Business Beat for May 15, 2019
Resort property up for sale
Land slated for the future Sonoma Country Inn, plus its surrounding properties, all 186 acres on Sonoma Highway, across from Lawndale Road is apparently for sale. Owned by Tohigh Investments, a subsidiary of the China-based global conglomerate Oceanwide Holdings, the undeveloped property sits in the shadow of Hood Mountain on land once known as the Graywood Ranch. The one developed property in the immediate area, not owned by Tohigh Investments, is also up for sale. That 31-acre parcel is owned by Charlyn Belluzzo, and is home to Belos Cavalos, currently a therapeutic equestrian center with two private airstrips.
The realtor for the Belos Cavalos property (listed for $6.5 million), Santa Rosa-based Doug Swanson of Sotheby’s International, said that he has personally helped show representatives from about 15 different hotel and resort organizations the Tohigh properties as well as his own listing in the last few months.
“Some really big names,” said Swanson.
Attempts to reach the advisers representing Tohigh in any potential sale, who work in the San Francisco office of the commercial real estate firm Kidder Matthews, were unsuccessful.
The public relations spokesperson for Tohigh, Santa Rosa-based Rob Muelrath, did not respond to inquiries about a sale as of press time.
It was just over a year ago that it looked like Tohigh was all set to start building the hotel portion of a 186-acre project – the entire plan calls for a 50-room inn, 10,000-case winery, and 11 home sites.
The entitlements for that part of the former Graywood Ranch were first approved by the county way back in 2004, but partnership groups changed over time, with Tohigh purchasing the properties at the very end of 2014 for an eye-popping $41 million. Since then, Tohigh has accumulated other parcels that remained in the Lendal Gray Trust, except for the Belos Cavalos property.
It was March of 2018 when Tohigh received a final design approval from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors – 50 rooms in separate cottages, a main building, spa, restaurant, and 102 parking spaces.
The decision cleared the way for Tohigh to begin construction, with spokesperson Muelrath at the time saying the developer was eager to get going. In December, when contacted, Muelrath said there was no specific timeline for building the project.
Tohigh’s parent company, Oceanwide Holdings, has run into capitalization issues on some of its large commercial projects in the United States, including its $1 billion Oceanwide Plaza development in downtown Los Angeles. Early this year, they stopped work on the project, but recent business news reports from Los Angeles have observed renewed activity on the project.
It is not known for sure if financial issues have prompted Tohigh to decide to sell its properties here, and it’s not known what kind of price tag they are discussing with potential suitors.
The Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA), a local community group, has been monitoring the project since it fought and litigated against its initial approval some 15 years ago. VOTMA objected to the county’s design review approval last March, arguing unsuccessfully that some of the design changes asked for warranted a new, comprehensive look at the environmental impacts of the project.
“We will be monitoring any development for the Inn and Spa to comply with the conditions of approval,” said VOTMA president Kathy Pons. “Any changes to the approved project will cause re-evaluation. We are interested in what may come.”
– Alec Peters
The Mill at Glen Ellen aims for July openingSanjeev K. Singh, the former chef at Saddles Restaurant in Sonoma, is on track to open up a new restaurant in Jack London Village, The Mill at Glen Ellen.
The Mill at Glen Ellen will occupy the former site of Aventine Restaurant. Singh described the menu as traditional American fare, with plans to operate the eatery as a breakfast, lunch and dinner location, open seven days a week from 7 a.m. with a last seating at 8 p.m.
After completing the financing arrangements and revamping the kitchen, Singh is hoping for a July 1 opening.
Singh, 41, came to the United States from New Delhi in 1999, landing in Vermont for a short time before coming to Sonoma where he worked at the Quik Stop at Arnold Drive and Grove Street. His work journey took him to a MacDonalds, the Napa-based Elaine Bell Catering Company, the Sonoma Mission Inn, Zino’s, and eventually to Saddles Steakhouse where he stayed for 19 years, working his way up to a chef position.
Singh said that working in back of the kitchen for so many years doing a variety of jobs taught him the importance of respecting others and working as a team.
Singh gives credit for his restaurant education at Saddles to then Executive Chef Dana Jaffe, who, Singh said, “basically taught me everything about cooking and building family in the restaurant business.” Jaffe will serve as a consultant for The Mill at Glen Ellen.
“It’s a huge family in the back of the kitchen,” said Singh. “If you keep the family together, the restaurant will run fine.” Singh is fluent in Spanish, English, and his native Hindi.
Singh said he always dreamed of opening up his own place, and learned everything he could about the business of running a restaurant, and “the front of the house.”
He found a mentor through the SCORE program, which helps entrepreneurs start small businesses, who helped him develop a realistic business plan. He cobbled together the required financing with the help of family and friends, enabling him to get the loan he needed.
Casual fine dining is the theme of The Mill at Glen Ellen, said Singh. He plans to have the majority of the menu vegan/vegetarian friendly, with spices from India added to some of the dishes.
“I’ve discovered that more and more people are looking for vegetarian food, especially locals,” said Singh. “There will be enough protein to please everybody.”
Sugar content will be cut significantly in many of the recipes, said Singh.
The restaurant will have a full bar, a bar menu, and will brew its own beer.
“We want to create something for everybody, for all generations,” said Singh.
To follow The Mill at Glen Ellen’s progress as it works toward its opening, check their website at www.themillatglenellen.com.
Jack London Village is located at 14301 Sonoma Hwy. in Glen Ellen.
‘Beltane in Morrocco’ and more at farm dinner seriesPay a visit to Beltane Ranch this summer for one of its farm dinners. Block-designated estate wines will be paired with ranch-grown produce, olive oil and herbs, all prepared by Estate Chef Greg Markey.
On Sunday, June 16, 6:30 p.m., celebrate Father’s Day with three courses paired with estate wines, followed by a moonlit walk.
Sunday, June 23, 6:30 p.m., is “Beltane in Morrocco,” where you can lounge Berber-style under the stars with tagines, couscous, and traditional Moroccan salads.
On Sunday, July 21, 6 p.m., the menu will be infused with the vibrancy of Beltane’s organic, heirloom stone fruits
A candlelit dinner on Aug. 10 features an open-fire paella dinner with garden produce, and on Aug. 18, Chef Markey offers mole and handmade tortillas, prepared and served overlooking the valley.
Price for the dinners, including wine pairings, is $125 per person.
For information about all the dinner series dates, and to make reservations, go to www.beltaneranch.com.
Beltane Ranch is located at 11775 Sonoma Hwy. in Glen Ellen.
Classical music at Valley of the Moon WineryOn Sunday, May 19, at 5:30 p.m., musicians from Valley of the Moon Music Festival will offer a special preview performance of their fifth anniversary season celebrating Europe’s powerful 19th century salonnières, women of power and influence who shaped the musical culture of their day.
Hosted by the Madrone Estate at Valley of the Moon Winery in Glen Ellen, the concert highlights the relationship between Tchaikovsky and his eccentric patron Nadezhda von Meck.
The event will feature six musicians in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, composed during the composer’s stay at von Meck’s villa in the Tuscan capital. Playing on historic instruments, musicians include Owen Dalby and Francisco Fullana, violins; Cynthia Black and Tiffany Richardson, violas; and Frédéric Rosselet and Tanya Tomkins, cellos.
Joining the event will be best-selling author and Sonoma resident Lynne Lancaster reading from the vast collection of letters that Tchaikovsky and von Meck exchanged over 13 years.
Attendees will also be treated to a banquet of wines and small bites in the tasting room.
Tickets at $40 are now on sale at valleyofthemoonmusicfestival.tix.com.
Madrone Estate at Valley of the Moon Winery is located at 777 Madrone Road in Glen Ellen.