The Gorgeous Gardens of Wine Country

   Sometimes you have to look closely; sometimes they seem to appear out of nowhere.

      All over California’s North Coast wine country… hugging the rows of grapevines… lining walkways to winery tasting rooms… surrounding a freshly painted wooden porch… you’ll see them.

      Splashes of color dotting an otherwise brown and green sea of


      They are the gardens of wine country, and whether large or small,

they delight the eyes in much the same way a glass of wine delights the

nose and tastebuds.

      Virtually every winery has a garden of some sort, but a few take

their gardens seemingly as seriously as their vineyards. Among our

favorites are the antique rose gardens at Korbel and the classic,

formal gardens at Ferrari-Carano, both in Sonoma County.

      More than 250 varieties of antique roses are on display in the

Antique Rose Gardens on the Korbel estate. The gardens were planted

during the 1880s for the Korbel family’s summer home, but they did not

come into their own until a century later.

      That’s when master horticulturist Phillip Robinson transformed the

grounds into a magnificent array of colors, textures and aromas that

evolve with the seasons. Complementing Robinson’s work are a number of

trees, roses and other flowers that were planted by the Korbel brothers

and their wives – including a Linden tree, which served as a reminder

of their native Bohemia (now western Czechoslovakia).

      All told, today’s garden areas feature more than a thousand

varieties of plants and flowers, bulbs, perennials and annuals. Unique

topography within the gardens creates microclimates that are identical

to exotic areas of the world.

      At Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, what began in 1987 as a

labor of love for gardening enthusiast Rhonda Carano has grown into a

breathtaking series of gardens covering five acres.

      It took Carano 16 months to plan and plant the original garden.

Since then, she has been joined by gardener Pat Patin in expanding the

project and making Ferrari-Carano a must-stop for wine lovers and

garden lovers alike.

      The gardens surrounding the visitor center, known as Villa Fiore,

are Italian/French parterre in style, with classic, geometric shapes.

The enclosed garden at the front of the winery offers a more park-like

setting with a mixture of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.

      In the spring, 10,000 tulips and daffodils take center-stage.

Tulip fans may call 707-433-5349 during the late winter and early

spring weeks for updates on when the tulips will be in full bloom.

      Visitors can leisurely stroll the meandering garden path and foot

bridges along a rippling stream which has waterfalls at both ends.

There are more than 2,000 species of trees and shrubs, all marked with

identification tags to lend an educational aspect. Among the trees are

a number of Portuguese Cork Bark Oaks – true rarities outside their

native land.

      Adding to the ambience of the gardens are several bronze

sculptures fashioned by such world-renowned artists as Dennis Smith,

Douglas Van Howd and Jane DeDecker.

    Two other recommended stops for gardeners and garden lovers are the

Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen, and the Cornerstone Festival of

Gardens in Sonoma.

      The latter is not a winery; rather, as its name implies, it’s an

ever-changing series of walk-through gardens that showcase new and

innovative designs from the world’s top landscape artists and

designers. It was inspired by the International Garden Festival at

Chaumont-sur-Loire in France, and it’s a great place to visit if you’re

planning to add or revamp a home garden.

      Benziger’s gardens are more about function than form, as they make

an important contribution to the biodynamic vineyard operations.

They’re habitat-rich so they attract birds and insects that feast on

the vineyard pests.

      The fact that the plants also are attractive, adding to the

overall ambience of the winery, is just a bonus.


Korbel Estate


Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery


Benziger Family Winery


Cornerstone Festival of Gardens


Posted in Our Wine Travel Log
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