Glen Ellen In the Spotlight

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Home / Glen Ellen In the Spotlight

Town of Glen Ellen

In the rustic village of Glen Ellen, made famous by dashing author Jack London who built his dream home here, a pastoral quality still permeates the town and its surrounding vineyards and farms. Interwoven in and among the historic landmarks are a surprising number of fine restaurants and appealing cafes, most with a view to the creek or a lovely outdoor setting, where you’ll often spot sports figures, novelists or film industry icons that make this their home-away-from-home.

A glimpse into the area’s storied past can be found at the Jack London State Historic Park, where you can experience the same scenes that inspired London to write about his beloved Valley of the Moon, and follow the winding trails to the original stone walls of his Wolf House and vistas of the Beauty Ranch.

In the 1870's, Joshua Chauvet planted grapes in Glen Ellen and that vineyard still yields some of the finest zinfandel wines in Sonoma. Entwined with its history are the newest sustainable techniques in wine, spearheaded by the Benziger and Coturri families. The biodynamic methods are showcased at the Benziger property, just uphill from the town, and at their Imagery winery. The wines have been named among the great biodynamic wines by Food and Wine magazine and scored a 92 by the Wine Spectator.

The Mediterranean climate of the area has been celebrated in best sellers like “The Sonoma Diet,” and in books by M.F.K. Fisher, who was acknowledged as the greatest writer on food and culture in America. Fisher chose Glen Ellen as her final home, living on the Bouverie Ranch. At the turn of the century, the golden warm days brought sun seekers escaping the fog-bound Bay Area who “took the waters” at Morton’s Warm Springs, and today families are still diving and splashing at Morton’s spring-fed pools.

The natural bounty of produce and wine has captivated innovators in wine country cuisine like Sondra Bernstein, who began her foodie empire in Glen Ellen—which now includes the girl & the fig restaurant in Sonoma and the fig café and winebar in Glen Ellen, a friendly dinner spot that is a favorite with locals and visitors for its fresh ingredients and no-corkage policy.

Local produce is plentiful, with old-fashioned farm stands bursting with artisanal produce like ripe, red strawberries and seasonal vegetables. At the Red Barn Store, set in a rustic 100-year-old dairy barn at Oak Hill Farm, you can find herbs, salad greens, heirloom vegetables and field-grown fruits and flowers that are sustainably grown and picked daily. Oak Hill also has a year-round store in San Francisco’s Ferry Building.

Glen Ellen is intersected by the picturesque routes of Arnold Drive and Highway 12, both sprinkled liberally with legendary wineries and new, boutique tasting rooms. B.R. Cohn, owned by Doobie Bros. manager, Bruce Cohn offers awesome wines, smooth olive oils, a celebrity charity golf classic, and an annual music festival where you’ll see stars as diverse as Willie Nelson and Taj Mahal up close. Nearby, the cellars of Arrowood Winery offer exceptional wines, highly rated by Robert Parker, including rich Cabernets from the famed Monte Rosso vineyard, elegant Chardonnays, sensuous Syrahs and summery Rose wines.

For a chance to sample small-production wines that don’t make it outside of California, be adventurous. You can blend your own wine at Mayo or test your palate for pairing wine and food at the beautifully designed Audelssa, and amble down the road to Eric Ross, a boutique producer whose wines are achieving near-cult status.

A picnic is the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon in wine country. In the middle of town is the Glen Ellen Market, a treasure trove of locally grown fare, plus a mouth-watering selection of freshly prepared foods to go. Just down the lane is Jack London Village, a charming assortment of shops and restaurants housed in an old mill. Opt for a scrumptious alfresco meal from Olive & Vine on one of the terraces that overlook the Sonoma Creek and its soothing waters. Inside the enclave is renowned cheesemonger, Raymond, and at Wine Country Chocolates you can indulge in your own personal chocolate tasting, an indulgent finale to a fun-filled day.

As the setting sun turns the sky into a Remington canvas, you may look across the valley and echo Jack London’s thoughts:

"The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with autumn flame. Across Sonoma Mountain wisps of sea fog are stealing. The afternoon sun smolders in the drowsy sky. I have everything to make me glad I am alive. I am filled with dreams and mysteries. I am all sun and air and sparkle. I am vitalized, organic."

Things To Do

In one corner of the tranquil region of Sonoma, the roar of engines and squealing of tires signals that you’ve found Infineon Raceway, scene of record-breaking auto and motorcycle races, and arguably the world’s busiest racing facility with 340 days a year of events.

Legends such as Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Dan Gurney, Shirley Muldowney, Dale Earnhardt and newest racetrack star, Danica Patrick, first woman to win the IRL IndyCar event, have brought fans some of the greatest moments in racing at Infineon.

The speed is infectious so Infineon lets you get behind the wheel in a sprint kart that goes from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. We tried it recently and are hooked! You can also take your own car or motorcycle on the track and compete in the Wednesday Night Drags alongside Corvettes and Minivans and everything in-between.

Scheduled events include: SCCA road races, AMA and AFM motorcycle racing, exotic IMSA sports car event and vintage racing cars or the raw power of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and the NHRA POWERade drag races. Start your engines!



Whether you’re staying in the Sonoma Valley or the Napa Valley, this experience is easily accessible from either area. You can choose to just take a balloon flight, but we recommend combining it with a cruise down the Napa River later in the day for a truly romantic day in Wine Country.

It utterly magical to float above the vineyards and enjoy the spectacular views of the legendary wineries that can only be seen from the air and the trip includes refreshments and a champagne reception and breakfast.

In the evening there’s a leisurely two-hour cruise on the Napa River. You’ll learn about the history of the town and see the plentiful wildlife along the Napa River and newly restored wetlands. (Before you board, visit the new Oxbow Market and get a fabulous picnic and bottle of wine to bring on the voyage). There are many variations of the trips available, or you can customize your own adventure.
Napa River Adventures

Culinary Arts

Seasonal classes, year-round

It's impossible to visit Sonoma and not fall in love with the amazing locally grown foods and bounty from the land and nearby sea. Chefs in Sonoma Valley have a cornucopia of choices each season of the year and can invent dishes made with some of the best ingredients in the world. Don’t let them have all the fun; you can learn great techniques and recipes that will make you a master of Wine Country cuisine too!

Ramekins Culinary School, celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2008, has a mouth-watering array of cooking classes and Chef’s demonstration dinners, with chefs like Michael Chiarello, Thomas Keller and Traci des Jardins. From outdoor grilling in a wood-fired brick oven to creating exquisite desserts, Ramekins’ crew of chefs and consultants give you the tips that make the difference between ordinary and sensational.

One of the our favorite pastimes (for obvious reasons!), the Ramekins classes are not only fun – and delicious – they are designed to give you the foundation of a healthy lifestyle where sustainably grown ingredients can be easily integrated into your daily routine.

450 West Spain Street, Sonoma

Local Wineries

Hanzell has been called “One of the most influential producers in California’s winemaking history” by the New York Times. Well-known to afficionados, their persona is as subtle as their wines. This is the winery our guests tell us is one of their favorite wine discoveries in Sonoma.

Founded in 1948 by Ambassador James D. Zellerbach, Hanzell is dedicated to the traditions of Grand Cru Burgundy and the vineyard was planted to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay of extraordinary quality and great longevity. The Pinot Noir planted in 1953 is now the oldest Pinot Noir vineyard in America.

Alexander de Brye, whose family has owned the estate for over 30 years, takes a thoughtful approach to farming the land, attentive to the nuances of every acre of grapes. This vision was carried out by Bob Sessions, highly regarded in the industry for his enduring support of Hanzell’s winemaking philosophy, who was winemaker and president until 2005 when current winemaker Michael Terrien joined the winery to continue the non-compromising methods that ensure the traditions are honored into the future.

A unique experience at Hanzell that we want you to know about is not publicized; it’s a Sherpa trek. Hanzell has close connections with members of the Sherpa community who take groups of 8 to 20 people on a trek up 400 vertical feet through the Sessions Vineyard to the summit at the top of the de Brye Family Vineyard.

This marvelous, one-of-a-kind adventure is an opportunity to learn about the influence of terrior on the wines and gain insight into the culture of Nepal. Ngima Sherpa and Gen Sherpa will guide you and Ben Sessions, Estate Educator, provides a fascinating narrative that weaves these elements together. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be served a toast of Hanzell Chardonnay under brilliant Nepalese prayer flags and a picnic luncheon at the winery can be included.

We have forged a special friendship with Hanzell and look forward to introducing you to these remarkable people and their exceptional wines.

18596 Lomita Avenue, Sonoma

Dining Out

Dine under the stars or choose an intimate spot indoors; the fare is country food with a French passion, dished up in fresh and inventive creations by Chef John Toulze under the guidance of owner Sondra Bernstein. You’ll rub elbows with a stylish crowd in the bar that is a blend of friendly locals and in-the-know visitors. We like to order appetizers and pair them with wines at the bar – a gorgeous carved antique structure. Fred and Mark, the bartenders, are one part mixologist, one part culinary expert, and one part insider tour guide.

Sondra Bernstein, owner and founder of the “fig,” explains her vision. “The restaurant’s focus has always been inspired by local bounty and the incredible artistry of neighboring farmers, foragers, fishermen, producers, cheese makers and vintners.”

The culinary magic relies on these ever-changing fresh ingredients and has won the restaurant kudos for their innovative approach to the cuisine. Equally distinctive is the wine list; know as “Rhone alone,” which showcases the Rhone-style wines that pair so well with their French-accented dishes. Both California and French wines are featured and a journey down this wine path leads to delicious new discoveries.

It’s heavenly to sit outside on their spacious garden patio for lunch or dinner. There’s a bistro atmosphere and muted conversations and laughter drift back and forth while you relax and dine contentedly on the French comfort food.

On the brasserie side, the bartenders create specialty drinks and serve wine flights with cheese pairings – or you can eat your entire meal at the bar like many of us do. One of our favorite bartenders, Mark, won “Best Bartender in Sonoma” for his skills with the glass and his knack for clever conversation. Friendly banter and exchange is the motif here and you’ll feel like a local by the time you leave.

110 West Spain Street, Sonoma