Head to Glen Ellen for wine tasting and vineyard trails
Winter in wine country is a glorious affair, a way to escape the gloom while enjoying a little more sunshine in the Sonoma Valley. With warm weather radiating most of the year, it’s never a bad time to get out into nature before entering the tasting room. And the small town of Glen Ellen is the perfect place to do both.
One of California’s most famous authors once called this Moon Valley village his home. Today, Jack London State Historic Park bears his name. Answer your own call of nature and start your morning with a hike in the park, where ruins and ancient tombs attract the curious.
Two fast trails provide an easy approach, starting with a 1-mile trail that begins at the museum parking lot and winds its way to the ruins of Wolf House, all that remains of a 26-room estate destroyed by fire in 1913, just before London and his wife, Charmian, could move in. A rickety staircase provides a closer look at the house, which had nine fireplaces and plenty of great rooms for entertaining.
Jack London’s grave is on a spur just off the main trail. Nearby you will find the graves of two children who died on the property before London took it. Although she never knew the children, London felt a kinship with their spirits and asked to be buried near them.
The second historic trail, dubbed Beauty Ranch, takes visitors past several structures, including the Pig Palace, built to hold 200 pigs, as well as barns, silos, a cottage, and the ruins of the Kohler and Frohling winery.
After the hike, head to Glen Ellen’s Benziger Winery and relax. While there are several tour and tasting options at this biodynamic estate, the 75-minute tractor tour is perhaps the best way to learn about the property’s innovative farming practices, including planting a herb garden. designed to keep insects away from vineyards. The tractor-tram tour passes through vineyards, offers panoramic views of nearby mountains, and ends at the winery for a tasting of four wines.
If exploring the literary history of Jack London is high on your to-do list, but you want someone else to do the planning, Active Wine Adventures offers a Sonoma Call of the Wild which includes stops at the London Ranch, wineries and other historic sites. sites focusing on stories from his life. It’s an easy hike, about 3.5 miles round trip. And the tour ends with a wine tasting and lunch in the vineyard.
More Hike + Wine Options
If you prefer your hikes on the floral side rather than the literary side, head to the 25-acre Sonoma Botanical Garden – formerly known as Quarryhill – where year-round blooms represent California flora, as well as China, Japan, Tibet, Yunnan, India and Nepal. Over 90% of the Asian collection was grown from seeds collected during annual expeditions to these regions.
Then, stop at Mayo Family Winery, just half a mile away, to taste a flight of six wines. Or, if you’ve worked up an appetite, Les Pascals patisserie is the place to go. The authentic French bakery, owned by Pascal and Pascale Merle, serves decadent pastries (the chocolate croissants are divine), sandwiches (prosciutto and brie!) and quiches.
A tougher hike awaits in Kenwood at Kunde Estate, where fourth-generation winemakers Jeff and Roberta Kunde and their dogs, Cooper and Kalie, will join you on a hike through the estate and vineyard, passing through forests of oaks, native grasslands and chaparral as you head towards the Mayacamas Mountains. The moderately strenuous four-hour hike ends with a wine tasting and wine country lunch. Dogs are welcome on a leash.
And the park surrounding Sonoma’s Bartholomew Estate Vineyards & Winery offers a windmill, a bustling duck pond, and a three-mile trail for guests to stroll on their own. The trail, which is rated moderate to difficult, winds through mature oaks, madrones, redwoods, and vineyards before culminating in views of San Francisco Bay. Then, stop in the tasting room to sample wines from the vineyard’s certified organic vines.
If you are going to
Jack London State Historic Park: $10 per vehicle, entrance fee. This historic park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at 2400 London Ranch Road in Glen Ellen; https://jacklondonpark.com.
Benziger Vineyard Tram Tour: This winery tour ($10-$35) is offered at 11am and 2pm Friday-Sunday at the winery, 1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen; www.benziger.com.
Active wine adventure: This tour company offers guided wine tours, including a year-round Sonoma Call of the Wild Tour. The tour is $169 per person (plus lunch and tasting fees); www.activewineadventures.com.
Sonoma Botanical Garden: Admission is $8 to $12. The gardens are open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily except Tuesdays at 12841 Highway 12 in Glen Ellen; https://sonomabg.org.
Mayo Family Vineyard: Tastings are $25 per person. Open 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily at 13101 Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen; www.mayofamilywinery.com.
Pastry Les Pascals: Opens 7 a.m. weekends, 6 a.m. weekdays (closed Wednesdays) at 13758 Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen; www.lespascalspatisserie.com.
Hiking in the Kunde family winery: This winery on Highway 12 in nearby Kenwood offers dog-friendly estate hikes that include lunch and wine tasting ($90) and more casual estate hikes ($40, lunch bagged BYO) throughout the year. Find the dates of the 2022 hikes soon to be published on www.kunde.com.
Bartholomew Estate Vineyards & Winery: The park and trails are open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily at 1000 Vineyard Lane in Sonoma. Book a wine tasting reservation at www.bartholomewestate.com.