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Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

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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'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!

 






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.









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.





A BIG YEAR FOR SONOMA COUNTY AND FARMHOUSE INN

  
  
  
Sonoma Wine country

This is the time of year when we reflect on the trials and tribulations of the past year.  What a list! Sonoma County has been getting much noticed as a desired destination but nothing has topped the "#1 Wine Destination in the U.S." by TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice Awards - Napa Valley was #2 in the U.S. (and Sonoma was voted second in the World- right behind Tuscany at #1- I guess we can live with that).  

 

SONOMA COUNTY AND FARMHOUSE INN- GREEN AND GETTING GREENER

  
  
  
Farmhouse Inn Tesla Test Drives

 

It is hard to live in the California wine country and not embrace farm-to-table cuisine. If a restaurant does not celebrate the bounty of our Sonoma County farms and farmers it does not last long in this area.  The focus of our chef and the restaurant menu on organic, sustainable, and local purveyors is often more expensive but as the diners continually tell us - it is so worth it. That is only one facet of our approach to becoming more environmentally friendly (and healthier and it tastes better too) and embracing all things green.

 

Recently Tesla Motors brought up two of their S sedans to offer test drives and we had a charging station installed just to be able to do that. What an exciting day that was!

 



A SNEAK PEAK FROM FARMHOUSE INN SERVER/WRITER ROB LOUGHRAN

  
  
  
Rob Loughran, Author


Farmhouse Inn Fiction
or Meat is Always on Our Menu 

   by   

Rob Loughran

      There’s a New Yorker cartoon where a bejeweled lady-about-town is on her cellphone in an upscale restaurant. The caption is, “You’ve got to get down here, Marge. The waiter is really a waiter.”

   
      It is a time-honored cliché that all waiters have day jobs. This is true at the Farmhouse Inn also. Your Farmhouse Restaurant server tonight, during the day, was either a winemaker (Sonoma Wine Country is full of them), a veterinarian’s assistant (our resident healer), a master gardener(few of those on staff too) , or even a published writer. 

                                   
                       
                  I'm the writer.

    Time-honored clichés also abound in the writing game, most prominently: Write what you know and, after working here for the last six years, I know the Farmhouse.  So, of course the restaurant—barely disguised as The Green Frog Cafe—has appeared in my last two novels.

                                                                                                                                                                   
From Tantric Zoo:

      Seven miles west of Santa Rosa, CA and two miles from the town of Forestville the Green Frog Café looked like a fresh-baked yellow-and-white layer cake someone had placed carefully in the middle of a redwood forest. “What an odd location,” thought Bud, “for a restaurant. No foot traffic. No discernible parking.” He maneuvered his car between two redwood trees and crunched through the leaf-litter to the front steps of the farmhouse-turned-restaurant. The white-trimmed, egg-yolk colored front door had a sign written in calligraphy:


     The Green Frog Café
     Vegetarian Cuisine
     HOURS 6:30 – 8:30 Weds – Sun
    
Reservations Required
All Misbehaved Children Will Be Given
a Double Espresso and a Puppy

  
      Bud smiled and knocked.

      No answer.

      He walked around the old, but adoringly maintained two-story farmhouse. A pea-gravel path led around the building through beds of veggies and herbs. Staked tomatoes looked wiry and wilted but held bright late season fruit: red, orange, yellow. Basil and rosemary; oregano and Italian parsley grew profusely, almost wild. Plants Bud didn’t recognize grew in raised beds and hung from baskets and window boxes. Bud weaved through the patchwork garden to the back of the restaurant and a concrete slab with multicolored recycling bins. He walked up three steps and knocked on a screendoor, “Hello?”

   
      No answer.

      Bud opened the door and heard muted country music and the “snick snick” of someone chopping on a cutting board. He walked past a dishwashing station and marveled at how immaculate and orderly the dishracks, glasses, and plates were stacked. He entered an impossibly small kitchen and saw that the “snick snick” came from a woman chopping zucchini. Years in a kitchen had taught Bud never to approach anyone with a knife from behind so he walked through the kitchen and waved his right hand to get her attention. She finished dissecting the zucchini and said, “Yes?”

 
      She wore faded blue jeans and dayglo green Adidas running shoes; a white tanktop and a black apron with red and green apple cores. Short, thick reddish-brown hair framed her face.

     “Delivery?” she asked.

     “Comically laconic, whenever possible,” said Bud.

            ________________________________


     The Farmhouse’s interior gets a bit more action in this year’s release Beautiful Lies

    “You’ll love this place,” said Darren.

    “But it’s a vegetarian joint,” said Colin.

    “It’s cool, we had our protein shakes. It’s time for some phyto-nutrients and roughage.” Darren bounded up the front steps of the aged yellow and white farmhouse-turned-restaurant. “Read that sign. It’s hilarious.”

    Colin leaned over and read, in halting English, “The Green Frog Café. Vegetarian Cuisine. Reservations required. All misbehaved children will be given a double espresso and a puppy. That’s funny shit, dude.”

    “The food is so freaking good.”

    “Let’s eat.”

    The boys devoured two salads each—one egg and escarole, the other pear and endive—then had two French onion soups, and two entrées each: polenta lasagna with roasted vegetables and a mushroom cassoulet for Colin; eggplant parmigiana and a spinach and cheese omelet for Darren. Both sipped iced green tea and were quiet, almost shyly reserved, throughout the leisurely and tasty lunch. Darren paid with his American Express card and scribbled in a twenty percent tip. Colin tucked two five-dollar bills beneath the signed charge receipt and said, “I’m sure you left her enough. I always tip extra big. Professional courtesy, you know.”

    Not in the least offended, Darren nodded.

    They were the last to leave the dining room which had been almost filled to capacity. The waitress—her flowered nametag read: Hilary—a nubile, fresh faced, local girl, approached the table and picked up the charge receipt. She pocketed the two fives before she noticed the other tip included in the American Express’ total. She nodded and smiled, then reiterated the question in English that the tractor driving cousin Ramon had articulated in Spanish, “I wonder if they’re gay?”

                _______________________________

   
Fiction is, at least by me, either made up or stolen. I stole the sign about puppies and espresso—I’ve seen it various places—and The Farmhouse restaurant will be strictly vegetarian only over Farmhouse chef, Steve Litke’s cold dead body (copy of meat centric menu here). And, ironically that’s how my next murder mystery begins: With a cold dead body....But not Steve’s, I need my night job.  


      ________________________________ 

Tantric Zoo ( a Bud Warhol Mystery) at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Tantric-Zoo-Warhol-Mystery-Mysteries/dp/1482611120/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373681047&sr=1-4 

 



























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