For short flat walks, wineries can provide beautiful gardens, vistas and charming if sometime kitschy architecture for your viewing pleasure.
One of our favorites is at Kendall-Jackson off of Fulton Rd, north of Santa Rosa. Formal gardens with fountains, lawn and roses are near the building. A Culinary Garden flourishes with flowers, small beds of herbs, and rows of vegetables.
Flowers or vegetables grew in a profusion of colors. Purples, oranges and reds vibrated in a flower bed. Garish purple lettuce matched up against yellowish green leaves. Beyond this garden is a grove a walnut trees. I find it a peaceful spot, even with Hwy 101 nearby.
They have a tomato festival on September 10th (tomato plant sale in the spring) and a farm stand open August to early October.
In the Sonoma Valley is Chateau St. Jean nestled at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains. While a large lawn and picnic area stretches out to the vineyards, courtyards hold charming eating spots. Formal hedged gardens and lush shaded sitting areas between the buildings beckoned to me to sit and relax.
There is a labeled sampler vineyard in one courtyard so I could have studied how to tell the look of a Chardonnay from a Merlot vine. Players on a bocce court behind a tall hedge cheered.
Over the mountains in Bennett Valley is Matanzas Creek Winery. While there are steps through the lavender, it is worth a visit in June-July. When we were there recently, they had started to harvest the lavender. Round mounds of different purples and whites still made for a picturesque image and kept hundreds of bees very busy.
Uphill by the tasting room under gigantic oaks, is another sitting area with koi pond.
Another favorite garden is at Ferrari-Carano Winery in Dry Creek Valley near the Warm Springs Dam. A formal entrance to the tasting room features a tidy lawn and flower-lined walkway and a huge sculpture of a boar. It honors the one who dug up the garden on the owners’ first planting attempt.
Protected behind a gate is a lush garden of trees, bushes, flowers, ponds, streams and gazebos. This completely created refuge manages to alternately awe and soothe me.
Honorable Mention (not included above only because it is not flat): Korbel Winery near Guerneville along the Russian River. Beautiful flowers shine by the parking lot. Huge redwoods shade the tasting room and marvelous café and patio. Uphill is a garden begun in the 1880s with over 250 varieties of roses. Take a tour from mid-April to mid-October.
Visit your neighborhood winery. You might find a garden to suit your taste. Of course, there’s wine to taste, too. Take a tour, picnic or play bocce. Some of their websites only let you visit if your over 21.
See you on the trail! At any age.
Pictures by Mike Millar