The Kenwood Press
Business Beat: 09/15/2020

Business Beat -- Sept. 15, 2020



The Mill at Glen Ellen opens for al fresco dining

It has been quite some time since the waterwheel at Jack London Village has spun, but that is about to change. The Mill at Glen Ellen opened quietly in late August for casual creek-side dining and take out. Locals starving for a new food scene trickled in for the soft opening featuring modern California cuisine. A new bartender is plotting the wine and beverage menu that will be up and running soon. It is evident that a huge amount of effort went into this restaurant, which couldn’t have been easy during a virulent pandemic.“We are very serious about cleanliness,” said owner Sanjeev K. Singh who started the restaurant with his wife, Chef Dana Jaffe. Evidence of that could be seen in the modern kitchen where CDC-approved sanitizer dispensers are installed, and in the front of house with multiple hand sanitizing stations for guests and employees.

Singh and Jaffe took possession of the spot, most recently occupied by Aventine, in February of 2019. Extensive renovation work has been ongoing ever since. Highlights include a new kitchen floor and equipment, an ADA compliant bathroom, and a full refurbishment of the ever-popular waterwheel of the old gristmill (it will only run on special occasions).

Remarkably, Singh and his brigade performed almost all of the renovations to the restaurant themselves. All new LED lighting, thoughtful placement of USB chargers all over the spacious outdoor patio, and a new pizza oven are just a few of the upgrades.

Chef Jaffe has 33 years experience in the kitchen, most recently with the Sonoma Golf Club and Saddles Steakhouse. She skillfully executes the menu with an eye toward consistency. The in-house brewing operation provides craft beer that pairs well with pizza from the new state-of-the-art oven.

The menu items are meant to be few in number and high in quality with large portions. “We are focused on the guest experience,” said Singh who has over 20 years in the restaurant business, mostly in the back of the house, although you wouldn’t know it by his enthusiastic and personable demeanor. The menu will change seasonally. The inaugural menu features artful pizzas, steak house favorites and creative vegetarian options.

The outdoor patio dining space with distanced seating is a great place to enjoy an al fresco lunch or dinner. Singh and his crew improved the experience by clearing a huge swath of overgrown invasive brush, revealing a full view of wending Sonoma creek. The Mill at Glen Ellen is located at 14301 Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen. The restaurant is open 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day except Mondays for casual patio dining or take out. You can order food to go in person and stroll the grounds of Jack London Village while enjoying the outdoor sculptures and historical sites. Visit www.themillatglenellen.com or call 707-721-1818 to order food to go.

– Paul Goguen

Wildwood Farm Nursery closes

Wildwood Farm Nursery, an iconic Kenwood business for 45 years, has closed its doors.
Ricardo and Sara Monte
Ricardo and Sara Monte in 2010 at their Wildwood Farm Nursery in Kenwood.
The property, located at 10300 Sonoma Hwy., was sold in August. It is not known what the new owners have in mind for the land, located adjacent to the Kenwood Inn & Spa, but it will no longer be a nursery.

Ricardo and Sara Monte found the nursery on Sonoma Highway over four decades ago. The property had once been gardens laid out by John McClaren, best known for his design of Golden Gate Park. The property was the site of the Wildwood Dairy until the mid 1950s, and also the location of the old Wildwood train stop.

Ricardo, who passed away in 2018, and Sara grew the business, gaining national recognition for their wide collection of close to 300 different Japanese maples. The nursery also had a number of other species of trees and shrubs, including dogwoods, dwarf ginkgos, and dwarf conifers.

Over time, the Montes incorporated a contemporary art component, with pieces from local and nationally known artists. This attracted many to Wildwood Farm to enjoy the peaceful and serene mix art and nature.

Wildwood Farm was also the site of many garden parties, Earth Day celebrations, and numerous classes for locals to learn about the ins and outs of growing maples, dogwoods, and other species.

The Monte’s son Joe was an important part of Wildwood, as well as Jon Forney, the recent manager at Wildwood.

Joe has been writing a Wildwood World blog for a number of years. In an August post, he summed up the legacy of Wildwood on the gardening community and beyond.

“Nature can be beautiful and generous. At its height, Wildwood Nursery reached gardeners from coast to coast. Plants from Wildwood are growing in gardens across the United States. They’re bringing smiles to lots of faces… It’s hard to sum up 45 years in business. If you have a plant from Wildwood (or even a plant), keep the spirit alive. It’s as much about life as it is about plants.”

Abbot’s Passage opens

Abbot’s Passage Winery & Mercantile has recently opened its doors for appointments at the historic winery site located at 777 Madrone Road in Glen Ellen.
Abbots Passage
Wine and cheese await you at Abbot’s Passage in Glen Ellen.
The property was purchased earlier this year by Bundschu Company, the parent company of Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma. Formerly the site of the Valley of the Moon Winery, Abbot’s Passage is the vision of sixth generation vintner Katie Bundschu, who has been overseeing remodeling of the facilities, including expanded tasting experiences and a retail component.

The Abbot’s Passage brand was first created by Bundschu in 2015, and had a retail presence in Sonoma for two years.

“We always knew we wanted a more permanent location,” said Bundschu, who remembers falling in love with the 60-acre Glen Ellen property as she grew up in Sonoma Valley.

“This checked all the boxes,” said Bundschu about the locale, which has 40 acres of vineyard, winemaking facilities, barrel room, indoor and outdoor tasting areas, custom crush facility, and more.

Bundschu is the winemaker, along with assistance from Gundlach Bundschu Winery winemaker Joe Uhr.

Pouring at Abbot’s Passage at the moment are field blend wines such as Sightline 2018 (Chenin Blanc and Verdejo), Redshift 2019 (Grenache and Cabernet Franc), Tripoint 2018 (Viognier and Syrah), and Points Unknown 2014 (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre).

Visitors (by appointment) can enjoy these wines in an outdoor olive grove, along with a grazing board of local cheeses, and house-made dips served with fresh breadsticks and seasonal accoutrements.

Abbot’s Passage just hired an in-house chef, Kara Caputo, who comes with lots of experience, including many years as a pastry chef, private chef, and working at well-known restaurants in San Francisco, such as Le Colonial, Stars, and Flying Saucer.

There is a wide variety of locally produced merchandise for sale, focusing on women-run businesses and sustainable products. Items include ceramics, jewelry, outdoor clothes, and much more. Bundschu said that 70 percent of the products are made in Northern California.

While COVID-19 has limited the visitor operations, Abbot’s Passage is planning big things as time goes on. This includes an additional outdoor tasting space in the vineyards, shuffleboard, coffee/espresso bar, special events and weddings, exclusive tasting space for club members, and the AP Pantry where people can buy a variety of local foods.

“We pride ourselves on creating unique experiences for customers in this part of the valley,” said Bundschu.

Sometime in 2021, Abbot’s Passage will hold a grand opening celebration when large events are allowed.

In the meantime, the winery is hosting “Glen Ellen Gathers” every Monday from 12-6 p.m. for the summer, with small food offerings and wine flights in the outdoor olive grove. Glen Ellen locals will enjoy specials on wine by the glass and bottle purchases on Mondays with proof of Glen Ellen residency or a business card of your Glen Ellen business.

To contact Abbot’s Passage, call 939-3017, email info@abbotspassage.com, or go to www.abbotspassage.com.

Beresini Winery opens new tasting room in old wine barrel

Debra Beresini just opened a new wine tasting outpost in the old 700-square-foot wine barrel space across the street from Jack London Village. Debra and her co-owner and winemaker husband Steve have grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Carneros at their Black Dog Ranch since 1988. They sell their Chardonnay fruit to Tor Vineyards, and bottle their Pinot Noir under their own label.

Steve Beresini’s pedigree includes time at Joseph Phelps and as head winemaker at Niebaum Coppola.

The new spot is their first direct-to-consumer tasting room. They heard from their friend Eric Luse, who owns Eric Ross winery next door, that the space was available. It may seem a little crazy to open a new business during the current pandemic, Beresini agrees, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to set up shop in this perfect space with room for tastings outdoors. She’s spruced up the front patio and garden to host vertical tastings of Beresini Estate Pinot Noir.

Currently on the menu are the 2014, 2016, and 2017 vintages, which with a little advance notice can be enjoyed in the tasting room’s COVID-compliant front patio with a charcuterie or vegan board prepared by Aeden Sutherlin of the Glen Ellen Market. Future plans include an expanded food menu and a retail and gallery space featuring local artists.

Tastings, available by appointment 11 a.m.-4 p.m., can be made by phone or text at 415-531-5003. Information about Beresini Vineyards is available at beresinivineyards.com.

Test Kitchen at TIPS

TIPS Roadside in Kenwood will be hosting TIPS Test Kitchen on Sept. 29, 6 p.m., a four-course dining experience with optional wine pairing. This is an exclusive evening featuring the culinary talents of chef Tony Calderon and his team. Special guests will be Squire and Suzy Fridell of Glen Lyon Vineyards & Winery, who will describe each wine pairing.

Seating is limited and will be held outdoors on the patio and courtyard. Tables are six feet apart and can seat parties of two, four, or six guests. Cost is $45 per person.

To make a reservation, call 509-0078, or purchase tickets at www.tipsroadside.com. TIPS is located at 8445 Sonoma Hwy.

Loxton offers crushpad tours

Loxton Cellars in Glen Ellen is open daily by appointment, and there is now an opportunity to take the winery’s special Crushpad Tour through the end of October.

This tour provides a front row seat to harvest by allowing guests to watch as grapes are being sorted and crushed, see and smell fermentation, and ask questions about production. Following the tour will be a seating in the winery’s picnic area for a tasting of current releases.

Crushpad Tours are offered daily at 10:30 a.m. and are limited to four guests a day. Cost is $20 per person, and reservations are required. Call 935-7221, or sign up online at www.loxtonwines.com. Loxton is located at 11466 Dunbar Road in Glen Ellen. For more information, email winery@loxtonwines.com.

Wine sales management classes begin soon

You can now enroll in the Wine Sales Management Certificate Program being offered by Sonoma State University’s School of Business and Economics.

Classes start Oct. 6, featuring a number of topics, including supply chain management, sales tools and analytics, legal and compliance issues, distribution management, and more. This online eight-week course will give students a solid foundation in the current reality of the route-to-market. Webinars will take place Tuesday evenings, 5:30 p.m., Oct. 6-Dec. 1.

To find out more, go to sbe.sonoma.edu/wine-sales.