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Sonoma County: Big Ambitions in Wine Country

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Lou Preston isn't your typical vintner. After ripping out blocks of grapes, he now runs a diversified, organic farm in Sonoma County, Calif.

SONOMA COUNTY, CALIF.–Lou Preston reaches down towards a knee-high wire fence, grabs my hand for support and then climbs over it.

“Don’t be shy,” he says to me as he plunks himself down next to a handful of baby lambs.

They’re nibbling at his plaid checkered shirt and bushy white beard. “They’re mostly for the kids.” he says, giggling as one tugs on his ear. “This place comes alive when children are here.”

Children at a winery? This wasn’t always the norm at Preston of Dry Creek, but it certainly is now.

Preston and his wife Susan once grew nothing but grapes on their land, which is in Dry Creek region in Sonoma County, Calif. But they envisioned a diversified farm, one with a sense of community, where families could break bread and share memories over a jug of wine, as was once done in the not-so-distant past.

“At the height of the insanity, we were producing 30,000 cases. It was floor to ceiling barrels, but it’s not what we wanted,” he says.

Today they produce 8,000 cases annually. Their wine – Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Italian-inspired Barbera, Syrah, and Viognier – is just part of the many homegrown products, which include peppery olive oils and delicious hand-crafted breads.