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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.

What are the best food and wine pairings for the holiday season? Whether you’re planning on visiting friends and family or nestling in at home this winter — here are a few rules of thumb and classic pairings to make sure your dinners don’t disappoint.

1.  In cold weather, go for the bold wines in your cellar.

Cold weather calls for a hearty meal — a creamy soup, a rich stew, or something roasted on the grill. It also makes warmer (that is, higher in alcohol) wines much more pleasant to drink. With typically intense, jammy, and spicy flavors that can stand up to flavorful fare — and alcohol levels topping 15% — Sonoma Zinfandels can be perfect picks for winter warmth. Try them with a pepper-crusted ribeye steak.

2. Traditional pairings are usually traditional for a reason.

Holiday dishes are often associated with specific wines — such as turkey and Pinot Noir, or roasted duck and Merlot. In these common pairings, the intensity or expressiveness of the food’s natural flavors matches the typical intensity of the wine.

Further, the more fat content there is in a meat, the more tannin can be tolerated on the palate. Turkey is among the leanest meats, while Pinot Noir is among the least tannic wines. But most important of all: the specific aromas, flavors, and textures of these foods simply fit with those of the wines. These are combinations resulting from centuries of dinnertime experimentation.

Why not take advantage of what our ancestors have learned and simply enjoy the results? To prove the principle to yourself, try a cool-weather Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir with roasted turkey breast.

3. When experimenting for yourself, match fundamentals — sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol — before aromas. 

A pairing novice might assume a cherry pie would go nicely with a wine featuring prominent cherry aromas. While it would be right to find complements among the dominant aromas in foods and wines, doing so would be overlooking more fundamental factors in a successful pairing. In this case, the terrible clash between a dry (that is, non-sweet) wine and a very sweet food.

Pairing is about matching sweetness, acidity, tannin, and alcohol levels properly before it is about matching aromas. Sweet wines go with sweet foods. To see what we mean, try that cherry pie with a nice Port-style dessert wine.

One last tip: This holiday season, remember not only to match your wines with your foods, but also to match your wines with the occasion. Holidays are special occasions for creating memories with the people you care about most. Spend a little extra if needed to make sure the wines show well.

A great vacation rental experience depends on the quality of the home, how it meets expectations, and the service provided by your host. But that isn’t the whole story. As a guest, you are also responsible for a positive outcome.

You don’t have to go overboard. Just treat your hosts with the consideration you would expect to receive. Establishing a mutually respectful relationship can set the right tone for a vacation you’ll remember well and look forward to repeating soon.

Communicate with your hosts

One of the hallmarks of a great host is clear communication. And, it’s a two-way street. Start by getting all the information you need — and want — before booking your vacation. Get a heads-up on all the little details, such as location, concierge services, pricing — anything that will help you enjoy your stay.

While at the vacation home, feel free to stay in touch with your hosts. Find out their preferred method of communication (email, text, phone call). If any questions or concerns come up during your stay, contact them. Something not working the way you expected? Give your hosts the chance to make your vacation A+.

Arrive and leave on schedule

Managing guests and properties takes careful coordination. A good host wants to make sure every guest enjoys a fabulous experience. To help keep everyone happy, it’s best to confirm your check-in/checkout times beforehand, and do your best to be on schedule. Of course, life happens and plans can go sideways. But, it’s always a good idea to let your host know if you will be running late for some reason.

Respect the property

If you have ever had family or friends stay over at your home, you know how frustrating it can be when people don’t take care of your stuff. It’s the same thing with a vacation rental. Take care of the property — indoors and out — as you would your own home.

Like you’d do at home, be mindful of the neighbors. Even if you feel like you’re way out in the country, understand that the quieter it is, the more sound travels. Don’t impose your music on the people down the street and be careful to adhere to local regulations regarding sound curfews.

Clean up after yourself

When it is time for you to leave, empty the fridge and clear the cabinets of your things. It’s courteous to bag up all the trash and recyclables and take them out. Your host should have a clear set of instructions about how to leave the vacation rental. If you’re unsure what’s expected, don’t hesitate to ask. Generally, it’s safe to assume the management will handle the detailed cleaning. You just want to clean up your personal “footprint.”

Leave a note or send a review

As a final show of thoughtfulness, let your vacation rental service know that you appreciate their efforts. A note is a lovely way to say thanks. Better yet, leave a review regarding how your experience went. Testimonials are a big value to future guests — and to the host. If for some reason your stay was not up to the mark, it’s always good to specify exactly how and give the management a chance to make it right, preferably during your stay.

At The Wine Stay, we want your vacation to be nothing short of fabulous! We offer memorable vacation home rental experiences in Sonoma County and Napa Valley. Reach out to us today to book a luxury vacation rental home, with complete concierge services. We will make your stay in the California Wine Country unforgettable!

It’s pretty obvious that the Sonoma Wine Country is known for … well … for wine. This is home to award-winning wines of world renown. And a day of wine tasting in the beautiful valleys surrounded by rolling hills — hey, it doesn’t get much better than that. But if you want to enjoy the outdoors and aren’t keen on sipping the grape, consider these fun adventures instead.

Canoe Down the Russian River

The Russian River flows right through the Alexander and Russian River valleys, across the heart of the Sonoma Wine Country. Redwood-studded riverbanks are dotted with sandy beaches and places to rest and take in the magnificent surroundings. Oftentimes, the only way to reach these secluded destinations is via the river. So if water sports is your thing — or you’re feeling adventurous — rent a canoe. It’s a great way to cool off in the summer, and it’s always fun for the whole family. And, don’t worry — no white water rapids here!

Canoe and Kayak rentals
River’s Edge Kayak and Canoe Trips, Healdsburg
http://www.riversedgekayakandcanoe.com/

Burke’s Canoe Trips, Forestville
http://www.burkescanoetrips.com/

Stroll Through the Redwoods

California Coastal Redwoods are the tallest trees on the planet. Majestic, stately, and awe-inspiring, redwood forests conjure a magical beauty. With their corded bark and fragrant needles, the giant trees are not to be missed. Fortunately, we have Armstrong Woods Park close by in Guerneville, just south of Healdsburg. The park is home to redwoods, some over 1,000 years old! Carefully maintained trails let you meander for a couple miles under the shady redwood canopy, and there are plenty of picnic tables. And if you’re in for hiking several miles, pack your water bottle and head up one of the rugged trails. The vistas are breathtaking!

Armstrong Woods State Natural Preserve

Float Above the Vineyards in a Hot Air Balloon

There’s nothing like seeing field after field of vineyards from above. Ballooning gives you a bird’s-eye view of our fertile and abundant agricultural valley. You’ll understand just why this area is a foodie’s paradise. This one-of-a-kind experience isn’t for those afraid of heights, but when the flame that lifts the balloon is turned off, the quiet at 1,000-plus feet is truly unbelievable. Most flights take off very early in the morning when the wind is still.

Sonoma Valley Balloons
http://www.sonomavalleyballoons.com/

Wine Country Balloons
http://winecountryballoons.com/

Beachcomb the Pacific Coast

With more than 55 miles of spectacular shoreline, Sonoma County offers plenty of “natural” entertainment. Search for seashells, fly a kite, 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. The northern coastal profile doesn’t feature warm, white sandy beaches, but there’s plenty to enjoy for the whole family. Check out our earlier blog post for more information.

Sonoma Coastal Beaches — A Refreshing Escape
http://hbexperiencprd.wpengine.com/2017/07/17/sonoma-coastal-beaches-a-refreshing-escape/

Bike Across the Countryside

Sonoma County is a top destination for bicycle enthusiasts from around the world. With well-carved paths and off-grid trails, there’s something for every level of cycler. Whether you prefer to ride solo, in a group, or compete with others — bike routes abound. And for lots of fun, you may want to plan for the next Tour d’Organics annual event —held every summer. For more local info on bicycling tours and rentals, check out Sonoma County.com.

Sonoma County.com
http://www.sonomacounty.com/articles/guide-cycling-sonoma-county

Tour d’Organics
https://www.tourdorganics.com/index.html

If you’re staying at one of The Wine Stay’s comfortable vacation homes, find out about our Concierge Services. We make it simple for you by handling all the arrangements for your Wine Country adventure.

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!