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Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

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THREE DAYS IN WINE COUNTRY: A SONOMA PLANNING GUIDE

  
  
  
Wine Country, Sonoma and Napa

Planning a long weekend (or more) in wine country? Interested in seeing what the grape harvest looks like? You’re not alone. Many  visitors to Sonoma and Napa during September and October come for a long weekend. While 3 days may seem like plenty of time in wine country, it really is  considered to be a quick visit. There is so much to do in Northern California that those 3 days will fly by quickly. Fear not: there is a team of experts on hand to help plan your visit so you won’t end up spending too much of your time in the car. The Farmhouse Inn concierge team can help plan your visit to Sonoma County. They have suggestions on everything from where to fly into, on where to dine and what activities are worth considering.

 

The major airports in Northern California are located in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento. If you’ve been to Sonoma or Napa before then you know that it is at least an hour and a half from any of these airports to wine country. Alternatively, you might fly into our regional airport.  The benefits are endless; they include shorter drive time, a free checked box of wine (they want you to bring the hooch home with you) and a very short security line. That alone will convince you to use the Sonoma County Airport every time. The closest airport to the Farmhouse Inn is just 10 minutes away – a convenient cab ride but you really should rent a car of your own to get around the wine country. You can reserve a rental from one of several counters at the airport. The Sonoma County Airport has direct flights to LAX, Portland, Seattle and San Diego (we’re hearing rumors of additional flights coming soon, so stay tuned). To check flight availability into Sonoma County Airport click here.

 

Where you dine also affects how long you spend in the car (if you like to drive the back roads of wine country this section may not be for you). Our concierges always recommend dining locally – and if you’re staying at Farmhouse Inn “local” can mean a 20 foot walk from your room to the Restaurant. In addition to the Farmhouse Restaurant, Sonoma County is fortunate to have many other wonderful dining options. Be it a specific cuisine, setting, or location; Sonoma has what you’re looking for within a 30 minute drive. (While we understand the appeal of Napa, you might save those restaurants for another trip.) Some of the concierge team’s favorite local restaurants include River’s End and Terrapin Creek on the Sonoma Coast, Chalkboard and SCOPA in Healdsburg, and Twist and Backyard in Forestville (just 5 minutes from Farmhouse!). If you’ll be in town for harvest check the online event calendars at WineRoad.com or WineCountry.com for special winery dinners and events. There is much going on most weekends and especially during September and October.

 


Once you’ve bought your tickets, booked your room at Farmhouse Inn, and made your dinner reservations, let's start planning the fun stuff. Interested in a harvest tour at your favorite winery? Check. Want to visit the coast and redwoods one day? Check. Hot air balloon ride sound appealing? Check. Check. Check. You can do all these things in three days, just plan wisely. Most wineries don’t open until 11 am so the mornings are when you can do things like the hot air balloon ride and a visit to Armstrong Redwoods- sunrise and communing with nature – exactly what you expected on a wine country vacation, right? Once you’ve knocked out your morning activities and have filled up on the Farmhouse breakfast, it is off to the wineries. Harvest is the busiest time of year for wineries, both in the cellars and tasting rooms. For the most exclusive and best of experiences make reservations ahead of time. In addition to tours consider some wine and food pairing options. These experiences are typically stand outs for wine country visitors and availability is limited.

 


Our team of wine country experts is waiting for your call. If you’re more of an email person click here to send us a message. To check availability at the Inn for an upcoming wine country vacation click here. To stay up to date with all of our latest discoveries and recommendations be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



FARMHOUSE INN EXPLORES INFLUENCES ON OUR WINE AND FOOD CULTURE

  
  
  
Sonoma Food and Wine

Food and wine are our two favorite subjects … as you may have noticed if you follow this blog or are a fan of our Facebook page.  Located in the middle of the Russian River Valley, the Farmhouse Inn is in the heart of a culinary and viticulture epicenter. Every week we share our newest food and wine findings with our fans, but this week we'll reflect on the changes in food and wine culture through the influence of the media. (We're impressed with our thoughtfulness too.)

Movies and films have had an enormous impact on our local industry, and social media and magazines continue to reflect these changes. Everything from “Sideways” and “Top Chef” to Bon Appétit magazine and Instagram are changing the way we think and talk about food and wine. Three examples of the media’s influence are shifts in wine preferences, the increasing popularity of the local food movement and the way we make travel decisions.

 

SONOMA'S FARMHOUSE INN VISITS ANOTHER WINE COUNTRY

  
  
  
Tuscany2

Love Letters from Italy (our second favorite wine country)

If you follow us on Facebook you may have noticed that Farmhouse Inn recently spent some time abroad. Last month we were in Italy; basking in the glow of sunshine, strolling through vineyards and olive groves, and gazing at beautiful old villas perched on the hillsides. While we were officially there to work (we know, we couldn’t believe it either), we didn’t waste a minute of the 2 weeks we had. 


There is something truly special about Italy. As we meandered through Italy’s historic villages, we were reminded of why artists have been depicting this part of the world as utopic for centuries. The light, the food, the people- they all come together to create an experience that is evocative and compelling. We thought we’d highlight some of the moments from our trip.


 

 

We arrived in Milan via New York. As we were flying to Milan we passed over the Swiss Alps- not a bad beginning to the trip. Our first destination and the reason for our visit, was Castello di Casole. Casole is located just south of Florence and right between Milan and Rome. The Castello di Casole Estate has a rich history dating back to 3000 B.C. - its proximity to the Elsa River made it a desirable location for many farmers, especially for those growing wheat, corn, olives and grapes.




We were fortunate enough to have been selected as a partner hotel in one of Castello’s Eat and Drink Experience Packages. In addition to our families, we also brought over Farmhouse Chef Steve Litke and Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth. Over 5 days we enjoyed tours of Siena, wine tastings with vignerons, cooking classes with chefs, and yes we’ll admit, some time by the pool. Castello’s rooms, hospitality and amazing location all made for a great 5 days. We hope to one day have some of their team visit us at Farmhouse Inn, and if you were able to join us in Casole, we hope to see you stateside soon!

 






THE BEST OF SONOMA AND GLEN ELLEN

  
  
  
Sonoma


 

Last week’s blog post focused on a perfect day in Sonoma's Healdsburg and the Russian River Valley. We have come to the realization that one post on a perfect day in wine country wasn’t nearly enough. Sonoma County is an extremely large and diverse county - the size of Rhode Island and stretches from the Mayacama Mountains to the Sonoma Coast. There is much to see and do here (and we have so many perfect days). 


This part of the California wine country has many great day-trip options; this week we’re heading to Sonoma Valley to visit our top three breakfast, hiking, and winery stops in Sonoma and Glen Ellen. If you missed last week’s post or are new to this blog click here to catch up.

 



A frequent question we hear from our guests here at Farmhouse Inn as they are headed out for the day is: "
Where can I find a strong cup of coffee and/or a latte?" Fear not, we’ve done plenty of research on this topic. Next time you visit Sonoma or Glen Ellen make a stop of one of these favorites.


1. Open 7 days per week is the Sunflower Caffé right on the Sonoma Plaza just one door down from the El Dorado Hotel. Great coffee and espresso drinks are available as well as many breakfast basics. Sunflower also has some great additions like a spicy chicken slider.


 










A PERFECT DAY IN SONOMA COUNTY: A FEW OF OUR SECRETS

  
  
  
Morning in Sonoma


Living and working in Sonoma County offers many benefits; one of which is that we get do all the things the press write about as being a “must do on your next visit to California’s wine country".  It's no secret that summer is an amazing time of year to visit wine country and only next to harvest in terms of things to do and general excitement .  Here's a few summer perks we enjoy every day : Farmers’ markets, floating on the river, Music on the Green, and an all time favorite; dining al fresco with wine and friends. The Farmhouse Inn concierge team is often asked what we would do for a perfect day in the wine country. Fear not- we’ve done it before and are excited to share the wonders of life in Sonoma County with our guests.

  

If you’re anything like us, the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning is “where is my coffee?” 

 


FARMHOUSE INN CONCIERGE: SONOMA SUMMER WINE PICKS

  
  
  
Summer in Sonoma

Locals living in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys associate spring time with the release of the newest vintages of white and rose wines. It is the time of year when we start making our summer plans and stocking our refrigerators for the coming months of picnicking near the Russian River and music on the square in Healdsburg. These delightful new releases always seem to perk us up out of our “winter” stupor. Whether your favorite is a Chardonnay or a Rose of Pinot Noir, we’ll go through the range of some of our favorites being released just in time for summer.


Let's start on the lighter end of the white wines,  with the Sauvignon Blancs from the area that we can’t resist. For Sauvignon Blanc we recommend you head up to Dry Creek Valley where the warmer climate, limited daytime coastal influence and combination of gravelly and sandy loam soils make it ideal for Sauvignon Blanc. Our favorites come from Preston and Quivira. Preston’s Sauvignon Blanc has the classic citrus qualities of grapefruit and lime with touches of green apple. Perfect with summer vegetables and of course a selection of your favorite cheeses! Quivira’s Sauvignon Blanc comes from their well-known Fig Tree Vineyard on their estate. Quivira’s Sauvignon Blanc tends to exude more of the tropical notes like pineapple and passion fruit. Always high in acid, the Quivira is a perfect match with veal piccata or a tangy chevre. Be sure to inquire about other white wines available at both Preston and Quivira- the Madame Preston and Sauvignon Blanc-Viognier blend from Quivira are also at the top of our list.


If you like a little more body on your white wines than consider this next category of unique whites. We’ll start with RYME Cellar’s Vermentino. RYME is a small artisan brand from former Farmhouse Inn Sommelier Megan Glaab and her husband Ryan. Ryan and Megan have varying opinions on what Vermentino should taste like so they decided to a His and a Hers. Don’t tell Ryan, but the Concierge team all votes for the Hers. Classic Vermentino tends to have a stony, saline minerality and both versions at RYME exude this. Vermentino can sometimes take on an orange hue (depending on skin-contact during fermentation) and therefore contains tannins making it more robust on the spectrum of white wines. We recommend most seafood dishes and the occasional pesto with your next glass. Another unique white wine coming out of the Russian River Valley is Wind Gap’s Trousseau Gris. With intense mineral aromas (think wet rocks) and pineapple, the Trousseau Gris is zesty and lively on the palate. This wine is one of our favorites with fresh oysters on the half shell. Both the RYME Vermentinos and Wind Gap Trousseau have large followings and quickly sell out every year, so be sure to place your order soon.


On to the king of white wines, Chardonnay.  Bold, full bodied, round, lush and unapologetically barrel-aged, California’s classic Chardonnays continue to be as popular today as they were 30 years ago. While some wineries are experimenting with non-barrel aging techniques, the predominant style still exudes aromas and flavors of butter, popcorn, vanilla, toast and baking spices. Of the Chardonnays that fall in this category we have 2 front runners: Gary Farrell’s Russian River Select and Red Car’s Sonoma Coast. Both wineries have tasting rooms in the Russian River Valley but purchase all their fruit from local growers- this allows them to select the best of the best each vintage. We’re huge fans of Evan Goldstein’s “Perfect Pairings” and his latest “Daring Pairings”. Both books provide pairing guidelines as well as fantastic recipes. We highly suggest referencing one of these books the time you open your favorite California Chardonnay.


To round up our spring list we’re finishing with what might be our favorite category, Rose. Pink, slightly effervescent and smelling of summertime, what’s not to like? Our go-to both in the Farmhouse Inn Restaurant and by the pool is County Line’s Rose of Pinot Noir. County Line is the second label of Radio Coteauowner/winemaker Eric Sussman. The County Line Rose is consistently one of our favorites every year- smelling of watermelon and strawberries, the Rose is extremely quaffable and affordable. No need to hesitate on opening this wine- the $20 price makes it a wine to be enjoyed whenever, wherever. We drink it with everything but if you’d like a little more sophisticated recommendation try it with a scallop sashimi or the perfect naked oyster. Last but not least is Farmhouse Winery Partner Inman Family’s Rose- beautiful, pale, delicate pink and crisp and refreshing, it is without a doubt a standout among the pink wines. With more structure, higher acids and supreme balance, this Rose makes us want to throw a summer dinner party in the vineyards right now. If you want to get fancy on your brunch guests try pairing this Rose with a scrambled egg and smoked salmon or a Quiche Lorraine.


We hope this Concierge Guide to Spring Releases was helpful and that you visit a few of the wineries mentioned on this list during your next vacation to wine country. If you won’t be visiting soon be sure to look for them in your local wine shop or on the wine list at your favorite restaurants. For more winery recommendations, itinerary suggestions and information on the area be sure to email your concierge soon. For more information on the latest happenings at Farmhouse be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.






Farmhouse Inn to the Mendocino Coast: A Weekend Getaway

  
  
  
Lazy Creek Winery

 

Just an hour and a half north of the Farmhouse Inn lies the truly wonderful Mendocino County. Known for its stunning rustic coastline and cooler climate, Mendocino County is a must-see for those visiting Northern California. From Boonville and Philo out to Little River and Mendocino, the area offers everything a traveler could want: great wine and food, amazing views and scenery, picture perfect hiking conditions in the redwoods, and most importantly great people. Whether you’re planning a visit there soon or have considered adding it to your bucket list, we’ve outlined a perfect weekend in Mendocino for you. We assume you are adding Farmhouse Inn onto the beginning or end of your trip; we’ll begin this trip from Farmhouse Inn and head north. 


As you leave the Farmhouse Inn you’ll head up to Cloverdale to connect with Highway 128. This is one of the prettiest drives in all of Northern California but be prepared for some twists and turns as you leave Sonoma County for Mendocino County. Once you’ve cleared the biggest stretch of driving, about an hour, you’ll arrive in Boonville. With plenty of markets and cafes you’ll have a range of locations to choose from- our favorite is Mosswood Market. There are also several tasting rooms in downtown Boonville, so be sure to check out at least one of those. After grabbing a bite to eat it is time to move on and begin the serious wine tasting.



Continue to head north on Highway 128 out of Boonville towards Philo. From well-known brands like Roederer and Scharffenberger to smaller unknowns like Breggo and Toulouse, Anderson Valley has a lot to offer. Due to the cooler climate of the Anderson Valley many of the wineries specialize in Pinot Noirs and cool climate white wines such as Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. If we had our choice the first day visits would include a stop at Roederer for some bubbles, a drop in at Toulouse for for their Pinot Gris and Muscat, and  cap off the day with a visit to Lazy Creek for their Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer. Most of the wineries in Anderson Valley are open to visitors every day without an appointment, but be sure to check ahead of time. Another item for the research list should be availability of their wines- due to their small size many of these wineries sell out quickly.


Full up on your new favorite wines it is onto the coast. You’ll take Highway 128 through Philo, past the redwoods and out to Highway 1.  Turn right to head north and onto the town of Mendocino. Without a doubt our favorite overnight spot in all of Mendocino County is the Brewery Gulch Inn. The rooms face the town of Mendocino and its coast and are well appointed. In addition to a truly wonderful breakfast (included in the room rate) you’ll also enjoy their evening wine hour with snacks. Snacks may be understating what they offer- it is a buffet and enough food for most people to go without a dinner reservation somewhere else.  After your stay in one of Inn’s cozy rooms (we recommend the Meadowood Suite if its available) head to downtown Mendocino to explore the town’s galleries and shops. We also recommend heading down to the beach for some hiking. It can be particularly cold on the coast so be sure to bring your layers. Once you’re refreshed from the ocean air its time to hop back in the car.


As you wind back down Highway 1 and Highway 128 we recommend stopping at the truly must-see Navarro Vineyards in Philo. Navarro is an Anderson Valley classic and their wide range of wines and reasonable prices make them a very popular stop for natives and visitors. Their friendly staff is helpful and fun. They sell picnic items so buy your favorite bottle from the list, some lunch items and heading out to a picnic table. Just a bit further down Highway 128 is Goldeneye- a Duckhorn Winery sister property. Goldeneye offers its visitors a seated outdoor tasting with a lovely cheese plate.
 For your last night in Mendocino County we recommend the Boonville Hotel. Recently remodeled the cute cabins are simple but reflect Mendocino’s style. And if you’re staying at the BH then you can’t miss out on their new Table 128 restaurant. Its a new pre-fixe menu every night, which they post online ahead of time. And if you’re there on a Sunday afternoon you can join the Oyster Bar for freshly shucked Tomales Bay oysters.


Have you booked your flight yet? We hope the Farmhouse Inn is a part of your future Northern California visit and that you also take the time to consider a day or two just north of us. All properties, stops and wineries mentioned can be booked directly or with the assistance of a Farmhouse Concierge. Be sure to continue to check our blog, Facebook page and website for information on new packages, vacation inspiration and the latest news from wine country.








WINE COUNTRY TO BIG SUR: A CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP

  
  
  
California coast, Jenner

With summer quickly approaching many people are making their vacation plans. Whether you’re living in California now or plan on visiting, a road trip up or down California’s coastline should be on your bucket list. We recommend you take a week to explore everything from Northern California’s wine country to Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn and all the little gems in between. We’ve put together our dream California coast road trip to share and hopefully inspire you to do your own. We’ll begin at the top and work our way down with some trip highlights.


Start in Sonoma County- many people don’t realize this but Sonoma has its own regional airport with direct flights to/from San Diego, LAX, Portland and Seattle. 

Once you’ve arrived head over to the Farmhouse Inn to check in for at least a 2 night stay in the wine country. Enjoy a glass of wine on your private balcony, unwind from a day of travel and head down to the Farmhouse Restaurant for a fantastic dinner with wine pairings. Begin the following morning with the famous Farmhouse breakfast before you head out for a day of exploring. 

Swing by Armstrong Redwoods for a quick hike, down to the Russian River for some kayaking and out to Jenner for a glass of champagne and oysters at River’s End. Return to Farmhouse for a little self-indulgence: a spa treatment with steam shower sounds about right. If you’re wiped out from a big day then we recommend an in-room picnic- stop by the Front Desk to check out their wares. The following morning its off to Highway 1 after another amazing breakfast.


Take Highway 116 from the Farmhouse through the Russian River area out to the Sonoma Coast and Highway 1. Make a quick stop at Goat Rock Beach to stretch your legs and work off some of that breakfast. As you wind down Highway 1 enjoy a crab sandwich at one of the highway shacks. Stop in Bodega Bay for some sight seeing and to enjoy the town where Alfred Hitchcock filmed “The Birds.” As Highway 1 curves in you’ll come to Tomales Bay, home to Hog Island Oysters. It is on our list of must-see stops. We recommend making an appointments but you can drop in without one.  As you finish the day’s driving you’ll arrive at the stunning and historic Cavallo Point for a 2 night stay. Be sure to dine in the Murray Circle Restaurant and to try out the spa at least once during your visit.

 

 



SONOMA WINE COUNTRY AND FARMHOUSE INN: IN THE NEWS (AGAIN)

  
  
  
best of Sonoma Wine country

 

We've been seeing Sonoma Wine Country featured in both the local and national press quite often lately.  Whether discussing wine destination regions, reviewing up and coming winemakers or focusing on sustainability practices, recent press mentioning Sonoma has inspired us to do a roundup just in case you missed something.

 

SONOMA COUNTY AND FARMHOUSE INN- GREEN AND GETTING GREENER

  
  
  
Farmhouse Inn Tesla Test Drives

 

It is hard to live in the California wine country and not embrace farm-to-table cuisine. If a restaurant does not celebrate the bounty of our Sonoma County farms and farmers it does not last long in this area.  The focus of our chef and the restaurant menu on organic, sustainable, and local purveyors is often more expensive but as the diners continually tell us - it is so worth it. That is only one facet of our approach to becoming more environmentally friendly (and healthier and it tastes better too) and embracing all things green.

 

Recently Tesla Motors brought up two of their S sedans to offer test drives and we had a charging station installed just to be able to do that. What an exciting day that was!

 



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