Ruth found out about a fun event in Sonoma County called “Blossoms, Bees, and Barnyard Babies,” hosted by the members of Farm Trails. Over the weekend, local farms throughout Sonoma County opened their doors and offered tours, demonstrations, tasting, and events. There was plenty to do for adults and families alike! Here were some highlights from our trip.
- Kendall-Jackson Winery (2 hour drive from Mountain View)
- Bees n Blooms (~ 30 minute drive)
- Tara Firma Farms (15 minute drive)
- McEvoy Ranch (10 minute drive, then 1.5-2 hour drive back to Mountain View)
We’ve had plenty of good food in this area, and you can find our dining recommendations at the end of the post.
Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate, Fulton
There are plenty of wineries in Sonoma County, but what sets Kendall-Jackson’s apart (aside from the lack of crowds) is its beautiful garden. On our visit, the grapes were just starting to grow, the floral blooms were in full effect, and the apple blossoms were abuzz with pollinators.
Some of the plants here are grown to supply food-and-wine events at the farm and restaurants in the area, while others are planted purely for educational purposes. One unique feature, for example, are the two sensory gardens, where the typical flavors people identify in wine (e.g. plum, currant, peach, and apple) are showcased. This immediately conjured the wine tasting scene between Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline in French Kiss; you could imagine walking through the garden, sniffing the flowers and herbs, and then appreciating those flavors in the wine. And though we didn’t do so on this trip, there are plenty of ways to have a unique sensory experience at Kendall-Jackson, from wine tastings (Yelp has a two-for-one check in offer) to food-and-wine pairings (chocolate, cheese, and full-on small meals) to the tasting room gift shop where you can purchase a nice assortment of cookbooks and kitchen implements as well as wine.
Bees n’ Blooms, Santa Rosa
While it’s not Provence, Sonoma County also offers some pretty decent lavender farms. It’s still very early in the season, so most of the lavender flowers haven’t started to bloom yet, but come June (known as lavender month), the fields here are just heavenly. On this trip, we visited Bees n Blooms near Santa Rosa. The main attraction in the summer here is the lavender labyrinth, which has a 0.5 mile walking path through 8 different varieties of lavender. However, even though the lavender wasn’t growing yet, the bee hives, buttercups, and endless fields of wildflowers in the distance were still worthy of a quick stop.
Matanzas Creek Winery also has a huge lavender garden and a lavender festival in the summer. While you used to be able to visit for free, they now charge an admission fee which is waived if you do a tasting or another type of experience on the property.
Tara Firms Farms, Petaluma
Tara Firma Farms is a small sustainability-focused farm in Petaluma. They offer guided tours every weekend, but you can also grab a map and wander at your own speed along the half-mile trail through the property and mingle with the flowers and animals on the farm. The baby goat (shown above) was especially cute, and the egg-laying chickens have wide open spaces to roam! We had a nice chat with Mandy O’Doul, the florist-turned-farmer who is scaling up her operation this year. She has planted a lot of interesting heirloom varieties of plants here, and showcases them regularly on Instagram @mandaliondesigns.
McEvoy Ranch, Petaluma
McEvoy Ranch is one of the top-tier olive oil producers in California. They are best known for their store inside the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace because their ranch is usually open by appointment only or for special events. Our visit during this open-house weekend was a real treat for us. The views of the olive groves and grape vines around the pond are breathtaking, and the olive oil they produce is super flavorful. For example, their lemon olive oil isn’t made by simply adding lemon essence to the olive oil; the lemons are co-pressed with the olives at the same time, making a product that you could use almost immediately for a salad dressing!
If you’re visiting for a whole day, the small tastings at these properties probably won’t fill you up! Luckily, there are plenty of amazing places to eat up and down Highway 101 north of the Golden Gate.
- Sunday Brunch: Worth our Weight (Santa Rosa). At-risk-youth are trained as culinary apprentices and serve up an amazing and affordable brunch! This was the first meal we ate after we got engaged :).
- Lunch: Chalkboard (Healdsburg). The soup shots and pretzels are amazing!
- Dinner: Rosso Pizzeria (Santa Rosa). Awesome Neapolitan pizza; Speakeasy (Petaluma). Try the vegan tacos.
- Dessert: Sift (Santa Rosa, Cotati, and Petaluma). They’re frosting obsessed, so you should try a frosting shot.
What other farms are your favorites in the area? Please leave your comments below!