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?

Wine Country — a foodie’s paradise

Did you know that foodies are everywhere? A foodie is a crossbreed. You can be a jock, an artist, or a go-getter and, at the same time, appreciate good food and drink. Almost everyone likes to sample and compare culinary experiences. In fact, that’s exactly what entices so many to visit Sonoma and Napa Wine Country.

Culinary tourism is defined as the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences.  And the experiences are always changing — new recipes, new vintages, new flavors, new seasonal ingredients. And with so many restaurants, food events, and ways to immerse yourself in the food scene, people keep people coming back.

More and more travelers are choosing their destination because of specific restaurants they want to visit. Shopping and culture are secondary. And unlike museums or architectural sites, which are more or less always the same, sort of a “been there, done that” sort of thing, food and drink offer a new sensory experience every time. And foodies love to share.

Food tourism is about experiencing local gastronomy with friends — farm to table eateries, breweries, wineries, cheese shops, markets, harvest dinners, and wine tastings, as well as learning about food and interesting food and wine pairings. And we’re not just talking about gourmet food. Foodies are keen to taste their way through a new city’s street vendors and food carts. The emphasis is local.

Wine Country offers up lots of ways to immerse yourself into its foodie paradise. So make yourself at home at an HB Experience luxury vacation rental. Use it as your home base to explore local food and drink. Here are three ways to deep dive into the local food experience: tasting tours, cooking classes, farmer’s markets.

  1. Guided Food & Wine Tasting Tours

One way to experience the flavor of Sonoma and Napa Wine Country is to join a walking tour. You’ll find several options to choose from online. Although each tour has its own spin, the common thread is sharing delicious food and drink with others. This is a fun way to find out what a local foodie is up to and enjoy fresh, seasonal food and local beer and wine. Plus, because the itinerary is planned out, it’s easy.  Here are a couple of tours we recommend:

Wine Country Walking Tours — Healdsburg

Stroll around downtown Healdsburg and satisfy your taste buds on this easygoing, guided wine and food pairing walking tour. Perfect for a real foodie!

Gourmet Food and Wine Tours — Sonoma / Yountville

Here are a couple fun tours nearby Calistoga. There’s an interesting guided tour that couples wine or beer tasting with the history of the town of Sonoma.  And they offer a guided food and wine tour in Yountville, the foodie heart of Napa Wine Country, which highlights Michelin-guide restaurants.

  1. Cooking Classes and Demonstrations

To immerse yourself in the “foodism” of Wine Country, why not check out a cooking class or demonstration? There’s nothing like getting hands-on with local produce to fully experience the bounty of this rich agricultural wine land. There are plenty of opportunities where you’re welcome to play with your food. The ones below are within easy reach of your Wine Stay vacation home.

Relish Culinary — Healdsburg

Located in the center of Healdsburg, this is where you can learn about food and wine at cooking classes taught by local chefs or attend culinary events that will inspire your cooking!

Culinary Institute of America (CIA) — Napa

Close by Calistoga is the renowned Napa culinary arts school, which also offers a full calendar of food demos and hand-on classes at Copia food and wine center in the town of Napa — a delightful way to explore wine and food.

  1. Farmer’s Markets

If you’re inspired to whip up your own meal in the privacy and comfort of your vacation rental, shopping local markets is the way to go. Just about every town in Wine Country hosts a farmer’s market. Products are always farm fresh and seasonally ripe, and often organic. Some markets include handcrafts from local artisans, as well as entertainment. The markets below are held Tuesdays and Saturdays. Pick out your favorite ingredients and get cooking!

Farmer’s Market — Healdsburg

Shop for fresh-from-the-farm produce, meats, cheeses, honey, and much more. Snack on food to-go, enjoy entertainment — a true foodie’s paradise.

See our blog post for more about the Healdsburg Farmer’s Market.

Farmer’s Market — Napa

Frequented by locals and tourists alike, this market often hosts food demos, offers gardening info, specialty foods, in-season produce, and handmade items and homemade goodies.

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!

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

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!

Touring around sunlit backroads, breathing in the fresh country air and stunning vineyard landscape, sipping on your favorite red or white varietal — that’s a great Californian wine tour for you.

Though the journey itself is almost magical, it does take some planning in advance. You need to plan for your wine tour beforehand to book the ideal place to stay and the right reservations to sample the finest vintages California’s winemakers have for you.

Here are some guidelines to help you arrange a memorable journey.

Know your preferences before you plan

No two wineries are the same, which is why you need to know your preferences before you sign up for a wine tasting tour. If you prefer white wines, center your tour around wineries that produce and specialize in them. And while you’re in the Wine Country, go ahead and take a chance. Deviate from your plans, follow the inspiration of the moment, and try out something new if the idea strikes you.

Check up on the specifics

From reservation times to which wines are available for tasting to whether or not the venue has a picnic space, it’s a good idea to know everything about the tasting rooms on your tour. You can find this information on the winery’s website. If you are touring around with a guide, ask them.

Plan a diverse wine tasting tour

When in the Sonoma Wine Country or Napa Valley, tour as true wine connoisseurs do. Plan a wine tasting tour with a mix of old and new establishments, with traditional and contemporary styles, and red and white wines. You can stick to your wine preference back home at your house party or during a dinner out, but here you should take the opportunity to sample a broader range of tastes.

Book a chauffeur service

Have fun, but don’t forget to be safe. When you plan a day full of sampling wines, it’s not uncommon to feel … well … tipsy — not a condition in which you want to drive yourself or find your way around unfamiliar terrain. Bring along a designated driver, or book one. If your vacation rental service offers one on their concierge menu, that’s even better!

Bring an empty box with you

Most people don’t even think about this, but what happens when you need to buy a few bottles of your new favorite wine? You need an empty box to carry these in so they won’t roll around in the back of the car, jostling the contents — and your nerves.

Takes notes and ask questions

Wine tasting tour is more than just discussing the flavors in your glass. It’s about increasing your knowledge about wine itself, from how it’s produced to what foods it should be paired with. Ask all questions that come to your mind to get the most out of your Wine Country adventure!

It pays to have the experts of California Wine Country vacation rental services plan your wine tour. Let us personalize a wine tasting tour just for you, and take you on a memorable adventure through the trails of Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Call us today at 707.890.0852 for an exciting “wining” adventure!

Too often couples have a hard time finding a quiet moment together. Busy work schedules, family commitments, and active social calendars make it tough to share down time with the one you love.

What do you do when you can’t find some extra quality time to spend with the love of your life?

You plan an impromptu honeymoon, smuggle away your spouse, and let happiness take its course. And here’s how you do it!

Essentials for a honeymoon

1.    The Right Destination

Napa Valley, beautiful Sonoma, or charming Healdsburg are ideal destinations. Catering to individuals who appreciate understated luxury and natural beauty, these locations offer some truly gorgeous vacation homes for rent, so you’ll have your choice of accommodation. Also, because the Wine Country is all about world-class wineries, tasting, and tours, your spontaneous romantic getaway can be extra enjoyable.

2.    A Vacation Home, Not a Hotel Room

Hotel rooms may seem like a good choice. But if you want complete privacy and a home-like atmosphere, vacation rentals should be more to your liking.

Vacations homes like those available through TheWine Stay are fully stocked with all amenities (plush towels and linens, spa-quality toiletries, comfortable furnishings, etc.) and offer some
quality luxuries services as well. And since they’re more affordable than hotel rooms, you’ll be saving money even while enjoying VIP treatment.

3.    Some Quality Experiences

It’s okay if you’d rather stay in your vacation home and enjoy each other’s company. But it won’t hurt to book an on-site massage or maybe have a Michelin-starred chef prepare a gourmet meal for just the two of you.

If you rent with us, take advantage of our Concierge Services (add link). We’ll arrange for indulgences for you right at your vacation home, or we can pack you a picnic lunch to take with you on your Napa or Sonoma Valley wine tasting tour. And if you want a little more adventure, we’ll help you plan a hot air balloon ride above the Wine Country or arrange for a bicycling trek through the vineyards.

4.    Just the Right Stuff in Your Luggage

You’ll already have the extra amenities you need, so you shouldn’t worry about packing too much. Clothes, phone chargers, a good camera – these are all the things you’ll need. And to add some romance, tuck in a memento for your sweetheart. It can be a small thing — a card, framed photo of the two of you, a favorite book — just something personal that shows how special your partner is to you.  When packing, don’t forget to check the weather in the area where you’ll be staying and pack some things that may come in handy. Leave the bulk of your stuff at home, though. You don’t want to be burdened by too much stuff.

5.    Focus on Each Other

Keep in mind that this isn’t just any vacation. It’s your “honeymoon,” a time-off from your happy-but-hectic everyday life, one you so richly deserve. Park your cell phone and laptop. Inform your workplace that you are not to be disturbed. Take this time to focus on your spouse. Prepare a meal, take a quiet walk, share the beauty of the moment — enjoy the good life together.

With these tips and a little help from us, your impromptu honeymoon will be a time to remember!

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!

Appetizers, tapas, small plates, charcuterie — it’s the new main dish for a no-fuss evening — tasty bites to spark your palette and conversation. A charcuterie board is a wonderful way to wind down a day in the Healdsburg Wine Country. Gather with friends and uncork a few bottles of wine. This easy way to entertain offers something for everyone, but it’s not just about eating.

Whether at your place or relaxing in a luxury vacation home, a charcuterie platter is super easy to put together. And everyone can have exactly what they like. Make a day of wine tasting in Sonoma or Napa valleys and bring home your favorite finds. Pick up gourmet treats at nearby wineries, stop at the local market or deli, or shop the neighborhood farmer’s market. From Healdsburg to Napa to St. Helena, spring and summer markets* hum with fresh produce, organics, and gourmet products.

Putting together a Wine Country charcuterie board is easy, but remember: variety is key. Mix up flavors and textures, including both mild and bold, familiar favorites and first-time dates. Artful presentation is part of the fun. Serve on wood cutting boards, marble slabs, or earthenware platters. Use colorful cloth napkins and different sized bowls, include serving knives and spoons, and don’t forget toothpicks. Here are some tips for what to choose.

Create the perfect charcuterie board

Meat

By its very name, meat is the top bill on your charcuterie board. (Charcuterie in France is where you buy deli-style meat.) If you’re making a night of it – eating and drinking for hours – figure on about 4oz per person. Pick out at the very least three different types of meat. Razor-thin slices of prosciutto are a must, but include another cured meat such as sopressata or coppa, or experiment with ones you may not be so familiar with. While loaded with flavor, cured meats are very salty, so mix it up with cooked meat, like ham or mortadella (bologna’s classy cousin). You may want to add a soft, spreadable pate and chunks of spicy sausage. The variety of textures and shapes make the platter look appealing.

Cheese

The cheeses are my favorite part of the charcuterie board. To keep it interesting, choose an assortment of cheeses, each with its unique texture — creamy, firm, crumbly. Mix up the flavors with something tangy like an aged sharp cheddar and something sweet such as St. Andre. For interest — taste as well as visual — slice up hard cheeses and have a spreading knife for each soft one. You may want to try a goat or sheep milk variety. And there are plenty of Sonoma Valley cheesemakers, so have fun experimenting. But blue cheeses are a gamble. For most people it’s a love/hate thing. Same goes for some those smelly French cheeses. I’d avoid those because they tend to dominate everything else on the platter. Cheese is best served at room temperature, so I always remove cheeses from the fridge a half hour before serving, even sooner for soft cheeses.

Bread and Crackers

Bread is the vehicle for enjoying meats and cheeses — and everything else on your charcuterie plate. Keep it simple — baguette and mild crackers. There’s lots of flavor going on, so this time the bread is going to have to take a back seat. My favorite is crostini, thin slices of baguette brushed with olive oil and toasted. Cheese twists or bread sticks are fun because you can serve them upended in a cup, which adds height to the presentation. You can slice the bread in advance, or if you need extra room put out a baguette and bread knife on a wooden cutting board. I suggest including a gluten-free cracker, too.

Fresh Fruit

Mildly sweet and naturally juicy, fresh fruit can be a welcome foil to this flavor extravaganza. A mound of grapes is a good choice, plus it looks pretty on the platter (include a few purple and green for visual interest). Put out some pear (Bosc or D’Anjou) or crisp apple (Fuji or Honeycrisp) slices. This works well to transport cheese for those who want to avoid bread. (Drizzle the slices with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.) You may want to add a few dried figs or dates for an extra hit of sweetness and texture.

Briny Olives

Olives are essential for me — love them with cheese and cured meats. There are so many interesting types available today. Mild, juicy Cerignolas are my first choice. I prefer the green ones, but include both black and green olives, stuffed or not, or maybe an olive tapenade. Pickled vegetables and peppers, spicy or mild, are fun. (Remember to include a tiny bowl for olive pits!) A small bowl of seedy Dijon mustard complements the charcuterie.

Jams, Dips, and Nuts

Include one or two jams or chutneys for some added flavor and to balance out the dry and salty meat and cheese. Fig spread plays nicely with many cheeses.  You may way to include a bowl of hummus —a nice protein alternative for those who don’t want meat. A bowl of nuts is welcome. I especially love sweet, salty Marcona almonds.

By the way, if it’s just you and your partner, put together charcuterie for two. You could even pack a picnic basket — wineries welcome you to enjoy a bottle of their wine in the beautiful Sonoma Wine Country!

Get details on all Sonoma County farmer’s markets here.

Find out about the Napa farmer’s market. And here’s the scoop on St. Helena’s farmer’s market.