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Walnut Creek Magazine

Belden Barns: Of Wine, Wishes, and Whimsy

Oct 22, 2018 03:07PM ● By Fran Miller

The Belden Barns Wishing Tree, photo by Adam Decker

BY FRAN ENDICOTT MILLER

Serendipity is an oft-referenced word at Belden BarnsThe Sonoma Mountain/Bennett Valley winery has enjoyed sunny success in its four short years, thanks in large part to a series of happy accidents and fortunate discoveries that have propelled vintners Nate and Lauren Belden and their wine label to star status. 

Nate and Lauren Belden, photo by Vance Jacobs

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. 

The Belden Barns Estate, photo by Adam Decker

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 thriving 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 Tasting Barn, photo by Smeeta Mahanti

A visit to the Belden Barns property high atop Sonoma Mountain begins with a glimpse of both old and new. An 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 winsome tradition initiated by Nate and Lauren based on their world travels. 

“Before having children, Nate and I traveled the world, and found wishing trees in nearly every country we visited. 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,” says Lauren, who staged a wishing tree at her own wedding. “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 property's own 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.”

Nate and Lauren claim a fairly high ‘wish success rate.’ “I can’t even tell you the number of marriages, babies, new homes, and pets that people are convinced are a result of our wishing tree,” says Lauren.

The Belden Barns Line-up, photo by Adam Decker

The least of ‘wish’ is the success of Belden Barns. Nate and Lauren, together with their winemaker Justin Harmon and vineyard manager Chris Bowland, now produce small lots of ten varietals, each of which has achieved notoriety, and the grapes of which are all estate grown: NV Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine, Rose of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, two Pinot Noirs, Chardonnay, Grenache, Syrah, and a Late Harvest Viognier. When asked the one wine each favors, Lauren claims the Sauvignon Blanc as her ‘last supper wine,’ while Nate’s heart is most invested in their Serendipity Block Pinot Noir – a distinct, complex, and cerebral wine, named for life’s magical possibilities. “The first time we tasted this wine out of the barrel remains one of my top life moments,” says Nate.

Belden Barns wines can be found in some of the Bay Area’s top restaurants, at select wine purveyors, and via their small but rapidly growing wine club. For more information, and to schedule a tasting, visit www.beldenbarns.com.