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Warnecke Ranch and Vineyards History


We are a 5th and 6th generation Sonoma County family, and our original ranch parcel has been in the family for over 100 years (1911- current). The 265-acre ranch with 1.5 Russian River frontage includes the Mayacama and Brooks creeks tributaries, the historic Chalk Hill, a lake/reservoir, and a pond, as well as an 80-acre vineyard.

The Warnecke Ranch and Vineyard has a history of contributing to Sonoma County arts and culture. Primarily developed by John Carl Warnecke, world-renowned architect, who built his architectural practice around summers at the ranch to be with his family and entertain world-class clients and friends. 

The property grew from its original 60 acres parcel along the River to the current 265 acres through the purchase of adjacent ranches as they became available over the years. In 1983, John Carl Warnecke formed the Warnecke Institute of Art and Architecture to continue the ranch’s rich history as a think tank for leading artists and architects around the world. The family architectural archives of three generations of architects are housed on the property and present a valuable resource to art and architectural historians as well as a point of historical interest for Sonoma County residents and tourism. Notable projects by John Carl Warnecke include Logan International Airport, Boston; Regency, Honolulu; Great Western, SF; Maples Pavillion, Bookstore, Postoffice, Cummings art Building, Stanford University; Lauinger Library, Georgetown University; Hawaii State Capital, Senate Office Building, Washington; American Hospital in Paris; Eternal Flame JFK Memorial, Arlington, etc.

Over the years, the ranch has hosted numerous seminars, art and architectural exhibits, AIA retreats (American Institute of Architects), receptions and lunches. JCW hosted the first delegation of leading Russian architects (when the Warnecke firm was designing the Russian Embassy in Washington D.C.), and a similar delegation of architects from China while collaborating on a major hotel in China. The ranch has been visited by two generations of the Kennedy family, and other well-known and local politicians.

The River provides beautiful natural vistas, geological features, and native oak and bay forests. The river also was a source to the native Pomo Indians for fishing and hunting. To this day, local fisherman know this stretch of river, famed for the white pigeons which have been raised on the ranch for 30 years. There are numerous trails for hiking and horseback riding throughout the property with vistas to Mt. St. Helena, Black Peak, the Geysers, and Alexander Valley stretching northward. Wildlife includes herons, osprey, bald eagles, red tail hawks, mallard, command, merganser and wood ducks, Canadian geese, wild turkeys, boar, steelhead, bass, Sacramento Pike, catfish, river otters, bobcats, mountain lions, and native snakes.

A short Family History: In the 1870s, our Cnopius ancestors settled in Forestville establishing mercantile stores in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Sebastopol, and Guerneville. In 1911, George Esterling purchased a section of land at the first big bend in the Russian River. The southwest side of the property has been in the family for 100 years. On the northeast side is the ranch headquarters for our family operated 80-acre wine grape growing business. We started in 1971 with four varietals selling quality fruit to established wineries. Historic Chalk Hill is located on the property and is ground zero for four different appellations. Since 2009 we are one of three Sonoma County growers to receive certification from the Green LODI Sustainable Winegrowing Program consistently. On his 90th birthday, in February 2009, John Carl Warnecke was recognized as a “Special Sonoma County Resident” by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

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