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Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

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RAINY DAY ACTIVITIES IN WINE COUNTRY

  
  
  
California Sunshine

Sunshine, beaches, warm weather – for many, the classic image of California. While the warm weather and sunshine certainly epitomize California for the majority of the year, come November we enter what Californians refers to as “winter” (we freely admit that we’re weather wimps – if you dropped us in Chicago in December we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves). As we leave October and our warm Indian summer behind us, we see the leaves fall to the ground and the creeks and river rise. Lower temperatures and rains are welcome – comfy sweaters, warm fires, hot cocoa and our favorite soups accompany the shift and are some of our favorite things. If you’ve been considering a trip to wine country but have been hesitating because of possible rain... have no fear; winter might indeed be the best time for a visit. We’ll take you through our three favorite things to do in wine country when it rains – the list may surprise you.

 

At the top of our rainy day-list is staying indoors. Farmhouse Inn is the perfect place to be during a rain storm. A big comfy bed, your own private fireplace, soaker tub, and windows all around – truly the best way to enjoy a stormy day. If it rains while you’re at Farmhouse we recommend the following rainy day plan. Start the fire in your room – depending which room you’re in you’ll either have a gas or wood burning fire place. Turn down the covers on your bed. Use your in-room brewer to make a warm beverage of your choice – we like a nice cup of tea. Open all the blinds to watch the rain fall. Pick a movie and cozy up in bed to enjoy. You won’t need to leave your room all day. If you truly don’t want to leave your room all day, order a wine country picnic the night before – it will be delivered to your room. If you want to really do it up open one of the bottles of wine available for purchase in the room – we recommend the Lost and Found Pinot Noir.

 

Our next rainy day item may surprise some. For you adventure seekers, it may already on your bucket list: Zip lining through the redwoods. While this activity can certainly be done when the sun is shining, zip lining through the trees as the rain comes down is a spectacular experience. 800 feet of zip lines stretch through the redwoods of Occidental – you’ll zoom through the trees at up to 25 miles per hour. The rain clears the air and the sights and smells of the forest around you seem to open up. You’ll need to wear layers (we recommend rain coats and pants on the outside) and you’ll certainly want a warm beverage following your tour among the canopy. Whether you’re a first-timer or a pro, on your next rainy day visit to wine country we recommend a journey through the canopy – our preferred zip line operator is Sonoma Canopy Tours. Click here to learn more about the offered experiences.

 

The last item on our list likely comes as no surprise: wine tasting. While we certainly recommend using caution on Sonoma’s winding back roads in rainy weather (and all the time really), visiting wineries on rainy days is often the best time to do so. The rain keeps many people home, leaving tasting rooms relatively quiet. This means more one-on-one time with your wine educator and often impromptu tours of the winery. There are several wineries we particularly enjoy on a rainy day. If you’re looking for a room with a view try Fog Crest Winery on Occidental Road. They have a warm fireplace, lounge seating and gorgeous full-wall windows looking out on Laguna de Santa Rosa. Our other rainy day favorite is J Winery on Old Redwood Highway in Healdsburg. If you’re able to visit during the month of December then you are in for a truly spectacular experience- the J Bubble Room becomes a winter wonderland all December long. The Bubble Room menu features all of their sparkling wines and there is an optional caviar add-on. Feeling decadent anyone? Because the experience takes about 2 hours and is all inside, it is the ideal rainy day activity.

 

Come rain or shine, it is always a good time to visit wine country. We recently had some overnight showers, but we’re looking forward to full days of cloudy weather. For more information on the Farmhouse Inn visit our website at www.farmhouseinn.com. To stay current on our latest jaunts in and around Sonoma County follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you’d like to book an upcoming stay at the Farmhouse Inn or need to speak with the Concierge Team click here

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. 

 

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

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 Secrets - New Discoveries in the Farmhouse Inn Backyard

  
  
  
Unknown Sonoma 2

Living in wine country is never boring- we always find something to do, no matter the time of year or day of week. As we continue to explore our own backyard, it is a pleasure to share our newest discoveries with the Farmhouse Inn fans. Recent outings have taken us from Sebastopol’s Barlow over to Santa Rosa’s newest farm-to-table restaurant and up to Geyserville’s hidden gem, Garden Creek Vineyards.

 

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.


 










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.






EXCITING NEWS FOR SONOMA COUNTY THIS SUMMER

  
  
  
rosso rosticceria eventi

If you’ve been to Sonoma wine country before than you know that it seems to be an ever changing mix of new wineries, restaurants, shops and places to stay. That propensity to constantly be changing and being on the cutting edge of what is new won’t be any different this summer as new restaurants, tasting rooms and even old fashion ice cream and pie shops open up. From Sebastopol to Healdsburg there are exciting new businesses coming in time for summer and we can’t wait to sample them ourselves. We decided to focus on three in particular- we want to pique your interest in hopes that you’ll visit soon!


Established in 2009, Rosso Pizzeria in downtown Santa Rosa has been a local’s favorite from the day they opened. So popular in fact that they now have a mobile pizza oven and have been catering events all over Sonoma County for the last several years. They were a hit at the Farmhouse Inn Christmas party a few years ago. Their newest venture will open in Santa Rosa but will be a new take on their other 2 restaurants- a mix of food, ping pong and cooking classes. What really sets it apart from their other two restaurants is the new location’s offerings and hours. Unlike the downtown Santa Rosa and Petaluma locations, Rosso Rosticceria + Eventi will be open for early diners beginning at 7 am and closing at 6 pm. They’ll also only be a Monday through Friday location. Offering espresso, pastries, pizzas and ping pong the new location is sure to appeal to the local set- that’s why we’re telling you - check out the wine country like a local.  Rosso Rosticceria + Eventi opens this month and we’ll be sure give it a try and fill you in on an upcoming post on Facebook; be sure to keep checking for our review.


The Barlow in downtown Sebastopol opened  about a year ago with a few wineries, a bakery and some distilleries. It is now in full swing with restaurants, a local market, coffee houses, art galleries and a lot of great events. One of the official Farmhouse Winery Partners, La Follette Winery, opened in the spring of 2013. Another unofficial winery friend is Wind Gap Wines and we’re incredibly excited to see their tasting room open at the end of April, beginning of May. Wind Gap is a favorite of Farmhouse Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth, who features several of their wines on the Farmhouse Inn Restaurant Wine List. Their “new” style of winemaking is popular with younger wine drinkers and local wine critic Jon Bonne (SF Chronicle). Wind Gap offers a wide range of wines from the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley. Their claim to fame may be their skin-fermented white wines- skin fermentation often causes the wines to take on an orange hue and can really change the aromatics and body of a wine. While this technique is not new to the world of wine, it is a technique that hasn’t been popular in American wine culture until recently. Wind Gap’s wines are very high in demand so if you do visit their tasting room,  don’t be surprised to hear that many of their 2012 and 2013 wines are already sold out. We recommend stopping by on your next visit to the area and get on join their mailing list.


Our last teaser for new offerings in Sonoma is located in Healdsburg. This one is especially near and dear to us as it is the second shop for Moustache Baked Goods, a Farmhouse favorite. We often work with Moustache on special occasion baked goods for our guests, as well as the occasional dessert bar for staff parties. Their current shop on the square in Healdsburg offers everything from cupcakes to macaroons and Blue Bottle coffee drinks. If you haven’t visited yet we are telling you not to miss it on your next trip and take some items home to share. Their newest venture is Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Bar. They’ll be offering up truly unique ice cream flavors as well seasonal pies. If the shop is anything like the bakery we can’t wait to see what they come up with. 


For more insider tips on discovering our Sonoma county secrets be sure to contact your concierge today. For up to date news on happenings at Farmhouse Inn and in the area follow and like us on Facebook. We hope to see you at the Farmhouse Inn soon.





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