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Guns and wine pair at this Bay Area shooting range

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 6 days ago By Matt Villano

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If 2020 has you stressed out, Wing & Barrel Ranch might be a good place to let off some steam.

The private club is the largest hunting range in Sonoma County, situated on 1,000 acres at the top of San Pablo Bay between Ram’s Gate Winery and Sonoma Raceway. It combines outdoor shotgun sports, great wine and top-notch cuisine in one place.

“We’ve got the best of all worlds, right here,” says co-owner Darius Anderson, who once owned Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 in San Francisco and Cornerstone Sonoma, a marketplace and garden. “When you consider that we’re 35 minutes from San Francisco and right in the heart of Wine Country, it doesn’t get much better than this.”

The club is members-only, but throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been open to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays by appointment. During those times, you’re free to show up to shoot clays or hunt birds (depending on the time of year).

Wing & Barrel is the only outdoor shooting range within an hour’s drive of San Francisco, and its 25-acre sporting clays course is the only one on the West Coastdesigned by British clay legend Chris Batha. Shooting on a Batha course is like golfing on a course designed by Jack Nicklaus. The course features 15 automated shooting stations with three shooting positions each.

Visitors can reserve a two-hour session on one of 20 different upland fields to hunt for pheasant, chucker, partridge and quail that club managers stock daily — at least until the end of April (when hunting season ends in October).

Hunters are required to head out with a dog — their own or one of the 18 club dogs that live in a kennel on-site. All birds killed by hunters are de-feathered, cleaned and prepared on-site.

Eventually the club also will open a 1.5-acre fly casting pond stocked with striped bass.

The club’s 300 members enjoy many more perks and features, including special wine dinners with renowned local chefs and winemakers. Though Wing & Barrel doesn’t have a winery, its programming celebrates Sonoma and Napa wines, and Chef Charlie Palmer, a resident of Healdsburg, is the club’s culinary adviser. (Don’t worry, the club doesn’t let anyone shoot if he or she has been drinking.)

Later this year, when a brand-new, two-story, 16,000-square-foot clubhouse opens, Wing & Barrel will expand its member base to 500, offering members and their families exclusive access to locker rooms, a cigar lounge, a wine cellar, a gun safe and cleaning room, a full bar, a fine-dining restaurant, meeting rooms and more.

Anderson will fill the lounge with one-of-a-kind elements such as two shotguns once owned by Paul Newman, a taxidermic bear that is reputed to be the last grizzly killed in California, and duck decoys from all over the Northern California.

While this lounge will remain closed to nonmembers, there’s still plenty of reasons for us laypeople to book an appointment to experience the ranch. Just be sure to aim for early in the week.

Matt Villano is a freelance writer in Healdsburg. Email: travel@sfchronicle.com

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