Wine Roots

Beltane Ranch’s yellow Victorian, perched above Highway 12 between Glen Ellen and Kenwood, is not only a valley landmark but a former turn-of-the-century working ranch and family home. Today it’s a popular B&B and home base for Beltane Ranch Vineyards estate-grown wine. While the ranch has been known for its grass-fed beef, olive oil and fruit, grapes have been grown here too for over a century. “Some of the soils of the ranch were planted as early as the 1870s by pioneer viticulturalist John H. Drummond, and then our family planted again in the 1970s,” says Lauren Benward, who launched this newest wine venture along with her brother Alex (both are grandchildren of longtime ranch proprietor Rosemary Wood). “After years of dreaming, in 2007 we decided to reserve seven tons of our sauvignon blanc fruit for our first 100 percent estate-grown private-label wine and it was harvested September 9, 2009.” Bottles can be purchased at

Grape Doings: Events North & South

North: Sonoma, July 4, Charity Car Classic. This Independence Day Bruce Cohn, proprietor of the B. R. Cohn Winery of Sonoma Valley and classic car collector, is hosting the second annual B. R. Cohn Winery Charity Car Classic at the winery. While the exhibit is free, the event is a fundraiser for the Salvation Army.

South: Half Moon Bay, July 17, Passport Day. This quarterly event features exclusive wine and barrel tastings at numerous wineries, some otherwise not open to the public. Participating restaurants offer perks such as waived corkage on Santa Cruz Mountains wines, 10 percent off dinner and more.

Class Action

In a one-day seminar July 18 at Stonestreet Winery’s Summit School in Healdsburg, Gilian Handelman, former director of marketing and education for Wine & Spirits magazine, will conduct a blind tasting and discussion of old and new world wines. You’ll learn about differences between the chardonnays and cabernets from the Burgundy and Bordeaux regions and those from locales like California, Australia, Washington and Chile. $25, 

Sign up for a day of cooking, imbibing and eating with executive chef Austin Gallion at Napa’s Vineyard 29. The day commences with handmade charcuterie and cheese paired with Vineyard 29’s 2007 Cru Cabernet Sauvignon. Gallion’s only rule is “a glass of wine in one hand and a knife in the other.” After some chopping, seasoning, sipping and swirling, he’ll lead guests on an in-depth behind-the-scenes tour of the estate. Returning to the kitchen, guests will finish preparing their meal, which they’ll enjoy in Vineyard 29’s Wine Library surrounded by the winery’s bottled heritage. $500 per person,  

Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.