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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! 


FARMHOUSE INN CONCIERGES; WINE COUNTRY EXPERTS

  
  
  
Armstrong Redwoods

With so many activities available for visitors to the wine country, the Farmhouse Inn Concierges are a valuable resource for sorting through them all. The entire Farmhouse Inn concierge team lives, works, and plays in Sonoma County. Several of us have also previously worked at local wineries and restaurants. In addition to our professional experiences, we are continually out and about sampling the latest and greatest Sonoma has to offer. Our knowledge of the area makes one of your best resources in the wine country; we love to share our favorites with our guests.  Here is one of our favorite Napa-Sonoma itineraries. 

Arrival:

Your first day in Sonoma County you are headed to the Farmhouse Inn where you’ll be welcomed with a glass of local wine.  (Nice start, right?)  Unwind by the pool or enjoy a spa treatment in the farm-to-table spa. After you’ve enjoyed a luxurious steam shower and soak in the tub, it's time for a Michelin starred meal at the Farmhouse Inn Restaurant (just steps from your room). We recommend you try the Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit and the wine pairings personally chosen for you by our Sommelier. After a full day of travel you may not be inclined to have to drive somewhere for dinner. 

 

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.



SONOMA WINE COUNTRY OFFERS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

  
  
  
View Sonoma Wine Country

Why should you plan a visit to wine country? The answer is, why wouldn’t you? If you like sunshine, good food, amazing wines, friendly people and spectacular views wine country has a place for you. Sonoma and Napa are no longer reserved for those of a certain age, bank account status, or even for wine lovers only.

You can visit Sonoma and do and see plenty on any budget, even if  you aren't a fan of the grape. Wine Country is great for an ultra-romantic honeymoon, a quick weekend trip, or even an exciting outdoor adventure. Sonoma County has it all and we’ll tell you how to do it right no matter the occasion or budget.

 


At the Farmhouse Inn we’re finding that more couples are opting to skip the multi-country honeymoon and instead are coming to California’s wine country to simply relax. (Martha Stewart lists the Farmhouse as one of the top 10 places to mini-moon) If you’re visiting this area for a honeymoon plan to book at least 4 days- that will only touch the high points .

On the day of arrival (at Farmhouse Inn, of course) you’ll likely be exhausted. An in-room picnic is a great option for your first night- it doesn’t require that you drive anywhere and you can eat it out on your private deck (or even in bed).  Schedule romantic couples spa treatments for the next day- they can work out all the kinks and you may really be needing a foot massage (after all that wedding dancing). Then head on down to the pool for some lazing in the sun and a glass of wine (swimming not necessarily required). Sonoma has many great romantic restaurant options including our own Farmhouse Restaurant; make reservations in this area ahead of time with the help of your concierge. Your third day you might have the energy for a private wine tour- we love the Alone Time Tour for our honeymoon couples. And maybe by the fourth day you can fit in a float down the river or a hike in Armstrong Redwoods to work off some of the reception over-indulgence.

The Farmhouse Inn offers a Honeymoon Package which can be added onto any 3 night or longer stay- we set the mood; you create the memories.


For those looking for a quick weekend away Sonoma is a great option. Whether you’re camping or staying at the luxurious Farmhouse Inn, there are great accommodation options for all budgets. One of the best things to do while visiting Sonoma County is to visit one of our many regional and state parks- they provide great views and are often the best places for a picnic. Of course the most popular activity among weekend visitors is wine tasting. Prior to your Sonoma getaway, visit www.wineroad.com to explore the 300+ wineries with tasting rooms open for visitors- the Farmhouse concierge team can help you narrow down the list.  Wine Road is also a great resource for finding wineries that offer food pairings, have picnic grounds, are dog friendly and much more. If you’re a guest of Farmhouse, be sure to ask about our Winery Partner Program.

 



FARMHOUSE INN CONCIERGE REVIEW: NAPA'S THE RESTAURANT AT MEADOWOOD

  
  
  
Meadowood Dining Room

 

You might not know (but perhaps suspect) the Farmhouse Inn Concierges get pretty spoiled living (and working) in Sonoma County. We dine at fabulous restaurants, get to try amazing wines, live in a heavenly location...we have to try everything before we can recommend it to our guests. Sometimes we have a dining experience that has us walking away happy, smiling, excited and ready to do it all over again. The first thing we want to do after an experience like that is share it with our Farmhouse Fans.

 

 

 

Last week three of the Farmhouse Concierge team members headed over the hill (in Sonoma -speak that means Napa Valley) to St. Helena’s Meadowood resort. In addition to fine accommodations, spa, golfing, tennis and many other wonderful amenities, Meadowood is also home to a 3-Michelin star restaurant. The Restaurant at Meadowood experience, from your arrival to the food to the decor, are all in such perfect harmony that its hard to find a reason not to love it. For a sneak peek at what you can expect on your visit to The Restaurant; keep reading.



When you enter the Meadowood property you’re pulling into a wine country oasis. Tucked back into the hills on the eastern side of the Napa Valley, guests wind down an olive tree-lined lane to enter this little slice of paradise. While the outside of The Restaurant is unassuming and blends into the surrounding landscape, the inside is an incredible enclave of modern wine country design. A recent remodel of the building enclosed the space that is now being used as a lounge. The lounge offers very comfortable low chair and couch seating next to 2 beautiful fireplaces. The sunken chairs, reclaimed wood coffee tables and fireplaces all create a warm and inviting atmosphere. The lounge is used for the snack menu only- you’ll need to reserve a table in the main dining room in order to enjoy their tasting menu. Unbeknownst to many is that in addition to their tasting menu ($225 per person) The Restaurant at Meadowood also offers a snacks menu ($20 per person). In the lounge guests are also welcome to enjoy any of the wines on their extensive list or one of their signature cocktails created by The Restaurant’s Bar Manager, Sam Levy.


The snack menu is what we had signed up for, however when we say the word “menu” we’re not using it in the traditional sense. Meadowood does not post, publish or print a menu. All dishes are delivered to you by one of their knowledgeable team members and you’re given a verbal explanation of each dish. The snack menu is not your typical fried mozzarella and onion rings- this menu is sophisticated and a play on the tasting menu. Its hard not to take photos of everything that comes out as the presentation of each dish is unique and incredibly well done.

On the evening we dined we were treated to many dishes, but as happens in any meal there were a few standouts. The first course we were presented with was a dehydrated black olive with a black olive infused merengue. This first course was light, delicate and oh, so delicious.


As the menu progresses, so do the flavors and intensity. The second standout of the evening, and our favorite of the night, was a smoked eel wrapped in beef tongue. We’re not sure if we have the adequate words to describe how good this dish was. Salty, fatty, the perfect texture- heaven. We tried getting another round of the eel (and by tried we mean we begged) but the intricate preparation of the dish and limited quantities made all of our pleading and sad eyes for naught.

The final standout was a fantastic preparation of sliced duck pastrami served with compressed kohlrabi, a beautiful mustard and the most delicious gluten-free bread we’ve ever had. Each dish seems to almost have its own personality, and all seem to go extremely well with Sam Levy’s cocktail creations.


You’ll find Sam and all of the other team members at The Restaurant six days each week (they do drop to 5 days during the slower time of the year). The outstanding service provided by each individual comes as no surprise considering the recent recognition The Restaurant received from the James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Service. While some might be expecting an air of hauteur from the staff considering the 3 Michelin stars they have, you will be pleasantly surprised by the absolute warmth and graciousness of the entire staff. Everyone, from the valet to the chefs in the kitchen, are all kind, engaging and never seem too busy to stop and chat. While the atmosphere, food and drinks are all stellar they are infinitely enhanced by the level of service provided at The Restaurant.


We can’t wait to go back soon, but in the meantime we’ll live on the memories and photos. Reservations for the dining room at The Restaurant are required. No reservations are needed for the snack menu. Meadowood is now offering a 3 course menu at their bar for $90 per person and they do recommend reservations for that option.

For more recommendations, recent and upcoming events and to stay in touch be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. To see more photos from our recent visit to The Restaurant at Meadowood be sure to keep an eye on our new Instagram page. To contact a Concierge for information on dining and other recommendations email innkeep@farmhouseinn.com.









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.






NAPA AND SONOMA RESTAURANTS: FARMHOUSE INN FAVORITES

  
  
  
Dining in Wine Country


The number one question our concierges receive is how far the Farmhouse Inn is from San Francisco Airport (about 1.5 to 2 hours in case you’re wondering). The second most asked question is “Where is the best restaurant?” That depends but a good place to start is by asking the Farmhouse concierge team where we go when we are hungry. Keep in mind that Wine Country is one of the best places to go if you’d like to indulge your culinary curiosity. With multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, 2 of which have 3 stars, Napa and Sonoma County are packed with dining choices for all palates and budgets. With so many choices it can be a little overwhelming so we decided to distill it down to where our concierges go most often. We’ll break it into 3 categories- best local hidden gems, best special occasion restaurants and bucket list eateries. Just be sure you check with the concierge before booking- there are some strong but varied opinions when it comes to the best restaurants.

 

Local favorite spots are often the hardest to find when traveling because quite frankly, the locals hesitate to share their neighborhood gems with visitors.

These favorite local spots are often the best, so its a good idea to ask your concierge or any local where they’d go for dinner. At the top of the list is Willi’s Wine Bar. Willi’s is located in an old roadhouse across the street from soccer and baseball fields- you’d never find it unless you knew it was there. Willi’s menu focuses on tapas (small plates)and has an international influence. Their back patio is a favorite hangout for Sonoma locals during the summer and their wine flights are excellent. Best part- they have a large bar seating section and they offer the full menu there.

Another local spot is hard to find also due to its almost hidden entrance. SCOPA is an Italian eatery in Healdsburg and the only way to find it for the first time is to look for the large Barbershop sign painted above the entrance. With very few tables, a small bar and its mass popularity with locals it is often difficult to acquire a reservation. SCOPA’s menu is packed with such delicious offerings that you’re sure to walk away wanting to come back the next night. If you booked your vacation at the last minute and SCOPA is full we recommend trying their sister restaurant Campo Fina.

 


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