The Valley of the Moon was abuzz with movie stars and production crews when we moved to Glen Ellen in 2007. Alan Rickman, Chris Pine and Eliza Dushku, among others, were making the film Bottle Shock, a movie about the famous 1976 “Judgement of Paris” blind taste test in which French wine took it on the chin in a battle against California wines. Credited with igniting the explosion of Northern California’s wine country in the ensuing four decades, the Judgement of Paris was repeated in 2006. California reigned supreme once again. Guess it’s time now to put aside our differences and give peace a chance.
For this week’s Listen Up we’ve selected a song from Bottle Shock’s score entitled, “Jim’s Giving Up,” composed by Mark Adler.
Header photo: butterfly at Quarryhill Botanical Garden; Listen Up photo: wine barrel peace sign at Imagery Estate Winery: No Regrets Tour photo below: Chateau St. Jean
Between the Mayacama and Sonoma Mountains, rests the Valley of the Moon, our vote for the most picturesque setting in Northern California’s wine country. Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Bennett Valley, communities within the Valley of the Moon, each have their own distinct character, but all have world class wineries in storybook settings and throughout the valley the vistas are particularly stunning and welcoming this spring.
Art and wine come together at Imagery Estate Winery in Glen Ellen, where the gallery features original, commissioned works by artists from around the world. Following the example of Baron Philippe de Rothschild from the 1950’s, the art is carried through to the tasting room where it graces the labels of Imagery’s award-winning wines. Outside, a new picnic and bocce court area is currently being constructed and will be completed by mid to late June.
The nearby Quarryhill Botanical Garden has more than two miles of trails through one of the largest gardens of wild-collected Asian plants in the world. Celebrating its 30th Anniversary, Quarryhill is beautifully maintained, but it is not a prim and proper formal garden; rather, the bamboo, Chinese fringe, dogwoods, lilies, magnolias, and conifers create a lushly layered landscape that transports the visitor from the Valley of the Moon to an Asian woodland. With quarry ponds and discretely placed picnic tables and benches, it is a peaceful, exotic garden in which to escape for a meditative afternoon.
Venturing further north on Sonoma Highway into Kenwood, Chateau St. Jean is a 1920’s European Chateau with palm trees, formal gardens and magnificent views. Enjoying a wine tasting in this quintessential Sonoma setting surrounded by flowering hydrangea, rhododendron and Italian jasmine is extraordinary. Just a few minutes away you’ll find the graceful Kenwood Inn and Spa, one of our favorite hotels in the world. Tranquil, luxurious and just the right size (only 29 Tuscan-inspired rooms), the Kenwood Inn is sheer perfection. If you already live in wine country, please note that the spa is open for day visitors as well.
Winding through the Valley of the Moon into Bennett Valley, it is almost peak blooming season for the lavender fields at Matanzas Creek Winery. We arrived about 10 days early, so we recommend going the week of June 11-18 (we’ll definitely be returning that week!). The combination of great wine, vineyards and lavender is intoxicating. Be sure not to miss the Lavender Barn, where hundreds of bundles of lavender are hung from the rafters to dry and barrels of buds are waiting to be made into pillows, balms, salts and soaps.
We ended our day in the Valley of the Moon with fresh, flavorful Mexican food at El Molino Central in Boyes Hot Springs. Many Yelpers say it is the best Mexican food in Sonoma, but they’re wrong. It’s the best Mexican cuisine anywhere north of San Francisco’s Mission District. The freshly ground masa, moles, chiles and creamy guacamole are heavenly. Just like the Valley of the Moon.