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Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

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INTRODUCING THE GARDEN BOSS AT SONOMA'S FARMHOUSE INN

  
  
  
Jana, Farmhouse Inn Gardener

      Jana Mariposa Muhar,  Garden Boss at Farmhouse Inn

We just had the Resorts and Blooms Garden Tour for charity this weekend and Jana was out conducting tours of the property and answering the visitor's questions all day. We had put signage all around the property to help guests with identification but there is no way we can include everything on a sign.  We thought it was a great time to introduce her and share some information about the Farmhouse Inn gardens.


Our guests here at Farmhouse seem to get a lot of enjoyment out of Jana's efforts in the gardens.  Between the California climate and some things very unfamiliar to our out of state or even out of the country visitors we get a lot of questions about the gardens.  Every morning walking back towards the office we run into guests enjoying a beautiful Sonoma morning in our gardens, cameras (phones) clicking away, and lots of questions... 


"What is that bush that looks like it is full of strawberries?"  (Strawberry tree- Arbutus Marina- The fruit is edible with a flavor likened to a mixture of kiwi fruit and strawberry but as with the fruit of the common strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo, the texture is gritty. It is a good habitat planting, as both birds and bees enjoy the tree, the former feeding on the fruit, and the latter on the nectar.) "What do you do when the deer come?" (Nothing- they were here first and we try to plant enough for everybody).  "What is that fast little birdie with the fluorescent pink head?" (Crazy hummingbirds- we have 4 species that visit the property and that one is a male Anna's).  "What was that thing that looked like a turkey on my patio this morning?" (It was a wild turkey, of course.) 

The Farmhouse gardens include ornamental, culinary, habitat, and native plant gardens employing exclusively organic practices to create habitat that is attractive and safe for birds, honeybees, frogs, lizards, native pollinators, and many other little-noticed critters. You can pick up a map with plant lists at the Concierge desk.  But let's just take a little tour of a bit of the gardens: 


The entry garden on the North side of the restaurant is planted with shrubs and perennials that will be supplemented seasonally to be blooming and lovely all year long.  Along the walkway are planted Camellias, Daffodils, Tritelia, Hellebores, Primulas (3 species), and Pulmonaria blooming in Winter/early Spring, followed by Hydrangeas, Viburnums, Hostas, Rhododendron, Foxgloves, Francoa, and Fuchsias, carpeted with the lovely native Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregona), evergreen and blooming in late Spring.  Serbian Bellflower, Campanula poscharskyana takes over blooming after the Redwood Sorrel, and the Oak Leaf Hydrangea also provides Autumn color, along with the delicate Japanese Anemones.  Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum) and Giant Chain Fern (Woodwardia fimbriata), both California natives, make a strong architectural backdrop.   Our European Bay is to the West side of the stairs.

Along the driveway are the reliable Common Myrtle (Myrtus communis), Shasta Daisies, Mexican Mock Orange (Choisya ternata), and our native Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii);  Red Penstemons (‘Firebird’ and ‘Red Phoenix’), Cape Fuchsia(Phygelius), Physostegia, Foxgloves, and Columbines make this area a Hummingbird Resort spot.  Next year the Peonies should be established and blooming along with the stunning Oriental Poppies, Ranunculus, and Dahlias.  The fragrance of the Star Jasmine is quite pronounced and delightful on warm evenings as is the Mock Orange with a lovely orange blossom scent when it blooms.

And on to the Spa Shade Garden:






SONOMA WINE COUNTRY FROM 2 WHEELS- AMGEN, GRANFONDO, AND YOU

  
  
  
Biking wine country style


The Amgen Tour of California ends...the grand finish...in Santa Rosa this Sunday. The race started last Sunday down in Escondido, Southern California. With all the attention on the race and all things cycling we thought we would share some of the magic of Sonoma wine country from 2 wheels.

Sonoma County has been getting quite a name for itself in the cycling world. This year the last stage of the Amgen Tour of California starts in San Francisco and ends in Santa Rosa this Sunday. 

 
Levi's GranFondo is October 5th with over 7,000 bikers participating, and the Vineman Triathalon events in July bring 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 Farmhouse Inn 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!
















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 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.

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. 

FARMHOUSE + SONOMA + GARDENS = JEALOUS GUESTS

  
  
  
New Farmhouse garden signs

The gardens here at Farmhouse Inn are flourishing this time of year and our gardener Jana, has been very busy this week prepping for the Resorts in Bloom Garden Tour this weekend.   We had some great guests from New Jersey with us all week (they fell in love with Charlotte) and she mentioned how jealous she was of our gardens (and our California weather).  We are seeing more and more of the guests hanging out with Jana, asking questions, and even helping her out a little.  She was handpicking an evil beetle off some of her babies and one of the guests was bringing her handfuls of the nasty little varmints. (Don't mention the word "raccoon" to her- she goes a little crazy about that bad boy.) She has new signs we designed for the gardens that she is installing for this weekend so now you can do a little self-guided tour around the grounds.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WINE COUNTRY CONCIERGE

  
  
  
Erin, Farmhouse concierge

I would like to introduce you to our newest concierge.  Erin Hartman is a recent addition to the Farmhouse Inn concierge team.  She came to us with some inn and hotel experience but was a little amazed about the layers of service and luxury offered here at Farmhouse Inn and how much planning goes into the personalized itineraries we set up for our guests and their perfect wine country vacation. I asked her for a contribution for this week's Wine Country Blog so here's Erin... and thoughts about her new position.

SONOMA WINE COUNTRY IN MAY... WHAT'S YOUR SPEED?

  
  
  
Butter and Egg Days, Petaluma

Spring in Sonoma is the kick off for all kinds of fesivals and parades-
This weekend brings the Butter and Egg Days Parade in Petaluma and the Fisherman's Festival in Bodega Bay with the blessing of the fleet and the boat parade.  Both great events...so hard to decide- just might be able to fit them both in.











SONOMA COUNTY CYCLING HEAVEN- AMGEN 2012 SANTA ROSA

  
  
  
Amgen tour 2012

May 13th- mark it on your Calendar- The biggest and baddest cycling event- first stage starts and ends in Santa Rosa (our backyard here at Farmhouse Inn).

The Amgen Tour of California  (this is the seventh consecutive year for the race) has definitely put California on the world biking map.  Here in Sonoma Wine Country there have always been the avid cyclers - you see them on all our backroads and bike trails every weekend but this event features elite professional teams and athletes from around the world.  With the scenery of California as a backdrop this race from it's inception in 2006 is bound to soon rival the Tour de France.



The first day of the race starts and finishes in Santa Rosa, the city that helped establish the race and home to three time race champion Levi Leipheimer (our local hero).  His GranFondo event in September is a well known charity event and is also known as "the greatest day out on two wheels".  The GranFondo event in 2011 raised more than $250,000 to support various charities  including Sonoma County Elementary Schools,  Sonoma County Emergency Responders, and the LIVESTRONG foundation.  Three amazing routes for different levels of expertise-  I will see you at the Piccolo Route...32 miles for recreational and beginner cyclists. no big hills for me...just keep me in the flat valleys through the gorgeous redwoods and vineyards.  (No way on that 103 mile Gran route no matter how beautiful.)

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