If you fancy fine wines, are delighted to spend an overnight or more in a cozy bed and breakfast, enjoy walking through acres of flowering and fruiting plants, and find joy in browsing displays of tantalizing foodstuffs or racks of unique gift selections, you will find any or all of the above when you visit the Fetzer Vineyards Tasting Room and Visitors Center at Valley Oaks just east of Hopland. And, lest you fear there will be large crowds and little elbowroom, you’d be only half right. People do flock to Valley Oaks, but with 95 acres to ramble around and an enormous picnic area under a cool, leafy trellis, finding quiet paths to stroll and a spot to settle down for a sandwich, salad and a glass of wine is no trick at all.
Most of the buildings on the property once served as homes, barns, stables and storehouses, dating from the late 1880s, when the ranch was a major center for production of livestock, poultry, hops and pears. One of the most fascinating transformations has been the conversion of the former ranch office, the Haas Family House and the former carriage house into gracious and comfortable rooms and suites that welcome guests the year round.
It isn’t necessary to be staying in the guest quarters to enjoy all that the winery has to offer, and most visitors start with a walk through the lush, natural beauty of the Bonterra organic garden. The garden, which was designed and installed in 1986 and was re-designed by garden manager Kate Frey over the past two years, contains hundreds of edible and decorative vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. Ask for a brochure with the layout of the gardens and descriptions of each area.
But the usual reason for stopping at Valley Oaks is to try the wines, and there is no charge for sampling in the tasting room. In the Reserve Room there is a sliding scale of fees for tasting the more rare, older and limited production wines. Both tasting rooms are open from 10 am till 6 pm. Arrange your trip in advance, buy some wine or join the wine club through the website: www.fetzer.com, or stop by in person at Valley Oaks, 13601 East Side Rd., Hopland. You’ll find a lot to enjoy!
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