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Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

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NAPA AND SONOMA RESTAURANTS: FARMHOUSE INN FAVORITES

  
  
  
Dining in Wine Country


The number one question our concierges receive is how far the Farmhouse Inn is from San Francisco Airport (about 1.5 to 2 hours in case you’re wondering). The second most asked question is “Where is the best restaurant?” That depends but a good place to start is by asking the Farmhouse concierge team where we go when we are hungry. Keep in mind that Wine Country is one of the best places to go if you’d like to indulge your culinary curiosity. With multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, 2 of which have 3 stars, Napa and Sonoma County are packed with dining choices for all palates and budgets. With so many choices it can be a little overwhelming so we decided to distill it down to where our concierges go most often. We’ll break it into 3 categories- best local hidden gems, best special occasion restaurants and bucket list eateries. Just be sure you check with the concierge before booking- there are some strong but varied opinions when it comes to the best restaurants.

 

Local favorite spots are often the hardest to find when traveling because quite frankly, the locals hesitate to share their neighborhood gems with visitors.

These favorite local spots are often the best, so its a good idea to ask your concierge or any local where they’d go for dinner. At the top of the list is Willi’s Wine Bar. Willi’s is located in an old roadhouse across the street from soccer and baseball fields- you’d never find it unless you knew it was there. Willi’s menu focuses on tapas (small plates)and has an international influence. Their back patio is a favorite hangout for Sonoma locals during the summer and their wine flights are excellent. Best part- they have a large bar seating section and they offer the full menu there.

Another local spot is hard to find also due to its almost hidden entrance. SCOPA is an Italian eatery in Healdsburg and the only way to find it for the first time is to look for the large Barbershop sign painted above the entrance. With very few tables, a small bar and its mass popularity with locals it is often difficult to acquire a reservation. SCOPA’s menu is packed with such delicious offerings that you’re sure to walk away wanting to come back the next night. If you booked your vacation at the last minute and SCOPA is full we recommend trying their sister restaurant Campo Fina.

 


Farmhouse Inn to the Mendocino Coast: A Weekend Getaway

  
  
  
Lazy Creek Winery

 

Just an hour and a half north of the Farmhouse Inn lies the truly wonderful Mendocino County. Known for its stunning rustic coastline and cooler climate, Mendocino County is a must-see for those visiting Northern California. From Boonville and Philo out to Little River and Mendocino, the area offers everything a traveler could want: great wine and food, amazing views and scenery, picture perfect hiking conditions in the redwoods, and most importantly great people. Whether you’re planning a visit there soon or have considered adding it to your bucket list, we’ve outlined a perfect weekend in Mendocino for you. We assume you are adding Farmhouse Inn onto the beginning or end of your trip; we’ll begin this trip from Farmhouse Inn and head north. 


As you leave the Farmhouse Inn you’ll head up to Cloverdale to connect with Highway 128. This is one of the prettiest drives in all of Northern California but be prepared for some twists and turns as you leave Sonoma County for Mendocino County. Once you’ve cleared the biggest stretch of driving, about an hour, you’ll arrive in Boonville. With plenty of markets and cafes you’ll have a range of locations to choose from- our favorite is Mosswood Market. There are also several tasting rooms in downtown Boonville, so be sure to check out at least one of those. After grabbing a bite to eat it is time to move on and begin the serious wine tasting.



Continue to head north on Highway 128 out of Boonville towards Philo. From well-known brands like Roederer and Scharffenberger to smaller unknowns like Breggo and Toulouse, Anderson Valley has a lot to offer. Due to the cooler climate of the Anderson Valley many of the wineries specialize in Pinot Noirs and cool climate white wines such as Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. If we had our choice the first day visits would include a stop at Roederer for some bubbles, a drop in at Toulouse for for their Pinot Gris and Muscat, and  cap off the day with a visit to Lazy Creek for their Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer. Most of the wineries in Anderson Valley are open to visitors every day without an appointment, but be sure to check ahead of time. Another item for the research list should be availability of their wines- due to their small size many of these wineries sell out quickly.


Full up on your new favorite wines it is onto the coast. You’ll take Highway 128 through Philo, past the redwoods and out to Highway 1.  Turn right to head north and onto the town of Mendocino. Without a doubt our favorite overnight spot in all of Mendocino County is the Brewery Gulch Inn. The rooms face the town of Mendocino and its coast and are well appointed. In addition to a truly wonderful breakfast (included in the room rate) you’ll also enjoy their evening wine hour with snacks. Snacks may be understating what they offer- it is a buffet and enough food for most people to go without a dinner reservation somewhere else.  After your stay in one of Inn’s cozy rooms (we recommend the Meadowood Suite if its available) head to downtown Mendocino to explore the town’s galleries and shops. We also recommend heading down to the beach for some hiking. It can be particularly cold on the coast so be sure to bring your layers. Once you’re refreshed from the ocean air its time to hop back in the car.


As you wind back down Highway 1 and Highway 128 we recommend stopping at the truly must-see Navarro Vineyards in Philo. Navarro is an Anderson Valley classic and their wide range of wines and reasonable prices make them a very popular stop for natives and visitors. Their friendly staff is helpful and fun. They sell picnic items so buy your favorite bottle from the list, some lunch items and heading out to a picnic table. Just a bit further down Highway 128 is Goldeneye- a Duckhorn Winery sister property. Goldeneye offers its visitors a seated outdoor tasting with a lovely cheese plate.
 For your last night in Mendocino County we recommend the Boonville Hotel. Recently remodeled the cute cabins are simple but reflect Mendocino’s style. And if you’re staying at the BH then you can’t miss out on their new Table 128 restaurant. Its a new pre-fixe menu every night, which they post online ahead of time. And if you’re there on a Sunday afternoon you can join the Oyster Bar for freshly shucked Tomales Bay oysters.


Have you booked your flight yet? We hope the Farmhouse Inn is a part of your future Northern California visit and that you also take the time to consider a day or two just north of us. All properties, stops and wineries mentioned can be booked directly or with the assistance of a Farmhouse Concierge. Be sure to continue to check our blog, Facebook page and website for information on new packages, vacation inspiration and the latest news from wine country.








WINE COUNTRY TO BIG SUR: A CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP

  
  
  
California coast, Jenner

With summer quickly approaching many people are making their vacation plans. Whether you’re living in California now or plan on visiting, a road trip up or down California’s coastline should be on your bucket list. We recommend you take a week to explore everything from Northern California’s wine country to Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn and all the little gems in between. We’ve put together our dream California coast road trip to share and hopefully inspire you to do your own. We’ll begin at the top and work our way down with some trip highlights.


Start in Sonoma County- many people don’t realize this but Sonoma has its own regional airport with direct flights to/from San Diego, LAX, Portland and Seattle. 

Once you’ve arrived head over to the Farmhouse Inn to check in for at least a 2 night stay in the wine country. Enjoy a glass of wine on your private balcony, unwind from a day of travel and head down to the Farmhouse Restaurant for a fantastic dinner with wine pairings. Begin the following morning with the famous Farmhouse breakfast before you head out for a day of exploring. 

Swing by Armstrong Redwoods for a quick hike, down to the Russian River for some kayaking and out to Jenner for a glass of champagne and oysters at River’s End. Return to Farmhouse for a little self-indulgence: a spa treatment with steam shower sounds about right. If you’re wiped out from a big day then we recommend an in-room picnic- stop by the Front Desk to check out their wares. The following morning its off to Highway 1 after another amazing breakfast.


Take Highway 116 from the Farmhouse through the Russian River area out to the Sonoma Coast and Highway 1. Make a quick stop at Goat Rock Beach to stretch your legs and work off some of that breakfast. As you wind down Highway 1 enjoy a crab sandwich at one of the highway shacks. Stop in Bodega Bay for some sight seeing and to enjoy the town where Alfred Hitchcock filmed “The Birds.” As Highway 1 curves in you’ll come to Tomales Bay, home to Hog Island Oysters. It is on our list of must-see stops. We recommend making an appointments but you can drop in without one.  As you finish the day’s driving you’ll arrive at the stunning and historic Cavallo Point for a 2 night stay. Be sure to dine in the Murray Circle Restaurant and to try out the spa at least once during your visit.

 

 



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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