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February 24, 2008

Hopmonk On the Way to Sebastopol

By Robert Farmerdeanbiersch.jpg

Fans like me of Gordon Biersch brewery and restaurant will be in a good mood upon hearing the news that Dean Biersch is nearing completion on his next beer-related venture in at the intersection of Highways 116 and 12 in Sebastopol. His anticipated Hopmonk Tavern (www.hopmonk.com) is scheduled to open in spring of this year, and usher in a new-era watering hole for Sonoma County beer aficionados. Biersch is the co-founder of the aforementioned brewery and restaurant, a concept that spread like wildfire via incarnations in various cities around the nation and which also helped bring the microbrew-pub trend in the United States to a froth.

For his new endeavor, Biersch plans to serve up an English-style tavern, complete with neighborly atmosphere and live regular live music. But the focus will be on beer and good food that goes well with beer. The plan is for Hopmonk to offer a regularly changing menu of small-batch beers from across the U.S. and Europe. The beers, personally selected by Biersch, will be offered alongside a simple menu of suds-friendly, locally sourced fare. Further completing the scene is Hopmonk's setting; built into a century-old structure with stone walls and a Douglas fir plank floor Designed by Shawn Hall, the 105-seat restaurant will feature restored Douglas fir floors. The restaurant is complemented by a 1,400-square-foot music venue that is sure to be a weekend hotspot. The outdoor beer garden will surely be popular no matter what day of the week. I, for one, am looking forward to hopping on over.

February 20, 2008

Sonoma Gets Red Carpet Ready

By Courtney Cochran


Who needs Hollywood?

Come Sunday, there'll be plenty of glamour right here in the heart of wine country when the Sonoma Valley Film Society (sonomafilmfest.org) presents "Night at the Oscars," a black tie-optional gala and live broadcast of the 80th Annual Academy Awards in downtown Sonoma.  Guests are invited to walk the red carpet beginning at 3:30pm, after which they'll be treated to a "multicourse epicurean feast" and "megascreen live broadcast" of the awards, according to the society's web site.

Tickets don't come cheap - they're going for $250 a head - but the Oscars don't come around often, either (nor does the chance to walk a red carpet, for that matter).  After the telecast guests can expect dessert and dancing followed by an after-party, proving that, against all odds, wine country is poised to burn the midnight oil.  It doesn't get much more Hollywood than that, folks.

February 14, 2008

New Campaign Touts California as Land of Wine and Food

By Robert Farmer


In case, like my friend who for the last two decades was lost on a remote desert island somewhere in the South Pacific, you didn't already know that California is the Land of Wine and Food, our beloved governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger was recently trotted out as part of a new campaign to tell you so. In spite of my possibly undetected sarcasm here, I actually think this is a good idea on behalf of the California Travel and Tourism Commission. The Commission has brought out some - if not outright famous - at least recognizable names to promote their new portal for visitors to California in search of the wine and food experience.

Although all the information and then some can be found on the site you're currently reading, I still commend the Commission for recognizing that food and wine are perhaps the Golden State's most attractive reasons for visiting. In addition to "The Governator", the campaign features such personalities as Thomas Keller, famed chef of French Laundry, and Andrew Firestone, the fortunate son of Santa Barbara's Firestone Vineyards, who also blogs for the site. The Commission will market the site via TV spots featuring Schwarzenegger and his wife in major markets beginning this month. In the meantime it can be found here: www.landofwineandfood.com

February 1, 2008

Romantic MacArthur Place

By Robert Farmer

couple_spa.jpgI must admit that I have long resisted the concept of Valentine's Day, firmly rooted in the belief that it's a marketing hoax perpetrated on countless hapless romantics. But it can still be fun to indulge it. So whether you are romantic once a year, or year round, at least the special February day gives pause to consider your romantic feelings for another. So I'll throw some ideas here and in entries to follow that you can use however you see fit. Dare I say, they've worked for me. Of course Wine Country drips with romance all the time. But for Valentine's Day, many already-romantic places turn up the heat with special themes.

One that caught my eye is at MacArthur Place (www.macarthurplace.com), near the Plaza in quixotic Sonoma. Already one of my fave locales for a secluded getaway for two, the elegant and tucked-away inn is serving up an red-themed "ultimate" Valentine's Day package, which includes a stay in a garden spa suite - one of the best room-types in the county - with a private outdoor patio and shower, and a huge outdoor tub made from teak and meant for two. On Valentine's Day, the room comes with a bottle of rare estate red wine from Benziger, as well as four-course dinner at Saddle's, the property's excellent steak house. The dinner is paired with red wines, of course, and is followed by red grape seed bath and scrub in the tub. Sounds juicy, right?  I have to admit even my marketing misgivings about the Special Day would soak away with such a weekend.

MacArthur Place is obviously not the only inn catering to Love for the weekend. But it's definitely one of the most indulgent I've heard about. Let me know what you think when you get back and get the grape seeds washed off…