GUEST POST FROM FARMHOUSE INN AND OUR NEWEST MEMBER OF THE CONCIERGE TEAM... Mary Calla (and looks like our up and coming poet and photographer extraordinaire)
LIVING, WORKING, AND LOVING SONOMA COUNTY... MY FAVORITE TIME OF THE YEAR
Autumn into early winter in Sonoma County is the very best time to visit. It’s a season where romance meets melancholy, and is my favorite time of year here. Gone are long summer afternoons spent basking in the hot sun along Russian River, replaced by short days and shadows that grow long in the angled amber light. The valleys have transformed into dramatic canvases painted deep zinfandel purple and Cabernet red in Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys, drastic against the evergreen forests that surround them. As I drive to work at Farmhouse Inn, I am surrounded by the vibrant yellows and gold tones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay leaves in Russian River Valley, which has become its own version of Cote d’Or. A mix of vivid pinks, purples and orange at sunrise, followed by golden hazy light in the mornings give the wine country a breathtaking quality.
Visitors from far and wide travel here to take part in Sonoma County’s grape harvest, and for good reason. Our county comes to life with the sights and sounds of harvest from September to early November, with tractors and trucks hauling grapes along every road to their prospective Sonoma County wineries. The air here even smells like wine, a mix of the sweet leaves beginning to fall on the ground and the mounds of cast seeds and skins that have already been pressed for wine. At Farmhouse Inn we call it high season, when the inn is full of bustling excited guests with jam-packed wine tasting itineraries. In the wine industry we call it crush as the arrival of fruit on the crush pad means long days and nights ahead, full of receiving grapes and monitoring them closely through the fermentation process. No matter what you call it, November signals a shift in gears in wine country. The vines have breathed a collective sigh of relief as they finish their jobs for the season, waiting quietly for next spring, when new leaves emerge and a new vintage begins. The responsibility is now in the hands of winemakers, whose Russian River Valley Pinot Noir now sits quietly fermenting in winery cellars, waiting for its winter home in oak barrels.
At my own family farm, grape harvest is followed by olive harvest for our prized olive oil. We participate in a community press at Dry Creek Olive Oil Company every year, taking advantage of the only stone mill for olives nearby. With our bright green oil in bottles and cured olives put up in mason jars, all the grapes off the vines and into tanks, winter can officially start at Rowan Farm.
The rains which have stayed away for six months are finally returning and a rebirth is under way in Sonoma County. California’s famous golden hills are changing as the first blades of grass come up, transforming them into a soft, vibrant green. Soon, we will have baby lambs on the ground, timed perfectly with the reemergence of grass and clover. Since our ewes give birth in late fall and early winter, the lambs grow strong and fat off mama’s milk and nutrient rich pastures. Our laying hens are also reaping the rewards of fall rains, joining our sheep in the pastures to stir up insects for a snack and enjoy fresh greens that keep the yolks of their eggs dark, rich, and orange.
Sonoma County afternoons are still warm and sunny, but a chill has crept into the nights inspiring visitors to break out their boots and sweaters. Here at Farmhouse Inn, the chimneys in the Heritage Cottages smoke quietly in the evenings as our guests snuggle in for the night or gather 'round the firepit to make s’mores (paired perfectly with that Zinfandel they picked up while they were out wine tasting!). The menu at the Farmhouse Restaurant reflects the changing of the seasons beautifully, highlighted by heartier dishes showcasing Bison, Venison, winter squashes and root vegetables. It’s the kind of menu that makes you want to sink deeply into it, allowing the flavors on your plate to redefine your sensory analysis of fall. Meals at our restaurant inspire gratitude and remind me of how incredibly fortunate I am to live, love and work in this incredible place!
Mary Calla - signing off with a pic of my favorite time of year with my very favorite pooch...