Certainly, Sonoma’s top wine event of the year, Taste of Sonoma.  Sonoma State University hosts wine and food lovers to sample delicious wines and savory cuisine from top vintners and chefs.  Insightful wine seminars guide you through different varietals, terroir, and fermentation techniques involved in viticulture. Over 120 participating wineries showcase their prized pours and themed lounges offer limited edition and reserve wines.  In addition, a marketplace opens for a shopping artisan goods.

Reserve your Wine Stay weekend for one of Sonoma’s most anticipated events of the year.

North Coast Wine & Food Festival guests savor over 90 Gold and Silver Medal Wines from five California counties.  Meanwhile, 25 chefs from restaurants like Zazu Kitchen & Farm, Chalkboard, Perch & Plow, Tisza Bistro, Mateo’s Cocina Latina.  Also, tasting stations with mushroom, cheese, cupcake, doughnut and caviar choices.

Plus, Celebrity chef John Ash and Sonoma Family Meal are hosting an ongoing interactive food experience during the day.

Attendees must be 21 or older, with valid ID.  Children, babies, and babies in strollers will not be admitted.  Tickets available here.  $95 for Gold Tasting Experience, $135 for Wine Lovers Lounge.

Plan To Stay With Us in one of our luxury vacation rentals to experience this incredible event.

Do you love pairing coastal wines with tasty bites? We invite you to read more about how Wine Country is a Foodie Paradise.

Embark on a spring vineyard hike through the beautiful Jordan Estate, home of Jordan Vineyard and Winery.  Begin the day with a continental breakfast to fuel your four-mile journey. Start and end at the winery and weave through hills, valleys, woods, and meadows with elevation change of 300 feet.  This moderate Sonoma County hike reveals the breathtaking views of mountains and wine regions. Take a break at the top of Jordan Vista Point to overlook the 1,200 acre ranch.  Enjoy a charcuterie picnic and wine tasting on the winery terrace to round out your day.  Buy tickets here.

Dates Available:

May 10  9:45am – 2:00pm

May 11  9:45am – 2:00 pm

Book your Accommodations Early at one of our luxury vacation rentals to settle in and relax for the evening The Wine Stay way.

For more hikes in the area, read our blog post 5 Great Hikes in Sonoma.

 

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.

Embark on a spring vineyard hike through the beautiful Jordan Estate, home of Jordan Vineyard and Winery.  Begin the day with a continental breakfast to fuel your four-mile journey. Start and end at the winery and weave through hills, valleys, woods, and meadows with elevation change of 300 feet.  This moderate Sonoma County hike reveals the breathtaking views of mountains and wine regions. Take a break at the top of Jordan Vista Point to overlook the 1,200 acre ranch.  Enjoy a charcuterie picnic and wine tasting on the winery terrace to round out your day.  Buy tickets here.

Dates Available

April 26  9:45am – 2:00 pm

April 27  9:45am – 2:00 pm

Book your Accommodations Early at one of our luxury vacation rentals to settle in and relax for the evening The Wine Stay way.

For more hikes in the area, read our blog post 5 Great Hikes in Sonoma.

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)

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/

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.

 

Cab’s roots

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.
http://delorimierwinery.com/

 

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.
https://www.rodneystrong.com/

 

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.
http://sodarockwinery.com/