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Holiday season

Home for the Holidays: Bringing Warmth, Color and Joy to Home

Fall in Sonoma

Late fall-early winter in wine country, we begin to rest and celebrate the year past, holidays of the season, and hope for the days to come.

Here are a few favorite shops filled with thoughtfully selected basics to bring warmth and joy into your home for the holidays this season.  These well curated offerings speak to the idea of a pause, how to incorporate nature, and bringing forth the warmth that is so welcoming as we embrace home this time of the year in Sonoma and Napa Valleys.

Home for the Holidays

At this time of year, we very much appreciate the cooler days and evenings; it is always a celebration when the vines are at rest.  There is a beautiful ease about the slope of the land, with the orderly march of the vines welcoming the winter rain ahead.  As we are a partially agrarian society, the combination of nature, authentic materials, and heirloom pieces are essential for a timeless feel in the home.

Vintage Home Napa Valley, Shoppe Amber Interiors and Chateau Sonoma are shown here, as they each uniquely excel at helping to create a welcoming home for the holidays.

Last weekend, an article in the Wall Street Journal relates how The Stagecraft of Holiday Dining Matters as Much as the Food”:

“Setting, atmosphere and the little familiar objects particular to each family are what make this time of year such a distinctive comfort and joy.”¬† ¬†Bee Wilson, December 16th, 2023.

A very timely read, it reminds us that it is the little things that make a big difference, whether while decorating or dining.

Holidays at Home
I just love the way this store brings the season forth from floor to ceiling.

At Shoppe Amber Interiors we see the most basic, high quality, elements for a home, to include books, furniture linens and art.

A simple, larger pattern, on a footstool can add just a touch of brightness to a room.

Holiday season at home
Linens and candles are an important part of the warmth of the season.

This relaxing bed ensemble speaks to the peaceful rest which is so desired.  The artful combination of textures, pattern, and neutral tones help to create an atmosphere of ease.

At Chateau Sonoma we see the lovely combination of organic materials, animals, plus antiques, to create this inviting table decoration.

Illuminating the darkness, music is such an important part of the holidays.

Recently, I visited the San Francisco Symphony to hear Handel’s Messiah, a holiday tradition around the world since its 1742 Dublin premiere.

Wishing you and your family a most joyous holiday season this year.  For an update on the national real estate market, please visit our Market Watch page.

The story of a Barred owl and life on the land in Sonoma Valley

Land Sonoma Valley

It is in winter that we can most easily see the beautiful birds in our lives.  With the leaves having fallen, birds perch in the branches above us, happily talking or singing with their fellow feathered friends.  In the spirit of honoring their presence, I share with you the story of a Barred owl who was injured in Sonoma County, then patiently rehabilitated by an experienced falconer on land in Sonoma Valley which I recently had listed for sale and have since sold.  Paco the owl was initially found at a construction site, then brought to Bird Rescue Center of Sonoma County (BRC).  At the time he was given to the BRC, his injuries were substantial.  The full inspiring story of his recovery follows.

Here Paco sits contently, briefly gazing behind at what may be nearby before spreading his wings.

This Barred Owl, cared for by the BRC, is carefully tended by falconer Chris Melancon. The video below tells the story of Paco’s rehabilitation.

Sonoma Valley Land

A striking bird’s-eye view of the 8¬Ī acres of Sonoma land that became the perfect location for an owl to recover from it’s injuries and gain strength.¬† Within the foreground is the area in which Paco would exercise quite early, before dawn most mornings.¬† This property is on the scenic east side of Sonoma Valley, with an expansive viewshed that can be seen in the distance.

Sonoma Land

Just because we love the land in Sonoma and Napa Valley so much, here is an on-the-ground view of a potential building site.

Land in Sonoma

A full array of crops were grown on this land, in addition to being a space for Paco to practice flying once again.

Sharing a moment of sunshine with a few friends.

It is my hope that you have enjoyed this story and will contact the Bird Rescue Center nearest you whenever you find birds, including owls or hawks, in need of care.  Please feel free to reach out to this amazing organization in Sonoma County for more details or to inquire as to how you can support the honorable work they do.

Wishing you a lovely day.  Feel free to contact me anytime with comments or ideas.

Winter in Wine Country

The beauty of winter in the Sonoma and Napa wine country can be found everywhere from the lovely homes in the countryside, to the farmers markets each week, and always in the shops.  Here are a few moments of life in the Sonoma and Napa Valley which reflect the leisure lifestyle very poignantly.  The first of the year farmers markets are bathed in clear, bright sunshine;

locally grown microgreens such as pea shoots, sunflower shoots or rainbow mix are cut to your request

oranges and a meyer lemons

magnolia cuttings from Oak Hill Farm, growing fresh produce and flowers year round for the market

estate olives from the purveyor KassyKate, who prepares an assortment of antipasto and tapenade

fresh eggs & whole grain breads which are milled nearby

a few pastries baked this morning,  Nutella filled donuts and brioche twists from the Baker and Cook

onions and vegetables, we find an abundance of onions, shallots and leeks this time of the year at Paul’s Produce

daffodils and cool weather flowers are in bloom

a few colorful robes from Napa Valley Vintage Home, located in Saint Helena on Main Street

dishes and linens from around the world

very special knife set and hand painted pillows

this shop has fabulous seasonal displays with items for the home, bath, children’s rooms, gifts, jewelry, books and much more.¬† Always a delight to visit and a locals favorite.¬† From here we visit a few homes in Sonoma and Napa Valley which are currently available for purchase.

a lovely home in the style of a Tuscan Villa with wine cave for entertaining friends

sage green shutters and olive trees on property

views of the Sonoma countryside in the western hills.  For more information visit http://www.glenellenretreat.net

European-style Napa Valley Estate with a grand entrance

a well appointed guest room

views of the Napa Valley

small lake with willow provides a dramatic entrance to this estate in Napa Valley, authentic weathered carriage doors.  For more information visit  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dt3RMRfuWTY

late afternoon on a meandering inlet of Lake Hennessey,

nightfall over Lake Hennessey in Napa Valley.  This lake is settled in the deep valley east of Napa.  It is best appreciated by kayak, fishing quietly and enjoying the peace which is offered by this spot not known to most who visit the area.  Here we have a few fishermen coming in at dusk on a cool winter evening.

Wishing you many moments of joy as you experience the Art of Leisure in the Sonoma and Napa Valley.

Celebrations in Sonoma and Napa Valleys

Autumn in Sonoma Valley

Whether for a holiday, birthday or special occasion, the idea of taking time to pause and honor something or someone is central to the Art of Leisure. In Sonoma and Napa Valleys, we add to that the traditional celebrations which are inherent to the vineyards and natural world surrounding us. Here are a few favorite spots to help make such moments memorable with an especially lovely evening or a beautifully curated gift. Wishing you many joy-filled celebrations!

As Expressed by International Artist Hunt Slonem:
Serge Sorokko Gallery, Larry Block

Celebrations in Sonoma
Ruby
Celebrations in Napa
Yellow Picul
Sonoma Celebrations
Shangrila

Dining – Sonoma Valley:
‚ÄĘ Edge (Thursday evening), Sonoma
‚ÄĘ Single Thread Farms, Healdsburg

Gifts – Sonoma Valley:
‚ÄĘ Olive + Rose
‚ÄĘ J James Sonoma, Sonoma
‚ÄĘ Chateau Sonoma, Sonoma

Dining – Napa Valley:
‚ÄĘ RH Yountville Restaurant, Yountville
‚ÄĘ The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil, St. Helena

Gifts – Napa Valley:
‚ÄĘ Carter and Co, Saint Helena
‚ÄĘ Finesse, The Store, Yountville
‚ÄĘ Acres Home & Garden, St. Helena

BRENDA MCNEILL ‚ÄĘ Art of Leisure ‚ÄĘ Lic # 01862410 ‚ÄĘ 707.339.9133 ‚ÄĘ www.brendamcneill.com

Local Purveyors of Provisions for Wine Country Home Comforts

Sometimes it is the simplest thing that you are looking for to make your home or retreat elegant and comfortable.  In that case, I have curated a few favorite places to find everyday staples and accessories in the Sonoma or Napa Valley.  Especially when the weather is chilly, it is so pleasant to visit any of these purveyors of home and garden provisions and linger while the rain falls.  From soap to seed these locally owned businesses have been providing for the finest houses in these Valleys with just the right, many times, all natural, organic or hand made version of a necessity.  These shops are part of the area we call UpValley, which means that they are in cities which are in the northern part of the Sonoma or Napa Valley.   Whether in the downtown section of St. Helena, Yountville or Healdsburg, they all have a contemporary California, open feeling when you first arrive.  With a particular specialty and style which is unique, each offers the ability to invite a fresh, leisure spirit into any home.

When in Healdsburg it is always a delight to venture into the very hip shop of SHED. This lovely store has everything you may need for your “country house retreat”. ¬†From local flowers to amazing food and home goods, it is the finest the area has to offer. ¬†For a special gift or kitchen supplies, SHED is always prepared!

A potted white orchid and a few fresh towels feel very airy and refreshing in winter and can be found in a variety of shops.  Bringing nature indoors has a magical feeling which pairs beautifully with most homes in the winter.

Napa Valley Vintage Home is known for its beautiful and hand selected home accessories.  From hand blown glasses to French linens, it is always an inspiring place to visit.  They truly know the basics and little luxuries of a wine country style, comfortable, well kept home.

The Gardener¬†in Healdsburg is known for its high quality garden supplies, unique clay pots, books and much more. ¬†They use¬†the most amazing colors for outdoor furniture and indoor pillows. ¬†Located in an updated barn, it has a very “of the area” feel and always a pleasure to leisurely wander around the gardens.

¬†Did you know that Thomas Keller has opened up a retail store? ¬†It is only a few steps away from the Bouchon Bakery and called, “FINESSE the store”. ¬†He actually opened it a few years ago, but it seems to be a bit of a local secret.

¬†When I look at a few of the cookbooks which I have that Thomas Keller has signed for me over the years, it is clear, he has been “all about finesse” for quite some time. ¬†Thus, the name of this new store, his most recent business venture in Yountville is quite fitting. ¬†It is a very white, beautiful shop with food and cooking items which have been carefully curated with an artistic eye. ¬†Many of the products are from fruits and vegetable grown in the French Laundry garden just a couple of blocks away.

This picture from my French Laundry cookbook was probably signed in the year 2001.

Who could resist this cute puppy who was outside a store in the Sonoma Valley on a recent shopping trip.

Ranch House Retreat in Wine Country

A Ranch House Retreat in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys is a very casual affair.  It is both a sanctuary to reconnect with nature and experience the pleasure of your own solitude and a place to entertain friends or strengthen business relationships.  Whether it is in the hills with hundreds of acres or in town with an enormous backyard, the Ranch House Retreat is always a welcome sight after time away.  This winter we have been blessed with an enormous amount of rain.  When the weather is cool and wet, it is a perfect time to visit a few local ranches.

early morning, the light is on in the barn and the truck is in the field…the cows are coming in for breakfast and rain is soaking the vineyards¬†winding entrance to a Retreat with land for horseslate morning on the porch, at a Ranch House in the hillskitchen and sun porch on a cool winter day¬†a panoramic view of the Valley with six chairs waiting for someone…a cottage walking distance to town¬†fresh bouquet and old pitchers¬†meandering country road to a home with vineyards¬†traditional ranch style bedrooma very old, wine country homeChickens and bees are always welcome in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. ¬†Similar to having your own private label of wine, honey is a treasured commodity and a generous gift to friends or family.

 this pool in the backyard with an old fashion tire swing offers a moment of leisure pleasure to kids of all ages!

Beginnings: A new day in the Sonoma and Napa Valley

Beginnings: the start of something yet untouched is filled with a fresh sense of hope and wonder.  This is true whether it is a new home, a new friend or a new day.  The first thing we love to do in the mornings is to put the kettle on, throw open the kitchen door and let in cool, fresh air.  Often you will hear a distant rooster crowing at the sunrise, tame geese asking for breakfast, or sheep (as I mentioned in my last post) gingerly leaving their night stall and wandering into the vineyards.  Although it is quite cold outside and the middle of winter, these country sounds are only more appreciated when you glance up and see a dramatically colored sunrise.  This seem to signal the first note of a very special day to come!

Winter sunrise

Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley

Sonoma early morning

We then brew an amazing cup of coffee or pot of loose leaf tea.  This has most likely been sourced from a local roasting company.  In Sonoma and Napa we love to support our small purveyors of specialty goods whether that is coffee, tea or wine.

locally sourced tea

Sonoma Lifestyle

Sonoma Valley

 

Napa lifestyle

Napa Valley

Next, we step outside, take a seat on the porch or in the garden, preferably a spot with a lovely view and enjoy the beauty of this fresh new day in the Sonoma and Napa Valley.