WineCountry Staff: March 2010 Archives

arrowood.jpg(Glen Ellen, CA) - On April 17, 2010, Arrowood Vineyards & Winery will donate the proceeds of their tasting fees to the third annual Wine for Wheelchairs fundraising drive benefiting The Wheelchair Foundation. For the occasion the winery will be pouring a selection of newly released wines and a library vertical of the highly acclaimed 2001, 2002 and 2003 Réserve Spéciale Cabernet Sauvignon. During the daylong festivities a selection of artisan cheese will be served and the photography of local artist Megan Rhodes will be on display.

Spring Freeing

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Spring is in the air... and so is romance.  Now that Valentine's Day is over and done with (to everyone's great relief), we can all turn to romantic pursuits with a lot less pressure and a whole lot more enthusiasm.  A weekend escape to the natural beauty of wine country offers fresh air, fresh perspective, and perhaps a fresh start.  And despite what you may have heard, it doesn't cost a fortune to enjoy the area's greatest assets.  Some of the most staggeringly gorgeous experiences are 100% free to those willing to take them.  Here are some of the more visually stimulating activities to enjoy.

Soon, Suisun

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suisun1.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Few people in the Bay Area (including me) know that there is a third wine country region budding in the North Bay, one that still has the open, unpretentious friendliness of a predominantly agricultural area.  Visiting Fairfield/Suisun Valley and Green Valley in Solano County is like--I'm told--visiting Napa and Sonoma thirty or forty years ago.  You find earnest, honest people eager to introduce visitors to their region's beauty and strengths, with a contagious enthusiasm and humility of pricing.  Most wineries do not charge a tasting fee at all, and those that do refund it with the purchase of a bottle... none of which seem to cost more than $30.

I Do: Wine Country Wedding Guide: Sonoma

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by Courtney Cochran

sonomaCountryWedding.jpgLast month we brought you some of our top picks for wedding spots and services in Napa Valley. And given that our Wine County beat has as much to do with Sonoma as it does that region's fair neighbor, we thought it only appropriate to canvass them as well too, for sweet locales and insider tips every bride-to-be planning a wine country wedding ought to know.  Because when it comes to keeping nuptials-inclined couples informed, we absolutely do take our job seriously. 



Best Elopement Package
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville
Sometimes a quickie wedding is just what the doctor ordered - and at critically acclaimed Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, low-drama romance is always on the menu. In collaboration with Russian River's Iron Horse Vineyards, the luxe Inn offers an all-in package that includes a photographer, the services of a non-denominational minister, a meal with Master Sommelier-selected wine pairings, couples massages and three nights' lodging. In all, it's an easy alternative to the traditional wedding - with wine country flair.

macarthurWeddings.jpgBest Situated Wine Country Wedding Spot
MacArthur Place, Sonoma
Located just off the plaza in historic downtown Sonoma, elegantly appointed MacArthur Place is just a stone's throw from San Francisco (45 minutes) as well as nearby Napa (15 minutes).  And with 35 individually styled guest rooms on-site, your guests can stay right there with you or in any one of dozens of nearby hotels - most of which are walking distance to downtown's vibrant restaurants, tasting rooms and shops. PS: Don't miss the spot's dynamic sculpture garden and award-winning spa.
 

Attn Pinotphiles: La Paulée If You Please! (I Do)

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lepaulee3.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

For Pinot fans who aren't sufficiently "off" the variety as a result of the slew of recent "Pinotgate" allegations, there is an upcoming tasting in the Bay Area sure to satisfy your every Pinot fantasy.  Enter La Paulée de San Francisco, a now-annual wine and food bacchanal inspired by the namesake grand feast held each year in Burgundy at the conclusion of the harvest.  With a bevy of the best names in French Pinot and Chardonnay - not to mention a stellar lineup of star chefs and sommeliers - on the docket, this year's event looks to be something you won't want to miss.

Sonoma Weddings: Viansa Winery & Vineyards

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by Courtney Cochran

Anyone who's seen the sun slip coolly beneath the horizon while its last remaining rays bathe nearby Sonoma Mountain in their quicksilver glow knows first-hand the beauty of Sonoma Valley. Situated just north of the historic town of the same name, the valley beckons would-be wedding parties with its moderate climate, verdant pastures and vineyards, olive and oak groves and decidedly dialed-back pace of life. With its winning location, easy access, amenities and ambiance, could this pastoral paradise be wine country's newest wedding wunderkind?

weddings.jpgSonoma Weddings Spotlight:

Viansa Winery & Vineyards:
Enabling Innovation In "I Do"

Couples who book Viansa Winery & Vineyards for their nuptials snag much more than just a spectacular site on a hill overlooking Sonoma Valley: they also gain access to extensive, all-inclusive planning assistance and the perks of getting hitched on a full-service property.

These details are happily matched by a myriad of lovely festivity sites set against the backdrop of a stunning Tuscan-style villa at Viansa. Awash in Mediterranean ambiance, the winery - founded, natch, by folks of Italian heritage - brings together the best in Sonoma-style hospitality with phenomenal flexibility. Indeed, Special Event Coordinator Laura Johnson Fraize seems equally excited about the winery's extensive nuptials experience (they host some 75-100 a year), and the innovative ways couples have made the site their own over the years.

Santa Barbara: Mini Guide to Santa Ynez

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Lincourt Winery - Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Image by dcshoesboy via Flickr

by Robert P. Farmer

Not too long ago, Santa Barbara County was home to a handful of Hollywood celebrities trying to exist outside the limelight, and to a handful of winemakers trying to make their way outside the glare of Napa-Sonoma.The region was also for a time home to a scattering of upstart wineries who each developed their own niche and subsequent cult following.Today, that cult following has developed into full-fledged fame.

Contemporary Santa Barbara County is home to more than 21,000 vineyard-planted acres, grown and tended by dozens of wineries. But happily, the majority of these wineries remain small in stature--family owned-and-operated concerns with small-batch production and a handcrafted aesthetic. The wineries are primarily situated in the Santa Ynez and Santa Maria valleys, about 35 miles north of Santa Barbara. Rich with history and shot-through with breathtaking coastal scenery, the area's AVAs produce remarkable Pinot Noirs (as fans of the movie Sideways will no doubt recall). However the region is also responsible for several excellent Chardonnays and Cabernets. There are more varietals on offer from Santa Barbara in smaller quantities, including Merlots and select Malbecs and Viogniers.

Santa Barbara's Wine Country gained notoriety some years back with the release of the movie Sideways, and the region indeed capitalized on the fame. Thankfully, Santa Barbara has managed to retain its mellow, unpretentious appeal. The relaxed pace and easy-going charm actually translated well on screen, and visitors can easily take advantage of it with a well-planned weekend. The region's four main towns-- Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Ballard -- each have a distinct character. Also worthy of attention is the town of Buellton to the north. Whether exploring the quaint Danish-transplant town of Solvang or discovering one of the many great restaurants in the valley towns, the intrepid traveler will find Santa Barbara County every bit as appealing as California's more famous wine country to the north.

Here are my recommendations for the town of Santa Ynez:

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Where To Stay in Santa Ynez

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by Robert P. Farmer

santaYnezInn.jpgSanta Ynez Inn
With a comfortable mix of Victorian charm and modern amenities, this intimate 20-room inn is a four-diamond rated place to escape in the Santa Ynez Valley. Rooms feature hand-selected antiques that are offset by such conveniences as flat-screen televisions, steam showers, and high-speed wireless Internet. Bedding is plush and luxurious, and in-room fireplaces complete the scene. Amenities include spa service, on-premises dining, fitness studio, and an outdoor heated whirlpool.
Room rates $225-$275
3627 Sagunto Street, Santa Ynez
(805) 688-5588
Special Lodging Offer


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