The bounty of Wine Country extends way beyond grapes.
By Sarah Sung
Whether its farm to table, vineyard to glass, orchard to spa, or all of the above, Wine Country is worth getting to know from the ground up. Hikes in the vineyards and lavender fields, as well as visits to olive orchards, goat cheese dairies, and chicken coops, are like the agriturismo visitors to Italy have been enjoying for years. Artisan farms give you a taste of what Napa and Sonoma are about. Here are seven memorable Wine Country farm tours.
Birds, bees, and babydoll sheep at Michel-Schlumberger
Home to renowned Bordeaux varietals, Michel-Schlumbergers Green Tour ventures outside the tasting room environs and into the vineyards. Start at the beehives next to the pétanque court, before embarking on a hillside hike that runs past the pond and through dirt paths that wind between the vines. If theyre out mowing, the flock of babydoll sheep, grazing on the grass between the vines are captivating to watch. At the end of the walking tour is a guided tasting of the wines grown from the territory just covered on foot.
Michel-Schlumberger Wines, 4155 Wine Creek Rd., Healdsburg, (707) 433-7427, michelschlumberger.com. Reservations required.
Kids, goats, and cheese at Redwood Hill
This family-owned working dairy and creamery offers farm tours by appointment as well as public open houses from April through June. In addition to offering tastings of the various goat cheeses, yogurts, and kefirs, the tours can be seriously interactive by including lessons on milking the does or allowing time to play with the months-old baby goat kids. Or they can be mellow (read: cheese tasting or walking around the farm). Of course, fresh rounds of cheese make for a great souvenir.
Redwood Hill Farm, Sebastopol, (707) 823-8250, redwoodhill.com.
Lavender walks and Merlot at Matanzas Creek
A haven for lavender, featuring two acres of mostly Provence and Grosso varieties, Matanzas Creeks unmistakably pungent, herbal aroma lures devotees for miles. Guided tours are offered by appointment, but its new self-guided winery and lavender field walk lets visitors customize their own adventures. With map in hand, youll walk from the tasting room to the new lavender barn, through the lavender gardens made up of 4,500 plantings (peak blooms are in June and July), and to the Merlot vineyards. The walk is just shy of a mile and includes samples of four to six wines to taste for $5.
Matanzas Creek Winery, 6097 Bennett Valley Rd., Santa Rosa, (707) 528-6464, matanzascreek.com.
Lifes a peach at Dry Creek
A peach farm in the heart of Dry Creeks wine country, Dry Creek Peach and Produce is a summertime oasis. In fact, its the last remaining fruit farm in the valley and is the countys only dedicated, certified organic peach farm. This family-owned patch of orchards yields tons and tons of more than 30 varieties of white and yellow peaches from June through September. The fruit stand also sells jars of jams and other stone fruits, and the peaches often show up in various forms on the tables of Bay Area restaurants such as Town Hall in San Francisco, John Ash in Santa Rosa, and Chez Panisse in Berkeley.
Dry Creek Peach and Produce, 2179 Yoakim Bridge Rd.,
Healdsburg, (707) 433-8121, drycreekpeach.com. June through September only.
Biodynamic tours, chickens, and heritage pigs at Quivira
While Quivira might be best known for its biodynamic farming practices that produce crisp Rosés and robust Zinfandels, it also supplies restaurants like Dry Creek Kitchen with produce from its 120 garden boxes. Which means that along with the chance to taste wine is the opportunity for self-guided tours through the garden, chicken coop (home to ten different breeds), fruit and olive trees, and beehive. Visit the pigsty, and learn about the iconic fig tree, where the prized Sauvignon Blanc grapes grow. For full immersion, try one of the biodynamic treatments incorporating Quiviras honey and olive oil, available at the Spa at Hotel Healdsburg.
Quivira Vineyards and Winery, 4900 W. Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, (800) 292-8339, quivirawine.com.
Turning olives into oil at Round Pond
One of only two facilities in Napa that makes its own olive oil on-siteand the only one to use both a stone mill and a hammer millRound Ponds hour-and-a half tour covers the process of turning olives into oil. Regardless of whether you come during harvest starting in November or bottling in February, youll get to tour the nearby orchard and examine the machinery up close. The tour also includes a tasting of the peppery Italian varietals, as well as red wine vinegars and citrus syrups made from estate-grown fruit. And if time permits, theres wine tasting down the Beverly Hillsstyle driveway across the street.
Round Pond, Rutherford Cross Rd., Rutherford, (707) 302-2575, roundpond.com.
From artichokes to Zinfandel at Preston
The winery garden brims with tables of picnicking revelers at this fully functioning organic farm, which features crops of peppers, squash, and favas, as well as orchards of olive trees. Beyond the picnic area, pigs, goats, sheep, and chickens coexist happily with wheat and blue corn that will be milled for the flour that often goes into owner/farmer/baker Lou Prestons loaves of bread (available for purchase at the winery, along with olive oil, pickles, and cured olives). When hes not at the winery, hes probably selling his goods at the Healdsburg Farmers Market.
Preston Vineyards, 9282 W. Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, (707) 433-3372, prestonvineyards.com.