When I first meet Jenny and Vince Trotter of Kibo Farm, I’m immediately struck by their respect for the land. Located on Sonoma Mountain and operated in partnership with Belden Barns, Kibo (“wish” in Japanese), is a nod to the importance of family legacy—which resonates with our mission at Exclusive Resorts. And while I experience a back-to-the-land tour with Alexandra Fox of Food & Farm Tours, I also feel like I’ve been let in on something unexpected—an example of how insider access can turn a simple trip into an unforgettable culinary travel experience.
Such was the case as we gleaned more local knowledge from Alexandra. Our mission: an afternoon farm-to-table cooking class inspired by what we pick and discover while touring the Trotter’s three-acre family farm. So, during a calm morning in wine country, while winding our way through rows of fresh produce (Kibo specializes in unique produce varieties and storage crops, like milling corn, popcorn, dry beans, and peas), I am educated on the surprising nuances of biodynamic and regenerative farming.
I also learn more about Belden Barns. After acquiring and replanting the vineyard in 2005, owners Nate and Lauren Belden reserved about one-third of the estate for grapes (among them, Sonoma’s rare Grüner Veltliner). The rest? Several acres dedicated to crops other than wine, such as apples, tomatoes, and more. As we explore the property, we taste corn, lettuce, peaches, and berries (all delicious!). We also learn that the Belden’s have enticing plans for the future, including a potential small creamery, which would produce incredible cheeses to pair Belden Barns’ 10 estate wines.
Jenny and Vince point out the iconic Belden Barns wishing tree (which also graces Belden’s wine label), and it’s quickly decided that this charming and storied piece of land is indeed where wishes come true. As Vince explains in Why We Farm, “Farming is the life to which we’ve been called, and if one word captures the feeling of that calling, it’s stewardship.”
That afternoon, I’m treated to a decadent farm-to-table experience. With our hand-picked ingredients as the anchor to our meal, Chef Kim LaVere, resident chef for Food & Farm Tours, handcrafts her savory menu:
- Blistered shishitos and summer vegetable crudites with Green Goddess dip
- Little Gem Salad with mustard greens, Kibo Farm apple and dill, shaved purple daikon, toasted buckwheat, and preserved Meyer lemon and wildflower honey vinaigrette
- Seared summer squash and Kibo Farms rockwell bean salad
- Kibo Farms floriani red flint polenta cakes and fresh caught slow roasted halibut with peach and tarragon salsa verde
- Poached pears with salted butter caramel and oat crumble
Back at Exclusive Resorts’ Norrbom Estate, as I cook alongside Chef LaVere (her culinary skills are beyond enviable), I gain a deeper understanding of a hard-won harvest. I also quickly decide Kibo Farm is a place to return to—a reminder of how important it is to celebrate the very land we roam.