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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.



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!).

 


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!

 






SONOMA WINE COUNTRY OFFERS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

  
  
  
View Sonoma Wine Country

Why should you plan a visit to wine country? The answer is, why wouldn’t you? If you like sunshine, good food, amazing wines, friendly people and spectacular views wine country has a place for you. Sonoma and Napa are no longer reserved for those of a certain age, bank account status, or even for wine lovers only.

You can visit Sonoma and do and see plenty on any budget, even if  you aren't a fan of the grape. Wine Country is great for an ultra-romantic honeymoon, a quick weekend trip, or even an exciting outdoor adventure. Sonoma County has it all and we’ll tell you how to do it right no matter the occasion or budget.

 


At the Farmhouse Inn we’re finding that more couples are opting to skip the multi-country honeymoon and instead are coming to California’s wine country to simply relax. (Martha Stewart lists the Farmhouse as one of the top 10 places to mini-moon) If you’re visiting this area for a honeymoon plan to book at least 4 days- that will only touch the high points .

On the day of arrival (at Farmhouse Inn, of course) you’ll likely be exhausted. An in-room picnic is a great option for your first night- it doesn’t require that you drive anywhere and you can eat it out on your private deck (or even in bed).  Schedule romantic couples spa treatments for the next day- they can work out all the kinks and you may really be needing a foot massage (after all that wedding dancing). Then head on down to the pool for some lazing in the sun and a glass of wine (swimming not necessarily required). Sonoma has many great romantic restaurant options including our own Farmhouse Restaurant; make reservations in this area ahead of time with the help of your concierge. Your third day you might have the energy for a private wine tour- we love the Alone Time Tour for our honeymoon couples. And maybe by the fourth day you can fit in a float down the river or a hike in Armstrong Redwoods to work off some of the reception over-indulgence.

The Farmhouse Inn offers a Honeymoon Package which can be added onto any 3 night or longer stay- we set the mood; you create the memories.


For those looking for a quick weekend away Sonoma is a great option. Whether you’re camping or staying at the luxurious Farmhouse Inn, there are great accommodation options for all budgets. One of the best things to do while visiting Sonoma County is to visit one of our many regional and state parks- they provide great views and are often the best places for a picnic. Of course the most popular activity among weekend visitors is wine tasting. Prior to your Sonoma getaway, visit www.wineroad.com to explore the 300+ wineries with tasting rooms open for visitors- the Farmhouse concierge team can help you narrow down the list.  Wine Road is also a great resource for finding wineries that offer food pairings, have picnic grounds, are dog friendly and much more. If you’re a guest of Farmhouse, be sure to ask about our Winery Partner Program.

 



THE BEST OF SONOMA AND GLEN ELLEN

  
  
  
Sonoma


 

Last week’s blog post focused on a perfect day in Sonoma's Healdsburg and the Russian River Valley. We have come to the realization that one post on a perfect day in wine country wasn’t nearly enough. Sonoma County is an extremely large and diverse county - the size of Rhode Island and stretches from the Mayacama Mountains to the Sonoma Coast. There is much to see and do here (and we have so many perfect days). 


This part of the California wine country has many great day-trip options; this week we’re heading to Sonoma Valley to visit our top three breakfast, hiking, and winery stops in Sonoma and Glen Ellen. If you missed last week’s post or are new to this blog click here to catch up.

 



A frequent question we hear from our guests here at Farmhouse Inn as they are headed out for the day is: "
Where can I find a strong cup of coffee and/or a latte?" Fear not, we’ve done plenty of research on this topic. Next time you visit Sonoma or Glen Ellen make a stop of one of these favorites.


1. Open 7 days per week is the Sunflower Caffé right on the Sonoma Plaza just one door down from the El Dorado Hotel. Great coffee and espresso drinks are available as well as many breakfast basics. Sunflower also has some great additions like a spicy chicken slider.


 










A PERFECT DAY IN SONOMA COUNTY: A FEW OF OUR SECRETS

  
  
  
Morning in Sonoma


Living and working in Sonoma County offers many benefits; one of which is that we get do all the things the press write about as being a “must do on your next visit to California’s wine country".  It's no secret that summer is an amazing time of year to visit wine country and only next to harvest in terms of things to do and general excitement .  Here's a few summer perks we enjoy every day : Farmers’ markets, floating on the river, Music on the Green, and an all time favorite; dining al fresco with wine and friends. The Farmhouse Inn concierge team is often asked what we would do for a perfect day in the wine country. Fear not- we’ve done it before and are excited to share the wonders of life in Sonoma County with our guests.

  

If you’re anything like us, the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning is “where is my coffee?” 

 


SONOMA COUNTY FARMERS' MARKETS: A WINE COUNTRY MUST DO

  
  
  
Sonoma County Markets

Its no secret that Sonoma locals take great pride in being an agricultural epicenter. Our varied microclimates, terrains and soils make our little slice of heaven the perfect home to many of our favorite farmers and artisan producers- oh yeah, AND grapes grow pretty well here too. In Sonoma we love our farmers’ markets- there is one happening somewhere in the county every day of the week. The Sonoma County farmers’ markets showcase everything from spring lamb to heirloom tomatoes and ground dried chiles. Local Press Democrat reporter Michele Anna Jordan often writes about the local farms and markets of the area. In one of her recent articles Michele talks about being in the kitchen after visiting a local market: “surrounded by ingredients that, as I touch them one by one, conjure images of farmers, ranchers and dairy men and women - and, of course, the winemakers - who tended to them” - pure poetry in our opinion. We’ll take you through a few different markets, what makes them unique and why visiting them on your next trip to Sonoma should be on your to-do list.

 

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.









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