Still wondering what to do for Mother’s Day? If you want to make Mom feel special, there’s still time to plan a Mother’s Day wine country weekend. Get away from the people-packed city and experience the slower pace of Sonoma and Napa where springtime is in full bloom. 

Mother’s Day in wine country

This is the year to surprise the mother in your life with a wine country getaway. Chances are good she’d be thrilled with a couple days at a private vacation home in the countryside among rolling oak-studded hills and vineyards. 

Better than brunch in a restaurant

No question about it. It is nice not to have to prepare food yourself — not to mention the shopping and cleanup. We all appreciate dining in a restaurant. And, of course, brunch is a classic for this May day. But Mother’s Day is one of the busiest restaurant days of the year, so we have another idea.

Instead of getting dressed up to join the throngs of mothers and families, you could plan a quiet brunch at your comfortable vacation home, and we can help. We can arrange for a 5-star chefto come to you. They’ll bring the groceries, prepare a fabulous brunch, and clean up. That standout experience will gift Mom with memories for years to come.

Expand the Mother’s Day wine country experience

Maybe you want to do something other than brunch. Our in-house sommelier can curate a wine and food pairing designed around your special lady’s tastes, or map out a wine tour just for her. 

At The Wine Stay  we are about elevating life. Our list of add-on guest servicesmakes your stay with us extraordinary. We can arrange for a professional massage at your vacation home. Or perhaps you want to plan an adventure that takes you out into the spring beauty. 

Mother’s Day in a wine country vacation home is a deluxe gift for Mom, especially because she can enjoy quality time with those closest to her heart. Bring the whole family!

More ideas for Mother’s Day weekend in wine country 

The privacy of a vacation getaway means “You are special,” and it promises relaxation for Mom and her loved ones. But if you want to venture beyond your vacation home, wine country offers plenty of things to do. 

Calistoga Food & Wine Grand Tasting— Saturday, May 11, 2:00 – 5:30

Meet winemakers and taste wines from 40 Calistoga wineries, from boutique to big name. Enjoy small bites from local restaurants featuring locally grown, seasonal ingredients. 

Calistoga Day Spas and Mineral Baths

Calistoga, in Napa Valley, is known for its quaint charm, good eateries, and world-class wines. However, it’s the abundance of natural mineral springs that first put it on the map. A few hours of indulgence at a spa is a lovely way to acknowledge Mom. Spend the day lounging around the mineral pools, immersing in a mud bath, or enjoying a spa treatment like a massage, facial, or scrub. Here are a couple recommendations among the many spas to choose from:

Indian Springs — www.indianspringscalistoga.com

Calistoga Hot Springs — https://www.calistogaspa.com/

Spring Vineyard Hike at Jordan Winery— Saturday, May 11, 9:45 – 2:00

Here’s a way to enjoy wine country’s natural beauty and its exceptional wines. Join Jordan Winery’s four-mile hike across gentle hills and valleys. And, of course, the experience includes nibbles and tastes of their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wine Tasting in Alexander Valley

Healdsburg sits in the heart of Alexander Valley, home to some of the world’s best  winemakers. A day wine tasting in wine country is a feast for the senses. Check out this site for an overview of the local wineries. Peruse the list and pick out two or three to visit. You can’t go wrong.

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)

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.

Next time you’re heading to Sonoma Wine Country, enjoy the good life in one of The Wine Stay’s luxury vacation rentals. We can arrange for our in-house sommelier to prepare a wine tour or wine tasting just for you!

You can’t get too far in Sonoma Wine Country or Napa Valley without hearing about a wine’s nose and legs. And, people in the know like to throw around the word terroir. The rest of us may avoid it, not knowing exactly what it means, or even how to pronounce it (say “tare war” like you have a mouth full of marbles). What is terroir, anyway?

Well that, it turns out, is not a simple question.

There’s no doubt among us that wines are distinct.

One bottle of Pinot is not the same as another bottle of Pinot. Although the grape stock may be the same, flavor is distinct. A wine’s unique—je ne sais quoi—quality, stems from terroir.

Terroir encompasses the habitat in which the grape is grown.

Factors like climate, soil, and terrain add up differently. Whether the average temperatures are warm or cool affect flavor. Warmer climates lend to higher sugar levels, and higher alcohol content, and influence taste. And, although it isn’t understood exactly how different soils affect a wine’s flavor, there’s no argument that rock and mineral deposits, soil texture, and soil chemistry do affect the end result. Not only the soil but also the environment in which the grapes are grown matters. Nearby animal and plant life, whether the vines are in a valley or by the sea, the elevation of the land—all these affect flavor.

Winemaking traditions also contribute to terroir.

How winemakers work together with the land is included in the elusive concept of terroir. After generations of cultivating a certain area, a person gets to know and understand their vines. Tending your grapes is a relationship—an intimate knowing.

In the world of wine, science and art are at odds.

Not surprisingly, it turns out that a lot of what we call terroir is invisible to the naked eye. The science of winemaking is pushing aside the art of the craft with new ability to detect and measure the effects of microbial life in the vineyard. Bacteria and fungi play a big role in terroir as well. The microbes live in the grape and, ultimately, the wine. Researchers at UC Davis explain that “‘microbial terroir’ is a determining factor in the regional variations in wine.”

Terroir is not the same thing as appellation.

Wikipedia notes, “The influence of terroir means that wines from a particular region are unique, incapable of being reproduced outside that area, even if the grape variety and winemaking techniques are painstakingly duplicated.”   The idea of terroir led to the formation of grape-growing regions into distinct appellations.

An appellation is a clearly defined region on a map—an AVA (American Viticultural Area). Napa Valley was the first designated Californian appellation, which today includes many sub-appellations. Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley are two familiar AVAs of the 17 in Sonoma Wine Country that produce world-famous and highly distinct wines.

Terroir arouses a sense of place and belonging.

Ask any wine buff, though, and they’ll likely tell you that the definition of terroir means more than the region where the grapes are grown. The concept evokes the romantic, old-world art of fine winemaking. Yes, more and more we see the word used by other food producers. Terroir sells because it appeals to people’s senses, conjuring mystery, art, and magic. Perhaps the very allure of terroir is in its unmeasurable sense of place and belonging.

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

It’s French, of course

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

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

And it’s fussy

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

But it loves Sonoma County

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

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

Russian River Valley

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

Sonoma Coast

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

Carneros

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

Our sommelier is passionate about Pinot

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

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

Luxury home rentals

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