By Virginie Boone
This holiday season, don’t give all your money to Amazon. Consider buying a gift made locally in Sonoma County by local farms, orchards, ranches and artisans. Whether it’s locally inspired spirits, cheese curds or bacon, we are swimming in options that enrich our community and taste good too.
Vintner Katie Bundschu’s outpost in Glen Ellen has wine chillers, tumblers and the like, as well as some locally potted cheese plates from Farm Shop Practice (see below).
From their distillery in Healdsburg, Krystle and Jason Jorgensen source such lovely local ingredients as Candy Cap mushrooms (from the Sonoma Coast), peaches and Viognier to make their spirits, from rye and whisky to bitters, fruit brandies and liqueurs.
The historic inn and farm in Glen Ellen grows wine grapes, and makes wine, but also offers an estate olive oil, olive oil soap, pastured farm eggs and artisanal cheese board pantry kit, in addition to wildflower honey from its own hives. Wally, the IG-famous bottle-fed Babydoll sheep who lives on site, is the inspiration behind some great hats and wool blankets, too.
Chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart make an incredible local pig-sourced selection of exquisite bacons, bacon toffee lollipops, bacon caramel popcorn and even corn bread mix, in addition to lip balms, bath and body soaps called Lard Lather. Best of all might be the Swine Sweets chicharron peanut butter cups, but it’s all amazingly good.
From a hidden warehouse distillery behind the car dealerships in Santa Rosa, Scott Woodson and Gail Coppinger make American single malt whiskey, botanical gin and vodka, inviting people in to taste and buy Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Finding inspiration in Marin and Sonoma counties’ diverse places, their 90-proof Fir Top Gin is a stand-out, citrus-driven, brisk and a welcome addition to your (or a loved one’s) bar.
Kitt Barkley Gauthier makes one-of-a-kind pottery items from her studio, situated on a former pear farm near the town of Sonoma.
Artisan bonbons, tablets and even a life-sized chocolate wine bottle are made on site in Windsor by multi-award-winning “Food Network”-star Chef Robert “Buttercup” Nieto, who before opening his own business worked as the pastry chef at Jackson Family Wines for many years. It was at Jackson that he started a chocolate bonbon and wine tasting program. Nieto continues to work widely with wineries across Sonoma County to create similar pairings.
Made in Petaluma by owner Phaedra Achor, these are botanical elixirs, bitters, infusions and syrups ideal for cocktails and mocktails.
Brooke Hazen farms 88 acres of olives in the hills near Bloomfield and mills the olives on site to make a range of estate olive oils and olive-related products, in addition to growing heirloom apples, pears and citrus that go into such products as Lavender Lemonade and Mandarin-Kumquat shrubs. Reserve tastings and farm experiences are also possible, a great way to learn about the differences between extra-virgin and olio nuovo.
Vintner Pete Seghesio’s Salumeria and Butcher Shop in Healdsburg takes inspiration from his Italian roots, but even more from his multigenerational heritage in Sonoma County. Salumi and snacks are always good to have on hand, but for the holidays, consider a Happy Hour Gift Box or Best of Sonoma Sampler.
Present someone with a locally made pie this season, sourced from orchards across Sonoma County. As their tagline says, “Real fruit. Real flour. Real butter. Real good.”
Lala’s makes a nice selection of award-winning fruit jams, jellies and butters, but for the holidays, the Sonoma Love Box says it all, bringing together jams as well as the famous Big Bottom Market Biscuit Mix, Petaluma Toffee Co. toffee and other local goodies. They’ll ship anywhere in the U.S. but hurry – today’s the deadline to make it by Christmas.
Ordinarily, this would be the place to stock up on exceptional duck meat, wings and sausages, among other holiday gifts and ingredients, but as many may have read, hard times have hit this Petaluma farm, founded in 1992 by fourth-generation duck farmer Jim Reichardt. A favorite of Michelin-starred restaurant chefs near and far, Liberty is suffering from an avian flu outbreak and could use some help. A Go Fund Me has been set up and is close to reaching its $175,000 goal. Consider giving a gift of financial support to this important Sonoma County family farm.
This farm in Sebastopol grows a variety of apples, making apple cider vinegar, apple cider caramels, cider vinegar shrubs, dried apple treats, cookies, granola and more. Their products have won many Good Food Awards.
Founder Jamie Mickelson raises grass-fed, grain-finished beef, inspired to start her own business by her childhood years in 4-H and Ag Business Masters’ degree from Cal Poly. Many of her products are featured at local eateries and markets; you can also order direct from her website.
From Petaluma, owner Wind McAlister makes a range of spice mixes and rubs as well as some wintertime spicy hot chocolate and other warm drinking spices.
Mother-son team Karen Bianchi-Moreda and Joe Moreda Jr. make Italian-style artisan cheeses from Jersey cows’ milk, the cows given plenty of room to graze on certified-organic pasture land. They represent the 4th and 5th generations of dairy farmers in their family. A storefront exists in Valley Ford, with restaurant serving coffee in the morning and lunch in the afternoon. They are best known for their Estero Gold Reserve.
Chef Jeff and Susan Mall’s locally based chocolate company works from a production facility in Windsor. While they can’t source cacao in Sonoma County, they do partner with local dairy, coffee and other Sonoma County-based businesses for many of the ingredients that go into their chocolate bars, such as Gold Ridge Organic Farms for their Meyer Lemon + Extra Virgin Olive Oil Deep Dark Chocolate bar.
Based out of The Barlow in Sebastopol, this is a partnership between winemaker Rob Hunter and cheesemaker Keith Adams who take inspiration from British cheeses, making a Stilton-inspired Bodega Blue and cloth-bound aged Cheddar. Even more fun for the holidays might be the Willie’s Fresh Cheese Curds, inspired by Keith’s time making cheese in Minnesota.
Photo by: Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery