Quirky, fun, and memorable! Those are words that describe the owner and proprietor of Relais du Soleil and one of the reasons it’s so special. Tim Korn started the ranch 14 years ago and has turned it into a wonderfully gracious and welcoming spot for visitors, including corporate conferences or couples looking for an out-of-the-ordinary place to get married.
Located in Glen Ellen, up a rural road in Nun’s Canyon, about ½ mile from Highway 12, Relais du Soleil lies hidden over an old wooden bridge adorned with rams’ heads. There are two sculptures that alert you that something interesting is nearby, but there is no sign. The giant sun piece (hint: as in Soleil) is where you turn in. The short driveway is eye-catching as another over-sized sculpture and the turn-of-the-century farm house attracts your attention.
Upon your arrival, a large, beaming face greets you warmly, welcoming you to his place – it’s Tim, and you like him immediately. He can’t wait to show you around and regale you with stories of Sonoma’s history, and life in the California Wine Country.
Tim is a big fan of Jack London, and you get the impression he is living London’s credo* (a copy hangs on a Bunkhouse wall for all to ponder). The late author, journalist, and social activist Jack London settled in Glen Ellen near Relais du Soleil, a hundred years ago. Make sure you see Tim’s collection of first editions of London’s books and then visit the Jack London State Park.
Before checking us in, Tim insisted we join him for wine (his label) and hors d’ouevres at the outdoor bar to chat while watching the sun go down and the ponies frolicking in the grassy pasture. He pointed out the wooden dance deck, built from local redwood trees, and the very inviting, over-sized hot tub that party-goers love.
Our accommodations for two nights were in the roomy Bunkhouse Suite which sleeps 6 people. There is a fully-equipped kitchen and bathroom. There are three sleeping areas with 2 twin and 2 queen beds. There is an interesting steel desk and chairs, and other artistic “chotchkies” spread over the rooms. However, there are no standard hotel amenities such as wifi, TV, wet bar or shoe-shine machine. This is a “ranch,” run by a proprietor whose personal touch is evident everywhere, and his love of food and wine prevails. There are two upstairs bedrooms in the Main House for 4 more people.
Tim offers the ranch as a special spot for a three-day destination wedding or a corporate conference. We arrived on the heels of a three-day business meeting. His Weekend Bridal Package includes accommodations for up to 10 people and his delicious, eye-popping breakfasts each morning. Additional wedding guests are welcome to come for the Friday Night Rehearsal Dinner, and there is plenty of open space for seating upwards of 200 guests for the wedding ceremony and revelry that follows.
Tim’s daughter was married at Relais du Soleil , as were many other couples shown in his photo albums, all of whom seemed thrilled to enjoy a truly special place for their once-in-a-lifetime event.
The accommodations themselves seem a bit rustic – it’s a ranch, after all – but Tim’s breakfast is worthy of royalty – a veritable feast even William and Kate would appreciate. When we were there, Tim lovingly prepared and beautifully presented us with two marvelous morning meals.
He starts by making his own home-baked bread. It was so perfect-looking and so delicious, that we assumed it came from the local bakery. But no, it was his mother’s recipe, and we definitely turned into carbo-holics after tasting it. The first day, he made an orange-raisin-nut loaf; the second he baked a chocolate-orange-raisin-nut loaf. Oh boy! Both were perfectly crunchy crusted on the outside and heavenly on the inside. Call it bread nirvana.
Tim gave us half a loaf to take home and we wished there was more to share with friends. Tim doesn’t sell anything for take-out and it’s a secret recipe. You’ll just have to go there to savor his heavenly loaves. Unfortunately, our friends never got to taste it; we ate it all before getting home!
Our first course was a baked apple surrounded by yogurt, blueberries and strawberries from the ranch. For the main course, Tim served us the thinnest, lightest, luscious Swedish pancakes (another secret recipe from his mom) with our choice of two delightfully fresh homemade syrups – blueberry and pear. Sharing the plate was thick cut, perfectly-cooked crisp bacon and locally-made organic bangers. For a cold beverage, Tim served freshly-made blueberry juice! Tim’s coffee was excellent, too. It’s hard to describe how happy we were!
The next morning was yet another feast. Our first course was fresh fruit surrounding a dollop of crème fraiche nesting on a bed of homemade granola. For the main dish, Tim presented a fluffy cheese omelet served with peppers and tomatoes, and two different styles of potatoes: cubed and ultra-crispy hash browns. Nesting between the potatoes was the piece-de-resistance – a panko-crusted pork loin. It was too much to eat… and too wonderful not to eat!
The many sculptures adorning Relais du Soleil are the work of resident artist, Brian Tedrick. He is a world-class artist who maintains his studio at the ranch. As you graze, you can’t miss the many interesting pieces dotting the property. The most obvious is the large flying horse, but there are objects in all shapes and sizes made with wood, stone and steel, almost everywhere. We were fascinated by them; looking closely, you see they are composed of an array of recycled artifacts. Out on the main highway, Brian’s “metal wings” can be seen next to the Kenwood Inn.
Relais du Soleil is a dog-friendly spot and Boomer was kept busy all day long, playing with Tim’s new Ridgeback puppy. Boomer also had great fun chasing cats and rabbits, and nervously eyeing the three horses in the back pasture. Since the dogs have the run of the ranch, it didn’t faze Tim when he stepped in a deposit Boomer made in the grass. Guess that’s what ranch living is all about!
Besides his hospitality and graciousness, Tim is a fount of information. He knows local history, many of the local “characters,” and happily gives you the inside scoop on which places to visit. These are not on the everyday tourist’s itinerary. For example, he sent us up to Kaz Winery, which was a hoot. Kaz is a small batch, estate vintner, who heralds back to the 1960’s and has a lot to say. Tim’s insider tips on food markets, wineries and restaurants should be considered. We did just that, and had a blast. If you go to Relais du Soleil, you will too!
What actually made Relais du Soleil so much fun for us was Tim himself. We broke bread with him and drank his homemade wine. We listened to his stories and explored his 120 acres of foothill property. We sat in the shade of hundred year old trees and talked about old times and things we had in common. In a nutshell, we really enjoyed ourselves. What more can you ask for?
Relais du Soleil
1210 Nuns Canyon Rd.
I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.
Jack London Credo (attributed)