Wine geeks share a language of their own. What exactly does it mean when a wine expert describes a wine as crunchychunky, or chewy? Okay, you know what chewy means, but … chewy wine? Instead of trying to decipher the qualities of a wine that is muscular or tight, leave it to the sommelier.

What is a sommelier?

Dictionaries describe a sommelier (pronounced suh MUL yay) as a wine steward, but the job is so much more. Put simply, a sommelier is a wine expert.

Usually, you find them in high-end restaurants. Sommeliers are the ones who develop wine lists, train wine servers, and work with chefs to pair the perfect wine with food. They have developed a sensitive palate and are known for their deep training and knowledge about all things wine — vines and vineyards, winemaking regions and methods, how to store and serve wine. 

It’s rare to find these experts outside of a 5-star restaurant. That’s why at The Wine Stay we are so excited to offer our Wine Country vacation guests the benefit of our own in-house sommelier.

How to use their service

It’s true that an experienced sommelier is well-versed in wine. But they are also trained in customer service. They are about connecting people with the bottle that’s perfect for that person, with that food, in that moment. A good sommelier is a good people person. 

They listen closely to what you like and tap their knowledge and intuition to set you up with a great wine within your budget. And the more information you are able to provide, the better the chance for a heavenly match. 

If you’re at a restaurant, know what food you will order before you talk to the wine expert. This will help them home in on the right bottle.

A sommelier’s savvy includes food and wine pairing. Our in-house expert designs custom pairings for our guests, so the more specific input you can provide, the better. Let him know what you like and don’t like — dry/sweet, varietals, light & crisp/rich & velvety, and so on. And don’t be shy about how much you’re comfortable spending.

The best advice for how to take advantage of a sommelier is to ask questions. Tap their knowledge and tasting experience. Ask about their personal favorites.

What it means to be a wine expert

Becoming a certified sommelier can take years of study, grueling exams, and lots of practice developing your palate. (Gee, that part doesn’t sound too tough.)

The payoff is a nice salary, and prestige comes with the well-earned title of sommelier. Today in the U.S. there are only 164 master sommeliers certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers.

If you have the opportunity to tap the knowledge of a sommelier, go for it. When you book one of The Wine Stay’s luxury vacation rentals in Napa or Sonoma County, reserve our in-house sommelier’s service. He can design a tasting tour for you, prepare a wine and food pairing at your vacation home, or plan your private dinner prepared by a 5-star chef — with the perfect vintage. Let us know if we can help. Cheers!

The annual Passport to Dry Creek Valley is a weekend wine extravaganza. And it’s coming up Saturday and Sunday, April 27 and 28. Wineries go all out for Passport Weekend, now in its 30th year. If you love wine, you need to know about this favorite wine event.

Passport Weekend 101

This casual, upscale weekend is about immersing yourself in the good life of Sonoma Wine Country. There are hundreds of world-class wines to taste, including newly released and limited edition wines. But the party just starts there! 

Each winery creates its own unique theme for the day, from Americana to baseball to French market. And the wineries celebrate with food, music, and entertainment. Passport Weekend guests get to savor inspired creations prepared by Sonoma County chefs, and enjoy food and wine pairings, and even sit-down meals. Lots of wineries have live bands, playing Mariachi, bluegrass, blues, Beatles hits — there’s something for everyone. It’s a good idea to do your homework about this year’s wines and themesso you’ll know which wineries you want to be sure to visit.

How it works

Purchase your ticket for the entire weekend or Sunday only. Decide which winery will be your first stop because that’s where you’ll collect your wine glass, Passport booklet, and wristband for the event. From there, explore any of the 40+ participating wineries sprinkled throughout Dry Creek Valley in Cloverdale, Geyserville, Healdsburg, and in between.

Beyond wine tasting

In addition to the revelry, $25 will reserve you an enlightening grape-to-glass experience in the vineyards. Learn about vineyard basics, grape varieties, and sustainability from the wine experts themselves — legendary winemakers and owners. Expand your understanding of winemaking as you sample the different personalities and styles of wines made from the vines just within your reach.

Ways to extend your weekend

If you want to visit Wine Country a day or two early, check out the Vintage Soiree on Friday night at the Ranch at Lake Sonoma. Top-rated wines join with Michelin-starred cuisine, spectacular views, live music, and dancing. Or, if you act soon, you may get a spot at the table for an intimate winemaker lunch hosted at one of the wineries.

For a deeper dive into Wine Country, reserve one of The Wine Stay’s luxury vacation rentals. We can help you plan your itinerary for Passport Weekend and set you up with your own, private driver so you can focus on fun. We curate bespoke adventures just the way you want it. Contact us if you want some more ideas for an unforgettable vacation in and around Healdsburg and Calistoga.

Passport Weekend 2019

Saturday, April 27, 11:00am to 4:30pm
Sunday, April 28, 11:00am to 4:30pm

2-Day Passport: $150 (plus sales tax & ticketing fees)

Last month family members gathered from across the state to celebrate my mother’s 80thbirthday. We decided early on to rent a vacation homein Sonoma/Napa Wine Country. But what to do on her special day with a group of people aged 20 through 80 with interests as diverse as skydiving and crocheting? We landed on the idea of a cooking class.

The epicurean adventure turned out to be ideal— a way to be together while focused on a collaborative activity. Not only was it a way to bring out only the best of our family dynamics, cooking classes, I’ve discovered, are a lot of fun.

Even if cooking isn’t necessarily your thing, eating delicious food likely is. And when you discover your culinary creativity, the finished meal you prepare tastes even better! Whether you’re a seasoned chef or novice, cooking classes expand your skills, show you how to tame kitchen tools, and let you practice techniques you can take home with you. Having a chef as your guide gives you the confidence to trust the dishes you make will turn out great. 

Wine Country cooking classes aren’t just for family reunions. They make a great date night. Creative collaboration brings people closer — whether it’s with your partner, a group of friends, or your work team. Then, of course, there’s the wine. Classes usually include sipping wines while you prepare recipes and enjoy the food.

Wine Country is foodie paradise, so why not add a cooking class to your vacation experience? You get to try new foods and have fun, and you don’t have to do the dishes! Here are a few local cooking schools we like.

Healdsburg cooking classes

Right off the plaza in downtown Healdsburg is the home base for Relish Culinary Center. Relaxed and friendly classes are led by well-respected chefs that include local restaurateurs, winemakers, cookbook authors, caterers, wine experts, and other food-industry professionals. The wide variety of culinary backgrounds makes for diverse and stimulating classes. 

Relish offers demonstration and hands-on classes, as well as excursions to wineries, farms, and food venues throughout Sonoma Wine Country. Hands-on classes provide you the opportunity to try new recipes and techniques under the guidance of a chef. Typically, classes run about three hours, and are recommended for ages 12 and older.

Most classes conclude with a full meal of menu items prepared. Guests leave with copies of all recipes and new techniques and ideas. And if you prefer, they can plan a private event designed to your party’s tastes and interests.

Napa cooking classes

For an intimate culinary experience, check out Cooking with Julie. Certified Culinary Professional (CCP) Julie Logue-Riordan has been teaching for more than 25 years and opened her school in Napa in 2005. 

Her hands-on cooking classes feature seasonal menus with ingredients from local farms. You’ll learn culinary techniques to cook delicious meals with confidence. From pasta to pastry, classes are interactive fun.

In addition to the regular class schedule, she offers private day or evening demonstration dinners or hands-on classes for small groups of up to eight people. You can even arrange for Julie to come to your location for a private lesson.

Classes include a three-course meal paired with wine, in addition to nibbles and wine to enjoy during class. You’ll leave with a recipe booklet and an apron. Classes sell out, so plan ahead.

Malcolm de Sieyes is the owner and main chef at Silverado Cooking School, just a mile from the center of Napa. An interesting lineup of classes cover cooking techniques — for example, braising, roasting, and grilling — and a range of cuisine styles, like French and Italian. You learn to prepare delicious, seasonal meals and how to use handy culinary tools.

The class menus pull from produce grown at the school’s own two-acre farm, Stone Tree Farm. Almost all the produce is started in their greenhouse from locally source, non-GMO heirloom seeds.

In class you prepare dishes that everyone sits down and shares together at the table. Recommended for ages 16 and up.

The school also will custom-tailor a private cooking experience — half-day to a full weekend — and wine tasting flight to complement your menu.

Every year in early March, restaurants in Sonoma County invite you to join in a culinary experience, one you don’t want to miss. So mark your calendars and book your vacation home rental now for the 10th Annual Sonoma County Restaurant Week, March 2 — March 10, 2019.

More than 120 eateries will be participating this year, from Petaluma to Geyserville. Savvy food lovers know to take advantage of this opportunity to sample a variety of original menus made with fresh, local ingredients.

Restaurants feature 3-course dinners at prix-fixe prices of $19, $29, or $39. Many establishments also offer a 2-course, prix-fixe lunch, at either $10 or $15. (Prices do not include tax or gratuity.)

Enjoy a fantastic meal at as many participating restaurants as you want. There are no tickets or passes required. Let adventure be your guide. Find participating restaurants and preview their menus.

Reservations are strongly recommended. When you reserve your vacation home at The Wine Stay, just let us know if you’d like us to help with restaurant reservations.

Consider a getaway for Tuesday through Thursday of Sonoma County Restaurant Week. You’ll avoid the weekend rush and enjoy a better rate on your vacation home.

Our favorites for Sonoma County Restaurant Week

Healdsburg

DRY CREEK KITCHEN
Cozy and stylish venue located on the downtown plaza. Excellently prepared meals.

BARNDIVA
Sustainably sourced ingredients and exquisite attention to detail.

Sebastopol

LOWELL’S
Locally grown and always fresh California cuisine that varies with the season.

HANDLINE
Very casual, hip, order-at-the-counter restaurant featuring local seafood.

Santa Rosa

JACKSON’S BAR AND OVEN
Quality comfort food in a casually sophisticated venue located in quaint Old RXR Square.

THE SPINSTER SISTERS
In the trendy SofA district, this corner café serves hearty, globally inspired dishes.

Sonoma

THE GIRL AND THE FIG
Unpretentious French-inspired cuisine with a comfortable atmosphere.

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!

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” overlay_color=”” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” center_content=”no” last=”no” min_height=”” hover_type=”none” link=””][fusion_text]

For the first morning in a very long time, you wake up to the sound of birds chirping outside your window, instead of a blaring alarm clock.

A gentle breeze wafts in, carrying in the scent of freshly mown grass. You hear the friendly sounds of pots and pans from the kitchen below at your chosen vacation home, heralding you to a home-cooked breakfast that is sure to have you reaching for seconds. A day of wine tours and relaxing beckons you.

This is not a dream scenario. This is what awaits you if you give yourself the chance to enjoy a luxury weekend vacation.

Give yourself the perfect gift

Truth is we don’t need month-long vacations to rejuvenate ourselves. All we have to do is find a place that indulges our senses, and offers calm and quiet, and we’ll feel refreshed in no time.

That’s where ideas such as vacation rentals in the luxurious Wine Country come to mind.

Taking the luxury weekend vacation

Vacation rentals are your best bet when it comes to taking weekend vacations. Far less expensive than your average hotel room, a vacation home lets you enjoy all the comfort of home — and more!

For example, let’s say you choose a vacation home in classic destinations like Napa Valley, Sonoma, or Healdsburg. At The Wine Stay we provide you with just the right Wine Country vacation home that suits your needs. Plus, we offer concierge services — driving, cooking, day trips, wine tasting — so you can have an extra special getaway, and won’t need to worry about a thing.

Wine and dine in the wine country

Of course, with a weekend vacation surrounded by vineyards and fabulous wine, you can expect an unforgettable wine tasting experience.

Visit a few boutique wineries — there are numerous wine tasting rooms dotting the countryside between Napa and Healdsburg, and beyond. You’ll easily be able to plan a full day touring the Wine Country, meeting winemakers, and tasting select vintages that you wouldn’t get to sample at your local wine store — the perfect touch to your already luxuriously comforting holiday.

Vacationing the weekend away

You’ve worked hard to live the life you have. Isn’t it time for a relaxing getaway? Let your life stand still for a moment and take a breather. Go to the Wine Country and rent a luxury vacation home to give yourself the relaxing mini-vacation you so richly deserve!

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!

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” overlay_color=”” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” center_content=”no” last=”no” min_height=”” hover_type=”none” link=””][fusion_text]

Vacations used to be simpler. You decided where you wanted to go, saved up your money, and reserved a hotel room. There weren’t vacation packages and bargain offers to sort through. You didn’t have much choice about where to stay, so long as your bank account was flush. Your budget was set by your savings, not your credit card limit. Things are different today.

You have choices, with a vast range of prices for hotel rooms and the types of amenities you will get. You can reserve a room in a reliable chain or indulge in trendy boutique accommodations. Or, you could rent a vacation home.

More popular than ever, having a whole vacation home rental to yourself offers tremendous advantages. Coming and going through your own front door gives you a more intimate experience of your locale. You get to feel what it’s like to live like a local. But what are the pluses of a vacation rental over a hotel room? Let’s get down to specifics.

Is cost an issue?

A hotel room is going to cost you, especially if you’re looking at Healdsburg, Sonoma, or Napa hotels. A nice room for two in The Wine Country goes for a minimum of $400 per night over the weekend, with luxury locations climbing upward of $1,000 a night and more. For the same amount of money why not have a house to yourself?

If it’s just the two of you, the cost per night could make a hotel a better value. However, as soon as you count in more guests—two couples, a family, group of friends—the nightly cost goes down significantly for a rental home. Divide $800 a night among two or three couples, for example, and you get a luxury vacation home for the price of a budget hotel. The nightly rate of a vacation rental goes down the more people in your party. Conversely, more people means the price per night goes up, and steeply, in a hotel.

Do you prefer meal out — or in?

But the price of your lodging is only part of the cost-savings picture. Eating out adds on a significant chunk to your vacation budget. Sure, there may be a mini-fridge in your hotel room, but in a vacation home you’ll have the convenience and flexibility of a fully-equipped kitchen. Suddenly your meals are so much more affordable. Toast and jam, scones from the local bakery, and even unlimited lattes won’t break the bank. Plus, you get to keep on your robe and slippers. And on a warm Wine Country evening what could be better than enjoying your favorite food straight off the grill? Again, the larger your group, the more you save per meal. And if you are travelling with kids, the price of a burger just went way down.

What kind of atmosphere do you want?

Consider a glass of wine with friends after dinner when you’re staying in a hotel. You may find an intimate little nook, with a price tag to match. But where are you going to lay out the Scrabble board? A vacation home rental provides these simple pleasures — space to make yourselves at home. Just the extra square footage enhances your comfort. Compare that to a couple days in a hotel room, plus there’s room for everyone. You can hang out with friends over a glass of wine outdoors by the fire while the kids play ping pong. The personal atmosphere simply can’t be matched in a hotel. It’s much easier to relax, be yourself, and have it your way.

Do you need privacy?

One obvious reason you can relax is that having your own space affords more privacy indoors and outdoors. You don’t have to worry about how you look lounging by the pool. You can chill out and watch the sunset, enjoying your own space. Plus, when you leave the house for the day, your personal belongings are kept private. No need to use safety vaults for valuables. Things will be just where you left them, and where you want them.

Do you want the convenience of home?

You are in charge of your stuff and your space. You have the convenience of a washer and dryer at your disposal. It’s not a big deal to throw your dishes in the dishwasher—you’re used to the drill. And it won’t cost you anything to get last night’s salad dressing off your shirt—a big savings compared to the price of having clothes laundered by the hotel’s staff. And with luxury vacation rentals in Sonoma, Napa, Healdsburg, and Calistoga you can expect extra amenities, from spa-quality shampoos and lotions to Nespresso coffeemakers. And if you want, you can always add on amenities to your vacation rental stay. Housekeeping, wine-tasting tours, on-site massages, and even your own personal chef make a Wine Country vacation rental the better choice.

Are you traveling with children?

If you’re traveling with kids, a vacation home is definitely the way to go. They can spread out a game on the floor of their room, watch Sesame Street in the early hours, leave their wet swimsuits at the foot of the bed—no problem. They have space to be themselves. And if you stay up late, they can snuggle down in the next room undisturbed. Most kids appreciate an easygoing schedule with enough down-time. Vacation homes makes that possible.

Are you traveling by car?

One last advantage comes to mind when considering vacation home rental versus hotel rooms: parking. If you’re in a city, valet parking adds up quickly and it takes time to get to your car. Not a big deal if it’s just the two of you, but if you’re with a group of friends, each with a car, the prices get high quickly. Most vacation homes can easily accommodate a few cars in safe, off-street parking.

The advantages of a hotel

With these myriad benefits of a vacation home, why ever stay in a hotel? It has its advantages. There’s a certain glamour attached to hotels. If you can afford a five-star landing, it makes you look — and feel — good. And today there are many boutique hotels, too. These trendy, stylish spots can set a fun ambience. If you enjoy being around people and being seen, the public environment of a hotel makes sense.

Fresh towels, signature bath products, having your bed turned down each night — these luxuries are a delight. When you need an extra bed pillow, just pick up the phone and dial maid service. Even better, call room service for breakfast in bed. The convenience of services is at your disposal — of course, at a price. But with a quality vacation rental you also get luxury linens and spa-type pampering at no extra charge.

The biggest plus in favor of hotels is that it lets you be spontaneous. Rentals require planning ahead. If you’re a one-day-at-a-time sort of traveler, you’ll appreciate the flexibility of staying at a hotel. Vacation rentals require you to sign a contract, often with cancellation penalties. Hotels make sense for couples, last-minute planners, and for those who are only staying one night. And, it’s easier to cancel reservations if you change your mind.

With a hotel, at least one with a well-known name, you have better assurance of what you’ll get. Still, it’s easy to verify rentals these days. Use google street view, work with a reputable rental company, and check the vacation home’s online presence and reviews.

The bottom line

Hotels offer flexibility and service, at a price. If you plan ahead, have a larger group, and want an easygoing getaway, a vacation home rental is the way to go. Cost-savings, convenience, space, privacy — these are a few of the good reasons so many people today are choosing to enjoy their vacations in a Wine Country vacation home.

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!

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]