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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Places to visit in Healdsburg, CA

One of our favorite drives is scenic West Side Road leading into the town of Healdsburg, 45 minutes away from "Artist's View" vacation rental in Jenner. There are many world class wineries to visit along the way and the mellow laid back feel of the area is a wonderful way to relax.

And what better way to finish your day in Russian River wine country, than to settle in to Bergamot Alley Wine bar in Healdsburg and taste a bit of Europe in our own backyard. Proprietors Kevin Wardell and Sarah Johnson are on a mission to expand the palate of California wine and beer drinkers through unique and exciting selection of old world European wine varietals and quality hand crafted brews. They have succeeded not only in their carefully selected menu, but also in creating an environment that is seductive to the senses.

Imagine transporting an uber-hip East Village loft smack in the middle of Healdsburg square with your own private DJ spinning vinyl records on a vintage turntable and stereo gear and that’s what Bergamot has created for their local following. The first thing I noticed when I dropped by for a beer with my wife was the modern mix of metal and wood in their furniture d├ęcor. The tables and modified “elementary school” chairs were beautifully crafted for both intimate and large groups of people. You felt at home when you walked in, the high ceilings inviting you to stick around and the brick walls and wood beams throwing off the vibe of a modern/medieval wine cave experience.

The rare wine room locker in the back of the tasting room captured my attention right away. I found out that it was a vintage barn door equipped with it’s own pulley system to open and close it, adding to the highly creative impulses of Bergamot’s owners. The walls are covered with modern artwork, thanks to owner/artist Sarah Johnson and Nathan Covey Singleton Frerichs who hails from Telluride, Colordado.

The crowd was in a festive mood lit up by the sounds of a modern African funk record spinning on the turntable. We introduced ourselves to owner, Kevin Wardell and he was very friendly and accommodating, offering advise to his patrons and making sure everyone’s glass was full. The crowd there is mostly locals and it had a laid back vibe that you get with people familiar with each other in a small town like Healdsburg. We studied the wine menu and saw many of our favorite varietals from Spain, France and Italy on the list. The unique blends added to our curiosity and we made a promise to go back for a tasting and to pick up a bottle, or two to share with friends.

I give the Berg 5 stars out of 5 for hospitality, fun and vibe. An edgy NY artist loft in the middle of Healdsburg wine country is a nice change of pace.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Places to visit in Graton, CA

Graton is a jewel in the heart of the Russian River wine country. A quaint town with a handful of restaurants, boutique shops and art studios, it is a must place to visit while vacationing in Northern California.

The Underwood Cafe is one of my favorite restaurants near Jenner and Artist's View vacation rental. It has a fantastic bar that many of the local wine industry people patronize. Their wine list is quite extensive and their menu superb. I recently ate lunch with friends visiting from the East Bay and their specialty Moroccan lamb burger sandwich with tzatziki, tomatoes and arugula is one of the best I have tasted. They also have a great beer list, which can't be beat on a hot summer day on their patio deck!

This quote from their website pretty much sums it up: "Celebrity-winemaker sightings happen almost daily at this Sonoma County spot. To sip Merry Edwards's extraordinary Pinot Noir while sitting next to Merry Edwards is a rare experience. Underwood is also popular for chef and co-owner Matthew Greenbaum's bistro dishes, like Hereford Ranch burgers.”

I recommend making reservations for dinner, for it can get crowded during the evening. However, the Underwood Cafe is a great place to pop in and eat at the bar if their dining area is packed.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

West Side Road - Russian River Wine Country Magic

Late spring/early summer in the Russian River Valley is a sight to behold. The vineyards are lush with their flowing leaves and craggy old vines, the poppies and wildflowers seem to be painted on every hair pin turn on Westside Road, our favorite drive in the valley. This rugged landscape is what draws people to the Russian River and the Sonoma Coast. No matter how many times you visit this glorious land, there is always something new to see.

Our latest discovery was DaVero Organic Farm on the northeast side of Westside Road as you head into Healdsburg. This certified biodynamic organic farm produces both food and wine which has received rave reviews by acclaimed chef Mario Batali and wine critic, Alice Feiring of the NY Times.

What caught our eyes as we drove by their property were the olive trees and unfettered lay of the land. It reminded us of a Mediterranean landscape where you are immersed in the symbiotic relationship of the farm, animals and terroir. As we drove into their Davero's parking lot, we found the grounds spacious and beautiful. With our picnic lunch packed in our car, we were happy to have discovered this place.

The tasting room was laid back, which makes wine tasting fun and relaxing. There was a chalkboard filled with food and wine events on the wall near their winebar, all of which looked like a great way to spend a weekend on the river. We greeted our lovely host who explained to us that the Russian River Valley lies in the same equator grid as Italy. This makes sense as to why the Italians immigrated here and that why many of the vineyards in this area have Italian names. It also explains why growing olives, fruits, herbs and crafting wines that focus on the traditions of Italy is DaVero’s specialty.

We sampled the many wine varietals they had to offer, all of which were wonderful and reasonably priced. It was difficult to choose which one we should serve with our lunch and we settled on a bottle of their 2009 Falco Tannat, which ran neck to neck with their Rose. It was absolutely delicious! The Tannat is a unique and interesting wine, very earthly with bold flavors of coffee, lavender and vanilla. We enjoyed our lunch and their wine as we settled into their secluded patio garden enclosed in natural fauna. It was a nice to have the privacy in such a beautiful setting.

We highly recommend visiting their winery when visiting the Russian River Wineries and Healdsburg. Their friendly and knowledgable service made for a relaxing Sunday afternoon. We will definitely be back!

Click here for their website

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Jenner Headlands Park

Jenner, California is a place to commune with nature and your explorative inner world. The two are brought together in perfect harmony through the peaceful surroundings of this hamlet on the Sonoma Coast. There is an enigmatic energy that flows through the air, brought about by the opposing bodies of water that collide together where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean. Like the yin and yang of life, the river represents the peace and calm of nature, while the ocean embodies the noisy interaction of our busy, daily lives. This is what makes Jenner a special place and the grounds for those searching for serenity and a chance to recharge in one of the most dramatic and beautiful settings in California.

Ariel View of the Jenner Headlands Land Trust Purchase

This pristine coast town has recently been awarded a special gift with the purchase of 5,630 acres of Jenner headlands by the Sonoma Land Trust. With this purchase, Jenner will soon become a world class destination for vacationers, outdoor enthusiasts and naturalists.

New Jenner Boat Launch

Jenner Kayak Rentals

To accommodate those visiting Jenner, a new parking lot and boat launch was completed thanks to a partnership between the California Department of Boating and Waterways and California State Parks.

As the trails are being mapped out and prepared for hiking enthusiasts, you must currently sign up for a guided tour to access the Headlands. You can be the first to traverse this magnificent land with dramatic coastal views by registering here:

As Jenner becomes the new low-key getaway for vacationers, Artist's View vacation rental has had a very busy season, with excellent five star views by our guests. We truly appreciate their kind remarks, which can be reviewed here:

Artist's View Secret Garden

We welcome you to this enchanted land of beauty and mystery on the dramatic Sonoma Coast and look forward to your visit.

Scot Sier and Anne O'Brien
Proprietors, Artist's View