Don’t miss Wine Road’s 2019 Barrel Tasting event in Sonoma County. This is your chance to sample wines from the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River valleys. But this isn’t like your typical wine tasting experience.

Barrel tasting happens only once a year

Each spring, the grapes that were harvested the prior year, usually late summer through fall, are ready for sampling. Winemakers regularly taste test their barrels during the wine’s maturation, checking for levels of fruit, acidity, and tannins. This essential step in the winemaking process helps winemakers determine the best time to bottle the wine. Sampling also ensures the wine hasn’t gone bad or can help to decide whether the wine may be best used in a blend.

Although wine is sometimes aged in stainless steel, it is the oak barrel that really contributes to distinctive characteristics. Oak “breathes,” and the oxygen affects the wine.

A different wine tasting experience

During Wine Road’s Barrel Tasting in March, wine lovers get to experience young wines just like the winemakers do. Of course, barrel samples don’t taste like the finished wines you’re used to. These wines are still evolving, so you have to look for underlying, less obvious characteristics — hints of a soon-to-be a fine wine.

Ilona Thompson, of PalateExposure, puts it well in her in-depth article: “Barrel tasting [is] a great palate exercise. Discerning what the wine may taste like when the oak resolves itself and recognizing its subtler flavors makes you feel like a wine Jedi.” And it’s the sleuthing that makes barrel tasting so fun. There’s a gamble, and you get to wager on the winners!

Chance to bet on futures

When you find a wine you think has promise, you can buy it in advance at a discount, sometimes a deep discount. You can invest in futures. And for small-batch wines, futures may be your only chance to purchase. The risk comes when you pick up your finished, bottled wine 12 to 18 months later. Did it evolve like you thought it would?

Fortunately, you don’t have to make the decision in a vacuum. Barrel tasting isn’t just a lot of fun, it’s an educational experience. At the wineries, you will have the unique opportunity to talk to the winemakers. Here’s a chance to learn about the winemaking process and find out from the experts how they think a particular wine will evolve.

Discover new wineries

If this sounds like a fun wine tasting adventure, buy your tickets and plan out your route. You can design your tour around wineries that you know you like, but this is also a great opportunity to check out ones you’ve heard good things about. The best approach is be flexible and keep it easy. Figure on about a handful of wineries per day. Each winery offers at least three samples, while some offer twice that many. Each one-ounce sample is measured into your glass using a “wine thief,” the device that draws wine from the barrel.

You can buy your tickets at any participating winery on any day of the event, but if you want to save, pre-purchase your wine tasting pass. Advance ticket sales end February 25.

And if you want to read more about barrel tasting, take a look at one of our previous blog posts.

Wine Road’s Barrel Tasting 2019

Friday, Saturday & Sunday, March 1 – 3 and March 8 – 10
11am – 4 pm
Tickets on sale now
https://www.wineroad.com/events/barrel-tasting/

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What is farm-to-table dining?

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.

Why does farm-to-table matter?

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. And 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.

Is there really a farm-to-table movement?

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.

So 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?

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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!

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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. 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 partner. 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!

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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!

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