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Stubbs Vineyard 

A summer evening's barbecue in Petaluma is often a doomed affair, weather-wise. Long before, the sky fades eggshell-blue; just as the coals are getting hot, it starts when a cool breeze whips the flames. Someone tugs on her sleeves; another runs to grab a sweater. In shorts and T, the grill master acts as if nothing has changed—while a wintry, dark cloud fans out above the valley, erasing his shadow.

One group is turning this miserable state of affairs into an asset. The Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance promotes its chilly agenda by highlighting the advantages of grapes grown in this cool climate. Traditionally, this has been cattle country, and vineyards here are still hard to find. On the way to Stubbs Vineyard, hundreds of goats purposefully graze the steep slopes, while a clump of Charolais cattle laze by the road. A chicken tractor sits high on a ridge, flanked by olive trees. Hidden deep in a dell, this certified organic vineyard was planted in 1996 by Tom and Mary Stubbs. Mary is a Tam High grad, and Tom hails from England, where their label—featuring an equestrian scene painted in the manner of Stubbs, no relation—is said to be more than the lost reference that it is to a Yank like me. The estate is powered off the grid with solar and wind, and the house and outbuildings are built in an eclectic, recycled Victorian-ranch-house style.

In a room filled with the music of chattering birds (it used to be a porch, but, well, the wind . . . ), Mary Stubbs says that as soon as she'd left the soul-sucking life of sales in the big city, she was tasked once again with selling . . . wine. But this time, it's different. "I love it," she says, "and people love the wine. And I've got a pretty good office!" Stubbs went back to school in the '90s, taking viticulture classes at Santa Rosa Junior College. Today, their wines, made by Dan Goldfield, are sold at restaurants from Chez Panisse to Foreign Cinema.

Stubbs Vineyard, Petaluma. Tours by appointment. Wines available at Petaluma Market and Whole Foods Petaluma and Marin. 415.726.0677.

The Petaluma Gap Winegrowers holds its Winter Wine Soiree, featuring tastings and live music, Saturday, Jan. 21. Mystic Theatre, 21 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 6:30–10pm. $25. 707.765.2121.

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