Kenwood Press

Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

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News: 01/15/2013

Business Beat - New owner for VOM Plaza

The Valley of the Moon Plaza mini-mall at the corner of Sonoma Hwy. and Melita Road will be undergoing a transformation, with a new owner pledging to fill up empty space and make improvements.

Nick Ahmadi, vice-president of Walnut Creek-based Gawfco Enterprises, said one of the first priorities is to get the gas station up and running. In November of 2011, would-be gasoline thieves accidentally set their van and the station on fire, leaving a burned out mess ever since. Ahmadi said he hopes to get the gas station open by March.

Gawfco Enterprises has been in business for 30 years, said Ahmadi, and operates over 40 gas stations and small strip malls.

The previous owners of the plaza had run into financial difficulties, and the property has been the subject of a number of county code enforcement actions over the years, ranging from illegal tenant improvements to allowing a medical marijuana dispensary to operate without a permit (which they eventually did get.) In October, Summit State Bank foreclosed on the property and took possession. The sale to Gawfco was completed at the end of December.

Current tenants are a frame shop, dry cleaners, and medical marijuana dispensary. There are two empty spaces along with the commercial space next to the gas station. Ahmadi said that Gawfco is in the process of evicting the marijuana dispensary, the Valley of the Moon Collective.

Future plans, according to Ahmadi, are to put in a drive-thru coffee spot as well as serve coffee at tables inside, and possibly have a deli. Mall improvements include updated landscaping and new asphalt.

Anyone interested in renting space at the Valley of the Moon Plaza should contact Dave Hagele of DLH Realty Advisors at 578-7800.

Souluna, Kenwood School fundraiser

Souluna, the expanding health and wellness center in Kenwood, is hosting a fundraiser and silent auction on Saturday, Jan. 19, to support the Kenwood Elementary School music program.

Fifty percent of all proceeds will benefit the music program, and 50 percent will go towards renovating the Kenwood Farmhouse, the home of Souluna. The event will take place from 3-9 p.m. Cost is $20 at the door, with donations encouraged.

There will be live music by Joy Ride, Two Friends, and Tres.

The extensive silent auction will have items from local wineries, restaurants, and bed and breakfast inns.

Souluna is in the middle of expanding its yoga, meditation and massage services in the new space, as well as Pilates (the bar method), and classes in drumming and tribal dancing.

Souluna is located at 9255 Sonoma Hwy. Call 833-1068 for more information.

Curves holds open house

Curves in Oakmont invites you to a Open House on Monday, Jan. 21, from noon to 5 p.m. There will be refreshments and door prizes.

Since 2004, Curves in Oakmont has been helping women learn the benefits of diet and exercise. Maybe now it's your turn.

Curves is located at 6572 Oakmont Dr., Suite B. Call 537-3030 for more information.

Talisman Wines - All Pinot, all the time

Scott and Marta Rich, with Amanda Lorren (in red) at the new Talisman Tasting Room in Glen Ellen.
Sonoma-based Talisman Wines has opened a new tasting room in downtown Glen Ellen. Co-owner Marta Rich said the space, which shares the century-old building with jewelry store Opalescence, needed “a lot of elbow grease.” She and her husband, winemaker Scott Rich, and a cadre of others including friends and relatives, have spent the last year modernizing the space, putting on a fresh coat of paint, and even sprucing up and preserving the mural that fills one outside wall. The tasting room officially opened in November 2012.

Although Talisman Wines may be the newest kid on block, the Riches have lived in Glen Ellen for 21 years and Talisman Wine has had a keen following of Pinot Noir enthusiasts since its inception 19 years ago.

Scott Rich began his winemaking career in 1988 and worked as winemaker for Mont St. John, Carneros Creek, and Etude, while making his own wine on the side. The first vintage of Talisman Wines - 200 cases - was produced in 1993 with three tons of Carneros grapes. In 2001, Talisman made their first move to vineyard-designated wines. They opened their current production facility on Eighth St. East in Sonoma in 2007. They now produce 1,500 cases a year.

Talisman has always specialized in Pinot Noir. With 11 vineyards in different appellations, Riches said their focus is simply trying to stay out of the way. “We have two goals,” said Scott, “be true to the vineyard and not mess that up, and make pinots that age gracefully.” Adds Marta, “We want the Pinots to reflect their distinctive terroirs.”

Talisman does not release any wines before they've had at least a year in the bottle and which wines to release is solely at the discretion of Scott and Marta. Talisman Wine's “First Dibs” club also gives members access to exclusive tasting experiences and micro-lot wines that aren't available to the general public.

Marta explained that opening a public tasting room will allow them to offer a more relaxed and inviting tasting experience than they could accomplish at their production facility. They made the conscious decision to eliminate the stand-up tasting bar. Instead, the remodeled space offers couches and chairs and a large tasting table made from a Hawaiian Mango tree almost as old as the building itself, perfect for family-style tasting.

“It's a sit down, side by side tasting experience, no bar, all one varietal,” said Director of Customer Elations, Amanda Lorren (who takes a lot of pride in her creative job title.) “It's great to be able to go through each wine one by one and detect the differences. A very focused tasting can be intimidating, and we want to break that down.”

Other plans for the tasting room include showcasing local art, and a portrait wall that will capture the essence of their growers - and the grapes they produce. They are also working with local historical ecologist Arthur Dawson of Baseline Consulting, to piece together the history of their building. Marta said some people have told them about buying candy there, or remember when it was a hardware store. “The building is perfect for us because it has a lot of character,” said Marta, “We're just trying to figure out how to tell the story.”

From the building, to the wines, to the name - which comes from a medicine wheel charm that Scott's mother, who is native American, gave to him - Talisman Wines is full of stories. “We are very down to earth people and want things to be down to earth and rich and soulful,” said Marta, “and want our wines and how we treat people to be the same.”

Talisman's tasting room is open to the public Thursday-Monday, 12-5 p.m., and by private appointment at other hours. 13651 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen.

Tickets on sale for Vinolivo

You can buy tickets now for Vinolivo '13, the wine and food extravaganza over the President's Day weekend, Feb. 15-18. More than 60 wineries and 25 restaurateurs in Sonoma Valley are participating.

Events include the Grand Tasting on Feb. 15, 7-10 p.m. at The Lodge in Sonoma, winemaker dinners on Feb. 16, and an online auction going on now through Feb. 19.

For tickets, go to

Film Fest passes on sale

The 16th Annual Sonoma International Film Festival isn't until April, but Early Bird Festival Passes are on sale now at a 15 percent discount for a limited time. This lowest price offer on all passes ends on Jan. 20. The Sonoma International Film Festival is an intimate celebration of unforgettable cinema, world-class food, and fine wine on Sonoma's historic plaza. It features more than 90 films including independent features, documentaries, world cinema, shorts and a showcase of Spanish language films. Find out more at

Moondance Cellars offering big discounts

Moondance Cellars, with its tasting room in Jack London Village, is offering a great deal lasting through January.

Order six bottles of any red wine during the month of January and get 25 percent off. You'll also get free shipping. Mix and match from their red varietals - Russian River Valley 2010 Pinot Noir, Alexander Valley 2010 Merlot, and a Yountville 2010 Cabernet.

To order, you can go to, or visit the tasting room at 14301 Arnold Dr. in Glen Ellen. Call 938-7550 for more information.

Muscardini Cellars tasting room moves

Muscardini Cellars tasting room has moved from the Kenwood shopping center just down the road to 9380 Sonoma Hwy. in Kenwood. The new space was formerly occupied by Family Wineries. Muscardini shared space in the shopping center with Ty Caton Vineyards, which is staying in its present location.

The new Muscardini tasting room is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, go to, or call 833-0526.

BR Cohn donates $35,000 from concert, golf tournament

The Sonoma Valley Education Foundation recently received a donation of $35,000 from BR Cohn Winery, proceeds from the 26th Annual B.R Cohn Charity Events Fall Music Festival held in October.

The foundation currently funds the Exploratorium Science Program and the Visual Thinking Strategies Art Program in five local elementary schools, plus “Preschool for All” at El Verano School, the Teacher Support Network at Sonoma Valley High School and the district-wide School Garden Program.

Winery owner Bruce Cohn stated, “As the political discussions in our communities on education amplify, it reinforces to me the need to keep supporting outside-the-box organizations that help fill the need and bang the drum for improvement. This is why I support the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation. I hope this donation can help move kids and programs forward in Sonoma Valley.”

“We are so grateful to all our donors, but especially Bruce and his team at B.R. Cohn Charity Events,” said Laura Zimmerman, executive director of the Foundation.

Over the years Cohn has raised over $6 million for various local and national charities, including national veteran's organizations. In addition to the Sonoma Education Foundation, proceeds from this year's festival also go to the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, the Redwood Empire Food Bank, The Guardsmen, Operation Homefront, and American Legion Post 489.

B.R. Cohn Winery is located at 15000 Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen. The tasting room is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information go to or call 1-800-330-4064.

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