Friday, August 27, 2010

Wine Country Trip: Part 3 Gardens

Recently returned from a 5 day trip to the California wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties. This was a personal/pleasure trip with professional overtones (and perks), as my husband is "in the trade". Splitting the trip review into 4 sections:
Part 3. Gardens
Part 4. Biking
Wine country grows more than just grapes. The climate with it's sunny, hot days, cool nights, fog filled mornings and mild winters is ideal for ornamental gardening - well, ideal with a bit of irrigation, because there is that no rain from May through September issue to deal with. Most gardens here use responsible drip irrigation systems, and minimize large swaths of lawn and other water hogs. In fact, the gardens may be one of my favorite reasons for visiting out here.

The gardens at Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville have been at the top of my list of must visit and re-visit gardens for some time. When Adolf Heck bought Korbel from the Korbel family; he and his daughter restored not only the Korbel family house, but also the gardens. Close to the house are some formal bed areas.
Old garden rose aficionados know that OGRs are a mainstay of the gardens, particularly around the old homestead (my old CompuServe friend and rosarian, Rosemary Simms, raved about the varieties in this garden). Unfortunately, mid-August is not prime rose season. There were a few blooms sprinkled throughout the property, including an all time fav of mine, the Hybrid Musk, Buff Beauty.

Because we were fortunate enough to be guests of Korbel and staying on property, I had leisurely access to the property - both around the Korbel homestead and throughout the winery grounds. The area around the vineyard house, where we were staying,  provided a small glimpse of what was to come.
Most of the grounds are not a formal garden, rather they contain mixed borders - an incredible mix of perennials, annuals, flowering shrubs, evergreens and trees. Throughout paths and walkways invite you to explore.
Just down the path from the vineyard house was what appeared to be the gardener's office and nursery area. On my early morning stroll through the grounds, saw ample evidence of the crews needed to maintain Korbel in such beautiful and impeccable condition.
Can you imagine being able to do your morning walk/run through this grand scenery?

The pool area is fun to visit, shaped like a wine bottle, surrounded by gardens and areas for entertaining.


In addition to the roses, other plants are repeated throughout the property. Dark leaved dahlias, agapanthus, hydrangeas, and surprise lilies ( lycoris?)

The Korbels originally purchased the property for it's lumber to fuel their cigar box business. Remnants of this time and the lumber town provide a charming feel as you wander the gardens. The brandy tower built by Fredrick Korbel as an exact replica of the brandy tower he saw outside his cell during his days in jail under Hapsburg rule in Czechoslovakia.

While I may have had insider's access to wander the grounds, the public has a not to be missed opportunity for garden tours, offered in season Tues-Sun at 1 and 3 pm. I'd call ahead to ensure a spot! Korbel Cellars: well worth the 13 mile scenic drive out River Road, for both the champagnes and the gardens.

The other winery garden we spent some time in was at Ferrari Carano at the north end of Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma. A bit more formal, large swaths of annuals, but still beautiful. The wines are pretty grand, also.


We had a laugh here, when I told my husband if he ever decides to erect a statue in my honor, he had better *not* place it behind a bed of marigolds. Yuck.

Moving from the purely ornamental to the functional, but still highly beautiful, while riding the bikes into Yountville for lunch, we stumbled upon the kitchen garden of the French Laundry. Impeccable. Proving that vegetable gardening can also be art. And making me want to eat at this restaurant the next time we visit - no matter what it takes!

One winery garden we didn't make it to, but I want to on a next visit is Quivira. Located on West Dry Creek Road, this organic winery has a large bio-dynamic ornamental and vegetable garden. We passed it on the bikes, and hoped to get back. Alas, we didn't have time.

Speaking of bikes....that's up next.

2 comments:

  1. Aren't they? I spent tons of time in the two days wandering these gardens and could have spent much, much more. I just kept finding new paths.....

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