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A Day Trip on the Russian River, Inspired by Guerneville’s Michael Volpatt

Take a tour of restaurants, wine shops and more in the Russian River Valley, where you just might run into the Big Bottom Market owner himself.

Michael Volpatt, owner of Big Bottom Market, is perhaps best known for his biscuits, which were one of Oprah’s “Favorite Things” a few years back. But Volpatt, a fixture in this tiny Russian River community, has his hands in the mix in many ways beyond making biscuits.

Volpatt co-owns the Equality Vines tasting room across the street from the market, heads up a local PR firm and volunteers at a nearby pig sanctuary. Not to mention that at the beginning of the pandemic, he became the host of a self-produced cooking show, making livestreams of his homemade meals: “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I hadn’t found my pod yet. So I said, ‘I’m going to do what makes me happiest,’ which is to make my mother’s marinara sauce.”

After finishing a day’s work, Volpatt heads to what he calls his gym, nearby Armstrong Woods, where he hikes the redwood trails and does strengthening exercises. But it’s his connection to the people of Guerneville that seems to fuel his boundless energy and interests.

For a Russian River day trip that would make Volpatt proud, check out these favorite stops below in Guerneville and west county.

Big Bottom Market’s Lazy Day Chardonnay with lunch. For every bottle of wine it sells, the Guerneville restaurant donates $1 to a local nonprofit. (Karen Kizer/Sonoma Magazine)
Big Bottom Market 

Volpatt’s market has terrific takeout, cookbooks and foodie gifts, and partners with winemakers to offer bottles that give back to local charities. 16228 Main St., Guerneville, 707-604-7295,

River’s End Restaurant & Inn

Specializing in spectacular sunsets since the 1920s, this restaurant overlooks the spot where the Russian River slips into the ocean. Try hyper-local Dungeness crab ravioli with wild mushrooms. 11048 Highway 1, Jenner, 707-865-2484,

The view from the River’s End Restaurant & Inn is a sweeping panorama of the Pacific at Jenner where the Russian River flows into the ocean. (Courtesy photo)
Christopher Queen Galleries

In nearby Duncans Mills, this two-story gallery features rotating exhibits of contemporary artists on the first floor, and, on the second floor, California landscapes from the 1800s and early 1900s. 4 John Orr’s Gardens, Duncans Mills, 707-865-1318,

West County Wines

Flambeaux Wines is run by a family from New Orleans that creates bottles to pair with Southern foods like gumbo and shrimp and grits. And Porter-Bass has been farming with biodynamic practices since the 1980s. Both wineries are open by appointment. Flambeaux Wine, 1333 Jack Pine Road, Healdsburg, 707-637-9019,; Porter-Bass, 11750 Mays Canyon Road, Guerneville, 707-869-1475,

Love Wins sparkling rosé wine, left, and Decision pinot noir released by Equality Vines. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)
Equality Vines

The Love Wins sparkling wine celebrates the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. 16215 Main St., Guerneville, 877-379-4637,

When Pigs Fly Ranch

Some very fortunate pigs are living well at this sanctuary on the Russian River. Wesley, an 800-pounder, will roll over for belly rubs. Visits by appointment.

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