Wine geeks share a language of their own. What exactly does it mean when a wine expert describes a wine as crunchy, chunky, 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.
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.
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
When it’s chilly outside, wine drinkers tend to gravitate toward reds. And Cabernet Sauvignon places first among winter wine. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy whites or some bubbly in winter, but red wine simply has more appeal this time of year. Why?
What is it about red wine in winter?
Winter reds warm us up. They’re served at warmer temperatures, which brings out the fuller flavor of the wine. Plus, they often have a slightly higher alcohol content, providing a natural thermogenic effect. The bigger buzz factor makes it best to enjoy reds with food. And full-bodied reds pair well with hearty cold-weather dishes like stew and chili. Richer, bolder Malbecs, Syrahs, and Zinfandels show up at more dinners in January than July. These wines can hold their own against savory flavors of sharp, aged cheeses, mushrooms, roasted veggies, and meat dishes.
Cabernet Sauvignon boasts a big “personality”
But among all the varieties of red wine, hands down Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular winter wine — and for good reason. These are not simple wines. Just because they’re well known doesn’t mean they’re just for novices. Cabernet Sauvignon is “a thinking person’s wine,” writes Vincent Rendoniat Wine Folly. “It’s layered, complex, and … surprisingly subtle. You never really know Cabernet Sauvignon. You just continuously rediscover it.” Cabs age well in oak, which lends more complexity to the flavor — and more art to winemaking. No wonder people like Cab.
Originally known as Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc whose origin dates back to the 1600s in France. It’s a sturdy grape that’s less susceptible to the elements and disease, making it easier to cultivate. In fact, it’s the most planted wine grape around the world. In the late ‘70s, it took off as a leading California wine grape and Napa and Sonoma placed it indelibly on the California map.
Award-winning Sonoma Cabernet
If you’re looking to warm up with winter wine, you have many choices for Cabernet Sauvignon in Sonoma wine country. So many that it can be hard to choose which tasting rooms to visit. While it’s true that here, in one of the best wine regions in the world, you can’t really go wrong, a good place to start is sampling winning vintages from the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.
Earning a medal at this regional wine competition is a highly sought-after accolade by local winemakers. Entries include wines made exclusively from Sonoma County grapes. Here are a few of the 2018 winners for Cabernet Sauvignon you may want to add to your wine tasting itinerary.
DeLorimier Winery, Geyserville
Outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon won DeLorimier silver, gold, and double gold recognition at the 2018 Harvest Fair. Following traditional French winemaking traditions, DeLormier nurtures its wines to express their unique terroir.
Rodney Strong, Healdsburg
This family-owned winery in the south of Healdsburg took home a few gold medals for their Cabs. Beyond their award-winning wines, their music concert programs and sustainable vineyard practices have put them front and center of the Sonoma County wine scene.
Soda Rock Winery, Healdsburg
Soda Rock’s Cabs didn’t take gold this year, but with several silver medals, they’re worth a visit. You’ll enjoy the beautiful winery and its historic buildings set among the vine-studded rolling hills in the heart of Alexander Valley.
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
DRY CREEK KITCHEN
Cozy and stylish venue located on the downtown plaza. Excellently prepared meals.
Sustainably sourced ingredients and exquisite attention to detail.
Locally grown and always fresh California cuisine that varies with the season.
Very casual, hip, order-at-the-counter restaurant featuring local seafood.
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.
THE GIRL AND THE FIG
Unpretentious French-inspired cuisine with a comfortable atmosphere.
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!
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” hundred_percent_height=”no” hundred_percent_height_scroll=”no” hundred_percent_height_center_content=”yes” 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” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” admin_toggled=”no”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ spacing=”” center_content=”no” link=”” target=”_self” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”left top” background_repeat=”no-repeat” hover_type=”none” border_size=”0″ border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” dimension_margin=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_text]
Wine Country — a foodie’s paradise
Did you know that foodies are everywhere? A foodie is a crossbreed. You can be a jock, an artist, or a go-getter and, at the same time, appreciate good food and drink. Almost everyone likes to sample and compare culinary experiences. In fact, that’s exactly what entices so many to visit Sonoma and Napa Wine Country.
Culinary tourism is defined as the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences. And the experiences are always changing — new recipes, new vintages, new flavors, new seasonal ingredients. And with so many restaurants, food events, and ways to immerse yourself in the food scene, people keep people coming back.
More and more travelers are choosing their destination because of specific restaurants they want to visit. Shopping and culture are secondary. And unlike museums or architectural sites, which are more or less always the same, sort of a “been there, done that” sort of thing, food and drink offer a new sensory experience every time. And foodies love to share.
Food tourism is about experiencing local gastronomy with friends — farm to table eateries, breweries, wineries, cheese shops, markets, harvest dinners, and wine tastings, as well as learning about food and interesting food and wine pairings. And we’re not just talking about gourmet food. Foodies are keen to taste their way through a new city’s street vendors and food carts. The emphasis is local.
Wine Country offers up lots of ways to immerse yourself into its foodie paradise. So make yourself at home at a Wine Stay luxury vacation rental. Use it as your home base to explore local food and drink. Here are three ways to deep dive into the local food experience: tasting tours, cooking classes, farmer’s markets.
Guided Food & Wine Tasting Tours
One way to experience the flavor of Sonoma and Napa Wine Country is to join a walking tour. You’ll find several options to choose from online. Although each tour has its own spin, the common thread is sharing delicious food and drink with others. This is a fun way to find out what a local foodie is up to and enjoy fresh, seasonal food and local beer and wine. Plus, because the itinerary is planned out, it’s easy. Here are a couple of tours we recommend:
Wine Country Walking Tours — Healdsburg
Stroll around downtown Healdsburg and satisfy your taste buds on this easygoing, guided wine and food pairing walking tour. Perfect for a real foodie!
Gourmet Food and Wine Tours — Sonoma / Yountville
Here are a couple fun tours nearby Calistoga. There’s an interesting guided tour that couples wine or beer tasting with the history of the town of Sonoma. And they offer a guided food and wine tour in Yountville, the foodie heart of Napa Wine Country, which highlights Michelin-guide restaurants.
Cooking Classes and Demonstrations
To immerse yourself in the “foodism” of Wine Country, why not check out a cooking class or demonstration? There’s nothing like getting hands-on with local produce to fully experience the bounty of this rich agricultural wine land. There are plenty of opportunities where you’re welcome to play with your food. The ones below are within easy reach of your Wine Stay vacation home.
Relish Culinary — Healdsburg
Located in the center of Healdsburg, this is where you can learn about food and wine at cooking classes taught by local chefs or attend culinary events that will inspire your cooking!
Close by Calistoga is the renowned Napa culinary arts school, which also offers a full calendar of food demos and hand-on classes at Copia food and wine center in the town of Napa — a delightful way to explore wine and food.
If you’re inspired to whip up your own meal in the privacy and comfort of your vacation rental, shopping local markets is the way to go. Just about every town in Wine Country hosts a farmer’s market. Products are always farm fresh and seasonally ripe, and often organic. Some markets include handcrafts from local artisans, as well as entertainment. The markets below are held Tuesdays and Saturdays. Pick out your favorite ingredients and get cooking!
Farmer’s Market — Healdsburg
Shop for fresh-from-the-farm produce, meats, cheeses, honey, and much more. Snack on food to-go, enjoy entertainment — a true foodie’s paradise.
See our blog post for more about the Healdsburg Farmer’s Market.
Farmer’s Market — Napa
Frequented by locals and tourists alike, this market often hosts food demos, offers gardening info, specialty foods, in-season produce, and handmade items and homemade goodies.
[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]
Sonoma and Napa valleys have long been known for world-renown wines. Touring through the vine-studded countryside, stopping at wineries to sample exquisite vintages, and chatting with local wine aficionados always makes for an enjoyable experience. But if you want a change of pace, Wine Country is home to dozens of microbreweries. Sometimes funky, always cool, local craft beer breweries offer a refreshing alternative.
Craft breweries, the alternative
Over the past couple decades, there’s been a craft beer explosion. Like the boutique winemakers, the local breweries are run by artisans who specialize in producing beer through traditional methods for the modern, evolved palate. People’s tastes have driven the movement away from big brands like Bud and Coors, with their predictable, ho-hum flavor. Much bolder IPAs (India Pale Ales) and stouts constitute a large share of the craft-beer market.
The microbrew, or craft beer, trend began in the 1970s in the U.K., according to Wikipedia. And it continues to spread in the States like wildfire. “Between 2008 and 2016, the number of brewery establishments expanded by a factor of six … and this has happened during a time when U.S. beer consumption declined,” reports The Atlantic. What’s more, 2017 was even a better year for microbreweries, with average beer prices doubling while the major, standard beer brands declined considerably. High-quality, small-batch beer is rocking the beer industry.
What are craft breweries?
According to the Brewers Association, a craft brewery is defined by being small, independent, and traditional. And, as of 2017, California came in biggest nationwide with 764 craft breweries. The locally owned breweries rely on regional ingredients and have a community-centric approach. They’re a part of Wine Country living that harkens back to the public-house tradition. Craft beer is about quality, and flavor, and community.
With so many microbreweries throughout Wine Country, it’s easy to hop from one to the other, making for a fun beer-tasting adventure. Your HB Experience vacation home will provide the ideal starting point for tasting your way through Sonoma/Napa. Grab a bottle of water, throw your sweatshirt in the car (it cools down in West County once the sun starts to set), and take it easy. Below are some of our favorite brewpubs for you to choose among. Most of them also serve food and have outdoor patios — casual, relaxed and kid and pet-friendly.
Bear Republic Brewing, Healdsburg
Cool place to chill in downtown Healdsburg. Beer with a “friendly personality” and hop-forward approach. Try their Racer 5 IPA.
Old Redwood Brewing Company, Windsor
Nice venue with everything from light and smooth to hoppy and dark brews.
Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa
This central Santa Rosa location is always busy. Iconic brews include Pliny the Elder, which has gained cult-like popularity.
Hopmonk Tavern, Sebastopol
Situated in an old and charming, stone building, this is a great hangout spot. Large patio and there’s often live music.
Crooked Goat, Sebastopol
The Barlow Market area of Sebastopol houses a couple brew houses. The Goat is known for 16 taps of unique flavors with a distinctive West County flair.
Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma
A popular spot, they often have entertainment on the large, covered patio. If you haven’t already, try Little Sumpin.
Sonoma Springs Brewing Company, Sonoma
New taproom — German beer hall with Wine Country style. Over 20 taps to choose from.
Fieldwork Brewing Company, Napa
Located in the groovy Oxbow Market, comfortable tasting room with lagers, IPAs, and ales.
Luxury home rentals