Magazine article Sunset

Glen Ellen, CA: With Fresh Spots to Wine, Dine, and Relax, This Sonoma Valley Hamlet Reclaims Its Status as the Great Bay Area Escape

Magazine article Sunset

Glen Ellen, CA: With Fresh Spots to Wine, Dine, and Relax, This Sonoma Valley Hamlet Reclaims Its Status as the Great Bay Area Escape

Article excerpt

A new-look hotel In the early1900s, Glen Ellen was a prime getaway for San Franciscans wanting to unwind from city life. Today, the Olea Hotel carries on the tradition, luring overworked urbanites with its mix of rural tranquility and modern luxury. "We took it down to the studs," says owner Ashish Patel of the 2012 makeover that transformed the old-style B&B into a boutique hideaway. Curl up in a hillside room or private garden cottage, or make conversation around the firepit and flagstone patio, shaded by centuries-old oaks. Come morning, executive chef Khambay Porterkhamsy unveils artfully plated eggs and seasonal fruit, paired with house granola and homemade chai. From $225; oleahotel.com.

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Where foreign beauties blossom Find flora beyond the grapevine at Quarryhili Botanical Garden, a 25-acre sanctuary for exotic and endangered plants from Asia. Wonders include Himalayan crabapple, flowering dogwood from China's Sichuan province, and an impressive collection of magnolias, maples, and roses. Executive director Bill McNamara has braved treacherous rivers and bloodsucking leeches on seed gathering expeditions. Appreciate his efforts along paths leading to lily ponds, picnic spots, and redwood sculptures by artist Bruce Johnson. $10; 12841 Sonoma Hwy./State 12; quarryhillt.org.

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Reds and whites go green

Winemakers in Glen Ellen don't just embrace eco-friendly practices; they bear-hug them. "Instead of pesticides, we might use a bird or a butterfly or a beetle," explains Mike Benziger, general manager at Benziger Family Winery, home to certified biodynamic vineyards and an insectary garden buzzing with life. Beehives and owl boxes also dot the property at Lasseter Family Winery, where Pixar animation legend John Lasseter and his wife, Nancy, create balanced Old World-style blends using100 percent organic farming practices. The couple's commitment to sustainability is serious, but their new tasting lounge (a shiny fermentation tank outfitted with shag carpet and lava lamps) is all Toy Story-style playfulness. Ben-ziger: Tastingfrom $15; benziger. corn. Lasseter: By appointment; lasseterfamilywinery.com.

Wheel of good fortune With popular restaurants in San Francisco and Hollywood, chef Adolfo Veronese and his brother Gian-Paolo were seeking a perfect third location for their Aventine brand. …

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