Chicago Bitch Alexis and I were exploring Napa and Sonoma, as part of my two-week West Coast adventure. (Self employment has its perks.)
With the help of Visit California, we had an impressive itinerary for Sonoma County. (You can read our Napa Guide here.) Our first stop upon arrival was lunch at Healdsburg Shed, a market, restaurant and events space that offers Williams Sonoma standards of shopping for house wares, plus sandwiches, meats, and prepared foods to go, AND an incredible restaurant with local meats, cheeses, and wines right from the surrounding farms of Sonoma County.
Bitch tip: Be sure to head into downtown Healdsburg, which exudes charm with its quaint main street lined with upscale boutiques, cafes and an old-fashioned movie theater. While there, you must drop by Healdsburg’s Shed Café, a restaurant, boutique and take-away counter that’s an epicurean delight. The modern, sun-drenched, two-floor space was buzzing with people when we entered on a Thursday afternoon.
The market is filled with beautiful housewares: Le Creuset pots, linen napkins and aprons, rolling pins, and assorted gifts with that organic, minimal vibe. There are pastries, fresh-baked loaves of bread, sandwiches, and prepared items to take away, but you should definitely plan to stay. There’s also a fermentation bar, where you can try some of the Shed’s house-made shrubs and kombuchas on tap.
Rightly dubbed America’s test kitchen, Napa and Sonoma offer some of the best dining in the world. The experienced chefs, coupled with the local availability of produce, cheeses, meats, and wines sourced from mere miles away means it can’t be beat. We took a seat and enjoyed local bubbly paired with a stunning plate of all-local cheese, cured meats, pickled eggs, and olives. It was incredible.
We also enjoyed the winter citrus salad, made with farm-fresh red dragon arugula, watermelon radishes, Kohlrabi, avocado, Shio Koji, and delicious fruits. I mean look at the presentation of this beautiful dish; what more could one want?!
After a quick lunch and a quick glass of bubbly, we were off to explore Sonoma. We only had time for two vineyards, but we were thrilled with both selections.
Recommended Wineries in Sonoma: MacRostie and Thomas George Estate
Following lunch at Healdsburg Shed, we were off to visit a couple of wineries. Wine country is a series of towns, 5-10 miles apart, encompassing two main regions: Napa and Sonoma. We found Sonoma to be the quieter of the two, with the vineyards and inns we visited being spaced farther apart, making the overall experience far quieter.
While in Sonoma, we had time for two wineries, and we were thrilled we chose well. Our first stop was MacRostie Winery, a small production winery with a modern aesthetic and beautiful views. The MacRostie folks have a video camera on the road, so they walk out to greet you with a tasting of white wine before you’ve even entered the vineyard. Talk about great service!
At first blush, MacRostie is unimpressive, but inside tells another story. The high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows shine beautiful light into the modern, sleek building, with a warehouse aesthetic but cozy nooks with plush benches filled with throw pillows and blankets in neutral shades. We sat outside, overlooking the vineyard below, and the Russian River and mountains in the distance. The service was incredible—our wine guy was super genuine and knowledgeable. He took us through the story of the vineyard, its vineyards and diverse terroirs, and the wines themselves.
I’m a huge fan of Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs, so it was a dream come true to sample them straight from the source, overlooking the Russian River. First, we tried the assortment of Chardonnays, which were crisp and complex, and not too oaky, per the California stereotype. If I had the space, I would have purchased cases of all three. Next, to the Pinot Noirs, which were down right incredible. Of my many wine tasting experiences, I have to say MacRostie was certainly one for the books.
Next up, was Thomas George, a cozy little winery built into a cave and packed with history. Thomas George offered up some incredible Pinot Noirs, and also a Grenache rosé that was top notch. Plus, they have llamas and dogs on properties—we can’t really envision anything more fun than getting tipsy and playing with llamas.
Our wine gal was oh-so-sweet and knowledgeable, and gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the production facilities, where there are both Burgundy barrels of wine and fancy, ergonomic eggs. It was awesome.
Bitch tip: Wineries in Sonoma and Napa have gotten far more strict in the last few years. It’s strongly encouraged that you make a reservation, and that you show up on time. Lastly, be sure to allot at least 1.5 hours while on site at each winery, so as to have time to enjoy the full experience.
The Farmhouse Inn & Spa, 7871 River Road, Forestville, CA
Healdsburg Shed, 25 North St, Healdsburg, CA
MacRostie Winery, 4605 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA.
Thomas George Estates, 8075 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA.
Seaside Metal, 16222 Main Street, Guerneville, CA
I just knew I would love the Farmhouse Inn & Spa in Sonoma from the moment I set eyes upon it. The Inn hits my sweet spot for accommodations: historic charm with modern amenities and thoughtful details. The cozy yellow inn and restaurant has outdoor gravel walkways amid its sunshine yellow buildings. There’s a delightful, restaurant built into a farmhouse with beautiful, vine-covered outdoor seating that would be divine for an outdoor dinner party or small wedding in the summer. There’s a courtyard with a pool and an incredible spa, and behind the hotel, a garden and chicken coop. While this is the perfect location for a romantic getaway, it is also ideal for a perfect girls getaway favorable to plenty of insta-worthy pictures.
The Farmhouse offers all the charm of a boutique inn, but with the amenities, service and small details of a five-start hotel. From the moment we checked in, we were delighted by the attention to detail. I was feeling under the weather, so the bell boy handed me a Pellegrino and helped me with my luggage. The lobby offers hand-made wax soaps in different flavors— just cut yourself a slice and bring it to your room for a bubble bath. There are also s’mores ingredients, should you want to make your own outside at the fire pit come nightfall. We loved that the inn offers products from local businesses and highlights some of the unique items that Sonoma has to offer, besides wine.
You travel down charming, tree-lined gravel pathways through amid the light yellow buildings and courtyard to arrive at your room. Inside, you’re met with a calming color palette of whites, neutrals, wood and marble that tops even the most pristine of Restoration Hardware catalogs. The indoor-outdoor fireplace was inviting, and the couch and bed were remarkably comfortable. Outside there was a fireside patio area, perfect for sitting and enjoying an end-of-the-evening nightcap.
Inside, our suite was expansive yet cozy. We were exhausted, so we immediately hopped into the plush bathrobes and turned on the fireplace, which is indoor-outdoor, should you want to take your morning coffee outside by the fire. The bathroom was the best part—the gorgeous, all-marble bathroom had heated floors, an enormous Jacuzzi with separate rooms for the shower and the toilet. Yes, you read that right: there were multiple rooms in the bathroom.
After a full day of lunch and wineries, it was time for more food. We begrudgingly departed the Farmhouse Inn for a dinner at Seaside Metal, an incredible seafood restaurant in an oh-so-deserted town of Guerneville in Napa. The seafood at this restaurant was divine, with a perfect selection of oysters and crudo that came beautifully presented to us. The bright colors of the fish was a perfect representation of the fresh variety of seafood from the Pacific coast.
After an early dinner, we cozied into the incredible suite at the Farmhouse Inn, reading by the beautiful indoor-outdoor fire, and making use of the empty hot tub, given the chilly weather.
Brunch at the Farmhouse Inn & Spa
The next morning, we rolled out of bed and leisurely made our way past chicken coops and herb gardens to the Farmhouse Inn’s restaurant. Brunch at the Farmhouse Inn is a three-course prix fixe, which begins with coffee, fresh juice, and fresh baked pastries.
Appropriately, the menu is ever-changing, as it is sourced from the owner’s ranch and local farmers and makers. The restaurant is the brainchild of the owners, fifth-generation Sonoma farmers, who joined forces with a Michelin-starred chef—and it shows.
The restaurant at Farmhouse Inn has historically played the cornerstone role on our property. The food that we serve is sourced from Joe and Catherine’s Bartolomei ranch or local artisan farmers and the menu is ever-changing and relies exclusively on not only what is fresh and of the moment in Sonoma County, but on what is perfect, unexpected and delightful. Our service was friendly yet infinitely professional and sophisticated, and carefully orchestrated down to the smallest detail. The wine program offers guests the opportunity to taste and experience not just the finest wines of the Sonoma and Napa wine country, but the wines that most perfectly suit and complement the dining experience we strive to create.
The day’s pastry was a scone, which I found initially disappointing as scones don’t do it for me. Well, words do not do this scone justice. Crispy and topped with a light caramelized sugar, inside the scone was moist, buttery, and filled with thinly sliced strawberries. It was served with sliced strawberries, coconut flakes, and a creamy sugar glaze that made it oh-so-decadent. It’s hard to top this plating—but it tasted even better than it looked.
Our server was the consummate professional—she artfully whisked our courses to-and-fro our table, and was nonplussed by our indecisive orders and excessive photography. She was accommodating and generally a delightful person—which I appreciate doubly if it’s before I’ve had my coffee.
We knew we had to try the yogurt and granola, which was made with local granola, yogurt from the farm, served with incredibly fresh clementines, and topped with edible flowers.
In an uncharacteristic move, I selected the pancakes, as I was intrigued by the combination of citrus and chocolate. The oh-so-thin pancakes were a buckwheat, chocolate pancakes sprinkled lightly with powdered sugar, topped with dollops of butter, citrus segments, and a dollop of oh-so-dense and rich chocolate. These pancakes were somehow sweet yet light, and felt decadent yet healthy. I have no idea how the wizards at Farmhouse accomplished this feat, but somehow they did.
Alexis opted for a traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs and house-made sausage. The breakfast sausage was one of the chef’s specialties, and was prepared in-house using his unique recipe. It was delicious. The eggs were farm fresh, bright and yellow, just as you would expect organic eggs to be presented.
The Bitches say: A+ for a stunning, cozy inn with every desired amenity, and a restaurant that’s the sheer definition of farm-to-table fineness with finesse.
The Farmhouse Inn & Spa
7871 River Road
Forestville, CA 95436