• By Kimberly Horg •
With many more than 100 wineries, nice weather year round, gorgeous views and the close proximity to many other hot spots, a Santa Rosa weekend getaway might be the relaxing retreat that’s awaiting arrival. Santa Rosa is in the heart of Sonoma County, so wineries are sprawled out in every direction, no further than a 30-minute drive.
A Relaxing Stay at The Historic Gables Wine Country Inn
The Gables Wine Country Inn in Santa Rosa offers guests a relaxing stay at its Victorian Bed and Breakfast, which was built in 1877. The Inn has more than three acres including a cottage that once served as the original homestead, a 1940s milk house and a 1850s redwood barn that not only is one of the oldest standing barns in Sonoma County but also has its own resident owl.
“The neo-Gothic architecture and ‘keyhole’ window design secured its place on the National Register of Historic Places,” Gables Owner Larry Willis, said.
The Gables was an existing B&B when Pam and Larry purchased it in June 2012. Although the Willis’s have only been there for a couple years, they’re steadily building a clientele from across the country as well as Canada.
“Our visitors love our inn for many reasons; the unique breakfast that we serve, the solitude of the property, proximity to fine dining and wineries,” he said.
The Inn belongs to two B&B associations, which sponsor their own “Wine Passport” – complementary tastings for two at more than 120 Sonoma County wineries is including in the stay.
Willis says he can also provide concierge services matching wineries to his guests’ particular tastes and budgets.
Visit August through October to Enjoy Harvest
The most popular time to visit the area is mid-August to October, which is harvest time in wine country. Many wineries host special events in the midst of making wine so reservations begin early. The Inn hosts a wine and cheese experience from June to October in which different wineries are on site to pour wines for guests.
“Most people visit wine country to experience wine, learn how grapes are grown and wine is made. They also want to learn more about paring wines with foods,” Willis said.
Visit thegablesinn.com to reserve a room.
Alexander Valley’s Francis Ford Coppola Winery: A Wine Wonderland
For great food, wine and fun poolside, visitors can travel about 10 minutes north in the heart of Alexander Valley to Geyserville, where you will stumble across Francis Ford Coppola Winery.
Upon entering the outside castle decor (which reopened in 2010 after it underwent extensive renovations), travelers might be in awe at the numerous attractions on site. Francis Ford Coppola Winery features wine tasting bars upstairs and downstairs, two restaurants, a full bar, a swimming pool, a movie gallery, a performing arts pavilion as well as a park area with game tables and bocce courts.
Francis Ford Coppola was previously quoted saying the winery is meant to be “a wine wonderland, a park of pleasure where people of all ages can enjoy all the best things in life; food, wine, music, dancing, games, swimming and performances of all types.”
Rustic, Coppola’s Award-Winning, Full-Service Restaurant
Coppola shares his favorite dishes from his worldly travels at Rustic, Francis’s Favorites, the property’s full-service restaurant.
The chef at Coppola and Culinary Manager Tim Bodell, prepares a wide array of grilled meats, authentic Neopolitan-style pizzas, Italian family recipes with fresh herbs and produce from the property’s organic garden.
The atmosphere at Rustic is casual, with indoor seating or outside on a terrace with the Alexander Valley as the backdrop. It isn’t hard to imagine why Rustic won ‘Best Outdoor Dining’ – Best of North Bay 2014 and 2014 OpenTable Diner’s Choice Winner.
A special feature of Rustic is the parrilla, an authentic Argentine grill. One of the most popular dishes, grilled on the parrilla, is the rack of lamb Madame Bali, which is marinated in pomegranate juice and white onions for three days. It is tender with the perfect amount of flavor and spice for this Mediterranean favorite. This dish is paired well with one of Coppola’s full-bodied red wines, especially Francis Ford Coppola’s favorite, named after his uncle and the film maker’s hero, the legendary Greek mathematician Archimedes.
Archimedes is a Cabernet Sauvignon that gets its spice from the small amount of Knights Valley Cabernet Franc that is added to the blend. This fruit is highly aromatic and dark, atypical of the varietal.
The winemaking team is known for their approachable and familiar wines. The winery has new releases throughout the year with its eight brands of wine. The Diamond Collection Claret is Coppola’s flagship; the Bordeaux blend’s first vintage was produced in1998. Diamond Collection wines are known for their fruit-forward, smooth style with balanced flavors.
The Director’s Family signature wines are a tribute to California filmmaking and winemaking. Director’swines present a range of microclimates found in the Sonoma County appellation; these are aromatic, fruit-forward wines with soft tannins.
Young or old, all ages are welcome. Coppola designed his “Wonderland” with his love of children in mind so the winery has children books in the tee pee outside and movie memorabilia for the older children to gawk at during a tasting inside.
To find out more go to Francisfordcoppolawinery.com.
Sebastopol’s Fog Crest Vineyard
A plethora of wineries can be seen in every direction; one new winery that just opened a tasting room this summer is Fog Crest Vineyard in Sebastopol.
Winemaker Jerome Chery creates both an award-winning 2012 Estate Pinot Noir (that won Best of Class at the San Francisco Chronicle Competition and Double Gold at San Francisco International Competition) and an Estate Chardonnay, both of which are Fog Crest’s flagship wines.
The 2011 Estate Chardonnay has a broad entry with a rich, luscious mouth feel combining fig and Crème Brûlée. Fog Crest also has a2010 Chardonnay Estate Elevage in which the nose presents hints of mandarin orange, peach and tangerine whereas the 2012 Chardonnay Laguna West has aromas of verbena, chamomile and herb tea, which produce a fragrant nose.
“We make our wines in a traditional Burgundian Style with some of the best grapes in theRussian River Valley,” Rosalind Manoogian, Fog Crest Vineyard Owner, said.
It was her husband and Vintner/Owner James Manoogian, who had the dream of opening a winery and the couple produced their first vintage in 2005.
The tasting room is perched atop the Laguna de Santa Rosa, with breathtaking views of Sonoma County. “From our patio we have one of the best views in the Russian River Valley,” Manoogian said.
Wine lovers can taste wine and relax on the patio with a plate of locally sourced artisanal cheeses or a gourmet lunch. To find out tasting hours and location go to fogcrestvineyard.com.
Two Tasting Rooms for Hanna Winery and Vineyard
Hanna Winery & Vineyard offers travelers two tasting rooms to taste at; the Russian River Tasting Room in Santa Rosa or the Alexander Valley location in Healdsburg.
Hanna is family owned and operated with 600 acres across Sonoma County. Hanna’s grapes are grown in the Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma County.
“We own all of our grapes,” Alicia Paulsen, Hanna Assistant Manager/Hospitality, said. “You know where all the wine is coming from and have the same vineyard manager maintaining all of our environments.”
The 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley, 2012 Chardonnay Russian River Valley, 2013 Rosé Russian River Valley, 2012 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, Two Ranch Red Sonoma County, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley and the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley are just a few favorites.
Among many other awards Hanna Winery & Vineyards took Gold, Silver, and Bronze in the 2014 Sunset International Wine Competition.
“Hanna has amazing views and was once rated in the top 20 tasting rooms in the country. We have plenty of picnic tables for people to enjoy food and glasses of wine,” Paulsen said.
Go to hannawinery.com to learn more about the winery, tasting room locations, and their varietals.
These few wineries barely scratch the surface of the variety of winery experiences waiting to be had in and around this lovely Sonoma County destination, Santa Rosa. For more information about Santa Rosa visit the Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau website