsburg. FYI, this property has an excellent walk score of 83, meaning many amenities and services are available with a block or three or four. Just park your car and enjoy....

Tour Talk: New Country property listings in Sebastopol

It was a glorious sunny day for touring West Sonoma County and seeing the latest properties to come on the market for the Sebastopol MLS. I am continually amazed at the breathtaking beauty of our back roads and the incredible variety of terrain, vegetation, trees, views and micro-climates that make up Sebastopol and Graton. So many nooks and crannies offering everything from 1910 farmhouses to contemporary estates and Tuscan style villas, vineyards, horse properties, garden paradises (where was the experimental farm of Luther Burbank?), apple orchards, organic farms, dairies --both cow and goat--and idyllic country retreats. Not to mention redwood groves and ocean views. And this was just today's tour! ;) Today we started with a delightful end of lane listing at 8349 Lewanna, off of Elphick. For $699,000 you can have a 1232 sf home on just under an acre. A modest home which could use updating but the views are spectacular:a panorama of the SE Santa Rosa hills and the home looks directly over a sprawling vineyard. Properties don't come up often on this lane and the setting is truly unique. With a property like this you have the benefit of what I call "borrowed acreage" --you can look at it and pretend it's yours but you don't have to take care of it or pay for it. Small parcels bordered by little ones can be delightful in this way. Next we drove way out Burnside Road to view Cary Fargo's latest cool listing at 4910 Burnside Road. This is the quintessential old farmhouse with fir floors and a tilting chimney, spring and tiny studio and pond. Lots of chamomile and herbs tumbling around and we spotted a doe and fawn leaping away. The spring has a hand dug 10 foot deep well and tiny well house covering it. Not much as been done to this house except for some blue tiles that appear to date from the 70's in the kitchen and a massive open beamed ceiling in that room. Lots of wainscoting and original character and KILLER views of Mt. St. Helena. The 3 plus acres appear to be very usable and Cary said there are some potential building sites on the property so that perhaps the cute farmhouse could become a granny unit and leave room for a larger main home. Check...

Horses and Wine Country

When I started to ride seriously as an adult, my Hanoverian/Thoroughbred cross Reilly and I trained with Sarah Sheehy, Terry Church and Siri Larssen, all in either Marin County or Sonoma county at the time. I have stayed in touch with them over the years and just received word of an updated website, Natural Sporthorse.com which links them all together and promotes Natural horsemanship, inspired by Tom Dorrance and others, for the disciplines of hunters, jumpers and dressage. The purpose is to develop a partnership with your horse based upon improving the rider's balance and feel so as to allow the horse to develop their utmost potential in a sound, healthy and natural way. There are many practitioners of natural horsemanship in Sonoma county. Natural Sporthorse links to some of the best and has links to many other resources as well. Worth a visit! ...

Sonoma County going to the Dogs?

I was surprised to note how many of the people who visited my open house last month at a cute farmstead in Sebastopol were looking for property for their dogs! This property was in a great location at the end of a private lane well away from main roads and neighbors who might be disturbed by the occasional bark. Well I shouldn't be surprised since one of the main reasons I moved to Sonoma County was to have more room for my two dogs (Vizslas) and the horses as well as the humans of course, yet still be within an hour of the Golden Gate Bridge. Finding a safe property off the main thoroughfares was a key priority to me, and is to many of the buyers of Sonoma County real estate I meet. Friend Sandy Lurins, was so on top of the trend that she founded the very successful Fetch (thepaper) in her copious free time (not!) while not working at her day job at Autodesk. Sonoma Pets is a print publication and on-line pet directory for Sonoma County published by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. There are many excellent small animal and equine veterinarians in the county, so much that many pet owners from the Bay Area will travel here for specialty care. ...

Equus Hall of Fame Banquet tonight!

After feeding the horses, and then dressing up, I am headed out with a group of friends and clients (many times one and the same!) to tonight's Equus Awards, Sonoma County's Academy Awards for the horse community here! It is the annual benefit for the Sonoma County Horse Council, and its only fundraiser of the year. WineCountryandHorses (this blog) has put together a table of ten and we are looking forward to perusing the silent auction items. I have advised everyone to bring their checkbooks, and friend and tablemate Christine DeLoach of Hook and Ladder Winery has also graciously donated several cases of Hook and Ladder Third Alarm Chardonnay to the Council for this evening's festivities. I think a few bottles of red may find their way in tonight as well! I guess Rush (below) will have to eat dinner at home with Giles and Missy while we party! ...

Mustard and Wine Country

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! ...

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

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...

Wine Country and Ducks

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). ...

Where to dine in Sonoma County

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...

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

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, www.letleviride.com  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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