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Atmani Yoga and Wine Experience at Medlock Ames Ranch

Organic Estate vines at Medlock Ames

Eco-friendly self-contained Medlock Ames ranch sits on remote Bell Mountain, a spectacular site at the core of Sonoma County's Alexander Valley, Knights Valley, Russian River Valley and Chalk Hill appellations.

It's hard to imagine a more ideal location to center oneself in a one-of-a-kind al fresco yoga and sustainable, fine wine sensory experience. At Medlock Ames, the ultimate unwinding union awaits.

"For me, it's all about sharing a story, an authentic connection," said Hermine Iacobaeus owner/operator of Atmani Wine Country Yoga experiences, as a small group of five newbie yoga students took off their socks and selected mats under an ancient live oak tree one early April morning.

Hermine told us she was born and raised in Sweden and lived in Finland, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates before settling in Sonoma County Wine Country, several years ago.

Gracious and grounded, our host's Northern European sensibilities paired well with her extensive background in the ancient healing tradition of Shamanic and yoga practices. Hermine's apparent combination of sweet simplicity and soul did indeed make for a most engaging yoga teacher — one who kept my wandering brain off deadlines and shopping lists and more on safe stretching and those all-important breathing techniques.

Hermine had laid out mats and candles in a circle under the canopy of the giant oak. A flock of wild geese honked as they took flight across a backdrop of sustainably farmed grapevines, oak forest, and mountains beyond. The sun, at 9 a.m., was just making its morning appearance as we peeled off our jackets.

"I encourage my guests to not over-indulge," said Hermine. "It's important to step out of stress mode. Don't be in a rush, have a wonderful experience and bring the balance back into your life. Slow is the new busy," she said.

Wine, in Hermine's words is best enjoyed for "better vision" after igniting the "fire" in our spirits through heart and mind centering yoga. I was all for that idea. I'm a lapsed yogi. It had taken the lure of the great outdoors and the promise of a top-notch estate-made wine tasting to get me on the freeway and further off-the-beaten track that day.

Hermine shared how she'd sought out Medlock Ames as her ideal vineyard and winery to partner with for her super exclusive Atmani Wine Country Yoga offering.

I could see how appealing such an experience is for Hermine's most dedicated yogis, though her particular practice suits all levels, from beginners on up. Guests that morning consisted of two lapsed yoga students, one frequent practitioner and two first-timers. Hermine's distinctive Swedish tone, sacred stone sharing and a beginning and end-of-session sage bundle smudging enveloped our small circle of previous strangers with a warm sense of camaraderie.

"Medlock Ames' 338 acres of oak groves, wildlife preserve, ponds, wildflowers, organic garden, hawks, owls, and geese are a rarity even in Wine Country," she said. It had taken Hermine over a year to find this sacred spot.

"Atmani, in Sanskrit, means ‘in the pure state of the soul,’" said Hermine. She shared how she considers Sonoma County's natural beauty, sustainable wineries, farm-to-table restaurants and welcoming accommodations one of the best places on earth in which to experience this.

After refills of water and a healthy, gluten-free, vegetarian snack, we took a short walking tour of the solar-powered ranch and organic gardens before stepping into a state-of-the-art winemaking production facility and downstairs into to the winery's cellar to taste a wine or two at source.

During a more extensive wine tasting overlooking the ranch, my fellow yogis happily parked ourselves on benches at comfortable trestle tables in the shade of an overhead canopy to enjoy a range of delicious Sonoma County artisan cheeses paired with a flight of five of the winery's featured estate wines. Artisan wines are farmed and produced in an ethical manner at Medlock Ames.

The sustainable winery's celebrated, small batch portfolio includes Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Bordeaux blends, estate-bottled olive oil, verjus, and preserves.

We learned how owners, college friends Chris James and Ames Morison consider their commitment to quality through mindful and organic farming to be one of their winery's greatest assets. With Ames at the helm as farmer and winemaker, vineyards are meticulously farmed organically with no insecticides, chemical fertilizers, or herbicides.

Top tastes for my palate, though hard to pick favorites, included the winery's fabulous 2015 Rosé and 2013 Bell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon made from micro-blocks in small-lot production.

Afterwards, Hermine served a leisurely vegetarian lunch on picnic tables nearby. Our morning's group had bonded sufficiently by this time for more sharing of stories and laughter to ensue. Hardest task of the day was to tear away and drive off back into the world.

Cost of this wonderful yoga and wine tasting half-day escape, from 9 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday only is $250 per person with a two-person minimum per group and a maximum of 10 people. Bookings are available through a convenient online calendar.  

What to wear and bring: layers of sport clothes, hat, sun protection and water bottle.

If you'd like to taste Medlock Ames' fine wines but don't have time to arrange a visit to the winery's Bell Mountain Ranch, stop by its relaxed tasting room in the heart of the Alexander Valley, minutes outside of Healdsburg. Check out the Alexander Valley Bar to unwind after a day in Wine Country or to enjoy a cocktail before dinner. Learn about your Medlock Ames tasting choices here or make a reservation online or call 707-431-8845.

Stay overnight and explore this hidden treasure of wine country to the full. Hotels closest to Bell Mountain are Worldmark by Wyndham, 1251 Shiloh Road Windsor, Hampton Inn and Suites, 8937 Brooks Road, Windsor and Holiday Inn Express, 8865 Conde Lane, Windsor.

For small a group wine country luxury getaway, take a look at nearby Villa Terra Bella Vineyard Vacation Rental.

Find more things to do in Sonoma County.

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