The Belden Barns Wishing Tree. Photo by Adam Decker
As millions of us find ourselves currently ‘sheltering in place,’ working remotely, home schooling, or caring for loved ones, we seek normalcy and comfort in the smallest of joys. For many, a beautiful glass of wine is one of those joys. During these trying times, all Northern California winetasting rooms are temporarily closed to visitors, and wineries are offering novel ways for consumers to purchase, taste, and commune with others while enjoying a glass (or two) of wine – virtually of course. From Instagram live feed tastings, to Zoom happy hours, to doorstep delivery and shipping discounts, vintners and wineries are unleashing a bit of creativity, and in doing so, are helping to calm collective nerves.
With the current closure of its barn/tasting room, Sonoma’s Belden Barns has initiated a weekly, no-cost virtual wine tasting, ‘Wine & Wishes.’ For nine weeks starting March 29th, participants can explore with owner Nate Belden eleven Belden Barns wines. To sign up for the virtual tastings and to discuss purchase options, email [email protected]
Photo courtesy of Belden Barns
Serendipity is an oft-referenced word at Belden Barns. The Sonoma Mountain/Bennett Valley winery has enjoyed sunny success in its five short years, thanks in large part to a series of happy accidents and unplanned-yet-fortunate events that have propelled vintners Nate and Lauren Belden and their wine label to star status.
From Nate’s discovery and purchase of the Sonoma County mountain vineyard, to the couples’ instantaneous first-date attraction, to finding that their Sonoma Mountain next door neighbor just happened to be a respected wine maker in search of a side project, the Beldens’ venture into the winemaking business has – by all accounts – been charmed. And while serendipity is indeed to be credited, hard work and core talents serve to keep the Belden Barns corks afloat.
Nate and Lauren Belden. Photo courtesy of Belden Barns
Those familiar with the television show Green Acres might find similarities in Nate and Lauren’s story: farm boy meets city girl, hilarity ensues. In the Beldens’ case – success has ensued. Where Nate’s agrarian upbringing and subsequent financial background provide the groundwork for a successful winery business, Lauren’s Manhattan-esque, ‘the sky is the limit’ enthusiasm for branding and storytelling helps to spread the Belden Barns word. And that word is whimsy.
The Belden Barns estate. Photo courtesy of Belden Barns
A visit to the Belden Barns property high atop Sonoma Mountain begins with a glimpse of both old and new. A historic dance hall, circa 1908 – once a rural retreat for San Francisco visitors – still stands with plans for a complete restoration. Tastings take place in the 1800s-era milking barn, where visitors sit on plaid blanket-covered hay bales and lighting is provided by an antique chandelier. Children are encouraged to run freely and explore within the enclosed 55 acres. And every visitor is encouraged to write down his/her ‘wish,’ to be hung from the property’s immense ‘wishing tree,’ a charming tradition initiated by Nate and Lauren based on their travels.
The tasting barn. Photo courtesy of Belden Barns
“Before having children, Nate and I traveled the world, and found Wishing Trees in nearly every country we visited,” said Lauren who staged a wishing tree during her own wedding. “Each time, we’d read the wishes, hang our own, and walk away feeling like we were putting some hope and positivity into the world. The hopes and dreams and positive energy hanging from every branch of our wedding Wishing Tree brought tears to both of our eyes. We knew we’d hit on something magical, and that the Wishing Tree would play a key role in our winery, not only in helping us turn our dream into reality, but to remind every single visitor to our vineyard about the inherent powers of hope and good energy.”
Every Belden Barns wine label features an illustration of the Wishing Tree, and a closer look reveals that the label itself is the same tag on which visitors write their wishes. Each cork is emblazoned with the words ‘Wish Big,’ a delightful symbol of hope during a period when we most need it.
Belden Barns farmstead goods. Photo by Adam Decker