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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 than 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

PUMPKINS, WINE COUNTRY, AND MOVIES-- OH MY!

  
  
  
Fall in Sonoma

There is much to love about wine country in the fall; the changing colors of harvest time, the seasonal foods, the Halloween parties, and of course, the wine.

In wine country we know how to celebrate our favorite time of year with style. All around Sonoma County the pumpkin patches and corn mazes have begun to open, the vineyards have caught on fire with bright hues of red, orange and yellow, and the old barns dotting the countryside seem to take on a special haunted appearance just for the season. If you're coming to Sonoma or Napa any time soon, there is plenty to do. Whether you’re looking for grape harvest activities, film festivals, or Halloween celebrations, you’ll find them in wine country.    

 

October is a turning point for us here in wine country. Harvest is almost finished, and just as we take the our favorite costumes out of the closet for Halloween parties, we will see the very last of the fruit come in. All the grapes that stubbornly waited to ripen finally seem to give up the ghost (pun intended) and are perfect for picking the last week of October. (Out of the vineyard and into the cellar – just in time too. Who wants to celebrate Halloween and get up at 4 am the next morning to pick grapes?) Come to wine country to celebrate the harvest in the next few weeks; you'll have a splendid buffet of options to pick from. Coming up next week Bacigalupi Vineyards will be celebrating their Fall Release and Harvest Celebration. BBQ, grape stomping, not to mention all the flowing wine! If you’re looking for an evening affair the Trione Winery family will be hosting Dinner Under the Stars the 19th of this month. Dinner in the vineyards (wines included of course) and Bocce Ball – we hope to see you there!

Many festival and event weekends happen this time of year; we think that there are two standouts. One of the largest events in North Bay is the Napa Valley Film Festival. Spanning 5 days, with 125 screenings, 300 directors, 50 chefs and 125 wineries, the event is on our bucket list. Screened films will range from documentaries and narratives to genre films like “The Fault in Our Stars”. If you’re not a film buff Pinot on the River may be more your speed. Sunday, October 26th the downtown Healdsburg square will become a Pinot Heaven – 100 small lot Pinot producers will take over the square pouring some of their most exclusive offerings. Around the square artisan food truck vendors will be setup to offer up delectable bites. The tasting is one day only and tickets sell out quickly. For more information on the event and to purchase tickets, visit www.pinotfestival.com.  And the first weekend of November brings the Wine and Food Affair a premier event from our friends at Wineroad.com with a focus on pairing wine with food. A great way to enjoy fall in the wine country.

 

Pumpkin patch or corn maze – Sonoma will delight you with plenty of Halloween activities during the month of October. The premier pumpkin patch experience can be found at McClelland’s Dairy Farm in Petaluma. If you get hungry while you’re picking out your organic heirloom pumpkin you can visit their food cart featuring grilled cheese sandwiches, milkshakes, popcorn and espresso drinks – all organic of course. Make a day of it and head out to the Sonoma Coast to visit the location where Alfred Hitchcock filmed “The Birds”.  For an adrenaline rush Halloween experience there are two great options – Blind Scream Haunted Mansions and the Hitchcock Film Noir Party. Blind Scream in Rohnert Park includes 3 haunted Mansions, “The Last Ride”, food trucks and a good old fashion Halloween scare – all for the bargain price of $20. A bit more tame but no less thrilling is the Hitchcock Film Noir Party at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma. Celebrate the "Master of Suspense" with great wines, food, film clips, and mysteries to be solved – costumes are encouraged and proceeds from the event will benefit Sonoma Valley Media Arts Program.


So much to do and so little time... If you need to speak with a Concierge to plan an upcoming visit click here. To stay up to date with our latest jaunts and newest discoveries follow us on Facebook and Instagram. To receive our latest specials sign up for our Mailing List. Sonoma on your brain? Be sure to visit our 4th Night Free special - it'll turn you from thinking about a vacation to actually booking one. We hope to see you in Wine Country soon! 


5 MORE REASONS TO VISIT WINE COUNTRY (DO YOU NEED A REASON?)

  
  
  

SONOMA WINE COUNTRY HARVEST AND GRAPE LUNCHEON

  
  
  
Sonoma Harvest 2

Several months ago we were approached by the Sonoma County Winegrowers
requesting a lunchEON at Farmhouse Inn restaurant as part of their Sonoma County Grape Camp event. The event is a three day immersion in Sonoma County’s wine country harvest and includes dinners and lunches at several local restaurants. The Campers travel throughout Sonoma County experiencing the different elements of harvest – be it a very early morning pick in the vineyards or heading to the cellar to work on the sorting table, the Campers dive into what it means to work in the wine industry during these few months.  Our campers arrived ready for a break from the work and we were willing to oblige - no better way to begin a midday break than with a glass of bubbly...

 

 


FARMHOUSE INN IN THE NEWS

  
  
  
Sonoma Vineyards

Have you noticed we seem to be written up everywhere lately?

Recent accolades and this year's expansion at Farmhouse Inn has generated a lot of attention from the press.  

Be it print or online, we’re always grateful when the Farmhouse Inn is featured or mentioned in the press.  Our expansion project began in March and has included extensive new landscaping (including a revitalized pool area), nine new luxury rooms (they resemble our ever-popular Barn rooms), and a new farm-to-table spa building. All the work has generated considerable buzz from publications ranging from The Daily Meal and the Robb Report to Urban Daddy and our local Press Democrat.  With all the activity of the last few months, it felt like the time was right for a Farmhouse Inn press round up. We’re including a few highlights, but keep an eye on our press page as we have some very exciting features coming up.

 



One of our favorite articles within the last few months came from DuJour Magazine. The feature entitled “The Luxury Road Trip: Coastal California” took readers from Sonoma to Napa and down to Carmel. For each area they focused on several wineries, lodging and restaurant recommendations. Referring to Farmhouse Inn they said “We recommend the Luxury Barn Rooms, which has vaulted ceilings, a gorgeous white willow four-poster bed, heated bathroom marble floors and a fireplace that you can enjoy both in the room and outside from your private outdoor deck. But best of all is the bathroom, which can only be described as a playground for adults.” We couldn’t agree more!

 

 



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

A BIT OF WINE COUNTRY: FROM FARMHOUSE INN TO YOUR HOUSE

  
  
  
Farmhouse Inn

Every week here at Farmhouse Inn our email box is full of messages from previous guests asking questions about (surprisingly not just all about the wine country) where to purchase the  "Famous Farmhouse Bed" to how to make the fantastic chocolate chip cookies we put in the rooms at turn down. The rising trend of do-it-yourself projects is something we love and we love to help our guests replicate the Farmhouse Inn experience at home. With just a few simple DIY projects you can enjoy a little piece of wine country just about anywhere. Just to focus on a few of our most popular amenities: our turn down treats, the Farmhouse Breakfast (2 courses with recipes), and our spa bar.

 

Each night the bellmen deliver several treats to our the guests’ rooms as part of our turn-down service. While our guests are out enjoying dinner the bellmen leave our homemade chocolate chip cookies and milk by the bed, as well as s'mores kits to enjoy at the outdoor fire pits. The cookies come from our pastry team and are one of the most appreciated Farmhouse Inn treasures. The use of three different kind of chocolate chips (and a lot of butter) have made these cookies popular not only with inn guests, but with folks from all over Sonoma County. We’ve decided to share the recipe with our fans – click here to go to the recipe page. We hope you share photos of your version with us on our Facebook page.

 

The s’mores kits are are a very popular turn down item. The kit is comprised of Valrhona dark chocolate, vanilla bean marshmallows and artisan graham crackers. If you want to make the Farmhouse S’mores at home or on your next camping trip you can purchase the Valrhona chocolate directly from their website (search for Grand Cru Dark Baking Chocolate Caraibe) or on Amazon. The marshmallows we use come from Plush Puffs. In addition to vanilla bean they offer caramel, chocolate chip and several other flavors. These marshmallows are also fantastic in hot chocolate! There are several recipes online to make homemade graham crackers (check out this one from Martha Stewart), however if you need them quickly we recommend picking some up from your local market. If you don’t have a fire pit and aren’t big on camping, check out this oven recipe for s’mores from the Food Network.

 

We recently asked our Facebook fans what their favorite Farmhouse dish was and were surprised how many people wrote in that their favorite is the Farmhouse Breakfast. We hear you fans! Ask and you shall receive. Our Inn Chef, Trevor Anderson, has provided a 2 course Farmhouse Breakfast for you to replicate at home. We always begin breakfast at Farmhouse with fresh seasonal fruit and a homemade sweet.
Today it was fresh summer berries with homemade whipped cream and garden mint. Our main course consists of two components. The first is a romaine salad with house-made bacon vinaigrette and the second is Eggs in a Frame. “Eggs in a Frame” is also known as Kibbee Egg, hen in a nest, moon egg, and cowboy egg. Under any name we think it’s delicious. For our version of Eggs in a Frame and our bacon vinaigrette recipe click here.

 

Another very popular  talked about Farmhouse amenities is our wine country spa bar. Located in Guest Services, the spa bar is a collection of local spa products available for guests to sample and enjoy in their room. We feature a lavender sea salt for the bath, a brown sugar–honey scrub, and 3 different soaps. All the bath bar products come from Sumbody, a local company just down the road from Farmhouse Inn. These products are so much fun to try out and we get a ton of requests to ship some home to guests after they’ve left. An easy DIY spa product project is a sugar scrub. There are all different kinds of sugar scrub recipes out there, but because it’s peach season we like this simple one (click here).

 


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.



HARVEST IN WINE COUNTRY: GRAPES NOT INCLUDED

  
  
  
Wine Grape Harvest

Sonoma County is a great place to visit if you love wine country (and wine), and of course the most popular time to visit is during the  grape harvest. While we love the grape harvest as much as the next person, every year we also get excited about things like tomatoes, peaches, apples, onions, beets, walnuts… we could go on but we’ll stop here for now. We recently had the pleasure of getting out and about in Healdsburg and were able to experience harvest in several different ways. We spent the day visiting Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Shop, Dragonfly Floral and Dry Creek Peach.

 

 

To start our day in a pie and ice cream shop is a pretty good indication of how the remainder of our day was going to be- extraordinary. We were fortunate enough to be the first ones to experience pie making with Noble Folk owners and bakers, Ozzie Jimenez and Christian Sullivan. Noble Folk is the second store for the duo, who also have Moustache Baked Goods in downtown Healdsburg. While the bakery’s focus is on cupcakes and special occasion cakes, Noble Folk offers classic pies and Japanese inspired ice creams.

 

July and August are prime peach and berry season in Sonoma County, so our pie was a reflection of the summer time harvest. We learned how to make a filling and a proper crust. We were also schooled in the artistry of lattice work for the top of the pie. Noble Folk, like many Sonoma businesses, stresses the use of in-season ingredients. We’re looking forward to apple and pumpkin pies this fall. Noble Folk will soon be launching their website and online shopping cart – be sure to get your holiday pie orders in early.


After pie making (and taste testing) we headed over to Dragonfly Floral, just west of downtown Healdsburg. Dragonfly is a six acre farm that specializes in flowers for a variety of events. In addition to flowers they also grow vegetables and raise ducks and chickens. We popped in for a quick tour of the farm and were fortunate enough to meet the duck duo Fred and Ethel.

 

 

Dragonfly has about 4.5 acres of cutting flowers that they use for their arrangements. Our visit to the farm was full of color – roses, dahlias and sunflowers were all in bloom. In addition to providing flowers for events, Dragonfly has been hosting flower arrangement classes. We’re big fans of succulents and their selection was amazing – check out their online calendar for a schedule of classes or stop by for a picnic in their beautiful gardens.

 

Our last stop of the day was at Dry Creek Peach, located on the northern end of Dry Creek Valley. Dry Creek Peach is the only commercial (commercial in this case is only 6.5 acres) organic peach farm in Sonoma County. Dry Creek Peach grows several varieties of peaches including Snow Kings, Red Havens and Arctic Gems. In addition to supplying several local restaurants with peaches (Farmhouse chef Stevo is good friends of the owners), Dry Creek Peach operates a farm stand that is open 4 days a week. You can purchase fresh peaches, their jam and even peach wood cutting boards (we loved these!).

 


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