Checking In and Checking Out

A Sonoma Farm Stay That's Regenerative in More Ways Than One

by Patrick Mulvihill
In the fridge and pantry: an assortment of fruits and vegetables grown in the garden. All photos by Anna Petrow.

Fathom contributors (and married pair!) Patrick Mulvihill and Anna Petrow each go their own speed during a holiday at a sustainable private estate in Sonoma.

HEALDSBURG, California – There are two types of travelers in our household: Those who travel for leisure, and those who travel for adventure. My wife is the former, while I am the latter. My ideal travel day includes ten miles of walking, five meals, a visit to a museum or two, and whatever other pitstops I may have saved on my thorough itinerary. In contrast, her ideal vacation includes a good book and a nice view.

So when she threw out the idea of getting six of our closest friends to join us on a secluded 120-acre ranch in California's Russian River Valley, it wasn't my first choice of plans. In hindsight, we’ve never visited a place that so thoroughly checked off every box we’re both looking for in a weekend away.

Nestled among groves of Pacific Redwoods just one hour north of San Francisco, NewTree Ranch is an eco-conscious haven and a testament to the visionaries who brought it to life. Founders Edward Newell and David Rowntree both embody a commitment to sustainable living and the preservation of natural beauty that surround them in their own special way.
NewTree — a clever combination of the founders’ surnames — combines Newell’s knack for hospitality with Rountree’s deep-seated agricultural experience. Newell's passion for holistic living and eco practices laid the foundation for the ranch. Collaborating with Rowntree, a seasoned farmer with a deep appreciation for sustainable agriculture, the pair have created a rich, regenerative experience where guests can mindfully yet effortlessly reconnect with nature.

From the moment Rowntree met us at the gate — accompanied by a pair of Golden Retrievers named Areana and Dick who freely roamed the property throughout our stay — our group couldn’t help but immediately feel a connection to (and reverence for) the ranch and its surrounding hills.

NewTree’s biodynamic roots are defined by the property’s lush gardens, organic orchards, and an abundance of wildlife, all seamlessly integrated into the surrounding environment, creating a haven for both guests and the local ecosystem. One of NewTree’s most impressive features is hidden away: the majority of the ranch’s energy is supplied by more than 200 solar panels that are tastefully concealed throughout the property, while one hundred percent of its water needs are met by on-site wells.

Within minutes of stowing our bags, we were taken on a guided tour of the ranch’s biodynamic garden, with row after row of fresh flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. NewTree’s staff have created a “closed-loop system” of sustainable farming practices that recycle nutrients and organic matter back into the soil while creating bee-friendly habitats to promote pollination.

Our group of eight stayed in the 4,700-square-foot Estate Villa. Our jaws dropped as we first entered the spacious chef’s kitchen, providing a space for us to connect with the land via the fridge and pantry, which were fully stocked with an assortment of fruits and vegetables grown in the garden we’d just visited. Throughout our stay, we feasted on berries as flavorful as any we’ve ever had and greens as large as we’d ever seen.

While the Villa perfectly met our needs, visitors looking for a more prolonged stay can book NewTree’s two-bedroom Barn Villa on a monthly basis. Perched above the property’s lush garden, it offers an immersive agricultural experience for those seeking it.

For restless travelers like me, NewTree offers plenty of hiking and recreational activities. While some of our group vegged out by the solar-heated pool, others wandered the property, visiting the nearby wellness yurt (complete with two outdoor bathtubs), horse stables, and chicken coup, which provides fresh eggs to the property each morning. Our mornings were spent at the ranch’s Japanese tea garden. We beat the heat of the afternoon canoeing and paddle boarding on the property’s Lake Andreas. In the evening, we huddled around the outdoor fire pit before retreating indoors to the wood-burning fireplace.

The immersive, quintessential farm experience didn’t end there. Roaming NewTree’s pasture, an open field immediately below the Villa, are Scottish highland cows, three horses (Paris, Ginger, Horselain — the crowd favorite), plus Nigerian dwarf goats Sally and John Arthur. The property offers culinary classes, a private “seed-to-table” dining experience, as well as guided yoga and meditation, and spa treatments like massages and facials.

While NewTree’s sprawling confines are worthy of a visit alone, Healdsburg itself is one of Wine Country’s most picturesque towns. In contrast to Napa’s ostentatious wine estates, Sonoma is relaxed and rustic and focused on tradition, hospitality, and community rather than prestige or money. Surrounded by rolling vineyards and nestled along the Russian River, the town's historic plaza is adorned with century-old oak trees and Redwoods, while the streets are lined with boutiques, art galleries, cafés, and tasting rooms.

In Healdsburg, we enjoyed Costeaux French Bakery for morning pick-me-ups, Lo & Behold Bar + Kitchen for quality snacks, and SingleThread Farm Restaurant's elevated tasting experience. Noble Folk surely has some of the region’s best small batch ice cream.

A short drive from the town or ranch leads to some of the finest wineries in Sonoma County, each with its own unique charm and exceptional wines. MacRostie Winery Estate House is known for its award-winning wines and panoramic vineyard vistas. Flowers Vineyards & Winery captivates with its coastal influence, crafting wines that mirror Sonoma's unique terroir. Williams Selyem Winery distinguishes itself with sought-after Pinot Noirs, showcasing balanced and elegant wines using a time-tested approach to winemaking.

Of course, when visiting NewTree Ranch, the wine comes secondary to the company you keep and the landscape you reside in. The property — and, in a sense, much of the surrounding Sonoma County — stands as a testament to the delicate balance between recreation and relaxation. Whether you’re looking to dive into a good book, a picturesque pool, or a recently acquired bottle of local wine, NewTree Ranch is the place to do it.

We make every effort to ensure the information in our articles is accurate at the time of publication. But the world moves fast, and even we double-check important details before hitting the road.