Wine_Country_Blog

Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

A RAINY DAY IN SONOMA WINE COUNTRY

By Meghan Smith on December 13, 2014

This week we've decided to delve into what feels like an appropriate topic of conversation considering the storms we’ve had this week. What do you do in Sonoma wine country when it happens to rain?  You’ve traveled from the East coast to escape the snowy weather and land in San Francisco only to find that you should have packed your rain coat, boots and umbrella. Rain happens- even in sunny California. The question is, how do you enjoy a wine country vacation when you can’t go far and the places you wanted to visit are impacted by weather? The answer varies depending on your interests; but we think a rainy day has the potential to be more enjoyable than you might think….

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Topics: Sonoma, wine country, Russian River, Pinot Noir, Romantic, Farmhouse Inn, Healdsburg, restaurant, vacation, California, spa

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

By Meghan Smith on October 11, 2014

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! 

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Topics: wine country, Sonoma County, Pumpkin Patch, Pumpkins, Farmhouse Inn, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Napa, wine tasting, Harvest, Halloween, Film Festival

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

By Meghan Smith on October 04, 2014

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Topics: wine country, Sonoma County, holiday, gifts, shopping, art trails, Farmhouse Inn, Healdsburg, restaurant, romance, spa, Harvest, season

THREE DAYS IN WINE COUNTRY: A SONOMA PLANNING GUIDE

By Meghan Smith on August 16, 2014

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.

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Topics: Sonoma, wine country, Sonoma County, Farmhouse Inn, Healdsburg, events, restaurant, wine road, Napa, California, wine tasting

HARVEST IN WINE COUNTRY: GRAPES NOT INCLUDED

By Meghan Smith on August 10, 2014

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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Topics: wine country, Sonoma County, peaches, Dry Creek Valley, Farmhouse Inn, Healdsburg, farm, Moustache Baked Goods, pies, Harvest

SONOMA WINE COUNTRY OFFERS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

By Meghan Smith on July 12, 2014

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.

 


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Topics: wine country, Sonoma County, Romantic, Michelin Star, honeymoon, Farmhouse Inn, Healdsburg, Napa, lodging, weekend getaway, Russian River Valley, wine tasting

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

By Meghan Smith on June 21, 2014


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?” 

 

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Topics: wine country, Sonoma County, Farmhouse Inn, Healdsburg, California, Russian River Valley, Farmer's Markets, wine tasting

SONOMA COUNTY FARMERS' MARKETS: A WINE COUNTRY MUST DO

By Meghan Smith on June 14, 2014

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.

 

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Topics: Sonoma County, Farmhouse Inn, Healdsburg, Farmer's Markets

SONOMA SUMMER: MUSIC, RIVER, FOOD, WINE, FESTIVALS...

By Meghan Smith on May 31, 2014


Summer in Sonoma is all about lazy days on the Russian River, music events all around the county,  festivals and more fun.   Sonoma has a lot to do year-round but we especially love the summer months. If you’re planning on visiting soon or are taking notes for next year, be sure to check out our guide to summer living in wine country: outdoor activities, local happenings and events, and farmers markets. We couldn't include everything here, so if you're curious about something we don't mention be sure to email us  at innkeep@farmhouseinn.com or via Facebook.



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Topics: wine country, Russian River, concierge, Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, Farmhouse Inn, Healdsburg, Summer events, Music

FARMHOUSE INN CONCIERGE: SONOMA SUMMER WINE PICKS

By Meghan Smith on May 17, 2014

Locals living in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys associate spring time with the release of the newest vintages of white and rose wines. It is the time of year when we start making our summer plans and stocking our refrigerators for the coming months of picnicking near the Russian River and music on the square in Healdsburg. These delightful new releases always seem to perk us up out of our “winter” stupor. Whether your favorite is a Chardonnay or a Rose of Pinot Noir, we’ll go through the range of some of our favorites being released just in time for summer.


Let's start on the lighter end of the white wines,  with the Sauvignon Blancs from the area that we can’t resist. For Sauvignon Blanc we recommend you head up to Dry Creek Valley where the warmer climate, limited daytime coastal influence and combination of gravelly and sandy loam soils make it ideal for Sauvignon Blanc. Our favorites come from Preston and Quivira. Preston’s Sauvignon Blanc has the classic citrus qualities of grapefruit and lime with touches of green apple. Perfect with summer vegetables and of course a selection of your favorite cheeses! Quivira’s Sauvignon Blanc comes from their well-known Fig Tree Vineyard on their estate. Quivira’s Sauvignon Blanc tends to exude more of the tropical notes like pineapple and passion fruit. Always high in acid, the Quivira is a perfect match with veal piccata or a tangy chevre. Be sure to inquire about other white wines available at both Preston and Quivira- the Madame Preston and Sauvignon Blanc-Viognier blend from Quivira are also at the top of our list.


If you like a little more body on your white wines than consider this next category of unique whites. We’ll start with RYME Cellar’s Vermentino. RYME is a small artisan brand from former Farmhouse Inn Sommelier Megan Glaab and her husband Ryan. Ryan and Megan have varying opinions on what Vermentino should taste like so they decided to a His and a Hers. Don’t tell Ryan, but the Concierge team all votes for the Hers. Classic Vermentino tends to have a stony, saline minerality and both versions at RYME exude this. Vermentino can sometimes take on an orange hue (depending on skin-contact during fermentation) and therefore contains tannins making it more robust on the spectrum of white wines. We recommend most seafood dishes and the occasional pesto with your next glass. Another unique white wine coming out of the Russian River Valley is Wind Gap’s Trousseau Gris. With intense mineral aromas (think wet rocks) and pineapple, the Trousseau Gris is zesty and lively on the palate. This wine is one of our favorites with fresh oysters on the half shell. Both the RYME Vermentinos and Wind Gap Trousseau have large followings and quickly sell out every year, so be sure to place your order soon.


On to the king of white wines, Chardonnay.  Bold, full bodied, round, lush and unapologetically barrel-aged, California’s classic Chardonnays continue to be as popular today as they were 30 years ago. While some wineries are experimenting with non-barrel aging techniques, the predominant style still exudes aromas and flavors of butter, popcorn, vanilla, toast and baking spices. Of the Chardonnays that fall in this category we have 2 front runners: Gary Farrell’s Russian River Select and Red Car’s Sonoma Coast. Both wineries have tasting rooms in the Russian River Valley but purchase all their fruit from local growers- this allows them to select the best of the best each vintage. We’re huge fans of Evan Goldstein’s “Perfect Pairings” and his latest “Daring Pairings”. Both books provide pairing guidelines as well as fantastic recipes. We highly suggest referencing one of these books the time you open your favorite California Chardonnay.


To round up our spring list we’re finishing with what might be our favorite category, Rose. Pink, slightly effervescent and smelling of summertime, what’s not to like? Our go-to both in the Farmhouse Inn Restaurant and by the pool is County Line’s Rose of Pinot Noir. County Line is the second label of Radio Coteauowner/winemaker Eric Sussman. The County Line Rose is consistently one of our favorites every year- smelling of watermelon and strawberries, the Rose is extremely quaffable and affordable. No need to hesitate on opening this wine- the $20 price makes it a wine to be enjoyed whenever, wherever. We drink it with everything but if you’d like a little more sophisticated recommendation try it with a scallop sashimi or the perfect naked oyster. Last but not least is Farmhouse Winery Partner Inman Family’s Rose- beautiful, pale, delicate pink and crisp and refreshing, it is without a doubt a standout among the pink wines. With more structure, higher acids and supreme balance, this Rose makes us want to throw a summer dinner party in the vineyards right now. If you want to get fancy on your brunch guests try pairing this Rose with a scrambled egg and smoked salmon or a Quiche Lorraine.


We hope this Concierge Guide to Spring Releases was helpful and that you visit a few of the wineries mentioned on this list during your next vacation to wine country. If you won’t be visiting soon be sure to look for them in your local wine shop or on the wine list at your favorite restaurants. For more winery recommendations, itinerary suggestions and information on the area be sure to email your concierge soon. For more information on the latest happenings at Farmhouse be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Topics: Sonoma, wine country, Russian River, concierge, Farmhouse Inn, Healdsburg, vacation, Restaurants, Napa, California, wine tasting

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