Posted from Glen Ellen, CA
We were fortunate to spend a morning recently with Wendy Westerbeke (our cottage’s lessor) at Westerbeke Ranch Conference and Event Center, her family’s historic property. While touring this lush, serene site, an entrancing story unfolded.
Westerbeke Ranch, an 11-acre expanse of unspoiled beauty outside of Sonoma, CA, that serves as a meeting and conference center, retreat, wedding destination, and personal home, is integral to Wendy Westerbeke’s being.
Businesswoman, world traveler, painter of abstract landscapes, decorator, organic gardener, wife, mother, and matriarch, Wendy has forged a life anchored by her connection to this land.
It’s been in her family since 1935 when her grandparents, Richard and Muriel Van Hoosear of San Francisco, purchased it for a rustic vacation haven for their family. After Muriel survived a critical operation, Dick slipped a diamond bracelet on her wrist. She chose instead to return the jewelry for the money so they could buy the property in the Valley of the Moon. Influenced by architecture and décor observed during their journeys, especially to Mexico and Spain, they built a cabin, pool and an adobe, which today serves as the dining room and kitchen.
Their daughter, Patty, Wendy’s mother, worked in Haiti with nuns from Mother Teresa’s order and supported Cambodian refugees. She brought friends and groups to the ranch for hikes and discussions about nature. She and her husband, Don Westerbeke, devotees of the social consciousness movement of the 1960s, expanded the concept of gatherings and invited renowned writers, thinkers and activists of the day for conversation and relaxation. They hosted theme-centered workshops, and transformed the Ranch into a center for alternative healing and personal growth as a means to make it a self-sustaining enterprise.
Influenced deeply by her grandmother and her late mother, Wendy follows in their formidable footsteps, both literally and figuratively. Like them, she is a woman of vision, spirit, grace, and creativity who generously and effortlessly draws others into her sphere, helping to instill life lessons and ensure singular experiences.
As manager, Wendy continues to guide Westerbeke Ranch’s evolutionary heritage borne of tradition and hospitality. The Ranch has overnight accommodations for up to 49 guests, and can welcome up to 120 guests for day use and life celebrations. Her husband, Ted Bucklin, handles operations. Food is a unifying pleasure, with a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef preparing gourmet meals. Two cookbooks, Celebrating the Seasons at Westerbeke Ranch and A Plate of Grace, attest to the kitchen being the heart of the Ranch.
“We provide the vessel, and amazing groups come,” Wendy says, including The Trust for Public Land, Coaches Training Institute, Rockwood Leadership, and Burkman Yoga.
With ties to the Ranch now five generations strong, the Westerbekes are a rare dynastic family in the valley without a vineyard.
“We grow people,” she emphasizes, “not grapes.”