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Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

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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. 

 

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.









SONOMA SUMMER: MUSIC, RIVER, FOOD, WINE, FESTIVALS...

 
Wine Country Summer


Summer in Sonoma is all about lazy days on the Russian River, music events all around the county,  festivals and more fun.   Sonoma has a lot to do year-round but we especially love the summer months. If you’re planning on visiting soon or are taking notes for next year, be sure to check out our guide to summer living in wine country: outdoor activities, local happenings and events, and farmers markets. We couldn't include everything here, so if you're curious about something we don't mention be sure to email us  at innkeep@farmhouseinn.com or via Facebook.



Summer in Sonoma County is fun- it's hard to fit it all in. Between the Sonoma Coast, the Russian River, our local parks, and Lake Sonoma we’re blessed with an abundance of outdoor activity options. Out on the Sonoma Coast we have Bodega Bay- an excellent spot to spend the day at the beach; be sure to grab a crab sandwich or some of the great clam chowder. Schoolhouse Beach in Bodega is one of our favorites but be sure to get there early- on really hot days locals flock to the beach (and our natural air conditioning) and parking can be an issue. Closer to the Farmhouse Inn and with a variety of activity options is the Russian River. You can kayak, paddle board, tube or just float down the river. Healdsburg and their Memorial Beach is a perfect choice for a river swim (they have the river dammed for swimming). We recommend contacting River’s Edge for your river activities or if you just want to park it than we suggest heading out to Sunset Beach in Guerneville. Another perk to living in Sonoma County are all the wonderful Regional and State parks. Between Goat Rock Beach in Jenner and Annadelle in Santa Rosa, Sonoma has some of the best hiking and mountain biking in the Bay Area. If you’re more of a walker give Riverfront Regional Park a try- just a five minute drive from the Farmhouse Inn. If boating is more your speed then head up to Lake Sonoma in Healdsburg. The lake is at the top of the Dry Creek Valley and a great spot to spend the day. You can rent patio boats for the day, as well as jet skis. We love the patio boats-  bring a picnic lunch with you and enjoy a day relaxing on the water.



Many of our guests are visiting Sonoma for our amazing wine and food but sometimes  need suggestions for evening activities. Summer hours and the extra daylight provide us with great options June through September.  A very popular evening activity during the summer months in Sonoma County is attending one of our many outdoor music concerts. They take place almost every day of the week but the big ones are in Healdsburg, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, and Windsor. Every week there are new acts, mostly local Sonoma County and Bay Area musicians, and the accompanying food trucks make it a must-do if you’ll be visiting the area. We’re most excited about the upcoming Kay Marie show on June 10th in Healdsburg- check out some of her music by clicking here. Tied to many of the evening concerts are Farmer’s Markets. The summer in wine country is prime farmer’s market season- you can stroll through one on  Saturday morning in Healdsburg and find everything from local breads and cheeses to artichokes and peaches and even local meats. If you’re interested in enjoying the finished product at night than you have the best options to choose from, and during summer you have the added bonus of being able to dine al fresco. Our favorite outdoor dining options are Bravas Tapas and Barndiva in Healdsburg, SolBar in Calistoga, Corks in Forestville and Zazu or Woodfour at the Barlow in Sebastopol.




Every summer we have multitudes of events that range from wine and cheese festivals to summer concerts to balloon festivals. It all kicks off with BottleRock in Napa Valley this weekend- 3 days, 60 bands, numerous wineries and other vendors, it is a festival packed with things to do. The headliners at this year’s festival are Outkast. If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing check out the Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival in Guerneville. Past performers have included Bozz Skaggs and B.B. King. This year’s lineup promises to deliver as well with Gary Clark Jr. headlining. The two day event includes a wine garden along with gourmet food vendors and other artisans. Just hang out on the beach; you will see the locals paddling their boats/canoes down to catch some tunes.









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.





WINE COUNTRY EVENTS- FARMHOUSE INN CONCIERGE FAVORITES

 
budbreak in Sonoma County

 

We don't usually see the beginning of the grape harvest until August (our busiest time in the wine country), but spring in Sonoma Wine Country is pretty busy and just about our favorite time of year.  All around the Russian River Valley we see vineyard crews pruning vines getting ready for the growing season. The worst of winter is over and Spring is just getting ready to bust out all over.

 

I just heard about the first hints of budbreak from a couple of the wineries. Hold your breath now...the vineyards can't stand any hard freezes during this time. You wouldn't think something like this would get us all excited but just look...the beginnings of that amazing wine in your glass.

 

FARMHOUSE FRIENDS AND WINE COUNTRY PARTNERS

 
Gary Farrell Winery

At the Farmhouse Inn we are lucky to work with some truly great partners that make every visit to the wine country an amazing experience.  From our Winery Partners to our Spa Team, and our favorite bicycle guide and transportation company, the Farmhouse Inn has cultivated some of the best relationships in Wine Country.  If you haven’t stayed with us yet or you have an upcoming reservation we hope that you get to meet some of these people and that you have the chance to indulge in the wonderful experiences we have to offer in Sonoma County.  We decided that it would be a good idea to tell you a little bit about each of them. And if you’re looking to book any of these experiences don’t hesitate to contact a Farmhouse Inn Concierge; we’re happy to share some of secrets of the wine country with you!

 

INTRODUCING THE GARDEN BOSS AT SONOMA'S FARMHOUSE INN

 
Jana, Farmhouse Inn Gardener

      Jana Mariposa Muhar,  Garden Boss at Farmhouse Inn

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


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


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

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


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

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

And on to the Spa Shade Garden:






10 (more) OF THE 100 BEST WAYS TO SEE SONOMA COUNTY

 

There are countless ways to see the beautiful Sonoma Wine Country- most of them require a thirst for some of the best wines in the world, a hunger for great eats and appreciation for the simple marriage between country and chic.  "Sonomads" are those who embrace the wanderlust of Sonoma County, and no one knows more about that than our Farmhouse Inn Concierge team.  As your personal concierges, we're always seeking out the most exciting, exquisite and extravagant ways to get out and explore Sonoma Wine Country!

 

SONOMA COUNTY...THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR

 
Farmhouse Inn concierge Mary Calla

GUEST POST FROM FARMHOUSE INN AND OUR NEWEST MEMBER OF THE CONCIERGE TEAM...
Mary Calla (and looks like our up and coming poet and photographer extraordinaire)

 


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