Thursday, July 17, 2008

Smells Like Nirvana

If you want to soothe away just about any aggravation, stress or injustice, gin will work, but breathing in the scent of lavender is a lot easier on your liver. You can get your fix in a hundred different ways, lotions, aromatherapy, candles, lavender pillows, lavender slippers, you name it, but I discovered the very best way last weekend in Sonoma. It’s a beautiful, hidden gem of a place called Matanzas Creek Winery in Bennett Valley where, for the small price of free (wine tasting is extra), you can spend the afternoon in blissful serenity listening to the happy hum of a hundred thousand or so bees, feeling the pleasant touch of valley heat on your skin, and inhaling the sweet smell of over 4500 lavender shrubs.

If not for a helpful concierge, we would certainly have missed this place. It’s about ten miles out on a winding two-lane farm road well off Sonoma’s beaten wine path Highway 12. If you're coming from the North, it’s about five miles south of Santa Rosa on a smoother stretch of highway. Either way, it’s worth the drive. We spent most of our time in the lavender garden, but it’s best to start in the tasting room and gift shop then linger in the garden until the last moment possible. Pause for a moment to watch the blue dragonflies buzz the koi pond as you walk up hill to the tasting room, which is housed in an understated aged wood building that feels a bit like a tree house.

It smells like a spa inside with all the lavender gift and goody items. The deck overlooks the valley and there’s a nice spot there to sip some wine. You can also take a picnic and some wine to a shady oak grove where they provide tables and a view of a small lake, which is actually their wastewater pond, but you don’t need to know that. BYOP (bring your own picnic) as they offer only the occasional cheese and fruit plate, which they were out of on our visit. Finally, walk the gravel path lined with native grasses and wildflowers out into the fields, quiet your head, watch the bees, smell the lavender, and forget all the stuff that winds you up. This is bliss at its purest.

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