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!

With breathtaking views, diverse population, great cultural experiences, and, of course, an array of wine tasting rooms, the Wine Country has all the makings for an incredible vacation destination. Napa Valley alone plays host to more than 3 million tourists, which includes lone travelers, couples, and families.

To make your visit to the Wine Country smooth and pleasant, consider these useful tips:

  1. Check Out the Weather

If you are traveling to the Wine Country, you may want to consider a time of year when it’s reliably warm. Napa Valley faces its peak tourist season from August to October, when the late-summer weather is perfect for travel. But the Wine Country is stunningly beautiful any time of year.  Just be sure you’re prepared if the weather turns crisp or damp.

  1. Dress to Relax

The Wine Country is known for its casual, easygoing lifestyle. Casual pants or jeans are de rigueur, although a sports jacket for men and a little bling for women fit in well for dinner at the finer restaurants. Keep in mind that wine tasting tours can involve walking, so bring along some comfortable shoes. If you have planned outdoor adventures such as hot air balloon rides or horseback riding, make sure you have appropriate clothing.

  1. Plan Your Accommodations

For the solo traveler or couple who prefers last-minute travel, a hotel is typically the ideal choice. However, if you take a little time to plan ahead, booking a vacation rental is by far the better way to go. You get more space, convenience, and privacy for less money.  The HB Experience offers several top-of-class vacation rentals — something for everyone. Plus, you can take advantage of the Concierge Services, such as custom wine tasting itineraries, meal prep at your vacation home, arranging outdoor adventures, and much more.

  1. Don’t Overdo Your Itinerary

Don’t try to fit everything in one vacation. Pick and choose which wineries you want to visit. Look into the tasting rooms’ wine listings to help you short-list places that produce your favorite blends. Usually, three tasting rooms are enough for a wonderfully enjoyable afternoon. You’ll get more out of your time in the Wine Country if you do less. Turn down the throttle, savor the experience, and create lasting memories.

  1. Be Flexible

One of the keys to success for any travel is being able to go with the flow. Just not feeling like more wine tasting? Take a gourmet tasting and shopping detour, or visit local galleries and boutiques. Rent a bike or stroll through the countryside. If the sky clouds up, snuggle up at your vacation home and watch your favorite series. Your travel plans may not all be achieved to the point, and that is okay. Live in the moment to have a great trip!

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.

In the Wine Country, vacation rentals are now considerably more popular than hotel rooms, given the multitude of benefits that accompany them. Traveling in large groups of friends or family, people look for temporary living where they can enjoy their trip to the fullest.

With matchless privacy and personal space options, a vacation rental can give you the perfect value for your money. The big question is: How do you pick one vacation home out of the rest? It comes down to what exactly you are looking for. Check out one of our earlier posts for detailed tips about CHOOSING THE RIGHT VACATION RENTAL. Here are a few more considerations to keep in mind to help you determine whether a rental is the ideal one for you.

Ready for a vacation rental?

1. Location

No one disagrees that the landscape of the Wine Country is stunning. With gently rolling hills, beautiful rivers, ocean shores, and fecund valleys, the Wine Country has a treasure of great locations where you can find your perfect vacation home. But when it comes to picking out the right vacation rental for you, consider whether you want to be close in to one of the area’s charming towns. Is it important to be able to walk to the center of town, with restaurants, boutiques, and galleries? Or would you prefer to be away from neighbors and feel like you have the world to yourself? The ideal vacation rental home is in the Wine Country, but imagine more specifically just what the locale looks like. See what it is that will make you happy.

2. Style

Wouldn’t you check out the theme of a hotel before you stay there? Similarly, check to see if the company you are choosing offers various styles in their vacation homes. Some places may be no-fuss rustic, while others are pristine luxury. Are you into stylish modern or would a comfy cottage better suit you and your group. The style will set the right mood in your Wine Country vacation. Don’t hesitate to be picky with your vacation home’s exterior and interior options!

3. Extras

Some vacation rental agencies offer comprehensive concierge services. These include shopping, transportation, spa services, and star-chef meals. The HB Experience has a complete concierge menu, which also includes guided wine tasting tours and on-site massage. We want to make your vacation in Sonoma Valley or Napa Valley a one-of-a-kind experience. We know the more extras available to you, the more comfortable your vacation becomes.

Take your time to find a vacation home. Make sure the company who manages the rental home has a five-star reputation. Look closely at reviews. Proceed once you are sure all factors are up to your standards so that you can enjoy your precious vacation days to the fullest!

Wine bottles come in many shapes and sizes. When you’re at the wine shop looking for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, naturally you scan the shelves to find the clear bottles of white wine. What you might not realize is that you are also looking for a certain type of bottle. Each wine varietal can be identified by the shape of its bottle.

There are at least 12 different wine bottle shapes, each particular to a varietal and its origin. These bottle types originated back in 18th century Europe. Each wine-making region was identified by its own distinctive type of bottle. Today these bottle shapes are used for wines from around the world and have nothing to do with the original European regions. But tradition reigns on.

When we talk about the shape of a bottle, we refer to its neck, shoulders, and body—slender or squat, sloped shoulders or square. The shape doesn’t affect the quality or flavor of wine. Although the shape may have played a role in catching sediment of unfiltered wines of the past.

Glass color varies too. The bottle may be dark or light, usually with dark green glass for reds and clear or light glass for whites. The punt is what you call the dimple in the bottom of the bottle. It is a vestige of old-world bottles whose glass was blown by hand. The history is unclear, but one thing is agreed upon, the punt is for decoration only today. Some think that a punt denotes quality and that flat-bottomed bottles are just for the cheap labels, but that’s only a myth. Chances are that the punt was more practical than aesthetic, helping to keep imperfect bottles upright.

Wine bottle shapes in California

Bourdeaux (France)
The typical Bourdeaux bottle is straight and tall with squared-off shoulders. You’ll find it used for Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Burgundy (France)
Similar to Bourdeaux but with sloping shoulders and a bit fatter bottom, this familiar shape is known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Mosel or Alsace (Germany and northern France)
Rieslings and Gewurtztraminers will be found is this distinctly tall, slender bottle with a very long neck and no shoulders.

And, of course, size matters. Bring a split to enjoy with your sandwich or break out a magnum for a special dinner at your home with friends. Large wine bottles are unexpected and announce celebration.

But bottle size also influences the flavor of wine. The neck is small, no matter how much wine the bottle holds. This means that the effect of the oxygen in the neck of the bottle will be less on a larger volume of wine. The bigger the bottle, the slower it ages—and the longer it keeps. That’s one reason you typically find a few large-format bottles in a serious wine lover’s collection.

Don’t think by buying volume you’re getting more for your buck. Just the opposite. Large bottles cost more. They’re snazzy and fun, but you’ll want to be sure you will be able to drink it all once it’s opened.

Piccolo or split¼ bottle187.5 mL
Demi or half½ bottle375 mL
Standard1 bottle750 mL
Magnum2 bottles1.5 L
Jeroboam4 bottles3 L
Methuselah or Imperial8 bottles6 L
Salmanazar12 bottles9 L
Balthazar16 bottles12 L
Nabuchadnezzar20 bottles15 L

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

If you’re travelling 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.

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.

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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