ISSUE 39  |  Fall Foliage

California Colors: Fall at McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma

October 01, 2015 9:00 AM

BY Dalilah Arja

If you live in San Francisco, you may never notice the seasons change. We get more of the same unpredictable weather all year and many of the streets are lined with evergreen trees, so there’s a shortage of fall foliage to ogle. The good news is that the rolling hills of wine country, where leaves turn and autumn agriculture is in full swing, is just a short drive away. 

Truthfully, I forgot about fall until I had a chance to visit McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma. While roaming the ranch I found piles of oranges leaves for crunching underfoot and pomegranate trees galore. Let’s take a look around. 

Above: In the early ’90s, Nan McEvoy set out to buy a place in the country for her grandchildren, just far enough from the bustle of San Francisco. She settled on a spot in Petaluma (35 miles from the city). An heir to the San Francisco Chronicle (her great-great-grandfather Michael H. DeYoung founded the newspaper in the 1860s), McEvoy had just retired from the publication after many years on the board of directors. After taking over the 550-acre estate, McEvoy ran into one little problem: the property, formerly a defunct dairy farm, was strictly zoned for agriculture–meaning McEvoy had to grow something. She could have gotten away with planting a few apple trees. But she had a different vision. 

McEvoy was a longtime lover of Tuscan olive oil. As the story goes, she’d return from trips to Italy with suitcases full of her favorite olive oil. With hundreds of acres to farm, McEvoy was determined to bring olive trees from Tuscany to her ranch in Petaluma. Many people doubted her: olive trees don’t grow in Northern California, right? They do now. McEvoy Ranch makes award-winning estate grown and produced organic extra virgin olive oil from Tuscan olives. Some might argue that McEvoy paved the way for other California olive growers. In March, Nan McEvoy passed away at 95 years old. Her son Nion McEvoy, CEO of Chronicle Books, has taken the reins. 

Above: Alicante Bouchet grapes ready for harvest. Aside from growing and milling olives on site, the ranch’s newest venture is wine. 

Above: A blanket of fog covers rows of grape vines. 

Above: During fall, it’s not uncommon to spot giant pumpkins on the ranch. 

Above: Hachiya persimmons ripening on the branch. 

Above: Visitors to the ranch will encounter many sculptures like this bear made by Tom Otterness, overlooking a man-made irrigation pond. 

Above: Wreaths made by hand from materials sourced around the estate are available to purchase at McEvoy Ranch’s Ferry Building shop in San Francisco in November, or if you’d like to learn how to make your own, consider joining the Wreath Making Workshop on November 7. 

If you’d like to learn more, visit McEvoy Ranch online or in person this Saturday, October 3, during a ranch tour, or find them at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Note: McEvoy Ranch is not open to the public. If you’d like to visit, see their roster of tour dates

For more wine country tours ,see Vineyard Haven: A Napa Valley Garden That Belongs to the Land and Garden Visit: The French Laundry in California’s Napa Valley.