The North Bay is very special for those of us lucky enough to live in the San Fransisco Bay Area. It is filled with rolling hills that give us our version of seasons as they start the year a lush, velvety green, then slowly turn to the iconic golden hills we all know and love. Finally, the copper-colored tones let us know fall is in the air. Many non-native Californians look at that color and call it brown, and it's kind of true. For us, though, there's a rhythm to the changing colors, and that color is part of our seasonal change. I absolutely love it.
Any reason I can come up with to take a day trip to the North Bay is a good one. However, a few places feel more special to me than others, and most of them involve the great outdoors. As a bonafide foodie and home cook, I love an adventure that brings me close to the source of my food to prepare family meals and host friends. Enter: McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma, CA. McEvoy Ranch is such a dreamy place, especially this time of year when the aforementioned velvety green hills are on full display.
Known for their olive oils made from their on-site organic olive ranch, McEvoy inspires even the most reluctant cook to use these oils in the kitchen. My personal favorite is the lemon. Instead of infusing the oil with lemons, they crush the lemon peel with the olives with a stone wheel from Italy at harvesting time. The flavor is intense!
But I'm getting ahead of myself. It's hard not to when thinking of that flavor, but let me try.
The story of how this ranch came to be is almost as exciting as the products they sell. Filled with high profile names (including a little-known president that went by the initials JFK, maybe you've heard of him?), family drama, and one determined lady named Nan Tucker McEvoy, this place is the stuff of legends. Yes, another #shero among us mere mortals.
The granddaughter of MH DeYoung, the founder of the SF Chronicle, Nan saw first hand how the movers and shakers of her time lived and took full advantage of that knowledge. She participated in the 1956 presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson, and in 1961, she became a top aide to R. Sargent Shriver, the founding director of the Peace Corps. She was stationed in its African division and eventually was put in charge of it. She worked with and befriended JFK and his wife Jackie, often sitting in at State Dinners that Mrs. Kennedy could not attend.
Not to mention, she worked for UNESCO, where she founded a pro-choice women's clinic and sponsored multiple artists and museums. She also sat on many boards when women were simply not represented much. I mean, I'm just tired typing all of that, and I haven't even gotten to the part where she starts McEvoy Ranch!
On a day trip to the North Bay, Nan McEvoy drove over the hills in Petaluma and was greeted by the deep valley that we now know as McEvoy Ranch. She knew immediately where she wanted to start the next chapter of her life: on this piece of land. The ever-determined woman convinced the current owners, who were not selling, to do just that — sell her the 550-acre working farm to convert it into an olive and grape ranch. McEvoy now produces top-notch olive oil and wines.
Ever aware of the need for wild, open space, she ensured that more than 80% of the land remained unharmed. Nan put it into a land trust that ensures future generations can experience the beauty of that place.
Today, McEvoy Ranch is a highly regarded producer of high-quality olive oils, wines, and beauty products. They often host events, such as holiday wreath-making classes, olive oil tastings, and tours of the land that give you all the history. They even toss in a bit of family drama to make it a bit more fun! But even without that, this place is worthy of the drive. Stunning ponds, a massive collection of sculptures and artwork, and rolling hills as far as the eye can see. I highly recommend making this a day trip destination if you are local.
Until next time,