You don’t have to let the calendar tell you when it’s time to express your feelings to the one you love. Valentine’s Day is a fine time to do something special, don’t get me wrong, but so is every other day of the year. Gestures that say “I love you,” when unexpected, may be even more meaningful. And you don’t have to spend a boatload of money. The value is in sharing a romantic experience. Here are a few ideas for keeping the romance alive.

 

Romantic idea #1 — better than a pedi

The practice of foot bathing is rooted in ancient customs of hospitality, where hosts would often wash away the grime of travel from the feet of their guests. Now, when’s the last time you gave your partner a gift like that? If you’ve been missing out on this delicious experience, don’t wait any longer. Fill a large bowl or tub with warm water scented with herbs or oil. Use your whole hand to stoke the foot. No poking! Feet are extra sensitive so it’s essential that you move slowly and gently to avoid the risk of tickling. Gently squeeze the heel and then press your thumbs into the soles with an upward movement from heel to toes. Squeeze each toe individually, massaging the cuticle.

So where’s the romance? For a foot bath to be enjoyable, you have to build your partner’s trust. We can be prickly about our feet. Make a snug and comfortable place for your partner to sit. Plump their favorite chair with pillows and, depending on the time of year, set it up in the living room by the fireplace or outside in the garden. Bring them a glass of wine or cup of tea to sip while they relax and let you pamper them. The actual bath doesn’t take long, perhaps 15 minutes total. Once the water begins to cool, set it aside and towel dry the feet, patting rather than rubbing. If you want to give a little extra, use moisturizing lotion to massage their ankles and calves. Foot bathing, once you both give yourself to it, is a surprisingly intimate — and romantic — experience.

Romantic idea #2 — takeout with a twist

No question about it. Preparing a 3-course dinner for your partner is a generous expression of love. But the reality is that shopping and cooking all day can leave you feeling spent. When one person is tired from a day on their feet in the kitchen, it can get it the way of enjoying the moment. For an easier meal, why not take in Thai? If cooking isn’t your forte, or you want to be on the same tempo energetically, save the home cooked meal for another time. Try Asian takeout from one of these Sonoma County restaurants:

Goji Kitchen— Santa Rosa, Vietnamese

Thai Orchid Cuisine— Healdsburg

8 Dragons— Healdsburg, Chinese

Calistoga Thai Kitchen— Calistoga

Bangkok 9— Sonoma

So where’s the romance? Its’ all in the presentation. Transfer the prepared dishes into your own bowls and plates, set the table with cloth napkins, and add a small bouquet of flowers. Turn the lights down low and bring out the candles. The focus isn’t the food; it’s all about sharing beautiful moment. Oh, and don’t forget the best part. Serve a chilled champagne and make a special toast. Champagne with Asian takeout is the perfect complement, and it raises the romance meter a lot.

Romantic idea #3 — tiny bubbles

Even if your partner is a regular bath taker, there’s something about having a bath drawn for you that brings out the romance. Fill the tub to the rim with as-hot-as you-can-take-it water and use double the bubble bath. You may add a few drops of scented oil. Have a jar of body scrub, a back scrubber or loofah sponge, and a fresh washcloth at hand. Put on some soft music and light candles. Be sure the bathroom is warm. And this is super important: clean the bathroom first. Nothing will harsh a mellow faster than a ring around the faucet or drips on the floor.

So where’s the romance? Pamper your partner. Give them a shoulder massage with lightly scented bath oil or wash their hair for them. Having your hair washed for you — in the tub — feels like a decadent indulgence. And here’s an idea: before you fuss over your partner, let them relax for a few minutes in the warm water. Give them a few quiet minutes to unwind from the day. Then, afterward, have a couple plump, fresh bath towels for drying off.

 

If you want to go beyond, next time plan a vacation with The Wine Stay. We can help you arrange for some over-the-top romantic experiences. Express your love with a massage for two or enjoy personalized yoga instruction, a wine and food pairing, or a dinner prepared by a 5-star chef — all in the privacy of your vacation home. We’ve got plenty of romantic experiences to share with you. And here are our top picks for a romantic dinner in Healdsburg and some of the best restaurants in Sonoma County.

You can’t get too far in Sonoma Wine Country or Napa Valley without hearing about a wine’s nose and legs. And, people in the know like to throw around the word terroir. The rest of us may avoid it, not knowing exactly what it means, or even how to pronounce it (say “tare war” like you have a mouth full of marbles). What is terroir, anyway?

Well that, it turns out, is not a simple question.

There’s no doubt among us that wines are distinct.

One bottle of Pinot is not the same as another bottle of Pinot. Although the grape stock may be the same, flavor is distinct. A wine’s unique—je ne sais quoi—quality, stems from terroir.

Terroir encompasses the habitat in which the grape is grown.

Factors like climate, soil, and terrain add up differently. Whether the average temperatures are warm or cool affect flavor. Warmer climates lend to higher sugar levels, and higher alcohol content, and influence taste. And, although it isn’t understood exactly how different soils affect a wine’s flavor, there’s no argument that rock and mineral deposits, soil texture, and soil chemistry do affect the end result. Not only the soil but also the environment in which the grapes are grown matters. Nearby animal and plant life, whether the vines are in a valley or by the sea, the elevation of the land—all these affect flavor.

Winemaking traditions also contribute to terroir.

How winemakers work together with the land is included in the elusive concept of terroir. After generations of cultivating a certain area, a person gets to know and understand their vines. Tending your grapes is a relationship—an intimate knowing.

In the world of wine, science and art are at odds.

Not surprisingly, it turns out that a lot of what we call terroir is invisible to the naked eye. The science of winemaking is pushing aside the art of the craft with new ability to detect and measure the effects of microbial life in the vineyard. Bacteria and fungi play a big role in terroir as well. The microbes live in the grape and, ultimately, the wine. Researchers at UC Davis explain that “‘microbial terroir’ is a determining factor in the regional variations in wine.”

Terroir is not the same thing as appellation.

Wikipedia notes, “The influence of terroir means that wines from a particular region are unique, incapable of being reproduced outside that area, even if the grape variety and winemaking techniques are painstakingly duplicated.”   The idea of terroir led to the formation of grape-growing regions into distinct appellations.

An appellation is a clearly defined region on a map—an AVA (American Viticultural Area). Napa Valley was the first designated Californian appellation, which today includes many sub-appellations. Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley are two familiar AVAs of the 17 in Sonoma Wine Country that produce world-famous and highly distinct wines.

Terroir arouses a sense of place and belonging.

Ask any wine buff, though, and they’ll likely tell you that the definition of terroir means more than the region where the grapes are grown. The concept evokes the romantic, old-world art of fine winemaking. Yes, more and more we see the word used by other food producers. Terroir sells because it appeals to people’s senses, conjuring mystery, art, and magic. Perhaps the very allure of terroir is in its unmeasurable sense of place and belonging.

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Endless vistas of rolling hills, vineyards, redwoods, and oak-studded grassland soothe your soul. Fresh air enlivens you. While deer graze quietly and jack rabbits nibble nearby, a sense of calm overtakes you. You gladly surrender to the magnificent beauty of Wine Country backlands.

If you’ve been enjoying a few days of wine tasting, you’ve discovered how many great wineries are tucked throughout the countryside around Healdsburg, Calistoga, and the Pacific Coast. Whether it’s wine, beer, cider, cheese, or organic produce, a day of tasting brings you close to the pristine countryside and great outdoors. But maybe you’re ready for a deeper dive into nature. Sonoma and Napa counties offer thousands of acres of hiking trails, from flat pastureland to steep mountain treks.

Getting in close to nature awakens your senses. It’s enlivening and puts you right in the moment. Not only does hiking help quiet your mind, it helps you connect with yourself and those you’re sharing the experience with. So why not recharge yourself with some delicious “soul food”? Taste the ideal complement to Wine Country’s world-class foods and wines!

Here are a few of our favorite local hikes in Sonoma. Each one is an easy drive from your HB Experience vacation home. So lace up your shoes, grab your sunscreen and water bottle, and enjoy!

Hikes in Sonoma

Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve

http://parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov/Visit/Taylor-Mountain-Regional-Park-and-Preserve/

If you want an easy hike that won’t last all day, check out this park southeast of downtown Santa Rosa. Traverse grassy hillsides, oak chaparral, and creeks along 5.5 miles of trails. Spend the morning in nature, and then indulge in an afternoon of wine tasting!

Jack London State Historic Park

http://www.jacklondonpark.com/index.html

This park has something for everyone. Built around the home of renown novelist and adventurer Jack London, there are 20 miles of trails through forests and redwood groves and open meadows. Visit the many historic buildings, bring a picnic lunch, and make a day of it. Great for the whole family.

Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve/Austin Creek

https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=450

Experience the majestic coastal redwoods at this well-maintained natural reserve. Self-guided nature trails, picnic areas, and space to run around make this a fun destination for you and the kids. Hikes range from short and easy trails to steep and strenuous. Climb the Austin Creek trails to Bullfrog Pond for views you cannot see from any other vantage point.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=472

Trek through forests and chaparral and, if you’re feeling it, climb the five-mile trail to the top of Mount St. Helena. The views of the San Francisco Bay Area will make your effort pay off. You can see all the way to Mount Shasta, nearly 200 miles away, on a clear day! Just a few miles north of Calistoga on HWY 29, it’s a good choice for a morning hike followed by an easygoing afternoon of lunch and wine tasting.

California Coastal Trail/Kortum Trail

http://www.californiacoastaltrail.info/hikers/hikers_main.php?DisplayAction=DisplayCounty&CountyId=5

Over half of the Sonoma coastline is dotted with hiking trails that afford magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs, and pebbly beaches. In springtime, the blooming wildflowers are not to be missed! The Kortum Trail has a well-maintained stretch from Wright’s Beach north to the bluffs above Shell Beach. About two miles roundtrip, this easy hike is ideal for a couple to share a romantic afternoon together.

Luxury home rentals

We want your vacation experience to be more than a getaway. We can help you plan experiences, from wine tasting tours to guided hikes. Contact us for more information!

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You’ve spent a couple days tasting fabulous food and wine, feeding on the beautiful winter landscape, and experiencing the relaxed pace of the Wine Country. Life is good.

Believe it or not, there is even more pleasure waiting for you nearby. If you want to see another side of Healdsburg, Calistoga, and in between, visit one of our local museums. It’s a different way to enjoy a cloudy winter day. Sonoma and Napa counties are home to some one-of-a-kind exhibits that will stimulate your mind and invite you to stroll memory lane. Here are a few suggestions for you, your friends, and kids. Explore something new!

Charles M. Schultz Museum, Santa Rosa
Loved around the world, the Peanuts comic characters — Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, and the whole Peanuts gang — come to life here. The museum houses the largest collection of original Peanuts artifacts in the world — thousands of original illustrations, as well as letters, photographs, unique Peanuts products, and tribute artwork.
Open Wednesday—Monday, 11:00–5:00
http://schulzmuseum.org

Sharpsteen Museum, Calistoga
This small-town museum presents the story of the upper Napa Valley from its pre-history to post World War I. Period details are portrayed through extensive dioramas. These low-tech exhibits may seem corny on first glance, but they’re intriguing when you take time to explore the scenes. The little-known gems of the museum are original artwork by Ben Sharpsteen, an animator for old-time Disney Studios.
Open every day, 11:00–4:00
http://www.sharpsteenmuseum.org/

The Hand Fan Museum, Healdsburg
Now here’s a quirky museum: a collection of 2,500 hand fans—the only museum of hand fans in the country! You can see fans spanning the centuries in all sorts of styles. Beautiful hand-painted beauties will tickle your whimsy and likely be more intriguing than you’d think. Each fan opens a door to history, culture, and fashion.
Open Wednesday—Sunday, 11:00–4:00
http://www.handfanmuseum.com/

The Healdsburg Museum, Healdsburg
Step into the Healdsburg Museum to find out more about local history. It has one of the finest regional collections of Pomo and Wappo Indian artifacts, tools, clothing, paintings, and historical newspapers, maps and photographs.
Wednesday—Sunday, 11:00–4:00
http://www.healdsburgmuseum.org/home/healdsburg-history.asp

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