50 and Fabulous: Sisters Weekend in Sonoma, CA
What better place to enjoy the company of a close friend, and sister, than Sonoma, CA. With great wine, food, spas, hotels and B&B’s there’s something for every discerning taste.
My sister, Pam, and I started our trip at the Flamingo Inn, a funky retro 1950’s hotel. The location is wonderful, right in the heart of Santa Rosa, and a stone throw to many wineries. It’s walking distance to the Montgomery Village Shopping Center, where you will find good shopping and dining options. We dined at Monti’s in the center and it was priced reasonably and the food was very good.
We were immediately greeted by a giant Charlie Brown sculpter in the lobby of the hotel, paying homage to native Charles Shultz. The hotel is playful and relaxed. The health club and spa area are the highlights of this hotel; a junior Olympic pool, outdoor restaurant and bar, tennis courts, fitness room, and spa round out the over 20,000 sq. ft. area.
Our first full day in Sonoma we took off for wine tasting in style. Beau Wine Tours has a wonderful limo service including a wide fleet of vehicles: Mercedes S550’s, Escalade ESVs and luxury executive coaches. Our driver, Dan, picked us up in the Mercedes S550. He was dressed in a darling vest, starched white shirt and black dress pants. He was courteous and knowledgeable about the wineries and the surrounding area. An extra perk was a gourmet picnic lunch served after our tasting at Buena Vista Winery in their garden area. This is a nice perk to include in your special tour.
Our first winery visit of the day was Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery. This winery is one of the oldest in Sonoma County with roots dating back to the early 1900’s. It was one of the few wineries that still operated during prohibition, making sacramental wine. This winery has wonderful wine including their Cherryblock award-winning brand. They have a wide choice of whites and reds, something for everyone.
Next up on our tour was Buena Vista Carneros Estate. I’ve got to tell you, they had me at Carneros. This is one of my favorite regions in Sonoma. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are simply beautiful from this region, delicate, soft and smooth! This is indeed the oldest winery in Sonoma. It was founded in 1857 and the tasting room is one of the original buildings. It’s a California Historic Landmark and said to be haunted. By the way, if I were a ghost I would stay there too.
Tom Blackwood, the Director of Retail Operations, was warm and friendly. He gave my sister and I a complete tour including a behind the scene look at what is going to be a restaurant this year. From the cave rooms, to the complimentary play about the founder of Buena Vista to the multiple events/functions that go along with the Boisset Family Estates, Buena Vista is a great winery to throw into the Sonoma tasting tour.
Next we headed to a smaller winery with a lot of punch. B.R. Cohn Winery is owned and operated Bruce Cohn, manager of the Doobie Brothers. Bruce has done an outstanding job at bringing the best of Sonoma all together in one place; music, wine, estate made olive oil, and the love of collectible automobiles. Each year Bruce holds a benefit concert and the Doobie Brothers show up to support their good friend.
Our last winery tour for the day was to Mayo Family Winery, a small family owned winery. Courtney McCauley, the Director of Sales, helped us to navigate their wine. She was friendly and delightful, unpretentious and knowledgeable. Their 2007 Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon were all Gold Medal winners. They believe in small batch, single vineyard wine. Their wine is only available at the winery or online.
On our second night we stayed in a private residential home for rent. There are many choices of private homes to rent including luxury villas by Beautiful Places. Liza Graves gave us an exquisite tour of one of the homes in their luxury collection. Their service is top notch and includes options like lining up a private chef during your stay to cook for you and your guests or lead a cooking class in the privacy of your villa.
Our second full day was spent at the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, the gorgeous and elegant Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery, and diner at John Ash & Co.
Don and Rhonda Carano have done an amazing job at creating a spectacular venue for their award-winning wines at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery. From the detailed gardens, to the European style multi-level tasting room, to the employees everything is done tastefully and welcoming. Ferrari-Carano Winery is unique in that they have two winemakers, one for reds and one for whites. They offer private tastings in their exclusive room for $20-$35/person. In addition to the wine tasting in the private tasting room you also receive small bites to pair with the wine. Reservations are required at least 48 hours in advance.
After having an incredible experience at Ferrari-Carano Winery we had a quick stop at their sister winery, Lazy Creek Vineyards in the darling square in Hearldsburg. Alan, our server, was fun and playful, yet he distinctly knew each wine we were tasting. The wine is good and the wine bar is adorable. It’s a great place to do some shopping while sipping on wine.
Finally the evening had arrived and we headed over to John Ash & Co. Cheryl McMillian from Ferrari-Carano’s sent two great bottles of wine with us to take to the restaurant. They do have a small corkage fee, but with great wine it’s totally worth it. The staff chilled our chardonnay and then served us. They were attentive and helpful. They have plenty of wine to choose from too, over 600 bottles, including California wine and international varietals.
John Ash & Co. was the first Sonoma restaurant to introduce the concept of cooking seasonally with fresh, local food while pairing it with great wine. The restaurant is part of the Vintners Inn, a four-star luxury hotel. Their food is gourmet in every sense of the way, from presentation to taste. With our dinner we had a reserve bottle of Ferrari-Carano 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, which paired delightfully with my grass fed, free range tenderloin steak. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.
Women age 50 and over all deserve and long for comfort and fun. Sonoma has more than enough comfort, elegance, and service to come through on all counts. For more information contact the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau.