January 30, 2020

2019, Oh What a Year

I can’t believe that it’s the end of January and I’m just getting around to writing this. 2019, what a year you were! And while 2019 brought us more than our fair share of natural disasters, we also had so many wonderful moments. So, here goes with just a few of my personal highlights in no apparent order:

Charlotte’s 10th Anniversary – 2019 marked 10 years that our beloved black house cat, Charlotte, has called Farmhouse her home! Over those 10 years, she has become our unofficial mascot (and Wi-Fi password!) receiving hundreds of love letters from her legion of adoring fans. She originally joined our family as a “feral” barn cat who’s only job was to help keep the rodent population under control, not charm the pants of our guests. But we quickly learned that she much preferred to be inside in front of the fireplace rather than patrolling the gardens. Occasionally she’ll stroll the property stopping periodically to get a little love from a guest or two. And we’ve heard more than one story about late night visits from Charlotte. We hope to have another 10 years with her!

Motorcycles and the Michelin Man – This fall we hosted one of the best groups we have ever had here at Farmhouse, Arch Motorcycles. Each motorcycle Arch hand builds is a one of a kind piece of art and their owners are a passionate group. Founded by Gard Hollinger and Keanu Reeves, these two guys are as hands on as hands on gets. So, when they were looking for a hub to host a 3-day owner’s ride, Sonoma County with its endless rolling hills and miles of costal Hwy 1 was the perfect spot. Sponsored by Michelin Tires, they sought out a property that embodied the spirit of the Michelin Guide, “a place worth visiting” and Farmhouse fit the bill. And when they arrived, they brought a 10-foot inflatable Michelin Man to welcome their group. Ironically it so happened to coincide with Farmhouse receiving our 14th consecutive Michelin Star, and I think Chef Litke just about had a heart attack when he drove up and saw the big white guy waiving at him – he thought it was for him!

Condé Nast Traveller Gold List – There are a lot of great lists out there and we have been blessed to have made it onto many of them. But, hands down, for a property like ours, the Condé Nast Gold List is indeed the GOLD list of gold lists! And, again this year, we made this coveted list ranking #5 in North America!!! To say we are humbled is an understatement.  Pinch me, I can’t believe it!

Thanksgiving Turkeys and 4-H – I am so proud of my farming family! As I’ve written in past blogs, I live about 2 miles down the road from Farmhouse on 40 acres of paradise we call Bartolomei Farms with my wife, 3 kids, 2 dogs, 3 cats, and a flock of about 100 egg laying hens. We have a large garden and orchard and have always supplied produce, honey, eggs, flowers… to the Farmhouse. We’re an active 4-H family having raised many market lambs, hogs, and goats in our little barn. In 2017, my middle son, Nico, was accepted into the Sonoma Heritage turkey project sponsored by Slow Foods with the aim to preserve heritage turkey breeds. This year, we doubled our flock raising 32 beautiful Narraganset toms and hens. While a few of these birds are selected as breeding stock, the rest ultimately end up on the dinner table at Farmhouse for our Thanksgiving feast!  It’s kind of a circle of life thing but I think it’s so critically important to know where your meat comes from and how it was raised.

Honey – With epic rains came an epic wildflower bloom. And, this year, we harvested the most honey we’ve ever gotten, 96 pounds! In case you’re wondering, that’s over (300) 6oz jars! The 2019 Bartolomei Farms Honey is much darker and richer than previous years and everyone agrees that it’s the most delicious harvest yet! You can try some for yourself with our jars available for purchase in the Guest Services lobby.

The Grange and Cottage Remodel – Everyone knows how much I love to build things! Big or small projects, I love them all the same! So, I was super excited this year when I got to convert the front cottage building into a gathering space, we call the Grange and remodel 3 of our historic cottage rooms. The Grange is a large beautiful room with vaulted ceilings and a huge fireplace. It is the perfect place for retreats, gatherings, or just lounging around. The adjacent 3 cottage rooms were also completely gutted and beautifully updated. These lovely rooms have their own unique personality – farmy and whimsical – but 100% feel like Farmhouse with an all-white color pallet, oversized cast iron pedestal tubs, deep steam showers, four poster beds, and large barn doors. These cottage buildings date back to the early 1900s, so I had to be extra careful to maintain the charm and character of these unique spaces.  I’m thrilled with the result; I hope everyone else is too!

Launched Artisan Partner Program – We launched our winery partner program back in 2009 starting with just 6 of our favorite wineries. Today the program is capped at 25 partners representing the best of Sonoma County and provides our guest with unique and immersive high touch experiences. The program has been beyond successful and is beloved by our guests and partners. And while wine will always be the number one draw to Sonoma, we are blessed to have so much more to offer – craft brew, spirts, cannabis, world class cheeses, heirloom produce, and so much more. I’ve always said that Sonoma is a place where passionate makers come to make passionate products. So, this last year we decided to launch a complimentary program aimed at showcasing the very best makers making the very best stuff. The Artisan Partner program debuted last spring with unique access to farms, breweries, distilleries, dispensaries, and so much more. We want our guests to get out into our community and meet these wonderful players!

House Car – Tesla was our first car partner (and we were their first hotel partner). Our charcoal Model X P90D with the flashy gullwing doors was always proudly parked out front.  Sadly, that program came to an end in June when Tesla decided to nix their hotel car program. We loved having our Tesla and our guests did too.  We also loved that it was all electric which aligned nicely with our sustainability mission.  So, when Volvo approached us over the summer and told us that in 2020 their entire line up would be available in a plug-in hybrid, we were thrilled to join their hotel car program. Volvo generously supplied us with two beautiful XC90 luxury 7 passenger SUVs and we love them! In 2020 we’ll add a few sedans to the fleet. We now have a house car (again) and a car that our guests can take out for a spin.  And, if you take one for a ride, Volvo offers you a very generous deal. Come check them out!

Core Values – Even though we’ve been at it for 18 years, we had never taken the time to sit down and truly articulate what our core values are (just too busy I guess!). So, this September, with our team, we spent an entire day at MacRostie Winery and finally put to paper what we had been living since our beginning. It took some time but really was not a hard exercise at all since we already all knew what we were good at. And we all agreed that what makes Farmhouse unique is… Family. Nourish. Curate. Beyond. We are a family, first. We nourish ourselves, our guests, and our community. The act of curating delights us. We go beyond what’s expected. Just a teaser! Next month’s blog I’ll go into way more detail, I promise!

So, while I didn’t mention floods or fires or blackouts, I can tell you that 2019 truly was our most challenging year that we’ve had and I’m glad to have it behind us. But 2020 is looking great! We have big projects and some big changes planned that I’ll be sharing as we get things fleshed out. But I can honestly say I can’t wait; it’s going to be an amazing year!

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