Monday, May 16, 2011

Wine and Bread in Freestone

Freestone is a small town in western Sonoma County; really just a crossroads.  Not many folks live here but it's worth a visit if you like good wine or bread.

Freestone Vineyards is owned by Joseph Phelps and his family, long-time winemakers in the Napa Valley.  Freestone has much cooler weather than Napa so here the Phelps family makes superb Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  When we visited, the tasting consisted of current releases of all three Chardonnays and two Pinot Noirs made by the winery.  We had the option for a sit-down tasting in the Guest Center or outside at picnic tables.  Being a bright, sunny day, we chose the latter.  From our table, we could see rolling hills covered with Freestone's vineyards.  Freestone is currently open from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Thursday to Monday.  In the near future, they will also be open on Tuesday and Wednesday.

About 150 yards from the Freestone Guest Center is Wild Flour Bread.  The bakery produces a variety of organic sourdough breads, scones, and biscotti; all made in a brick oven.  Coffee is also available.  When we walked in we could see bakers kneading bread in the back of the bakery and were offered samples of all of the breads being sold that day.  We tasted nearly all of them and walked away with three loaves of bread.  The bakery is open from Friday through Monday from 8:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Freestone is a bit away from the main Russian River Valley tasting route, but you can easily include a visit to Freestone with stops at wineries near Sebastopol and Graton.  The quaint town of Occidental is also close by.  If you visit Freestone, bring picnic supplies, get bread from Wild Flour, and enjoy your meal at Freestone's Guest Center with some nice Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.  If you would like to take a private tour of the Russian River Valley that includes a stop in Freestone, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beautiful Rhododendrons at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

After visiting the Mendocino coast for many years, we finally visited the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens this past weekend.  We were rewarded with a magnificent display of rhododendrons at the height of their glory.

The Botanical Gardens consists of 47 acres of cultivated flowers as well as native landscape that overlooks the Pacific.  While the rhododendrons were the stars of the weekend, other beautiful flowers were in bloom.

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is open daily; except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Saturday after Labor Day; from 9:00 until 5:00 from March through October and until 4:00 from November through February.  Plan on spending between one and two hours wandering through gardens; longer if you want to participate in one of the guided walks.

If you would like to take a private tour from San Francisco to Mendocino that includes the Botanical Gardens and other sights, please contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or