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The Quaint and Lively Beltane Ranch in Sonoma

Beltane Ranch

Photo Credit: Beltane Ranch

About a 45 minute drive north of San Francisco, in the town of Glen Ellen, Beltane Ranch, sits in the middle of 1,600 acres with intact 19th-century stone walls. Certified a 100% sustainable ranch by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, the ranch house overlooks Beltane vineyards, with rows of grapes branching out in every direction; near the grapes are olives trees that are grown and farmed organically. 

Beltane Ranch
Photo Credit: Beltane Ranch

Visiting last month, we parked on the dirt driveway and noticed a few free range chickens roaming around the ranch house kitchen. These chickens provide eggs for the complimentary breakfast every morning and have the job of pest management patrol in the olive orchard and around the grounds. The ranch has three dogs, a couple cats, two Clydesdale horses and two steer. The staff offers carrots to guests to feed the horses. At sundown, the two Australian Cattle Dogs like to hang near the pasture fence where a Mexican longhorn teases and plays with theses dogs nightly. It's very quaint and entertaining.

The main ranch house was built in 1892, but in 1970, Rosemary Wood and her family turned the working ranch house into a bed and breakfast inn. Rosemary’s daughter Alexa and her children run the ranch today. They practice sustainability by composting all suitable kitchen, garden, orchard and livestock waste to composite that turns into natures best fertilizer.

Beltane Ranch
Photo Credit: Beltane Ranch

Currently there are five guests rooms in the ranch house and one private guest cottage. We stayed in Room 3, offering antique furniture in three rooms. One room has a queen size bed, writing desk, sitting area, three windows, and a door leading out to the second level porch with two chairs and a small table. The bathroom is spacious with a shower/ tub, sink and commode. There is also a day room with a day bed, reading chair, two windows and a screen door leading out to a second floor veranda with two wicker chairs and a table. This looks out to the front of the ranch overlooking the vineyard, livestock and olive trees.

Beltane Ranch
Photo Credit: Beltane Ranch

In 2004, Beltane Ranch donated to the Sonoma County Open Space District 1,300 of their acres to keep the land forever open. The land is next to other wineries in Glen Ellen, a town with some excellent wine tasting opportunities. A few that we explored near Beltane Ranch included the Benziger Family Winery. Originally the home of the Glen Ellen Winery, the Benziger family the vineyards located in the Sonoma Mountains, a “volcanic bowl” overlooking the Valley of the Moon. They practice organic and Biodynamic farming. Organic grapes are grown without the aid of chemical-based fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Biodynamic farming is a method of organic “spiritual science” farming using manures and composting, while excluding the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants. Visitors can take a tram tour of the vineyard for a fee before or after tasting a variety of the wines. Tastings range from $25+ and includes knowledge pourers offering some wine wisdom. We learned that approximately 2.4 lbs. of grapes make a full bottle. That's about 600 to 800 grapes depending on their size. One barrel of wine contains 740 lbs. of grapes or 24.6 cases of wine.

Beltane Ranch
Photo Credit: Beltane Ranch

We also visited Chateau St. Jean in nearby Kenwood. The tasting room is attached to their Goffs family summer home in the visitors center and gardens. The winery started making its first bottles of wine in the 1970s with grapes growing in the 250 acres. Tastings start at $15 per person. Guests are welcome to take their tastes with tasting notes out on the garden patio to sip and enjoy the outdoor ambiance. We stood at the wine tasting bar top to learn more about the wines. We learned the four "S" rule in drinking wine. First is "See" while sipping wine, observe the color and clarity of the wine. Color can be affected due to age, varietal and barrel process. Second is "Swirl" lightly swirl the stem of the glass to allow oxygen into the wine to enhance the aroma to open up. Third is "Sniff" by holding the glass a few inches from your nose, them let your nose drop into the glass. Discuss what you smell. Stonefruit? Citrus? Vanilla? Tobacco? Lastly, "Sip"and let it linger in your palate. Roll the wine gently in your mouth, exposing it to all of your tastebuds. At Chateau St. Jean they offer aroma and tasting notes to refer to with each pour.

Beltane Ranch
Photo by Jill Weinlein

After a two tasting visits we drove into the charming Sonoma Plaza to enjoy lunch at the historic Swiss Hotel. Built in the 1870’s, the restaurant features Italian and American food, plus a full bar. It's located across from the historic park, and just doors away from art galleries, quaint stores, bakeries and a variety of wine tasting shops.

Jill Weinlein

Los Angeles based Jill Weinlein covers travel, food and lifestyle destinations for multiple newspapers, magazines and websites. Her areas of expertise include, luxury travel, culinary reviews, cruising and family travel destinations. Born in Los Angeles, Jill studied Communications and Theatre Arts at UCLA. She has a a Dine and Travel blog - www.dineandtravel.me and she writes a weekly restaur...(Read More)

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