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Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

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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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