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Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

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DUNGENESS CRAB SEASON IN SONOMA COUNTY

  
  
  
Mary Calla Rowan, Farmhouse Inn concierge



More From Farmhouse Inn bloggess Mary Calla Rowan, 
concierge and Sonoma County enthusiast 

 

 

 

 

 




WINE COUNTRY MEMORIES...SONOMA BACKROADS TO OYSTER FARMS

  
  
  
Mary Calla, Farmhouse Inn concierge




    Mary Calla, Farmhouse Inn concierge team,
back again exploring a new favorite
Sonoma County wine country backroads adventure. 




Taking any backroad in Sonoma County leads away from the masses and gives a feeling of traveling back in time, back before six lane freeways, tract homes and box stores.   Our wine country is crisscrossed with roads like this, little, windy, forgotten roads with speed limits regulated by cattle grates instead of radar guns.  While many back roads will take you through the heart of wine country, the rest will lead you over the hills and through the redwoods to hidden gems throughout the north bay- all you need is dedication, a set of wheels and an appetite for adventure (and oysters).  One of the joys of being a concierge at Farmhouse Inn is getting to share some of our secret favorites of the area.

Today I would like to share with you one of my recent favorite trips through the backroads of Sonoma wine country. Friday afternoon, the sun had come out and warmed everything for the first time since the rains had flooded much of Russian River Valley.  I left Farmhouse Inn around 2pm and drove west through Russian River Valley and south towards Sebastopol.  I caught up with Bodega Avenue and wound my way through apple orchards older than I am.  Along the drive, orchards that line the road are a reminder that Sonoma County was once a great apple producing county, famous for the sweet juice produced by the Gravenstein variety.  Soon, green pastures dotted with black and white Holsteins and fawn colored Jersey cows fill the landscape.  West Sonoma county out towards Highway 1 and the coast is dairy country unlike any other, with views that encompass boulder-strewn pastures leading to the craggy Sonoma Coast and Pacific Ocean. 

A left onto Freestone's Valley Ford Road leads through more dairy country and to Highway 1, through the little towns of Freestone and Tomales, towards my final destination:  Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall, CA.    I was on my way to meet my sister Camille and our friend Lily for the release of a new beer called Marooned on Hog Island, produced by San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery.  

 

 
Now I wouldn’t normally drive nearly an hour just to try a new beer, but when our friend Julian who works for Hog Island Oyster Co. invited us to come out for an afternoon on the bay enjoying fresh oysters, how could I say no? 

When I arrived, I didn’t know yet where to find everybody, but figured I could follow the laughter and sound of happy people eating and drinking the fine fare of Northern California.  I headed straight back to the picnic tables full of folks joyously shucking oysters and eating hearty bowls of steamer clams with white beans and sausage, adorned with hunks of rustic French bread perched on the lip of the bowl.

 

 













SONOMA COUNTY...THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR

  
  
  
Farmhouse Inn concierge Mary Calla

GUEST POST FROM FARMHOUSE INN AND OUR NEWEST MEMBER OF THE CONCIERGE TEAM...
Mary Calla (and looks like our up and coming poet and photographer extraordinaire)

 


BEST WINE COUNTRY DESTINATION - SONOMA...AGAIN!

  
  
  
Sunset Wine Country Face-Off

First it was Sunset Magazine and their "Napa vs. Sonoma Face-off" with the two rivals slugging it out over which wine country has "the juice" and, of course, Sonoma edged out Napa. 

We thought that it might have been a little prejudicial as Sonoma is more up Sunset's alley- they are not big on the corporate style so dominate over in that "other" wine country. On top of which the Sonoma side of the story was written by Rod Smith, husband to one of the Farmhouse Inn proprietors, Catherine Bartolomei-Smith. (Perhaps just a little partial to Sonoma and the lifestyle they enjoy here.) 

Here's an excerpt from Rod's take on Sonoma County: "The county’s 1,576 square miles are a sprawling garden of organic produce, free-range meats, and since 1824, grapes. (George Yount planted Napa’s first vines in the 1830s, using Sonoma cuttings.) Napa offers the thrill of tasting wines few can afford and eating trendy food cooked by the employees of celebrity chefs. In Sonoma, you can access countryside, towns, and tasting rooms—sans appointment—to try some of the most distinctive and innovative wines available. True, pockets have trended upscale. Limos? Check. Celebs like Lady Gaga looking to buy? Check. But at heart, this is authentic country open to visitors—casual and wine snob alike."

Even though we were excited about the article (and seeing Rod's byline) and the outcome we were hesitant to crow too loudly. But then Sunset took a vote from their readers and Sonoma won hands down (at one point the voting was 10164 votes for Sonoma against a mere 236 for Napa). Those Sunset readers really know their stuff.  So take that Napa! We are no longer the poor little sister.

But now we really do have something to crow about!  The new Travelers Choice Award for Wine country destinations just came out from TripAdvisor.  The destinations are rated by the millions of travelers that use the TripAdvisor site.  And Sonoma County came out #1 in the U.S. (yes, in front of and on top of Napa) and #2 in the WORLD (just behind Tuscany- and Napa didn't even get on the world list).  So watch out world...we are on the map!







SONOMA WINE COUNTRY BIKING FROM FARMHOUSE INN

  
  
  
Biking Russian River

Guest Blog Post from T.C. (aka "Teec")- one of our most talented concierges (and the one that has been with us the longest)... Still loving her job and filling the role of "resident mom" with some of the younger concierges (Does that make Meilani the "Grandmom"?).  

With so much to see and do in the Wine Country we are never short of exciting activities to share with our guests here at Farmhouse Inn.  This time of year brings the excitement of the grape harvest and those gorgeous days of Indian Summer and cool nights hanging around the firepit with the other guests. As a concierge here at Farmhouse part of my job is to get a sense of how people want to spend their time in the Wine Country. We create custom itineraries based on a guests' preference of activities - it is not always just about the food and wine. 

Sonoma County has been getting quite a name for itself in the cycling world.  This year the beginning and end of the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California was in Santa Rosa, Levi's GranFondo was just last weekend with over 7,000 bikers participating, and the Vineman Triathalon events in July brought the athletes out in droves. With our rolling landscapes (one guest said it was like a picture postcard around every turn) two-wheeled wine country adventures can really help burn off some of those extra calories you might consume from wine tasting and dining at our amazing restaurants. (I promise you Chef Steve does not pay attention to calories when he cooks for you.)  Biking along the Russian River throughout Sonoma County is an incredible way to enjoy the wine country.

Our friend Dave, over at Adventures in Cycling , has created custom tours (something for all levels of cycling expertise) for the guests of Farmhouse Inn interested in cycling the county. Here are a few examples and some pictures of some of our guests (and new friends) enjoying the wine country.

  • The Pinot Cycling Tour....We start our ride from The Farmhouse Inn, riding up Westside road through the Russian River Valley visiting our winery partners that specialize in Pinot Noir; Arista, Porter Creek, VML Wineries, for example. The distance we ride is up to the guest, I've had guests ride 12 miles up and 12 miles back. Other guests want to taste more so we ride 6 miles up and 6 miles back. All the tours include a wonderful picnic lunch at a winery, that includes meats, cheeses, salad, and dessert, stops along the way to admire scenery and the vineyards. Tour time 10:00 am to 3:30.

  • The Zin/Cab Biking Tour.... We drive up to the Dry Creek Valley (a 15 minute drive) to start our ride. We visit some of our winery partners, Dry Creek Vineyards, barrel tasting at Zichichi Winery, or Lambert Bridge who specialize in Zinfandel and Cabernet. Again the riding distance and number of wine stops is up to you. Riding 15 to 20 miles though Sonoma County we will have time for 3 to 4 tastings. Picnic lunch at one of of our partner wineries. Tour time 9:30 to 3:30.

  •  The Serious Cyclist Tour.....whether you bring your own bike or want to rent a road bike, we can take you out to ride King's Ridge, Coleman Valley Road to the ocean, or set up a 50 mile flat loop- all part of Levi's famous GranFondo. A great day / ride is to ride from the Farmhouse Inn over to Occidental, across Coleman Valley Road to the Sonoma Coast, then north up HWY 1 to the Russian River, turn inland along the Russian River ending our ride at Armstrong Redwoods for a BBQ lunch.

  •  Easy Bike Ride  Guests depart the Farmhouse Inn and we drive over to Graton to the Joe Rodota Trail, part of the West County Trail ,we ride for an hour or so, stop at Taft Street Winery or a couple of the West Sonoma County wineries (optional), when we finish riding we load back in the van and go on to Iron Horse Winery or Armstrong Redwoods for a picnic lunch.  This is the perfect ride for the not so aggressive rider that doesn't feel comfortable biking our back roads.  Most of the trail is an old railroad bed that has been paved and is completely removed from traffic. You can actually pick up the trail right behind Farmhouse Inn in Forestville and bike all the way to Santa Rosa (about 18 miles) and it is just slightly hilly in a couple of spots.

    So next time you are headed for the wine country...give me a call and let's see if we can't include one of Dave's custom tours in your itinerary.  Of course,  the perfect finish for the day is a glass of wine out by the pool or how about a spa treatment at the Farmhouse Spa to finish off the day!


One more photo op...up at Hop Kiln Winery on that Westside Road tour- probably the most photographed winery in the county.











100 COOLEST WAYS TO EXPLORE THE WINE COUNTRY

  
  
  
San Francisco Endeavor flyby

What--you really thought I was going into 100 ways right now?? Not enough room on this page but how about 5 cool ways to start and I will fill in the rest later.  A guest on their way to Farmhouse Inn for the weekend called this morning to relate that they were just crossing the Golden Gate bridge and were stuck in way cool traffic because the shuttle Endeavor was making a flyby over the bridge.  We saw a posting on Facebook of all the people on rooftops in San Francisco.  What an event!

Anyhow, I had to tell the guest that we have a very special event up here in wine country this weekend too.  So the newest, coolest way to see the wine country is from one of the only 3 Zeppelins in the world still flying.   The Airship "Eureka" is in Sonoma County this week and is offering "Pop the Cork" flights over Sonoma County, the wine country, the Russian River, all the way out to the Coast.  There have been quite a few sightings already and you must know by now how fascinated I am by all things that fly.  Even after groundschool and learning all about aerodynamics I still have trouble believing that the plane carrying the shuttle actually can fly.

 

So that would be number 1-  for coolness! 




SONOMA SUMMER WINDS DOWN ...LAST FLURRY OF EVENTS

  
  
  
Sonoma county Rainbow

We are hearing people lamenting summer soon being over...but in California and in particular in Sonoma County we still have at least 2 more months of summer AND IT IS PACKED FULL!  We got our first hint of fall the other night when we actually had some clouds in the sky (the remains of some storm from the southland that got pulled in) and we were all out in awe of the beautiful sunset...sunny skies and perfect weather every day gets kind of boring, you know. Take a look at this picture of gorgeousness our lead Concierge, Anna, took the other night.

SONOMA COUNTY HARVEST...NOT JUST GRAPES YOU KNOW!!

  
  
  
Dry Creek Peaches

The end of summer is the perfect time to explore Sonoma County. Sunny days, a little cooler evenings and all the flavors of summer harvest around us. It is harvest time in the wine country and the grapes are making their way on their magical journey from the vine to the bottle.

FARMHOUSE INN AND OUR MOST ROMANTIC GUESTS...

  
  
  
Julie, Farmhouse Inn concierge

A guest post from Julie,
Romance expert and star concierge at Farmhouse Inn!  




"I don’t normally like to write....unless it’s something I am passionate about...and romance is one thing I am most passionate about.

I came to Farmhouse Inn last year to help shoot a video for the their new website.  By the time the video was finished I fell in love with the people, the property, and most of all the great care they take of their guests.  It seems no request is too great and the romance of the wine country is threaded through everything they say and do. I found this hidden gem hidden away just minutes from my Healdsburg home and so wanted to be a part of their great team and share the philosophy of the Inn....they hired me four days later to join their Concierge team.  By the way, if you haven't seen it here is the Farmhouse video and you can find me in a few of the shots if you are looking...

 

In a world sometimes full of doom and gloom – the Farmhouse Inn is full of smiling faces and wonderful people.   Each and every guest that I speak to on the phone or have the pleasure to meet in person makes me smile.  They seem so happy and are excited and eager to spend their wine country vacation or special celebration with us here at the Farmhouse.

Being able to assist guests with their itinerary is probably the most fun and rewarding part of my job.  Sonoma County is such an amazing place to live and  we love to share it's charms with our guests. I am a hopeless romantic and want each and every person that visits with us to leave here with the very best experience possible.










FUN AND GAMES AT FARMHOUSE INN

  
  
  
Farmhouse Inn Facebook Sweepstakes

Here at Farmhouse Inn we pride ourselves not taking life in Sonoma County too seriously...we love helping our guests discover some of the whimsy and fun of living in the wine country.  When the birthday for our (fairly) new Barn building rolled around this year we wanted to do something extra fun so everyone could join in and help us celebrate.  We are fairly new to social media and Facebook...still learning the ropes (plus they keep changing everything when we do get it figured out)  but wanted to see what we could do to increase our presence there. 
And Meghan had an idea of piggybacking on the release of the new Snow White movie too...what do you think of the concept behind  our first Facebook promotion?

 

Right when we were discussing what kind of hijinks we could get up to - we discovered a company called Grosocial that specializes in helping companies grow their social media presence and designs tabs for Facebook promotions.  Right up our alley...they helped us design a sweepstakes that could be shared on Facebook with the entries and shares tracked through their application. We had the most fun coming up with some ideas for prizes and they helped us flesh it all out.  Now the Sweepstakes is done, the winner is announced, and we thought we would share some of the fun we had along the way.  It was definitely a learning experience but luckily our new friends at Grosocial held our hands through it all.  if you didn't happen to see it here is a picture of the Sweepstakes...

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