A garden of earthly delights
With clouds massing on the horizon, rain running down our hillsides, and temperatures dropping, we know it’s harvest time. And folks are looking for pumpkins, squash, and potatoes to prepare for Thanksgiving Day. With local produce growers gathering in everything from beans to Brussels sprouts, we’re lucky to have farmer’s markets selling right up until Halloween. Local markets now “Buy Local.” People in the Valley can also reach out and buy a great bottle of local, small-lot wine to go with their feast.
Right here in our own backyard we have small growers and wine producers who grow organic grapes and oversee the production of sustainable wines. Many of them even dry farm. George MacLeod of Indian Springs Ranch in Kenwood produces a Sauvignon Blanc in addition to Zinfandels and Merlots with amazing flavors. Along with Mike Benziger and other growers, he has experimented with dry farming to increase flavor and send the roots of the vines deep into the earth in search of water. Vines adapt and survive on the natural rainfall throughout varying seasons.
Along Highway 12 heading into Sonoma, Bucklin’s Old Hill Ranch wines are also dry farmed. They are produced from ancient vines that are also farmed with organic practices. Bucklin wines include an Old Hill Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, a new release in 2014, and a crisp Rosé.
Heading into Sonoma, Moon Mountain Vineyard uses local, organically grown grapes to make great wines. And just on the other side of the mountains we have the biodynamic Cotourri Winery and a hop away Frog’s Leap, also organic and dry farmed. Local supermarkets carry these brands or can order them for you.
We are also blessed with hardworking folks who over the years have shaped the map of diverse agriculture in the Valley. Anne Teller, alongside her husband Otto, established Oak Hill Farm in the 1970s. Their “Red Barn” sign on Highway 12 near Sonoma points you to a wonderful array of organic produce, flowers, and seasonal wreaths at the eponymously painted barn on Saturdays. Their website describes the business and the part of the ranch that is dedicated to organic farming as “25 acres of farmland nestled against the western slope of the Mayacamas Mountains in Glen Ellen, California. It has always been our mission to farm in balance with nature. For more than fifty years, we have grown flowers and produce using sustainable agricultural practices and are privileged to harvest over two hundred varieties of vegetables, fruit, flowers, perennial greenery, and herbs as they naturally come into season.” Anne was a founder of the Sonoma Land Trust that enables the preservation of open land, farms, and ranches throughout Sonoma County through conservation easements, and she is a member of the Steering Committee of VOTMA.
For city dwellers in Sonoma there is The Patch, a small stretch of very productive land along the City of Sonoma’s bike bath. One of its Yelp posts says that it is “the best-loved 2 little acres in the town of Sonoma.” Folks can stop by for organic produce including a huge variety of heirloom tomatoes. They are also across the street from Vella’s Creamery, which is a well-known haunt of cheese lovers locally.
If you’re heading across the Valley via Arnold Drive, you can’t miss Paul’s Produce and their lovely gardens and fields at the bend in the road. Although they have limited hours, you can find them at the farmer’s markets on Tuesday nights at the Plaza, at least until Halloween. At the first sign of spring, their fields are plowed and planted and we get the pleasure of driving by and seeing the corn and sunflowers grow. Paul and Candide’s philosophy is summed up in the following quote from their web site, “Turning to the needs in the field is sometimes the best way to cope with scary environmental and political news. Focus on the bounty and abundance can steer one toward generosity and hope.”
As we end this election year and approach the holiday season, it’s nice to know that people are working to protect water resources, open spaces, and small family farms. Being able to buy fresh, local produce and benefit local farmers and vintners is something to support and celebrate. In a recent online article about the beautiful Beltane Ranch that hosts guests at their bed and breakfast, Alexa Wood commented on what makes Sonoma Valley special. She said that people are amazed by “…the beauty of the land, the agricultural diversity, and the richness of the culture. Our guests feel like they’ve found that hidden gem and their usual parting comment to us is ‘don’t ever change.’”
Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to continue to work to protect what makes Sonoma Valley home.
The Valley of the Moon Alliance was formed to promote the preservation, protection and maintenance of the agricultural character, natural resources and rural beauty of Sonoma Valley. We are committed to providing a forum for research, information, education and recommendations on projects that affect the environmental qualities of the valley communities.