Fall in Sonoma

Healthy Soil + An Organic Pumpkin Patch

Fall in Sonoma

In Sonoma and Napa Valley because we live in an agricultural area the health of our soil is very important to our wellbeing.  As the soil directly impacts the health of the foods we grow and our community, it is my thought that we all may like to know a little more about nutrient rich soil.  For that reason, and to teach kids in my Sonoma Nature Club, I did a little experiment to study the effects of various microbial and nutritional additions to the soil on five different small areas of land in wine country.  Healthy land and gardens are an important part of the leisure lifestyle in Sonoma and Napa Valley.  In 2021, I began the research project on how soil amendments adjust the crop output and water retention of plants.

This informational and educational project included the participation of the Sonoma Nature Club (described in this local article) and Sonoma Mentoring Alliance members.  It  has been inspiring for kids of all ages to better understand the cultivation of soil and the growing of crops, farm to table, the endeavor has since transitioned into a valuable source of knowledge for the community.  Hopefully, this will be helpful to you and your plants as they thrive through the growing season.

Wine Country

Here, Sonoma Ecology Center Garden Park manager Steve Carara and I enjoy some of the harvest from my 2021 organic pumpkin patch at Sonoma Garden Park.

Sonoma Garden Park
One corner of the crop in the field.

This is partial list of what was monitored by Sonoma Nature Club:

  • Growth + health of plant
  • Count of pumpkins and size of fruit, plus foiliage
  • Soil water content
  • Soil compaction
Pumpkins in Wine Country
The 2022 pumpkin patch. You can see the rocks that a Sonoma Nature Club member painted on the lower right corner.

A few larger pumpkins at Sonoma Garden Park which we will study and then carve for Halloween festivities this year.

A few members of the Sonoma Nature Journal Club carving their 2021 pumpkin crop.

Sonoma Garden Park
Friends in the garden include pollinator butterflies.  We always appreciate a lovely Swallowtail butterfly visit.

This study of soil is part of the immersive agricultural experience that I have offered to kids and adults at the Sonoma Garden Park for a number of years.  The focus is specifically on analysis and education about crops, soil and the land, which will be helpful to both the personal gardener and the crop grower.  It has been my belief that becoming more comfortable with the land and nature is of the utmost of importance for everyone.

Soil Science
Part of our soil science study involved the product Biochar which is available from the company Pacific Biochar.  The Chief Executive Officer, Josiah Hunt is shown above discussing how this soil enhancement product increases crop yield for vineyards.

Biochar is simply defined as a fine-grained biomass charcoal used or found in soil.  For as long as fire and plant life have co-existed, pyrogenic organic matter (biochar) has played a role in the development and fertility of topsoil.  One of the findings in our Art of Leisure soil science study is that biochar does increase water retention in and around the root mass of the plant, allowing for better root development and water availability for the plant.  It also helps to increase soil tilth and supports microbial communities.


It is quite interesting to know and see how Biochar is created.  First, the natural wood pieces are carefully burned or heated with a minimum or absence of oxygen.  When air is excluded, oxygen for combustion is stripped from the biomass, which is thus reduced to carbon bonds of charcoal.   Above is a container burning at Donum Estate Winery earlier this year.

Here we see the opening of the container and cooling of the product.  It will then be packaged and transported to a site for distribution.  I have used this product as part of the soil science study for Sonoma Nature Club and the community.  It is my belief that the foundation for soil health is in increased microbial activity in our soil.

Healthy soil that has some structure and can bring nutrition to the roots of a plant can be accomplished in a number of ways.  This engaging agricultural study is helping us to better understand the process.  Below is an example of a cover crop of mustard seen in the Napa Valley earlier this year.  Mustard is usually incorporated into the soil later in the season, all part of sustainable agriculture.

If you have an interest in this, please feel free to give me a call anytime.

Home and Nature

Sonoma Insiders Guide: Favorite Ice Cream Spots and Homes with Space

Summer in Sonoma

It is late summer in Sonoma & Napa Valleys and truly quite warm.  Here, I share a few favorite ice cream spots and two lovely homes with pools that are wonderful examples of how to use the available space on a property for living the leisure lifestyle.

Ice Cream Spots

One of the many joys of life is an ice cream cone.  No thought of nutritional content or how it may look on you tomorrow; just the pure, pleasurable experience of going to the ice cream parlor, choosing the flavor, picking the type of cone, and enjoying the cold delight for as long as it lasts.  Slowly enjoying a little homemade ice cream is one of the timeless and true friends from our youth.  These paintings by a local artist are so evocative of the feeling of this authentically delicious frozen treat.  I hope that you may be able to step out and visit one of these spots soon, or pick up a painting as an endless reminder of the experience.  I wish you many moments of happiness and sustenance as you experience the Art of Leisure.

As expressed by International artist Hadas Tal

THREE SCOOPS, by Artist Hadas Tal
Christina Maybaum Gallery, San Francisco

CHERRY CHUNK, by Artist Hadas Tal
Christina Maybaum Gallery, San Francisco

Sonoma County:

Napa Valley:


On these hot summer days, we are reminded of the importance of the use of space at a home or property.  The homes below offer some portion of their outdoor space for a swimming pool.  This allows for swimming as exercise, a place for gathering with friends and family, something beautiful to observe most any time of the year, a way to break up an expanse of land with a view, and many other pleasures.

Homes with Space
A sparkling pool in the western hills of Sonoma at 3350 Vigilante Road.

Sonoma Homes with Space
Built in 1990, this home has a lovely exterior color and openness to the outdoor balcony area.

Open Space Sonoma
The view looking east from the balcony just outside the above doors.

Glen Ellen Homes with Space
A bedroom with history.  The lovely wood ceiling reminds one of the trees and land just outside the window.  A very relaxing and natural feel to the space.

New Home Sonoma
Brand new construction on two acres of Sonoma land with a pool to take full advantage of the outdoor space, a pool house, and open floor plan for the main residence.  Located at 21706 Hyde Road, Sonoma

Open Living Room Sonoma
The main residence living area offering a very airy and open use of space

Sonoma Homes with Pools
A fresh feel to the refreshment area in the pool house.

Homes with Land in Sonoma
Spare furnishings and new construction give this property an ease that has been well curated.

Books of Summer and a Shifting Real Estate Market

Summer in Sonoma

Summer is the season of leisure and mixing up the routine, whether this involves a hammock on a warm afternoon in the backyard, or a day in the woods.  I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite books of summer as well as some additional recommendations by the Wall Street Journal.  The subjects range from golf to outdoors to foods, and one of my favorite subjects: bees and pollinators.  Many of these have been around for a while, with a few new reads included.  I hope that you have a relaxing summer filled with the Art of Leisure that we each experience in our unique ways.


Books of Summer
Outdoor Scenes Expressed by International Artist Foad Satterfield
Available at Christina Maybaum’s Maybaum Gallery.


Books of Summer

Brenda’s Summer Favorites for Kids of all Ages:

Food and the Grill:

The Great Outdoors:

Outdoor Trips & Golf:

In Sonoma Valley, we often wander into the family owned bookstore Readers Books to peruse their well stocked shelves of great titles.  They are located just off lovely Sonoma Plaza.  You can also often find these books at your local bookstore or library to pick up at a moments notice, in addition to online.

A Brief Real Estate Market Update

We are in a shifting housing market.  Following are three highlights from the last couple of weeks in which we have seen the market slowing down:

VALUE: Homes are not losing value at this time; experts are forecasting continued appreciation.  Are we in a housing market correction?  The technical answer is no, as a correction is considered a decline of 10% or greater in the price of a security, asset or financial market.  Median house prices are increasing, according to the National Association of Realtors.  The median price for existing-housing types in May was up 14.8% from May 2021 nationally, NAR reports.  We are in a market that is attempting to rebalance itself.

Estimate Home Price Performance
A graph from the Home Price Expectation Survey (HPES) that displays forecasted appreciation over the coming years.

RATES: We have seen a quick and dramatic rise in mortgage rates this year.  This has been successful in slowing purchase demand with a decrease in new purchase applications.  To bring perspective, the average mortgage rates over the past 5 decades ,from the 1970’s to 2010’s, has varied from 4.09 to 12.70%, per Freddie Mac.  The Federal Reserve wants to see the housing market reset to more balance, with supply and demand closer together and lower inflation.

Mortgage Rates
Mortgage rates over the past year. Provided by Freddie Mac.

SALES: Existing-home purchase applications have declined with the economic slowdown.  Current data shows that we are heading in the direction of pre-pandemic demand and sales.  This is coming off two years of demand and price increases that we had not previously seen.

Existing Home Sales

The market currently has a housing supply shortage, which will take new home construction and existing home inventory increases to correct.

It is very important at a time like this, when the market is adjusting at a quick pace, that you work with a professional that is familiar with all the data to support your real estate investment needs.  Feel free to call me anytime.  If you need a referral to someone in another area of the country, I have contacts in most cities.  Also, I send a monthly market update to many friends and clients across the world; it would be my pleasure to include you–just let me know.

High end homes Sonoma

Art of Leisure: The Importance of Location

Summer in Sonoma

As it is just a few days into this lovely summer season, I wanted to share with you a few thoughts on the importance of location when considering the Art of Leisure and buying or selling a home.  This is particularly important during this time when home has an increase in importance and use.  Creating the most nurturing and inspiring space for yourself is rather simple to do when you consider a few important items.  Location is always the place to start when you can, as it will influence most all of your other decisions.

To demonstrate, I’ll show you two wonderful homes at very different locations and with very different “feels.”

The first home is located in the city of Sonoma, and is a great example of being close to town, yet having a sense of space plus privacy.  The restaurants, farmers’ markets, shopping and wineries are within two blocks.  Kids’ and semi-pro baseball games are just across the street.  The city center of Sonoma Plaza, a community gathering place, is very close.  This is an example of what can be created in a relatively small amount of space.

The importance of location
The side yard entrance.  Just across from the baseball fields and moments to Sonoma Plaza.


Importance of location
This generous entrance greets you as you walk through the front door.


Location is important
This kitchen brings together high ceilings, great lights and appliances, with plenty of space to prepare something wonderful and chat with friends.  In this home, a number of the rooms open into each other to utilize the space to its maximum advantage.


Homes near Sonoma Plaza
Ample storage


Sonoma Plaza home for sale
A well-lighted bath with unique wall and floor treatments.


Sonoma Plaza real estate
This bedroom has been decorated with a touch of drama as in the many tall windows, the positioning of the furniture and a beautiful large print.


A home near Sonoma Plaza
An oversized print rests casually on the floor next to a soft chair in the bedroom.

This home is at 196 First Street East in Sonoma and available for purchase.  The square footage is at ±2,783, a reasonable size in the Sonoma city limits.  You can see more details here.  This is an example of a leisure lifestyle home that is close to town, yet offers a feeling of space and privacy.

In contrast to the very artistic home above, below we see a lovely country home with magnificent views and an abundance of space.

Homes for sale in the Sonoma Valley hills
This location is on the west side of Sonoma Valley, in the hills.   The view here is from the wraparound deck on the east side of the house.


Countryside homes in Sonoma
A beautiful living room with an abundance of open space just as you enter the custom front door.

This home at 2600 Morningside Mountain in Glen Ellen has over ±4,000 square foot of livable space.  In addition, the land is around ±9.5 acres.   A home site in the country offers views, space and distance from noise and proximity to town, offering the privacy and quiet that so many of us value.

Rural Sonoma house for sale
A spacious bedroom with fireplace and dramatic views of the Sonoma Valley from both inside and on the deck.


Home with gym in Sonoma
Truly one of the most amazing gyms ever.  This large building has gym equipment, a full office and an additional area with a few entertaining features.


Homes with a pool in Sonoma Valley
A county location is more likely to offer more outdoor leisure living options as well as more nature such as seen here with these old growth trees.

You can see more pictures and information on this home here.

The most important ideas are whatever has meaning to you.  With many of my clients, we discuss what homes they have most loved.  Sometimes it is the home they grew up in, or it could be even be the home they reside in now.  This is something to which one should allow deep consideration before purchasing or remodeling, as importance of location is key and not easy to change.  So, yes, jogging your memory and the memories of anyone who will live with you is both fun and time very well spent.  Most recently, many people have moved from more urban areas to the country.  In Sonoma and Napa Valleys, both in-town homes and those in the hills offer plenty of options to experience the leisure lifestyle as you most wish it to be.

Homes with a pool in Sonoma

Art of Leisure Home by Design • Nature

Art of Leisure

As someone who has been circling around homes and land for over 30 years here in wine country, I wanted to share with you some thoughts about the positive effects of good design and most importantly, some recurring principles & notable patterns that I have found in the successful homes that I encounter.  These common themes are a part of the idea of living well that is especially important today.

As we move through the second quarter of the year and in the coming months, I will expand upon my concept that an Art of Leisure home or property has the ability to support and transform your life.

The nucleus of my interest in this idea began with visits to my grandparents’ summer home on a lake in the north woods of Wisconsin.  This was leisure living with elegance and ease.  Years later, when I departed the high-tech industry in San Francisco and started a hospitality business in the hills above Sonoma Valley in the late 1980’s, my perspective was expanded.  After selling large scale computer systems to State of California government agencies, the idea of creating a “leisure lifestyle oasis” in wine country was welcoming.  The ensuing, successful business led me to help clients create a beautiful environment for themselves, family + friends.  It also developed into a service that assisted wineries with guest homes for their brand.

Fast forward to today:  As I guide clients in evaluating or marketing beautiful homes and properties, I have come to focus consistently on the aspects of a property that have the ability to not only shelter, but to lift the spirits + support those who call it home as well.  The following six principles are certainly not new, yet they are worthy of focus today when considering the Art of Leisure in a home:

  • Location
  • Light
  • Space
  • Nature
  • Materials
  • Decoration 

To begin, as I recently completed the Earth Day celebration here in Sonoma and Napa Valley, I share with you an expansion on the idea of the importance of nature.  Supporting, conserving, and including the natural world in our lives is a valued topic in the Sonoma and Napa Valley vineyards and home worlds.  One example was my gift of 400+ Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden Seed gifts to the community with the help of over 35 shops and other businesses in Sonoma.  The story was beautifully presented in an article written by Jason Walsh for the Sonoma Index Tribune newspaper.

So, to continue this important conversation about the natural world, it was well said by this noted architect many years ago ~

‘Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.  It will never fail you.’
Frank Lloyd Wright

In the case of a home, the idea is to create an outdoor environment that will enhance and increase the joy of the indoor space as well as the continual feeling of well being.  Today, indoor and outdoor organic environments mesh more than ever.  It begins with the view, and continues with healthy plants, beautiful flowers outside and in, nutritious vegetables for the table, space to relax and experience nature, and simple access to a place where you may wander.  Some version of this is something to look for when purchasing a new home, or to create over some version of this in most any home.

Nature – a few questions to consider when choosing a home and deciding if the property has the connection to nature which you want:

  1. What is the view from the interior and exterior or does it have deep window ledges for plants?
  2. What do you hear at this property?  Is it bees buzzing, leaves rustling or birds?
  3. What is the tree canopy?
  4. What are the natural elements inside the built space?
  5. Is it located within walking or biking distance to destinations you will frequently visit?

These homes contain examples of the appreciation of nature here in Sonoma and Napa Valley.

Homes with a pool in Sonoma

This lovely home is near the town of Sonoma and brings nature inside with the view of vineyards, hills, and an expansion of refreshing blue sky,    You may see this online at 969 Country Club Lane, Sonoma.

Master Bedroom

A bedroom with added decorative color, texture and pattern to bring the organic environment into the space.

Sonoma Leisure

These bright-colored flower and vegetable planters have been known to have a positive effect on the mind and body with their uplifting color and nutrition.

This is an example of bringing a small amount of nature inside.  The few clippings next to the sink plus the painting add a visual reminder of nature to the feel of this kitchen area at the Shoppe Amber Interiors.

Here we see how a few simple pots of herbs added to a bookcase can bring the natural world into most any room.

Homes with Stables in Sonoma Valley

Including nature in the design of your home or property many times involves creating space for your personal passions.  Here we see horse paddocks that offer the owner the ability to have animals and pets nurtured nearby.  You may view this online at 973-977 Country Club Lane, Sonoma.

Land in Sonoma

A grove of older oak trees on the side yard of this property which is next to vineyards.

The Art of Leisure

At this property, the owner has fully opened the barn-style rolling door inviting the oak trees into the room.

Art of Leisure

A well appointed sitting area with an inviting spot to relax near the window of this home on Country Club Lane in Sonoma.

An additional comment on nature is well said by author Leonard Koren in his book on Wabi – Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.

In the context of wabi-sabi “nature” means several things.  It refers to the dimension of physical reality untouched by humans: things in their pure, original state.  In this sense, nature means things of the earth like plants, animals, mountains, rivers, and the forces – sometimes benign, sometimes violent – of wind rain, fire and so onBut nature in the context of wabi-sabi also encompasses the human mind and all of its artificial or “un-natural” thoughts and creations.

The Art of Leisure home looks to take all of these elements into consideration and bring to the person a hopefully completely satisfying experience.

Because this is important, my certification by the National Association of Realtors as a green home consultant has brought me further insight into how I may help clients and friends.   I would be happy to talk with you anytime about your thoughts and any questions which you may have about nature, green materials and a healthy home.


Spring Garden Gift

Butterfly & Hummingbird Spring Garden Gift

Garden gift

It is April 2022 and we are celebrating Spring and Earth Day 2022.  This year, the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, Sonoma Syrup Co. and I are coming together to help the community and the environment during this beautiful time of the year.  We have gathered and created 350+ spring garden gifts composed of thoughtfully curated pollination-encouraging plant seeds packets so that the recipients of this free gift may plant their own gardens to attract Butterflies & Hummingbirds in the warm + sunny days ahead.

Spring Butterflies
Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden Seeds; Bring Beauty to your Home this Spring with a Butterfly & Hummingbird Flower Garden

Let’s Celebrate Spring, Earth Day 2022 and Help our Pollinator Friends!

Sonoma, CA (April 2022) – Gardens are an important part of a home here in Sonoma Valley. Brenda McNeill and friends will help you join in with a gift of seeds to create beauty and abundance around you. These high quality seeds have been specially curated to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Both the butterflies and these very lovely small birds are treasured contributors to our larger ecosystem. Whether in a personal garden or expansive field, they bring inspiring beauty and joy into our lives.

The seed gift packets will be gifted (free) to local residents the week before Earth Day 2022. It is our hope that the community will plant these seeds in their pollinator gardens in a spirit of celebration for Spring and our Mother Earth. Each garden gift will contain a mix of seeds ready for planting which will bloom into beautiful flowers. In addition to the seed packets, a complete list of the flowers will be enclosed, an overall information sheet, and simple planting guidelines.

Pollination plants

Brenda McNeill, Karin Campion and both the Sonoma Nature Club members and Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance mentors + mentees have carefully created these packages for community gifting to be picked up at local businesses. It is our hope that in addition to helping the birds and butterflies, this Spring gift will also support our local Sonoma business community.

Garden gift
We are grateful to the many helping hands that contributed to this garden gift.



Spring in Sonoma
A group of mentors and mentees in April 2022.



Gift for the Garden

Created and donated to the community by Brenda McNeill, luxury real estate and leisure lifestyle specialist + founder of Sonoma Nature Journal Club, with the help of the Sonoma Mentoring Alliance mentors and mentees and the support of specialty food company Sonoma Syrup Co. As local professionals who help clients with homes, gardens, families and food, we hope that you will call upon us if we can assist you in any way. Or, visit us on Instagram: @artofleisuresonomanapa, @sonomasyrupco, @sonomavalleymentoring.

We will provide the gifts to Sonoma businesses by April 15th. The community can stop by one of the local business participants to pick up Butterfly & Hummingbird seed packets from the 15th through the 25th of April. A few are listed below.

Participating businesses include;

Shops: *Summer Vine  *Half Pint  *Prohibition Spirits Distillery  *Sonoma Country Antiques  *Chateau Sonoma   *Refill Madness  *Sign of The Bear  *Wine Country Garden Center  *Tiddle Winks  *Woof  *The Corner Store  *Readers Books  *Nomad Botanicals  *Williams-Sonoma, Sonoma *Scott Nichols Gallery *Potter Green & Co.

Services: *Café Mac  *Edward Jones, L.Stone  *Off Broadway Cleaners  *Vinny’s Shoe Repair  *Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance  *Art of Leisure, B McNeill  *Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau

Dining: *Basque Boulangerie Café’   *Taub Family Outpost  *Café La Haye  *Caddis Wines  *Baker & Cook  *Oak Hill Farm  *Sonoma Syrup Co. *Cline Cellars

Education: *Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau  *Musette Atelier  *Sonoma School of Martial Arts

Lodging: *Bancroft Inn of Sonoma  *MacArthur Place

We are so grateful for all our pollinator helpers, from those who teach, plant + grow the garden, to the butterflies, bees, and birds that we treasure.

Butterfly garden
A Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance mentor and mentee in front of their garden, planted from the Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden Seeds gifted to the community in 2021.



A few flowers from one of the 400+ seed packages that we shared last year with the community.

Please enjoy a short video of the Wine Country Pollinator Garden above that was planted with our flower seeds: Vimeo  •  Youtube


Hummingbird Garden
A lovely caterpillar that will hopefully become a Swallowtail butterfly.



Sonoma Bee Hive
A bee box at Sonoma Garden Park with many pollinator friends who will enjoy these gardens.



hummingbird nest
A nest with a few very young hummingbirds.  The picture was taken from a distance; here you see a close up.




Spring Gatherings and History in Wine Country

It is almost Spring in the Wine Country, so in the spirit of something beautiful and fresh, I visited the flagship location of an iconic store and two homes that have many inspiring spaces.  Sonoma was the site of the first Williams-Sonoma; here is a colorful holiday presentation that they have created this Spring.

Spring Wine Country

This store is lovely both inside and outside.  Located near the end of the El Camino Real, the main boulevard leading to Sonoma Plaza, it remains a hallmark of the city.

Spring in Sonoma Valley

An evening view into the window.

Spring Wine Country

In 1956, Chuck Williams purchased a hardware store at this spot and created a small area in the back for his now-renowned chef-quality cookware offerings.

Easter in the Wine Country

Today, the store is displays an especially beautiful table for the Easter holidays.

Spring in the Wine Country

Easter Wine Country

Wine Country Easter Basket

As someone who has filled many Easter baskets with these sweets, I do know that they are adored by kids of all ages.

Wine Country Spring

In contrast to the sweets, here is a more formal place setting from Summer Vine on Sonoma Plaza.

Sonoma Real Estate

This very personal table setting from Chateau Sonoma speaks of the sea.  Composed of linen napkins, stones, shells, glass and lovely plates on a worn wooden table, this would make an enchanting place setting for gatherings this Spring.

A block away is Sonoma Plaza, with its many shops and a lively duck pond.  Nearby are two properties that embody the leisure life in Sonoma.

Both homes are located on the much coveted east side of Sonoma, and both have the very desirable proximity to Sonoma Plaza. One nestles on land near a winter creek with vineyards nearby.  The other is surrounded by grape vines near to the historic Buena Vista Winery.  Each property offers thoughtful and inviting spaces for enjoying the best of the wine country leisure lifestyle, with easy access to all that Sonoma Valley offers.

Wine Country Homes for Sale

Just inside from the screen porch entrance is a large, open kitchen with very unique appliances in an amazing red color.  The detail on the cupboards and countertops is impressive.  Exceptional hardwood floors and the decor brings this house a comfortable yet elegant feel.

Wine Country Estate

In keeping with the design of the home, this bedroom has time honored linens.

Many parts of this property are reminiscent of another age, yet retain fine quality today, as seen in the guest house kitchen. 

Between the main house and the guest house, this relaxing pool has expansive views of mature trees and vineyards.  Having just enjoyed a spring rain, this property was brought to the market and presented by Holly Bennett at Sothebys International Real Estate in Sonoma.  Full details can be found here.

This welcoming screened porch overlooks the vineyard and basks in an abundance of afternoon light on a property that can trace its roots back to the beginning of the California wine industry.

Whether or not you choose to make your current home as beautiful and comfortable as these, it is my hope that you will have a beautiful Spring in the Wine Country and enjoy the holiday season.  Feel free to contact me anytime if you would like to discuss more ideas or to see properties in this area.

Beautiful Outdoor Art and Paths For Inspiration + Real Estate Data

As we embrace the New Year, this is a wonderful time to pause, eat warming and delicious foods, enjoy the outdoors, and take a closer look at the home that surrounds us.  Both the housing and home improvement markets remained strong in Sonoma and Napa Valley through 2021.  Thus, so that you may remain well informed, please find below the most recent expert real estate data + stats as we look together into the future.

But first, to remind us all of how much fun it is to be outside, here are a few paintings by the artist Alireza Varzandeh that evoke the pleasure of a stroll.


In the Sonoma and Napa Valley we do walk a lot around town, in the parks, neighborhoods, and sidewalks near the shops.

It is the movement and imperfection which these paintings portray that seems so welcome at this time.  Alireza portrays subjects in physical and emotional motion.  With blurred faces, their identities are mysterious, yet each figure’s posture and form suggests a unique personality and history.  Scenes of youth, summer, and vacation come alive on his canvases.

This art can be viewed at Caldwell Snyder Gallery in San Francisco and Saint Helena.  Senior Art Consultant Colleen Mulligan ( 714.906.2819 ) knows this artist very well.  Alireza has a quite inspiring story and history.

Real estate data highlights:

  • Inventory: Recent data shows that in December, California had 27.8% less inventory than in December 2020. Future housing inventory levels will be the key market indicator for sales in 2022.
  • Past price growth has been at its highest level in 45+ years.
  • Homeowner equity continues to surge, an important data point from the recent past. Equity remains a key element for those transitioning out of forbearance.  Core Logic reports a 31.1% year-over-year percentage increase in equity for U.S. homeowners with mortgages.
  • Seven industry experts forecast on average a 5.2% home price increase this year, a deceleration of price increase rates from last year.  Maiclaire Bolton-Smith, Core Logic Senior Leader of Research, predicts that home sales will continue to rise and actually reach a 16 year high in 2022.
  • Buyers continue to enter the market and remain very active.  Data reports show that strong activity in property showings (which precedes offers and sales) have been unseasonably high over the recent holidays.

It is widely recognized that the low interest rates combined with a higher personal appreciation of “home” were significant contributors to the current housing supply.

It is my hope that wherever you may be, you find a few moments to enjoy a bit of fresh air and participate in the pleasurable “Art of Leisure.”   For your convenience in finding a special place to wander, following is a list of favorite areas in wine country with inspiring scenery.


Having moved from the Bay Area to Sonoma Valley almost 30 years ago, I have curated a few favorite “everyday paths” around the Sonoma Valley.  Due to my exploring both the hills and in town, these local outdoor areas range from challenging, to super easy, with opportunities for kids & dogs to run.  I hope that you find something here to capture the beautiful Sonoma Leisure Lifestyle experience.  Please let me know.

A Few Lovely Outdoor Areas

Above City of Sonoma

Anticipating Spring flowers along the path

A place to relax alongside the trailhead at Bartholomew Estate

Sonoma Bike Path, Vallejo’s Home & Field of Dreams:

  • Explore this trilogy of natural wetlands with plant and aquatic life, historic Vallejo’s Home with a turtle pond, and the open space of Field of Dreams, all located walking distance from the Sonoma Plaza.  Wonderful spots for kids of all ages.

Bartholomew Estate Vineyards and Winery:

  • A 3 mile hike within Bartholomew Park, taking in the duck pond, mature trees, views, and flowers. Dogs welcome.

Jack London State Park:

  • Scale the summit with an 8-mile hike over moderate, varied terrain and view historic remains of property.

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park:

  • Hike to the top of Bald Mountain on a 6-mile stretch.  The 1.500 foot elevation change will reward you with a 360-degree view to San Francisco on a clear day.  More moderate hikes starts at visitor’s center.  Not for dogs.

Sonoma Valley Regional Park:

  • Rolling green hills with picnic areas, a dog park, & hiking, biking and horse trails.

Gundlach Bundschu Winery:

  • Lovely hiking area behind the winery.  Dog friendly .

Montini Open Space Preserve:

  • Hike among oak woodlands, grasslands, and rock outcroppings.  Not for dogs.

Wish you much happiness and success in the unfolding year.  Feel free to contact me anytime or let me know if I can help you or a friend.

Water in Sonoma Valley, Carriger Creek, Home and Gardens

As we continue this winter season in which we celebrate the recent rains, I’d like to share with you two properties and some beautiful fountains that all bring to mind the joy of water available to the homes and gardens of wine country.  The first is a lovely residential + commercial location on the southern side of Sonoma Valley with an abundance of artisanal water.  The water flows up from the earth (at a rate of 14± gallons per minute), and is readily available to the home, small orchard, hobby vineyard, and business.

Sonoma Valley

View from above looking west at this Sonoma Valley property, 75 Fremont Drive, Sonoma.

A lovely interior with older wood floors that have such a warm tone to their coloring.

A very inviting entrance to one of the residential areas.

Sonoma Valley Vineyard

A few organic grapevines enjoying the sunshine before harvest.  Feel free to watch this video for more information.

The second property is on the west side of Sonoma Valley, just moments from the center of town, Sonoma Plaza.  This estate is graced with the abundant beauty of Carriger Creek flowing freely along the land.  With its location at the foot of the mountain, it offers sweeping views of Sonoma Valley, vineyards and beyond from most area points on this 33± acres of land.

Sonoma Valley

Expansive view from a potential building site on this land.

Nearby trail to wander at your leisure with full privacy.  You can see a part of the wildflower preserve in the distance.

Sonoma Valley Home

I just love this “personal park” area next to historic Carriger Creek where one can gather with family or friends.  This spot has been enjoyed by young Nature Camp participants over the years.

Journaling at Carriger CreekA moment overlooking the creek in the early afternoon with my journal.

Please enjoy this brief video highlighting the beauty of Carriger Creek and the pleasure of journaling, something that I share with the community, including children, through my Sonoma Nature Journal Club.

Carriger CreekThe beauty of the simple waterway of Carriger Creek.

Here in Sonoma and Napa Valleys, we so deeply appreciate when the water that springs forth from the land via stream, creek, lake or other waterway.  Carriger Creek is an enchanting natural waterway in the Sonoma Creek watershed that meanders through the land on the west side of Sonoma Valley before flowing into Sonoma Creek and out to the ocean.

A simple traditional tea house amidst the trees, with an enormous view of this property.

The Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve, a nature preserve in Sonoma County, is nearby with 163± acres along the foothills of Sonoma Mountain.  The Preserve has a gently sloping grassland and over 250 species of common and rare wildflowers.  This sweeping expanse of protected land can be seen from the property and potentially hiked often.

Father José Altimira had much to say about the vital, historic water sources in this area.

“Sonoma is a fountain of fountains,” wrote Father Altimira in July of 1823, as he explored the North Bay, looking for the best place to build a mission.

The wonderful Sonoma Mission Gardens nursery has unique fountains to choose from so that you may relax amidst the sound and positive energy of flowing water.  To honor our precious natural water sources, here are a few lovely fountains that can be purchased for your garden and home.

Sonoma Valley Gardens

Ripples of water

Fountains in Sonoma Valley

Bubbling forth

Sonoma Garden Home

Drawn into a trough

Sonoma Mission Gardens

Tiered terra cotta

Garden Fountain

The majesty of an arcing stance

A side entrance door to this favored nursery of locals reminds us of all of the character and art of garden rooms.  Here Sonoma Mission Gardens offers many vessels: fountains for your own flowing water in Sonoma or Napa Valley.  It is all about land + gardens + homes, adding so much to our “Art of Leisure” lifestyle with family and friends.

Contact me anytime for further details.

Farms and Ranches in Sonoma & Napa Valley

Farms and Ranches in Sonoma & Napa Valley

It’s late summer in Sonoma & Napa Valleys; the days are warm with spectacular evening sunsets.  It is a wonderful time to be in the wine country!  Here I share a few special farms and ranches to visit at your leisure.

The slower pace of an outdoor activity, like visiting a farm stand, can be very inviting on the weekends.  Crisp, fresh country air, rustic barns filled with flowers and local produce, and the notion of discovering something unique and tasty to bring home are all tenets of the leisure lifestyle.

Farms & Ranches to Visit  

In Sonoma and Napa Valley, a favorite place to visit on the weekend is a local farm or ranch to see something new and get inspired by whatever is fresh and seasonal.  You get a true feel for wine country when you stop in at these rustic farms, and receive a warm welcome as you wander around. Whether you’re up for a quick pitstop, or would rather immerse yourself in a few days of the experience, these are a few of my favorite spots. It’s always worth a drive to discover an abundance of seasonal fruits, vegetables, jams, linens, flowers, and baked goods. The California ranch community has been a part of my lifestyle all of my life: feel free to contact me anytime to chat about life amidst the gardens, land, animals—wild or domestic—and meandering creeks. Wishing you many moments of ease and happiness as you experience the Art of Leisure.

Oakhill Farm and Flatbed Farm

The lovely entrance of Oak Hill Farm; the Red Barn has been hosting these markets for years.

Sonoma Farm Stand

A colorful bouquet of fresh flowers just picked from the nearby garden.  Oak Hill Farm offers a large selection of flowers, vegetables, jams, and much more for the home.

Napa Valley Ranches

Red onions and lemon cucumbers harvested from the land.

Farms in Sonoma

A few tomatoes; these may be heirloom varieties.

Napa Valley Farm Stand

The Entrance to Flatbed Farm just off Highway 12 in Sonoma Valley.

Sonoma Garden

A few of the gardens at Flatbed Farm.

Sonoma Valley Farm Stand

Dried grasses.

Napa Farm Stand

Very special offerings from the kitchen.

Farm Stands in Sonoma and Napa

Colored candles for the home.

Sonoma Ranch

Flatbed Farm has an expansive collection of both dried and fresh flowers.  They also serve coffee most Saturday mornings with freshly baked offerings from a Sausalito baker.

Rows of fresh blackberries bushes growing in the summer sun, just waiting for someone to pick them.

Sonoma Berry Farm

These will be perfect for a homemade cobbler.  Sonoma Garden Park market and grounds offer fresh produce, take a stroll and visit the chickens or view the active bee hives on the property.

Sunflowers in Sonoma

Sunflowers growing on the east side of Sonoma at Sonoma Garden Park, at which the Sonoma Nature Journal Club maintains a small plot.

Wishing you much joy and happiness as you visit these farms and ranches.