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.

 

 

What is it about Pinot that makes it so popular? Even those of us who are white wine devotees will welcome a glass of the alluring red. People are passionate about their Pinot.

It’s French, of course

Pinot Noir — “black pine” in French — hales from the Burgundy region of France, where it’s aptly named Burgundy. These Pinots are considered the top of the line for this varietal. The Côte d’Or is home to some of the oldest Pinot Noir-producing vineyards in the world. These cone-shaped clusters of grapes are artfully crafted in to heady flavors reminiscent of autumn and distinctive to their terroir.

Thought to be more than 2,000 years old, Pinot Noir is the root stock of many grape varieties commonly grown today. It is also a key grape in Champagne. Today the globe is dotted with regions known for their Pinot Noir wine. France and the US are the main producers, with Germany coming in third.

And it’s fussy

Pinot Noir is one of the hardest grapes to grow — perhaps making it all the more enticing. The thin-skinned, tightly bunched grapes are vulnerable to a variety of diseases. While it’s true the grapes and vines are sensitive to wind, rain, and frost, Pinot does need a cooler climate to develop.

But it loves Sonoma County

It’s no surprise that Sonoma County is the leading producer of Pinot Noir in California, with our first vines planted in the 1880s. Sonoma County Pinot Noir has earned a reputation with wine lovers around the world. Our Pinots are dry but known for their more fruit-forward flavor and voluptuous “personality.”

Of course, the actual flavor of a Pinot depends on its vintage and where it’s grown. Sonoma County is home to several cool-climate appellations ideal for the temperamental Pinot Noir grape.

Russian River Valley

This region extends south from Healdsburg and includes numerous wineries recognized for their Pinots. In fact, The Wine Stay’s in-house sommelier has designed a tasting tour around boutique wineries here that feature Pinot Noir (but more about that later). There are least five microclimates within the Russian River Valley, each with its own distinct flavor profile.

Sonoma Coast

Vineyards here are planted just a few miles in from the Pacific Coast, inside this cool and often foggy microclimate. The Sonoma Coast appellation is the largest licensed American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the US, comprising over 500,000 acres.

Carneros

This AVA is located in the southernmost parts of the Sonoma and Napa valleys. The nearby San Pablo Bay blows in cool breezes and fog, which affect the region’s terroir and unique Pinot Noir wine.

Our sommelier is passionate about Pinot

Find out more about noteworthy Sonoma County Pinots from The Wine Stay’s in-house sommelier. You see, at The Wine Stay we’re not only about cool vacation properties; we want to elevate the Wine Country vacation experience of our guests. And that includes having our own wine expert! Our sommelier has designed a special wine tasting tour specifically around Pinot Noir. If you’re planning a visit to Healdsburg area, you may want to check out some of our other guest services curated for wine lovers:

The lovers of Pinot abound in Sonoma County, with scores of savvy winemakers dedicated to this sensitive and evocative varietal. Versatile and easy to enjoy with beef, poultry, fish, veggies — Pinot loves food. It’s the ideal wine to choose for a group of people with diverse tastes. Give us heads-up, and we’ll have some waiting for you on your next visit with The Wine Stay.

Luxury home rentals

Luxury vacation rentals experiences. We want your vacation experience to be more than a getaway. Enjoy from wine tasting tours to a personally tailored guided hike. Contact us for more information!

Farm-to-table dining is a food movement that emphasizes the connection between restaurants and local farmers. It’s about fresh ingredients and amazing flavors. This relatively new trend toward fresher ingredients has taken off only within the past 15 years. But think back to Berkeley in the early 1970s, and you may recall the opening of one of the first farm-to-table restaurants, Chez Panisse.

Sourcing food products that are grown close by means that chefs get the freshest ingredients for their restaurants. And fortunately, Napa and Sonoma counties have plenty of outstanding farm-to-table eateries to choose from. Always changing, daily menus are built on what’s in season. Many restaurants simplify the supply chain even further by cultivating their own gardens.

There’s no doubt about it: locally raised food is fresher, more flavorful, and richer in vitamins and nutrients. Packed with natural flavor, locally sourced ingredients inspire a simpler menu where the dishes speak for themselves without being buried under sauces. Plus, because transportation across long distances isn’t an issue, farmers are able to supply more delicate heritage and heirloom products. And there’s the added benefit that when restauranteurs purchase food from nearby farmers, the local economy benefits.

With the farm-to-table dining movement, consumers have become more conscious of how animals are treated, such as free-range versus caged, about the use of antibiotics in meat production, and GMO produce. Where you choose to dine in Wine Country today means more than a five-star review. A demand for local ingredients is creating a fundamental shift in the quality standards and production practices of the food industry.

This global shift toward farm-to-table sprouted a program from Slow Food International called “Snail of Approval.” Now popular among “progressive-minded food lovers,” the Snail of Approval recognizes restaurants that “promote regional cooking traditions, local agriculture and artisans, and enjoying the good life.” The standards are rigorous. You can’t get any closer to home cooking than a Snail-approved eatery. The ingredients are guaranteed fresh and humanely raised, but the home-cooking comparison stops there. These restaurants offer inspired, innovative culinary delights that raise the bar on your dining experience.

Next time you’re in Wine Country, you may want to check out some of Sonoma County’s snail-approved restaurants. Besides having gained Snail of Approval status, these eateries share a comfortable atmosphere, casual ambiance, and food that is beyond your expectations.

Backyard — Forestville

Pizzeria & Salumeria — Geyserville

Naked Pig —Santa Rosa

Shed — Healdsburg

Zazu Kitchen + Farm —Sebastopol

Are you willing to try a farm-to-table dining experience?

It’s no surprise that tourism is a huge global industry. People love to experience new surroundings, from basking on tropical beaches to exploring ancient ruins. There’s a new trend in travel — ecotourism — that appeals to those who want to submerge themselves in the natural environment.

Ecotourism in Sonoma

What is ecotourism? According to The Nature Conservancy, “Ecotourism is distinguished by its emphasis on conservation, education, traveler responsibility and active community participation.” In other words, ecotourism is about respecting natural environments and keeping them intact.

More and more businesses describe themselves as offering ecotours, but you don’t have to join an official tour to be an ecotourist. All you need to enjoy ecotourism is an appreciation of nature’s beauty and the desire to leave a small footprint behind. Feel the sunshine, breathe in fresh air, be part of the local habitat, and when you leave take your trash away with you and leave everything as you found it, for the next person — and generation — to enjoy.

Ecotourism in Sonoma and Napa offer a bounty of unspoiled countryside and opportunity for outdoor fun. Wine Country and ecotourism go hand in glove. There’s a large movement toward environmental awareness in Northern California; people want to preserve the beauty. There are plenty of opportunities to get close in to nature and dive into the ecotourism in Sonoma.

Ways to Experience Wine Country au Naturel

Take a hike  

The nonprofit organization, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, was founded on the principles of ecotourism in Sonoma long before the term was even coined. They partner with California State Parks, offering eco-classes and managing the preservation of Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, more than 800 acres of majestic Coast Redwoods, and the nearly 6,000 acre Austin Creek State Recreation Area. This pristine natural habitat includes shady redwood forests and meandering streams. Austin Creek offers twenty miles of trails and magnificent vistas as you traverse the rugged hillsides. An eco-paradise for hikers — and equestrians.

Saddle up

Gorgeous Lake Sonoma spreads across 2,700 acres of rolling, oak-studded hills in northern Sonoma County, just a short jaunt from downtown Healdsburg. Check out The Ranch at Lake Sonoma to enjoy the area on horseback. They provide all the gear and lead you on guided rides along gentle trails. Wine Country horseback riding is a one-of-a-kind experience of untouched countryside that you just can’t see any other way.

The Ranch at Lake Sonoma

Kayak coast and river

Want to submerge yourself in Wine Country’s natural environment? Rent a kayak and experience life outdoors. Guaranteed to slow down your pace and relax you, skimming the waters of the Sonoma Coast and Russian River offers a unique perspective of the environment that’s not to be missed. Keep your eyes open for egrets, deer, seals, and a large variety of wildlife as you quietly paddle through the water — a sublime eco-experience!

Smart Tours

WaterTreks EcoTours

Cycle the backroads

To fully engage yourself in your surroundings, hop on a bicycle and peddle the roads of Sonoma, Calistoga, Napa, and Healdsburg. And there’s so much to see — lush vineyards, bright sky, undulating hillsides. Bicycling puts you up close and personal with the environment. It’s low-profile ecotourism that always satisfies. Rent the bike you like, and hit the roads. You can take a guided tour or explore on your own. Cycling barely disturbs the environment, but be sure to leave nothing behind for a lightweight footprint.

Calistoga Bike Shop

Sonoma Valley Bike Tours

Visit a working farm

Sonoma County's Farm Trails invites you to learn from local farmers. Every year, Farm Trails farmers open their gates to offer a behind-the-scenes peek at life on the farm. This year the farms are open to the public during the weekend of October 13 and 14. At other times of year, many of the farms let you schedule an appointment to visit the farm in person. Their website has a detailed map that you can filter by product or region. Visiting farms makes for a fun experience for the entire family. It doesn’t get more eco and educational than visiting an active farm — often organic, always local, with high-quality produce of all types, from fragrant lavender to the plump berries.

Luxury home rentals

Luxury vacation rentals experiences. We want your vacation experience to be more than a getaway. Enjoy from wine tasting tours to a personally tailored guided hike. Contact us for more information!

Sonoma and Napa valleys have long been known for world-renown wines. Touring through the vine-studded countryside, stopping at wineries to sample exquisite vintages, and chatting with local wine aficionados always makes for an enjoyable experience. But if you want a change of pace, Wine Country is home to dozens of microbreweries. Sometimes funky, always cool, local craft beer breweries offer a refreshing alternative.

Craft Breweries, the alternative

Over the past couple decades, there’s been a craft beer explosion. Like the boutique winemakers, the local breweries are run by artisans who specialize in producing beer through traditional methods for the modern, evolved palate. People’s tastes have driven the movement away from big brands like Bud and Coors, with their predictable, ho-hum flavor. Much bolder IPAs (India Pale Ales) and stouts constitute a large share of the craft-beer market.

The microbrew, or craft beer, trend began in the 1970s in the U.K., according to Wikipedia. And it continues to spread in the States like wildfire. “Between 2008 and 2016, the number of brewery establishments expanded by a factor of six … and this has happened during a time when U.S. beer consumption declined,” reports The Atlantic. What’s more, 2017 was even a better year for microbreweries, with average beer prices doubling while the major, standard beer brands declined considerably. High-quality, small-batch beer is rocking the beer industry.

What are Craft Breweries?

According to the Brewers Association, a craft brewery is defined by being small, independent, and traditional. And, as of 2017, California came in biggest nationwide with 764 craft breweries. The locally owned breweries rely on regional ingredients and have a community-centric approach. They’re a part of Wine Country living that harkens back to the public-house tradition. Craft beer is about quality, and flavor, and community.

With so many microbreweries throughout Wine Country, it’s easy to hop from one to the other, making for a fun beer-tasting adventure. Your HB Experience vacation home will provide the ideal starting point for tasting your way through Sonoma/Napa. Grab a bottle of water, throw your sweatshirt in the car (it cools down in West County once the sun starts to set), and take it easy. Below are some of our favorite brewpubs for you to choose among. Most of them also serve food and have outdoor patios — casual, relaxed and kid and pet-friendly.

Bear Republic Brewing, Healdsburg

https://bearrepublic.com

Cool place to chill in downtown Healdsburg. Beer with a “friendly personality” and hop-forward approach. Try their Racer 5 IPA.

Old Redwood Brewing Company, Windsor

https://oldredwoodbrewing.com/

Nice venue with everything from light and smooth to hoppy and dark brews.

Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa

https://russianriverbrewing.com/

This central Santa Rosa location is always busy. Iconic brews include Pliny the Elder, which has gained cult-like popularity.

Hopmonk, Sebastopol

http://www.hopmonk.com

Situated in an old and charming, stone building, this is a great hangout spot. Large patio and there’s often live music.

Crooked Goat, Sebastopol

http://www.crookedgoatbrewing.com

The Barlow Market area of Sebastopol houses a couple brew houses. The Goat is known for 16 taps of unique flavors with a distinctive West County flair.

Lagunitas, Petaluma

https://lagunitas.com/taproom/petaluma

A popular spot, they often have entertainment on the large, covered patio. If you haven’t already, try Little Sumpin.

Sonoma Springs Brewing Company, Sonoma

http://www.sonomaspringsbrewing.com

New taproom — German beer hall with Wine Country style. Over 20 taps to choose from.

Fieldwork Brewing Company, Napa

https://fieldworkbrewing.com/napa

Located in the groovy Oxbow Market, comfortable tasting room with lagers, IPAs, and ales.

Luxury home rentals

Luxury vacation rentals experiences. We want your vacation experience to be more than a getaway. Enjoy from wine tasting tours to a personally tailored guided hike. Contact us for more information!

Happiness comes from experience. I don’t mean it’s something you must learn over time —
it’s something you do. We all want to feel good, and often we pursue the bright, shiny
object in search of happiness. Our culture gives us the message that more money buys
more happiness. Buy a bigger, better TV with surround sound, upgrade to the latest must-
have tech toy, bring home a new car. These things help ward off the imminent sense of
FOMO (fear of missing out). We want what we want, and we want it now.

So we get more stuff. But are things what we really want? Would you rather have a Lexus
LC500 coupe or be happy? I know. You want both. Truth is that new car will bring a surge of
instant gratification, pride, and Wow! factor. But the intoxicating thrill fades, and we find
ourselves searching for the next new thing. Imagine yourself a few years down the road.
What will stand out more in your mind, bringing the car home or the time you and your
sweetheart drove it down the coast, shared a bottle of pinot on the beach, and watched the
sunset?

About Happiness

What makes us happy? This question has led to some fascinating research. It turns out
happiness doesn’t come from what we own, but from what we experience — and the
experience lasts a whole lot longer. Researchers Gilovich and Kumar have shown that once
basic needs are met, buying more things doesn’t add to our happiness.
We know experiences feed us, but still we are drawn — or pulled — to purchase things.
Pchelin and Howell make the point that people prefer experiences but spend money on
things because they think doing so is a wiser investment. Things are concrete. They give
you proof of what you bought. They look like a better value. But the question becomes:
what are our investment goals? The old saying “you can’t take it with you” rings true.

Traveling, outdoor experiences, shared moments — you can’t put them in your living room
or garage, but studies show they have more lasting happiness value. We are social
creatures by nature and we like to share. It’s the shared connection that pushes the needle.
Not only do you experience something with another person, later you get to talk about it
with other people. Going on about your new car may not be welcome conversation, but we
all love to share our stories about what we did last weekend or where we went over
summer vacation.

An experience very rarely leads to buyer’s remorse. If things go wrong and a product you
bought fails to perform, you’re stuck with a concrete reminder. On the other hand, when a
tsunami hits the week of your long-anticipated Hawaiian vacation, it makes for a fun story.
Unlike purchasing a thing, purchasing an experience leads to treasured memories.
So, research — and intuition — tell us that it’s the experience not the thing that brings
more lasting happiness. Maybe you dream of owning an island vacation home. In a

Forbes.com article, The Secret to Happiness? Spend Money on Experiences, Not Things, Ilya
Posin suggests a practical alternative: Rent what you would buy and use your leftover cash
for creating experience. It makes more sense to rent a vacation home than buy one. You
don’t have the hassle of repairs and maintenance. Same goes for RVs, boats, horses, and so
much more. When you rent, you just show up and have a great experience!

Part of the reason experiences pay off more than purchases is that we look forward to
them more. Buying something you’ve wanted for a while is cool, but the outcome is
predictable. While waiting for an experience, however, you ponder how it might turn out.
The possibilities are as broad as your imagination — fun, romance, adventure. You get to
roll the idea around in your mind and savor it. So what are you waiting for? Start planning
your next experience now. Consider a getaway to the Sonoma/Napa Wine Country. Gather
your family and friends, choose one of HB Experience’s deluxe vacation rentals and notice
how sharing an experience brings you the happiness you’ve been looking for.

Luxury home rentals

Luxury vacation rentals experiences. We want your vacation experience to be more than a getaway. Enjoy from wine tasting tours to a personally tailored guided hike. Contact us for more information!

A little luck and a lot of art go into winemaking. Myriad factors affect the final product, from climate and weather conditions to pruning and cultivation of the vines, not to mention what’s involved after the grapes are harvested. With so many variables, hats off to those wineries that eschew modern farming practices, which include pesticides and chemicals, for a back-to-basics approach to agriculture.

Not surprisingly, Sonoma County wineries are at the forefront of the movement to create stellar-quality wines au naturel. The Wine Country is home to several biodynamic and organic wineries across appellations, each stewarding a more sustainable agricultural future by growing diverse crops, using compost for fertilizer, and taking a holistic approach to farming.

Well worth a visit for their wines, as well as their ecological farming practices, here are three Dry Creek Valley organic wineries you’ll want to add to your wine-tasting adventures. They each welcome visitors to take a look around their farms — rural, organic, beautiful. You may want to pick up a bottle or two to enjoy with your dinner back at your vacation home!

Get to know those Organic Wineries


Preston Farm & Winery

Certified organic and biodynamic, Preston Farm and Winery is a family-managed ecosystem that produces a variety of crops, including vineyards, vegetables, fruit and olive trees, grain, and pastured livestock. Their approach to farming harks back to the wisdom of earlier times when agriculture was less intrusive and more in tune with natural growing patterns.

At Preston, they harvest grapes by hand and ferment their wines naturally. And, of course, all the grapes that go into their wines are grown on their land. Handcrafting single varietals as well as artful blends, the winemakers focus on producing well-balanced wines whose taste reflects the true character of the grape. They believe that the less they do to the grapes, the more true to its inherent nature the wine will be.

Preston wines include Petite Sirah, Grenache, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and other blends. Their signature Madame Preston makes the perfect complement to a summer picnic.

Preston Farm & Winery — 9282 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, California


DaVero Farms & Winery

This certified biodynamic ecosystem began in 1990 as an olive orchard, with trees imported from Tuscany. Though still known today for its world-renown olive oils, DaVero has also made a name for itself as winemaker, specializing in Italian varietals.

With a method of growing that fosters thriving, healthy soil and renewing the land, DaVero raises grapes, as well as olive and fruit trees, lavender, and chickens, pigs, and sheep.

Wines are fermented naturally, relying on yeasts naturally found on the grapes instead of adding commercial yeasts. And wines are aged in seasoned, non-oak barrels. Their style of winemaking is old world — a bit of the Italian countryside here in its sister terroir of Sonoma Wine Country.

DaVero happily gives tours of its farm and winery. Call ahead to make plans, learn what biodynamic farming means and how it’s important, and taste great wines. Special Italian varietals include Carignano, Primitivo, and Vermentino.

DavVero Farms & Winery — 766 Westside Road, Healdsburg, California


Quivira Vineyards

For years, Quivira has been committed to preserving the health of the land through holistic and sustainable farming practices. Relying on biodynamic principles to create a self-sustaining environment in the vineyards and gardens, they make their own compost and use cover crops to keep the land naturally fertile.

“The vineyard is only as healthy as the compost that nourishes it”: Quivira believes biodiverse farming makes for better wine, as well as a better eco-environment. The winery estate is home to beehives, pigs, cows, chickens — they even generate their own electricity.

Visit their tasting room to sample Zinfandel, Rhone varietals, Sauvignon Blanc, and other distinctive handcrafted wines. They also have a lovely outdoor seating area. Buy a bottle to go with your picnic and enjoy the good life of Sonoma Wine Country!

Quivira Vineyards — 4900 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, California

Luxury home rentals

Luxury vacation rentals experiences. We want your vacation experience to be more than a getaway. Enjoy from wine tasting tours to a personally tailored guided hike. Contact us for more information!

Everyone knows Sonoma Wine Country for its rolling hills lined with grapevines and fertile valleys. But don’t forget the coast! More than 55 miles of spectacular shoreline form the western border of Sonoma County.

If you want to take a break from the inland heat and experience unparalleled beauty, head out River Road (off Hwy 101 just south of Healdsburg) to the coast. In less than an hour’s drive, the cool Pacific awaits, and you’ll find easy access to beaches up and down Hwy 1.

Carved out by nature among rocky bluffs, the Sonoma Coast State Park beaches run from just north of Jenner, where the Russian River meets the Pacific, to Bodega Bay and afford breathtaking ocean views, dramatic bluffs, well-maintained hiking trails and a total of 17 miles of beaches scattered with driftwood and seashells. These aren’t warm, white sandy beaches — but they are incredible portraits of natural beauty.

Search for seashells, fly a kite, spread out a picnic, hike the Kortum Trail or simply watch the waves splash the shore. There’s a good chance you’ll see white plumes in the distance. Whales migrate from Alaska to Baja from December through April, but you may see whales spouting offshore any time of the year.

Wrights, Portuguese, Schoolhouse beaches — each beach with its distinctive name also has its unique appeal and all are worth stopping at. Pull your car over, breathe in the fresh air and explore the Sonoma Coast on foot. Here’s a sampling of some of my favorites.

Sonoma Coastal Beaches

Goat Rock Beach

This northern SoCo beach lies where the Russian River meets the sea. Search tide pools for sea anenomes or find jeweled abalone shells. Goat Rock is home to numerous seals and pups who you can hear barking near the mouth of the river.

Shell Beach

If you’re in for a gentle hike along the bluffs, park at Shell Beach. From here you can head either north or south on the Kortum Trail, named for a local coastal preservationist. The trail is marked and even has stretches of boardwalk to span marshy areas.

Salmon Creek Beach

Salmon Creek spills into the ocean and separates this beach into two. South Salmon Creek Beach with nearly two miles of sand and dunes is ideal for flying kites or long shoreline walks.

Bodega Head

The rocky point that forms the entrance into Bodega Harbor has trails along the headland. There’s level walking if you head south from the parking lot; head north for a more robust hike. Abundant wildflowers color this area in spring and early summer. The high cliffs present great views of the coast and opportunities for whale watching.

Although the Sonoma Coast presents unbelievable photo ops, it’s best to keep your distance. The waves can be unpredictable, sometimes taking you by surprise even when the water appears calm. Cold water temps, sleeper waves and a strong riptide add to the dramatic feel of the rugged coastline. Don’t plan on swimming or even wading in the shallows. There are no lifeguards. Although not good for swimming, the beaches of Sonoma Wine Country brim with vitality of nature.

One last thing to keep in mind: summer days typically begin foggy on the coast. But don’t be dissuaded. It usually burns off by midday. The weather is variable, so bring layered clothing and enjoy your date with the great Pacific.

Check out this handy list with descriptions of dozens of Sonoma coastal beaches here.

Sonoma Wine Country is known around the world, but the rich agricultural heritage of Sonoma County isn’t only about grapevines. It’s no coincidence this fertile valley is a gourmet’s dream. Scores of Bay Area residents, including restaurant owners, come here to shop the best ingredients for their menus — and where better to find the freshest, local bounty than the Healdsburg Farmers’ Market?

Featuring a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as cheese, honey, olive oil, bread, wild fish, meat, eggs, and much more, this farmer-run market has a long history of providing high-quality, reasonably priced produce to locals and visitors alike. Now in its 38th year, the Healdsburg market is one of the oldest farmers’ markets in California.

And the market just keeps getting better! Since February this year there’s a new market manager, Janet Ciel. You may know Janet from the hugely popular Bodega Seafood Festival, which she’s run for more than 20 years. Janet brings lots of enthusiasm for building local community that benefits both growers and consumers.

Twice weekly during summer, Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings, locals offer their products — most grown within 15 miles of downtown Healdsburg. “The incredible quality of the vendors really sets this market apart from the rest,” explains Janet. “Not all markets have such high standards.” The Healdsburg market takes a “farm-centric” approach. They cherry-pick local crafts people and only a handful are given space at each event, at least until November when crop production slows down. This keeps the focus on food products.

According to Janet, being manager of the Healdsburg Saturday Market is a plum role to step into. “If there was one farmers’ market that was an inherited gift, the Saturday market is it,” says Janet. “Running it is a piece of cake!”

The Wednesday evening event hasn’t been as reliable a success. But change is afoot. They’ve got new hours and more prepared food now; plus, wine tasting will be coming to the market soon. Like the Saturday market, there is a steady lineup of talented local musicians and entertainment. It will be inviting to stroll around and be able to eat dinner and enjoy a glass of wine. Janet is confident that the evening market will take off. “It’s going to be as good as Saturday!”

Both the morning and evening market stalls are totally full with quality vendors for the rest of the year. And in addition to entertainment, the market will continue its traditional annual fall events: the zucchini festival and pumpkin festival — great fun for the whole family!

Shop the Healdsburg Farmers’ Market for homegrown and hand-crafted food products and make your own gourmet meal at home in your luxury Healdsburg vacation rental. Pair it up with a bottle of your favorite wine and enjoy the good life of Sonoma Wine Country. And keep your eyes open for Janet milling around the market. Feel free to say hello and find out her personal recommendations for the newest tasty treat.

Saturday Farmers’ Market
8:30am — Noon
May — November
North & Vine Streets, one block west of plaza (behind Bear Republic Brewery)

Wednesday Farmers’ Market
4:00 — 7:00pm
June — October
North & Vine Streets (next to SHED)

Find out more: http://www.healdsburgfarmersmarket.org/