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Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

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PUMPKINS, WINE COUNTRY, AND MOVIES-- OH MY!

  
  
  
Fall in Sonoma

There is much to love about wine country in the fall; the changing colors of harvest time, the seasonal foods, the Halloween parties, and of course, the wine.

In wine country we know how to celebrate our favorite time of year with style. All around Sonoma County the pumpkin patches and corn mazes have begun to open, the vineyards have caught on fire with bright hues of red, orange and yellow, and the old barns dotting the countryside seem to take on a special haunted appearance just for the season. If you're coming to Sonoma or Napa any time soon, there is plenty to do. Whether you’re looking for grape harvest activities, film festivals, or Halloween celebrations, you’ll find them in wine country.    

 

October is a turning point for us here in wine country. Harvest is almost finished, and just as we take the our favorite costumes out of the closet for Halloween parties, we will see the very last of the fruit come in. All the grapes that stubbornly waited to ripen finally seem to give up the ghost (pun intended) and are perfect for picking the last week of October. (Out of the vineyard and into the cellar – just in time too. Who wants to celebrate Halloween and get up at 4 am the next morning to pick grapes?) Come to wine country to celebrate the harvest in the next few weeks; you'll have a splendid buffet of options to pick from. Coming up next week Bacigalupi Vineyards will be celebrating their Fall Release and Harvest Celebration. BBQ, grape stomping, not to mention all the flowing wine! If you’re looking for an evening affair the Trione Winery family will be hosting Dinner Under the Stars the 19th of this month. Dinner in the vineyards (wines included of course) and Bocce Ball – we hope to see you there!

Many festival and event weekends happen this time of year; we think that there are two standouts. One of the largest events in North Bay is the Napa Valley Film Festival. Spanning 5 days, with 125 screenings, 300 directors, 50 chefs and 125 wineries, the event is on our bucket list. Screened films will range from documentaries and narratives to genre films like “The Fault in Our Stars”. If you’re not a film buff Pinot on the River may be more your speed. Sunday, October 26th the downtown Healdsburg square will become a Pinot Heaven – 100 small lot Pinot producers will take over the square pouring some of their most exclusive offerings. Around the square artisan food truck vendors will be setup to offer up delectable bites. The tasting is one day only and tickets sell out quickly. For more information on the event and to purchase tickets, visit www.pinotfestival.com.  And the first weekend of November brings the Wine and Food Affair a premier event from our friends at Wineroad.com with a focus on pairing wine with food. A great way to enjoy fall in the wine country.

 

Pumpkin patch or corn maze – Sonoma will delight you with plenty of Halloween activities during the month of October. The premier pumpkin patch experience can be found at McClelland’s Dairy Farm in Petaluma. If you get hungry while you’re picking out your organic heirloom pumpkin you can visit their food cart featuring grilled cheese sandwiches, milkshakes, popcorn and espresso drinks – all organic of course. Make a day of it and head out to the Sonoma Coast to visit the location where Alfred Hitchcock filmed “The Birds”.  For an adrenaline rush Halloween experience there are two great options – Blind Scream Haunted Mansions and the Hitchcock Film Noir Party. Blind Scream in Rohnert Park includes 3 haunted Mansions, “The Last Ride”, food trucks and a good old fashion Halloween scare – all for the bargain price of $20. A bit more tame but no less thrilling is the Hitchcock Film Noir Party at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma. Celebrate the "Master of Suspense" with great wines, food, film clips, and mysteries to be solved – costumes are encouraged and proceeds from the event will benefit Sonoma Valley Media Arts Program.


So much to do and so little time... If you need to speak with a Concierge to plan an upcoming visit click here. To stay up to date with our latest jaunts and newest discoveries follow us on Facebook and Instagram. To receive our latest specials sign up for our Mailing List. Sonoma on your brain? Be sure to visit our 4th Night Free special - it'll turn you from thinking about a vacation to actually booking one. We hope to see you in Wine Country soon! 


5 MORE REASONS TO VISIT WINE COUNTRY (DO YOU NEED A REASON?)

  
  
  

SONOMA WINE COUNTRY HARVEST AND GRAPE LUNCHEON

  
  
  
Sonoma Harvest 2

Several months ago we were approached by the Sonoma County Winegrowers
requesting a lunchEON at Farmhouse Inn restaurant as part of their Sonoma County Grape Camp event. The event is a three day immersion in Sonoma County’s wine country harvest and includes dinners and lunches at several local restaurants. The Campers travel throughout Sonoma County experiencing the different elements of harvest – be it a very early morning pick in the vineyards or heading to the cellar to work on the sorting table, the Campers dive into what it means to work in the wine industry during these few months.  Our campers arrived ready for a break from the work and we were willing to oblige - no better way to begin a midday break than with a glass of bubbly...

 

 


SONOMA SUMMER CONTINUES: SEPTEMBER IN WINE COUNTRY

  
  
  
Harvest Sonoma

As the new school year starts and summer comes to an end, the busy season in Sonoma wine country is just beginning.  Harvest kicked off early this year; however we’ll continue to see grapes come in for at least another month. Many people know this is the best time to visit; perfect weather and the energy of harvest is a huge attraction. As the harvest continues and we start to see the leaves change colors, wine country celebrates with  some of the best events, concerts, and festivals of the entire year. With everything from winemaker dinners to Kendall Jackson’s Heirloom Tomato Festival and the Russian River Jazz and Blues concerts – September is a great time to visit wine country. Leave the kids at home with the grandparents and come to Sonoma this fall….

 

Every year wineries host winemaker dinners for their top club members and fans. These dinners are a celebration of the newest wine releases and a way for visitors to enjoy the excitement of harvest. This September there is no shortage of dinners to choose from if you’ll be in the area. If you’re looking for a farm-to-table experience the Figs and Pigs Festival at Quivira Vineyards in Healdsburg is a great option. In search of something a little more white-linen? Rodney Strong is celebrating 25 years of the Klein Family ownership with a series of 4 simultaneous dinners in Healdsburg, Texas, New York and Florida. Each dinner will feature 5 different chefs from across the country with wines from Rodney Strong. We love the ambition of the series and can’t wait to see photos from all 4 dinners. Click here for more information.  For a full list of upcoming winemaker dinners go to www.wineroad.com and click on their events calendar. Please note that these dinners require advance reservations; many sell out quickly.

 

Kendall Jackson’s Wine Center hosts the Heirloom Tomato Festival each fall. The event is a combination of garden tours, small bites focusing on the tomato as the centerpiece, chef competitions, and of course, plenty of wine tasting. Guests who attend can stroll through Kendall Jackson’s recently expanded culinary gardens enjoying tomato-inspired bites from nearly 50 wine country and Bay Area chefs, all of whom will be vying for the coveted Critic's Choice award. In addition to the food and wine, the event will feature garden seminars and live music. The event is from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturday, September 27th. Event tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

 

 

 

The Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival will return to Johnson's Beach in Guerneville on the 20th and 21st of this month. The Russian River community has been playing host to musicians for more than 35 years, and the Jazz and Blues Festival is one of the largest gatherings of musicians in Sonoma County. This year’s lineup features 12 acts over 2 days. It wouldn’t be a wine country event without wine;  the Jazz and Blues Festival offers attendees the opportunity to do some wine tasting in the Wine Garden. This year’s wineries include Davis Bynum, J, Rodney Strong and many others. Several food vendors will also be on hand throughout the festivities. Seating at the festival is a little unconventional – you can sit in a chair, lounge on a beach blanket or float on the water. Tickets start at $50 for single day General Admission and go up to $180 for Gold Weekend Passes. Click here for additional information on the lineup, activities and ticket purchasing.

 

Whatever the reason for your visit to wine country, we hope you stop by the Farmhouse Inn. The Restaurant is open (by reservation) Thursday through Monday from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. Tables in September are booking up, so if you haven’t made your reservation yet do so soon. If you’re looking for a place to stay while you attend a wine country event our new room special is valid the entire month of September through December – click here for more details. For more information on local area activities and the latest news from the Farmhouse Inn follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

HARVEST IN WINE COUNTRY: GRAPES NOT INCLUDED

  
  
  
Wine Grape Harvest

Sonoma County is a great place to visit if you love wine country (and wine), and of course the most popular time to visit is during the  grape harvest. While we love the grape harvest as much as the next person, every year we also get excited about things like tomatoes, peaches, apples, onions, beets, walnuts… we could go on but we’ll stop here for now. We recently had the pleasure of getting out and about in Healdsburg and were able to experience harvest in several different ways. We spent the day visiting Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Shop, Dragonfly Floral and Dry Creek Peach.

 

 

To start our day in a pie and ice cream shop is a pretty good indication of how the remainder of our day was going to be- extraordinary. We were fortunate enough to be the first ones to experience pie making with Noble Folk owners and bakers, Ozzie Jimenez and Christian Sullivan. Noble Folk is the second store for the duo, who also have Moustache Baked Goods in downtown Healdsburg. While the bakery’s focus is on cupcakes and special occasion cakes, Noble Folk offers classic pies and Japanese inspired ice creams.

 

July and August are prime peach and berry season in Sonoma County, so our pie was a reflection of the summer time harvest. We learned how to make a filling and a proper crust. We were also schooled in the artistry of lattice work for the top of the pie. Noble Folk, like many Sonoma businesses, stresses the use of in-season ingredients. We’re looking forward to apple and pumpkin pies this fall. Noble Folk will soon be launching their website and online shopping cart – be sure to get your holiday pie orders in early.


After pie making (and taste testing) we headed over to Dragonfly Floral, just west of downtown Healdsburg. Dragonfly is a six acre farm that specializes in flowers for a variety of events. In addition to flowers they also grow vegetables and raise ducks and chickens. We popped in for a quick tour of the farm and were fortunate enough to meet the duck duo Fred and Ethel.

 

 

Dragonfly has about 4.5 acres of cutting flowers that they use for their arrangements. Our visit to the farm was full of color – roses, dahlias and sunflowers were all in bloom. In addition to providing flowers for events, Dragonfly has been hosting flower arrangement classes. We’re big fans of succulents and their selection was amazing – check out their online calendar for a schedule of classes or stop by for a picnic in their beautiful gardens.

 

Our last stop of the day was at Dry Creek Peach, located on the northern end of Dry Creek Valley. Dry Creek Peach is the only commercial (commercial in this case is only 6.5 acres) organic peach farm in Sonoma County. Dry Creek Peach grows several varieties of peaches including Snow Kings, Red Havens and Arctic Gems. In addition to supplying several local restaurants with peaches (Farmhouse chef Stevo is good friends of the owners), Dry Creek Peach operates a farm stand that is open 4 days a week. You can purchase fresh peaches, their jam and even peach wood cutting boards (we loved these!).

 


SONOMA WINE COUNTRY WEEKEND AND HARVEST TIME

  
  
  
Grapes ripening in Sonoma


It's September and harvest time in the wine country.  The weather is beautiful and as we head into Labor Day weekend in Sonoma Wine Country, there is no better time to come and share what this paradise on earth offers.  Harvest has arrived in the Russian River Valley; here at Farmhouse Inn our guests are getting the complete experience at our partner wineries.  Nearby neighbors Thomas George Estates and Gary Farrell Winery  are already receiving the earliest ripening grape varietals; Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay,and even some Pinot Noirs are coming in from the warmer areas of Russian River Valley.



It's a very busy time of year here in the wine country. The vines are heavy with fruit and the late night/early morning lights and rumble of grape trucks are a constant reminder that harvest time is upon us.

 
This weekend we celebrate one of California's most favorite wine regions with Sonoma Wine Country Weekend; the largest and most fun charitable event of the area.  



Our wine and food community invite you to indulge in the Sonoma County lifestyle of world class wine and fresh, local cuisine, all while raising funds that make a better future for our kids and our county. Produced in partnership by the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance and the Sonoma County Vintners the 2013 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend event features Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch, Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean, Sonoma Starlight at Francis Ford Coppola winery and many intimate and exclusive winery lunch and dinner parties at multiple locations throughout Sonoma County. The event benefits more  than 30 Sonoma County charities that help students, children, farm workers and  people in need.

There will be 200-plus wineries and chefs showcasing their talents at Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch.  You will see Farmhouse Restaurant Chef Steve Litke there serving his famous Octopus Brochettes. (No picture just yet but that is a link to the recipe). See you there!

 

The entire month of September is a month long celebration of the diversity and quality of California wines. Regions throughout the state are highlighted during California Wine Month.  Wineries are celebrating with more than 100 fun educational activities--from hands-on workshops and wine pairings to VIP tours, events, and special offers to allow visitors to experience the excitement of harvest firsthand. Did you know California's wine industry produces 90 percent of U.S. wine, attracts 21 million visitors annually, and generates 820,000 jobs nationwide (330,000 of which are in California)?  That is cause to celebrate! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last days of summer and harvest time in the Russian River Valley is a great time to visit and enjoy all Sonoma county has to offer. If you've never seen harvest in action, you've probably never felt the excitement as tractors and trucks bounce down vineyard roads and shouts from the crews picking grapes fill the foggy morning air. 

 

Harvest is the culmination a year of hard work (and a little praying).  All this to get that little grape into the bottle and into your glass...Here's a little video...The Life of a Grapevine to fill you in on the whole process.




We have some grapes growing on the fence out by the pool here at Farmhouse Inn...you are welcome to come by and harvest some yourself. They are just about ready.

We continue the celebration of harvest the first weekend in October with the Sonoma County Harvest Fair in Santa Rosa, complete with a Grape Stomp Competition.  (Maybe this video can help you with what to do with those grapes you stole off the fence.)

 

 

The Harvest Fair celebrates the local harvest featuring three full days of all-inclusive wine tasting with 150+ wineries, wine sales, food pairing, craft beer & cider tasting, marketplace, chef demonstrations and workshops, and of course, the World Championship Grape Stomp and much more.

Make plans to join us and taste the best of Sonoma County!

 


























SONOMA HUNTER GAMES: FORAGING WITH FARMHOUSE INN

  
  
  
Sonoma County Wild Yellowfoot Mushrooms

This winter in Sonoma wine country, a celebration of foraged foods is taking place amongst restaurants, wineries and in the kitchens of local epicureans.  While Dry Creek  and Russian River Valleys may be better known for the wines they produce, the hills and forests of Sonoma County offer up a plethora of edible and delicious wild mushrooms. 

Mushroom hunting was once a hobby only for "old timers" here in Sonoma County, but more recently an entirely new generation of foragers are flocking to Northern California for how-to classes on mushroom hunting, grand mushroom tasting menus, and an entire season of celebrating this native delicacy.


Just north of Farmhouse Inn, the town of Healdsburg showcased the wild bounty of Sonoma County with the Healdsburg Wild Mushroom Weekend, part of Healdsburg's Epicurean Winter.   This seasonal event is lined up for aspiring mycologists and fans of foraged wild mushrooms including hunting expeditions, culinary classes, and fungi-centric Michelin star dinners. 
Several wineries and Healdsburg restaurants have added special wild mushroom menu items for this event- try Barndiva's Rabbit Fricassee with roasted wild Chanterelles or pop into the Jimtown Store for foraged mushroom grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese.  At the heart of Healdsburg's mushroom madness is Relish Culinary School's lineup of Wild Mushroom Forays and Demonstration Lunches with Chef and forager Elissa Rubin-Mahon. 


Here at Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant we had foraging femme Connie Green and guest Chef Sarah Scott join us for a taste of The Wild Table at our first dinner to kick off our guest chef series.  If you missed dinner with us, Connie's book The Wild Table is available for purchase and Chef Sarah Scott will be hosting another Wild Table luncheon at Chateau St. Jean in late March. 

"The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes" is a cookbook full of recipes for foraged delicacies like North Coast mushrooms with more esoteric recipes using some of my menu favorites; fiddleheads, miner’s lettuce and stinging nettles (try them in SCOPA Restaurant’s Stinging Nettle Budino).  The Wild Table Luncheon at Chateau St. Jean with Sarah Scott will be demonstrating how to tame those wild foods and turn them into epicurean delights.  For tickets to this three course meal with five wine pairings you’ll have to act fast!


   

But Foraging isn't just for chefs and their cohorts- with so many easily identifiable edible varieties here in Sonoma County, even us Farmhouse concierges get into the fun of it!  I do my best Katniss Everdeen impression as I head out and explore the coastal forests, keeping a keen eye out for my favorite mushrooms- Black Trumpet Royales, Hedgehogs (easy to identify with their toothy undersides), Yellow Foots and Chantrelles.  In the fall I'm a Porcini hound, but this time of year nearly all of my efforts go into finding those velvety, black trumpets in the forest duff.


With my pocket knife handy to clean the base of the soft mushrooms and my dog making her way through the boxwood and pines alongside me, I head up into the hills with no regard for trails seeing every wooded area as a prospective mycological gold mine.  Finding an upcropping of mushrooms is rewarding and exhilirating because hunting and foraging take skill and practice, making the entire exercise so gratifying that often I find myself using every last bit of available daylight to stay out and search for more.

I am not an expert by any means- I go where I am familiar and only pick what I know, sticking to the varieties that do not have any look-alikes that cause nasty side effects (death, for instance).  As a child, my father would take me up into the hills above our home and vineyards in Dry Creek Valley to hunt for what he called "Italian" mushrooms (also known as cocoras).  The problem with cocoras is that they closely resemble their poisonous relatives (the reason my mother won't eat any foraged mushrooms to this day). 

But have no fear!  Experts like renowned mycologist and author of the ESSENTIAL pocket field guide for western mushrooms David Arora and Charmoon Richardson are here to help.  The Sonoma County Mycological Association (SOMA) also hosts monthly mushroom hunting and identifying classes, so go boldly forward on your next (or first) foraging adventure!

For those of us who love to cook with mushrooms, we know just how versitile they can be.  I always find that they're best served nestled in something carbo-licious with a touch of cream. 

 My most recent favorites have been this mouthwatering wild hedgehog mushroom and crescenza pizza or a Recipes.com find for the perfect demonstration of late winter/early spring in northern California- Gnocchi with Yellowfoot mushrooms and fresh peas & asparagus from my vegetable garden. 

The other night my entire meal was either grown or foraged here in Sonoma County- mixed greens salad with a poached farm egg and a main course of wild mushroom rissotto and wild duck confit to top it off. 

Are you getting hungry yet?

   

 Signing off Mushroom Forager (Concierge) Extraordinaire















October in Sonoma- Pumpkins, Haunted Houses and Indian Summer

  
  
  
Farmhouse s'mores at firepit
 
Fall in Wine country...October, my favorite...leaves turning, crisp evenings, chilly and foggy mornings, and absolutely perfect 80 degree weather this weekend.  Indian Summer is upon us, the Sonoma grape harvest is getting close to wrapped up, pumpkin patches and harvest everywhere, and several haunted houses to visit - Halloween is right around the corner.

The fireplaces at Farmhouse Inn are starting to get some use, the firepit is very busy every night (love those s'mores)...don't you love the smell of wood smoke in the air?


This is the last weekend for the Tolay Fall Festival on a 1,700+ ranch  outside of Petaluma.  A Native American Village with demonstrations, Kiddie Corral, Creepy Crawly Critters, hay rides and over 5,000 pumpkins (grown by the tolay Twisted Farm) to choose from.  Pumpkin Patch on steroids!  Gunny Sack races and a pumpkin seed-spitting contest. 

 

This is a good weekend for hitting the Pumpkin Patches- you need time to do a spooktacular carving job, don't you?  But if you get distracted you still have time - Healdsburg is having a Pumpkin Festival next Saturday at the Farmer's Market. 

October Wine Country- Pumpkins, Harvest, and Art Trails...

  
  
  
Russian River Fall Color

Northern California weather is pretty amazing all the time but has this Sonoma County weather ever been more perfect?  I forget how much I love October every year...the colors changing, the still warm days (but with that fall crispness in the evenings), all manners of Harvest going on and of course, amazing wine country fall traditions. 

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