The Vines Romantic - February is Great in Glen Ellen

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By Robert P. Farmer

There really isn't a bad time to visit Wine Country. But as you've probably noticed if you have checked in on this space from time to time, I have my personal favorites times of the year to venture among the vines. Being the hopeless romantic type, one of those times is the late winter, when the air is still chilled to a nice wine-storage-like mid-50 degrees, and the vines are hunkered down in dormancy. The mustard is in bloom, covering the fields and vineyards in a dusty yellow that blends perfectly with the winter white sky.
Meantime, crowds have trickled to manageable levels. Finding the great table in the corner of the great restaurant is much easier than, say, in the middle of June. At wineries, you and your partner can effortlessly elbow up to the tasting bar and get to know the proprietor as you leisurely sip and ponder your next stop. Yes, Wine Country is a year-round spot for romance. But February - when the concept makes its way into the greater public's Hallmark-inspired consciousness, there may be no more appropriate place to be than tripping among the vines.

Still, if you and your special someone are looking for a spot that's even more below the radar, might I suggest Glen Ellen, the tiny little town just north of Sonoma. Quiet and serene, and nestled in wooded seclusion, Glen Ellen is one of the most romantic towns in all of Northern California. And it does not lack for pleasurable pursuits. The place where Jack London lived from 1909 until his death in 1916, I know an impossibly charming collection of shops, stores, galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and inns comprise the postage-stamp-sized town center. And like most towns in Wine Country, a certain level of contemporary sophistication belies the small bucolic appearance. After all, small though it may be, it exists in the white-hot spotlight of California Wine Country. But here it's easy to escape the spotlight. Whether hiking a path in Jack London State Park to visit the author's grave or explore the ruins of Wolf House mansion, or strolling the sidewalks and sampling fine cheeses at Raymond & Co. Cheesemongers and gourmet sweets at Wine Country Chocolates, you'll easily discover that Glen Ellen was made for lovers.

Here are a few things to consider on your romantic Glen Ellen Getaway:

Where to stay
gaigehouse.jpgGaige House:
One of the main reasons many folks come to Glen Ellen is to experience Gaige House, which takes the bed-and-breakfast to the next level. With a Zen-inspired motif, the prevailing mood is one of serenity and connection - with life, with nature, with each other. It's tucked away off the highway, and has an unassuming appearance. But behind its Victorian-era façade is a luxury boutique inn on par with the best in today's contemporary lodging.  Rooms are appointed with Japanese touches, including shoji screens and private tsubo gardens and fountains. Floor-to-ceiling windows connect you to the private patio and garden, making it an easy trip toward personal transformation. Spend an hour in the big-enough-for-two granite tub. You can easily while away a day on the property, rocking gently in a poolside hammock, or reading a book in the intimate library. The Gaige House breakfast experience is a gourmet-level treat, skillfully prepared and artfully presented in the chic, small dining room.
Room rates $219-$379
13540 Arnold Drive
(707) 935-0237

Glen Ellen Inn  & Secret Cottages:
Though it's right there in the name, the Glen Ellen Inn's cottages truly do feel like a best-kept secret. Perhaps because the establishment is so well known for its restaurant, many overlook the fact that out back is a collection of some of the most romantic accommodations in the county. Situated alongside the creek - typically roaring at full babble at this time of year - each of the cottages features big cozy beds, a fireplace and jetted tub. Certainly your romantic getaway requires little else. Well if so, you're just steps away from a restaurant specializing in oysters.
Room rates: $135-$209
13670 Arnold Drive
(707) 996-1174

glenelleninn.jpgWhere to Eat:
Glen Ellen Inn Oyster Grill and Martini Bar

As I mentioned, an inspirational dinner for two is a few stumbles from your cottage at the Glen Ellen Inn. The Oyster Grill is a bustling, fun, and simply charming dining room where oysters are available to suit most any taste--from backed to fire-grilled and of course, on raw on the half shell. The menu offers an attractive assortment of sensibly priced seasonal California classics. Be sure and start the evening with a signature martini. The rest is up to you.
13670 Arnold Drive
(707) 996-1174

Wolf House Restaurant
Situated in the center of town, and right atop the creek, the Wolf House Restaurant is one of the more popular Glen Ellen dining spots. From a memorable-experience standpoint, it's probably best to grab a table on the patio, warmed on cool evenings by heat lamps. Dinner on the creekside patio at Wolf House Restaurant is a neighborly experience, where the excellent Wine Country-inspired American fare is swiftly brought to table by a staff that seems to know everybody who enters the place. For an idea of how romantic it can be, it's one of the most popular wedding reception spots in the area.
13740 Arnold Drive
(707) 938-8710

What to do:

brcohnwinery.jpgB.R. Cohn Winery
Winery visits always have a touch of romance about them. And at B.R. Cohn, that could translate into one man's romance with music, cars, and of course wine. Founder Bruce Cohn has built his winery as a monument to all the good things in life - at least from a gastronomical perspective. His wines are reflective of their Glen Ellen terrior -- which is unique to Sonoma County - and his artisan olive oils and vinegars pay homage to his land's history as an orchard. Meanwhile, as the manager of the classic rock band The Doobie Brothers, music is always in accompaniment to the wine in the friendly tasting room. Take a flight and set up at on the lovely patio outside the property's historic original house. Or, check the concert calendar and take in a show at the winery's outdoor amphitheater.
Tasting fee:
15000 Sonoma Hwy
Glen Ellen

Benziger Family Winery
One of the great winery experiences in the county can be found at Benziger, where the namesake family has been making wine for three decades on Sonoma Mountain. Today Benziger is entirely biodynamic, and in the tasting room you can learn all about their sustainable practices. But the real action is out in the vineyards, and Benziger offers tempting tour options to explore. The Partners Estate Tour is a seated tasting that takes guests behind the scenes for the full winemaking experience ($40/guest). But the not-to-be-missed experience is the Tram Tour, which departs daily on the half hour ($15). The tram is pulled up the hillside by a Massey 375 tractor, giving guests an up-close look at the estate vineyards, and a commanding view of the valley below. What could be more romantic?
Tasting Fee $10
1883 London Ranch Rd

Glen Ellen

(888) 490-2739

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Great article on Glen Ellen, and we have spent a lot of time there. A really great place to stay is the historic "Hotel Chauvet" which was converted into six (6) luxurious condos. They are the size of a small home (2,000sf), and feature a full list of amenities, and a beautiful outdoor pool area. Great for that two or three day weekend, or more! Also an excellent location for weddings.

We had our corporate retreat there, and it was great !

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