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Sonoma company offers vegan wine tours

After La Belle Vie owner and wine tour director Michelle Rulmont became vegan in January 2018, she did research to learn which local wineries are vegan. She was surprised to learn that many wines use animal-derived substances during the filtering process.

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), popular animal-derived fining agents commonly used to filter wine include blood and bone marrow, casein (milk protein), chitin (fiber from crustacean shells), egg albumen (derived from egg whites), fish oil, gelatin (protein from boiling animal parts), and isinglass (gelatin from fish bladder membranes).

A handful of local wineries do, however, use fining agents that are animal-friendly and result in vegan wine. Carbon, bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, plant casein, silica gel and vegetable plaques are all vegan alternatives.

Rulmont's tour is designed for animal-lovers and vegans, but she says that it isn't a requirement to be either to enjoy the experience.

'La vie est belle' is a French expression meaning life is beautiful.

The tour begins in downtown Sonoma, where guests board a Mercedes Sprinter van for a visit to Charlie's Acres animal sanctuary in Sonoma Valley. On the one-hour guided tour visitors meet rescued goats, cows, horses, chickens, turkeys, ducks and pigs. After getting to know the animals, the tour stops for wine tasting at two local vegan wineries, complete with a vegan lunch and wine tasting in a garden.

Along the way, guests learn about other vegan options around the Sonoma Valley area.

The six-hour escape begins at 10 a.m. and ends back near the Plaza at approximately 4 p.m. The tour can accommodate up to seven guests.

Rulmont and her husband Marc founded the company in 2017 but the vegan tours are new. www.labellevietours.com.

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