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Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

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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...

TINY WEDDINGS AT FARMHOUSE INN...OUR TAKE ON ROMANCE!

  
  
  
Meghan, Wedding and romance Concierge

  
A very special message from our romance specialist at Farmhouse Inn
Meghan Smith,
our elopement and wedding coordinator
 (and concierge extraordinaire).






Despite the trend of grandiose, Martha Stewart-esque weddings that have persisted for the last 10 years, here at Farmhouse Inn we have given all that up and prefer to offer couples a more intimate option.  We think romance is personal, and with each of our "tiny weddings" we see that theory proved time and time again.  The story each couple has is what makes each Elopement special.  Whether it is a late-in-life love, an instant connection or a long friendship that grew over time, each story is unique.

It is my job/pleasure to help couples plan their elopement to the wine country here at Farmhouse Inn.  While the package was created to be simple and straightforward it doesn’t lack the special details and each couple puts their own spin on it.  From our cakes made by Patisserie Angelica, to the bouquets from local florist Atrellis, each detail is important and unique.  The elopement package covers all the basics and a few extra details but I have yet to host a couple who has been “typical”.  The package provides couples with what they need to get married, but each story is so different that every wine country elopement at Farmhouse is special and unique.  We tell couples all they need is the ring and a dress and we take care of the rest.  But every bride and groom have added their own special touches that have created a memory for us here at Farmhouse too...

 

My very first Farmhouse elopement was with Marcia Ann and Randy last November.  The couple was from Texas and each already had grown children with families of their own.  They found each other later in life and after a whirlwind romance of only 2 months, Randy whisked Marcia Ann to Farmhouse Inn for a tiny wedding all their own. (You know, he originally thought he would just bring her and surprise her once they got to Farmhouse but we had to tell him it might not be good...she would need a dress and things to make their day truly special.  Romantic- yes!  Wise- maybe not?!) Their ceremony was the first that has ever had me sniffling and I had only met them 2 days before.  We all fell a little bit in love with the both of them and look forward to seeing them in November when they come back to celebrate their anniversary.

While Marcia Ann and Randy made us cry, we have couples that make us laugh too.  Most recently we had the pleasure of meeting Teena and Wayne.  Both from Las Vegas, we found it a little ironic that they were eloping but chose to do so in the romantic Wine Country instead of their hometown.  Teena and Wayne had photographer Kate Nagel come out to do their photos and she captured some amazing moments.  Our favorites though are of Teena and Wayne jumping into the pool.  Yes, you read that correctly.  We refer to "tying the knot" and "taking the plunge"...they definitely took the plunge-literally!  Teena went for it in her dress and full hair and makeup and Wayne took off his shoes and jacket before making a splash.  The fun they had (they also did the classic cake-in-the-face moment) made everyone’s week and anytime we need to lighten up we just look at these photos.

Randy and Marcia Ann have a story that struck a chord with all of us who had the pleasure of working with them, as all of our couples do.  We continue to get a thrill with each new wedding we host and every time someone proposes in the restaurant and when we check in the couples celebrating anniversaries. 


 

These occasions are so personal and it is our good fortune to be a part of these moments. 
While we don’t disagree with the classic icons of romance (just ask us and we’ll gladly put a bottle of champagne with some truffles in your room),
we understand that there is no one-size fits-all version of romance.










Chocolate bonbons, a chilled bottle of champagne and a Sandra Bullock chick flick. Sounds exactly like a romantic evening to me. These icons of romance endure because we love them. And while the word “elope” often brings to mind a Las Vegas ceremony with an Elvis minister, at Farmhouse we want you to think of something else. The classic icons evoked when you hear the word “romance” (Miss Bullock and bonbons) should be the same things that pop to mind when you hear the word “elope” (sorry Elvis). Add to those images a romantic dinner for two in the Farmhouse restaurant, a couples massage and a very personal ceremony and you’ll come close to what an elopement at Farmhouse Inn means. 

                                             Ahhh...Romance!

FARMER'S MARKETS TAKE OVER SONOMA COUNTY

  
  
  
sonoma farmer's markets

I HAVE BEEN WAITING (ALMOST PATIENTLY) FOR ALL OUR FARMER'S MARKETS TO REALLY GET GOING TO TELL YOU ABOUT THEM AND HOW MUCH I LOVE SUMMER IN SONOMA.  IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYTHING IS COMING IN ALL AT ONCE- STILL SOME CHERRIES AROUND AND I SAW APRICOTS YESTERDAY THAT I THOUGHT WOULD BE GONE BY NOW.  SUMMER SQUASH IS EVERYWHERE AND THE EARLY TOMATOES AND ALL THE STONE FRUITS AND... THAT'S THE SUMMER SEASON IN CALIFORNIA AND PARTICULARLY IN SONOMA COUNTY. 

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