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Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

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A RAINY DAY IN SONOMA WINE COUNTRY

 

4 EXCELLENT REASONS TO VISIT WINE COUNTRY IN NOVEMBER

 
November in Sonoma

In Sonoma and Napa September and October have traditionally been the busiest months to visit, both in the vineyards and in the tasting rooms, restaurants and hotels. However, a new trend is on the rise in wine country: November is becoming a very popular time to visit too. November is what we usually refer to as a “shoulder” month – the time of transition between what is the busiest time of year and our more relaxed winter season. While this has been true for a while, we have noticed a change. November’s sunny brisk weather has been drawing an increasing number of visitors to wine country this month, as are the smaller crowds and beautiful fall colors. Even though harvest is over, there is plenty to do in wine country. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to come visit us here at Farmhouse Inn, let us help you: here are 4 reasons to visit wine country in November.

 

SONOMA'S FARMHOUSE INN AND A GETAWAY SPECIAL FOR HOLIDAYS

 
Dungeness crab and wine country

Brace yourself! The holidays are coming. The day after Halloween and thinking turns to the upcoming holiday season and family celebrations. The first Saturday of November (that would be today) is traditionally Sonoma County's opening of recreational Dungeness crab season and and just two weeks later the commercial season opens- usually just in time for Thanksgiving. I always look forward to the first taste of our very special Dungeness each year and it does appear on holiday menus throughout wine country. Chef Stevo manages to incorporate the meaty crustaceans in some form on the Farmhouse Inn menu the entire season. Several months of the winter crab season bring the hugely popular crab feeds- a great way to support our local charities and feast on the local delicacy at the same time. And what goes better with crab than your favorite wine? 

 

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!

 






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