Not Your Ordinary Wine Tasting! Blue Rock Vineyard and Winery, Exceptional!

Secluded and exclusive Alexander Valley, off the beaten path, excitedly on my way to an afternoon at a private vineyard. Who hasn’t done vino tastings in the wine country? But who has visited an ancient estate set on terraced hillsides amid deep-rooted olive trees, not as ancient as the Puglia old as Jesus olive trees, but nonetheless impressive!

Blue Rock Vineyard & Winery offers private tastings in a hidden Alexander Valley landscape, lush and very European in style. Gorgeous gardens teeming with energetic hummingbirds captivated by fragrant banks of lavender, two adorable vineyard dogs, Oreo and Finnigan, and a beautifully reconstructed stone house first built in 1880, the original site of Villa Maria Winery.

A most elegant and delicious welcome, wine in hand the moment we alight! Blue Rock Vineyard and Winery

There’s wine tasting and then there is wine hospitality, this Thursday jaunt is a delightful combination of both. As you probably know, private experience vineyards are booming and it’s not just a response to the pandemic.  Believe me there are still people who load up a limo and traverse the wine trail, sip and taste and move on to another soulless wine tasting experience. Visit downtown Healdsburg, or zip down the coast to Los Olivos, packed with carousers with a check list of buzzy destinations. Not quite my scene, nor our clients!

Like our travel itineraries, we prefer authentic experiences, not drink and dash. Those who prefer sight-lines of rows and rows of grapes, the terroir as they say, would love an afternoon lunch and tasting experience at Blue Rock Vineyard and Winery. A gaggle of girlfriends joined me, we left Hotel Healdsburg with a driver, 15 minutes from town, turning off the main road in a valley of pale golden hillsides stacked with hay bales toward a long sandy driveway to the vineyard. The restored winery and flowering gardens provide an idyllic background for a refined visit.  Welcomed by two friendly pups and the affable owner, Kenny Khan, who was flanked by staff offering glasses of chilled wine! Barely out of the car, a pleasant warm greeting and instant tasting, enchanting from the get-go! Our clients know I am a nut case on the arrival – set the stage for the perfect visit!

Hospitality is high on the list at Blue Rock.

Kenny led us through the picturesque gardens toward the stone cottage, stopping under a towering shady stone pine, his conversation flowed, sharing his love of wine making and how he came from a humble background in Tennessee to a glorious estate vineyard. He’s friendly and fun, sharing experiences. We toured the stone Vintner’s Cottage which is sometimes available for overnight stays. Restored with antiques, a full gourmet kitchen, an outdoor fireplace and a 130-year-old bocce court and heated pool, it’s a delightful spot for the initial tasting with Kenny and Managing Director, Carla Jeffries. Both Kenny and Carla are relaxed engaging hosts, their passion for wine and this unique estate is evident in their conversation. The refreshing plunge is for weekend guests. Relax on a shaded terrace or lounge in the tranquil sitting room of the naturally cool stone house, dogs on laps, we enjoyed tasting a few different varietals.

Dating back to 1880, the 100-acre Blue Rock Vineyard & Winery estate tells the story of how European winemaking came to Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley. Italian immigrants brought with them olive trees, vine cuttings, and knowledge of grape growing. The region’s undulating golden hills and idyllic vistas even look reminiscent of Tuscany itself. Blue Rock Vineyard and Winery was first settled by Italians who worked at the Italian-Swiss Colony winery just down the road. The original stone house was once Villa Maria winery, which closed its doors during the Prohibition Era. Acquired by Kenny and Cheryl Kahn in 1987, the Estate maintains much of its old-world character. It even maintains its original olive trees that are now over 140 years old.

20180526_073139.jpg
Blue Rock Vineyard and Winery

Adding onto the property, Cheryl and Kenny imported additional olive tree cuttings from Luca, Italy where some of the world’s best oil is produced. You’ll also discover organic vegetable gardens and surrounding hillsides that offer incredible vistas. The hills are also inhabited by wild turkeys, feral pigs, and abundant wildlife. And now, they are making and selling Blue Rock olive oil, it’s delectable, with a pungent finish.

Traversing 46 acres, the hillside vineyard is planted to the five Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Malbec. In 1993, an additional three acres of Syrah were planted on an extreme hillside. The cool mornings and warm days that characterize the Alexander Valley allow Blue Rock’s Bordeaux varietals to develop clarity and finesse.

Handcrafted on site, each vintage maintains its unique personality and charm without the interference of excessive oak or other winemaking techniques found in mass quantity production.

We moseyed up the stone steps to a newer building which was equally charming as the stone cottage. Several unique rooms to enjoy a four-course lunch – oh, you don’t think we just sipped wine, we relished a scrumptious duck confit, a crunchy grain salad and fresh lettuces from the garden, still tasting distinctive wines and chatting about ‘experiences.’ Finishing with balsamic laced vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries! Wandering out, we made a quick visit to an elegant private Club room, where a few gentlemen were savoring a spirited afternoon private Reserve Wine Tasting. I’m certain they were headed outdoors for cigars afterwards, it looked like a convivial party!

Don’t take my word for it, do look at the wine press evaluations which average 93+ points for many of the varietals. Best Barrels is their limited production, flagship wine. True to the name, it just what it sounds like: Best Barrels is made only when the vintner finds something that is both unique and better than anything else. Best Barrels Cabernet Sauvignon is crafted from the oldest vines planted on the Blue Rock Estate in 1987. These chosen Cabernet barrels exhibited deep, rich flavors and aromas, and were loaded with special complexity from the beginning. It is a stunner. Summer whites – Baby Blue Blanc is a delicate combination of Bordeaux white grapes of Sauvignon Blanc. Adding a small, amount of Viognier gives Baby Blue Blanc an aromatic “pop”! This just says Summer Sipping! The Chardonnay was a group favorite and judging by the cases packed into our car, everyone said Yes, Please!

Blue Rock Vineyard and Winery distinctive experience is not your typical tasting. If you are looking to enjoy the unexpected and an experiential vineyard, we highly recommend reaching out to Blue Rock and make an appointment for a decadent afternoon, or let us know and we will personally introduce you!  We can organize car service from downtown Healdsburg and a room reservation or jet up to the nearby Santa Rosa airport for a leisurely afternoon amid the grapes. Do mention the Gaggle of Girls who departed with multiple cases of wine and olive oil!. We would have taken the adorable dogs as well!

Exclusive to our clients, if you are interested in visiting – several options. Private tour and tasting. Vintner’s Table for lunch: two or four course lunch with tastings. Vintner’s Table four course dinner with appetizers and tastings – late afternoon arrival. Mosey the grounds, linger and nosh on appetizers in the lavender garden and enjoy a chef prepared dinner. The property is also available for intimate celebrations!

Blue Rock Vineyard and Winery
The Gaggle of Girl’s, it’s how we roll!

Blue Rock Vineyard and Winery hits all the balanced notes: gracious hospitality, refined tasting environment at a leisurely pace, scrumptious dining and an excellent selection of complex flavorful wines. We will have to return for winter reds! This is what an elegant tasting experience looks like.

Highly Recommend!

The World Is Opening Up! Inspiration and Facts

Spark Inspiration. Choose A Journey. Highly Recommend. Notes On Travel

Guest Post by our Creative Director, Susanne Smith, who creates the stunning front end of our weekly Malchimp posts and client magazines. Everyone can use a refresher on How to Travel Again!

  • Choosing A Destination
  • Getting Inspired 
  • Where It Is Safe To Travel 
  • Assembling Your Journey

The World Is Opening Up And It Is A Celebration! 

Four Seasons Maldives Kuda Huraa

This is the perfect time to create lists of must-see, can’t die without visiting…the proverbial Wish List of travel destinations and experiences. 

Now. How on Earth do you make up your mind where to travel next? It’s part art (flair, instinct, desire, dreams) and part science (budgets, visas, distance, time…). 

The world is full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The horizon for travel feels closer, every day a little bounce toward normalcy. 

After nearly 15 months of being grounded, some may feel they have taken travel for granted. Pre-Pandemic, I had composed a globe-trotting list of experiences and a month before we were so quickly shut down, I had just returned from Jordan and Egypt. My Journey began with a starlight walk under a carpet of stars to being dazzled by the Treasury in Petra, illuminated by thousands of candles; my Journey concluded at the great pyramids of Giza. 

Quarantine time provided hours of dreaming and plotting experiences. What do I want to see and what is safe? I’ve flown to Cabo, mainly because it was a three hour flight, which felt safe for my first outing. Double masked, in first class, with wipes and clear glasses, I felt surprisingly comfortable. I’m plotting a long-haul flight, but will take one more short hop to feel 100% confident of airport procedures and other tourists acting responsibly.

I have such faith in our World and can’t wait to get going! 

Buddha Dordenma Statue, Thimphu Bhutan

Choosing A Destination 

Why Exactly Do You Want To Travel It’s not always obvious. Usually, it’s because you have a destination in mind but understanding your motivations and your desires will help you decide. Begin asking questions and consider new ways to be inspired. 

It can be a fun research project; and if you’re planning an international Journey, ask yourself and your travel companions what’s most important. Safety and comfort? Adventure and lots of activities? Or both?

There are so many ways to decide where to go and what to do. Shape your experiences. Dig deep inside. Pester friends for advice. Peruse your bucket list. Inspiration for your next big Journey can be in the form of a single photo to 23andMe results inspiring a visit to your homeland!

Decide Who’s Going Maybe you want to travel alone so you can do whatever you want, or you and your best friend have finally carved out time to take a Journey together. Who you’re traveling with will affect the remainder of your Journey planning. 

Pick A Time To Travel How many days can you go? Remember that the weather and season could be drastically different from where you live. Northern or Southern Hemisphere? Follow the sun or the snow? 

Estimate A Budget It helps to be honest with yourself and whoever is going with you on what you want to spend—and what your priorities are. Budgeting before you decide where to go can provide some structure when narrowing down locations and accommodations. 

Accommodations & Activities  Accommodations can range from aplenty to scarce to extremely rare. Do you feel like kicking back and letting an all-inclusive resort take care of the details or book a private villa and be more integrated with the local community? 

Share Your Travel Plans Communication. Share your travel plans with colleagues, friends and family. Keep in touch through social media and consider registering online with the U.S .Government so the U.S. Embassy has you on a locate list. 

Jumpstart Any Travel Mental Blocks Corral your friends if your own ideas are feeling a little stale, tap into the collective hive mind of your friends. Throw a cocktail party with admittance: one travel story! Social Media Influencers are a great wealth of information too. 

Dream Up An Experience Instead of country-hopping or city-dipping, concentrate on a 360-degree view of what you’ll actually do when there? Have an experience in mind as opposed to just a country. Eg. – ‘I want to go to Sydney and see free range Kangaroos at the Reptile Park,’ rather than, ‘I want to go to Australia.’ 

Sunrise Four Seasons Los Cabos Resort at Costa Palmas

Relaxation Float through vacations. Unplug. Swing in a hammock. Live in the Spa. Consider a private yacht in remote tropical locations. Move into a villa on Lake Como for the summer. 

Culture Countries like Italy, Turkey, Greece, Peru, and China are replete with history. Customize your trip with vetted guides. 

Sacred Places Bhutan’s monks in maroon robes, prayer flags and Tiger’s Nest. Sardinia’s mysteries of Mamoiada with ancient fairy houses and giants’ tombs. Santa Fe’s red earth and strange vortexes – the world is full of sacred places. 

Bhutan

Inveterate Shoppers There are fabulous markets across the globe — from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to the flea markets of France. Plan your Journey around classic fashion cities like London, Paris, Milan, or Tokyo.

Unforgettable Architectural Sites The Colosseum in Rome, pyramids of Egypt, Barcelona for the Gaudi buildings. The best chateaux of the Loire Valley. Tour America visiting choice Frank Lloyd Wright homes or reserve one for an immersive experience.

Solo Journeys Some countries lend themselves to independent travel because they are so organized and simple to navigate like Switzerland, South Korea or Singapore. 

Off The Beaten Path Vacations Spend a week in Sri Lanka, explore Saharan sand dunes in Morocco, or see Cuba that seems to be frozen in time yet modern, utterly unforgettable. 

Explore A Specific Region Pick a region and organize an itinerary that takes you there in depth — the cities of southern France, for example. Or, use a single city as your hub and then get out to explore the region: Annecy, France can be your jumping off point to the French Alps. 

Elements of the decorations of the Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand

Film & Book Inspirations Let a favorite film, television show, or book shape your Journey. Follow Lawrence of Arabia’s steps through Jordan, Amman, and Morocco. A River Runs Through It – can be relived at a luxury Montana Dude Ranch. Meet Diane Fossey’s Gorillas in the misty jungles of Rwanda. 

Food & Wine Sojourns It’s truly the way to a city’s heart. In deciding where to go next knowing what I want to eat and going to the birthplace of that dish is a big factor. Organize street food tours — Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are great places to start. A wine lover? That will get you to France, California, Chile, Australia, Italy… this list grows and grows.  

Follow Festivals & Celebrations Choose an event, not a destination. Consider festivals, celebrations or holidays. Food bashes, film and music festivals, or TED-style conferences can inspire Journeys to far-flung places. You won’t have to decide what to do when you get there — that part’s all planned. 

Sporty Vacations Hike the Atlas Mountains in North Africa. Ride horses through the vineyards of Argentina. Do something sporty – marathons, cycling tours, races, and Championships – X sports, golf, surfing and Olympics. 

Throw A Wild Card When in doubt, throw a dart at a map. Either you will go, or, it will help you realize where you don’t want to go! Throw it as many times as you like. Or, pack a bag and show up at the airport. Hop the first plane to a city you’ve always wanted to visit.

Where Is It Safe To Go?  More than 75 countries currently allow U.S. citizens to visit, but some restrictions apply. See resources below and view Country-by-Country Guides to Reopened Europe and Asia. 

Research the state of the virus and learn your location’s entry requirements, medical facilities and daily life.

Check your destination country’s official government websites—as well as the CDC website and U.S. Embassy website for the country—before and during any Journey. 

What To Pack Even as mask guidelines relax stateside, we’re still packing face masks and hand sanitizer wherever we go. Some travelers feel more comfortable with a face shield. I personally have not had a cold in over a year so may never give them up. 

Where To Get A Digital Vaccine Records

• myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov

You will receive a personal QR code. Take a screen shot of this and save on your phone.

Resources

• cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/map-and-travel-notices 

• usembassy.gov 

• nytimes.com/article/travel-to-europe 

• travel.usnews.com/features/where-can-americans-travel-right-now

• nytimes.com/2021/05/26/travel/travel-to-europe-restrictions-covid

Things To Know About Traveling Overseas And At Home 

Megeve France Breakfast in a Balloon Basket!

International Travel  Shifting flight schedules, varying hotel flexibility and new tech: A lot has changed since the last time you packed that passport. Flight schedules will be in flux for months to come. 

Hotel flexibility will vary, so read the fine print. Prepare to schedule and commit, rather than wing it. There are now laws in place in some countries allowing hotels and other travel companies to issue credits, rather than cash refunds, for canceled bookings. 

Places you may be returning to may not be the same – realize that Paris won’t look exactly like the Paris you remember. 

Update your tech and tap into App tech updates. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken your phone overseas, research your wireless provider’s options to avoid roaming charges. Companies, including Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, have per diem travel passes that include unlimited data and texting and certain calling benefits. 

Many tickets and entry passes are digital. There are several new travel-friendly bells and whistles from Google Maps introduced more tailored maps that “know” when a user is at home or traveling: A London vacationer who fires up the app at noon, for instance, will see nearby lunch options as well as local tourist attractions. 

Passport renewal services have resumed, but prepare for potential delays, we have services to expedite passports and visas. Here’s what to know if your passport expires any time within the next year. Plus, why a growing number of Americans are looking for second passports. As of late July, travelers can enroll in Global Entry again. And the deadline to apply for Real ID, a new federally approved identification all Americans will soon need for domestic travel, has been extended.

Countries in Asia like China, Japan and South Korea were impacted early on, they’ve also been earlier to peak, earlier to flatten their curves, and, generally, earlier to reopen. Some places, including Singapore and Taiwan took enough preventative measures to avoid a full lockdown altogether.

Resources

Havanna Cuba

• cntraveler.com/story/asia-reopening-guide-coronavirus 

• nytimes.com/article/travel-to-europe 

• https://www.cntraveler.com/story/asia-reopening-guide-coronavirus 

• https://www.nytimes.com/article/travel-to-europe 

• nytimes.com/2021/05/26/travel/travel-to-europe-restrictions-covid 

Domestic Travel  Keep in mind, you don’t need to leave the country to have a memorable vacation. While international destinations are tempting, there are plenty of enjoyable places to safely vacation around the U.S. Trade the Maldives for Maui, Hawaii, the Swiss Alps for Vail, Colorado, or an African safari for an adrenaline-filled Jeep ride through the desert of Sedona, Arizona.

There are many lesser-known destinations around the country – such as St. Augustine, Florida; Leavenworth, Washington; Holland, Michigan – that feel more like Europe than America. 

Choosing a domestic vacation has its perks, especially during a pandemic. You won’t have to worry about visa restrictions, issues with entry or last minute country closures ruining your Journey (though note some states are imposing their own travel restrictions and quarantine rules). Not to mention, you might find a little slice of paradise close to home that you can continue to visit. Highly Recommend touring our National Parks and their early 1900’s lodges, or domestic UNESCO sites. 

Brown Bear in the Wilderness

Perks of a Travel Consultant  Emergencies. Expertise. Extras. Air Travel. Better Journeys. Planning your Journey is a juggling act of timing, travel goals, budget management and coordinating real-time logistics. Every detail needs attention for the big show! It can be likened to choreographing a ballet or planning a wedding. Travel advisors offer unique services – they vet your Journey, save you time and reduce stress, understand ambience, staff, hotel suite size, best dining options, and can create customized experiences. 

Travel advisors are your advocate. Whatever hurdles rise before the most solid itinerary, your travel agent solves the problem and coordinates any domino effect changes. 

Travel advisors add a human element — and an element of trust.

They are invested in their clients’ happiness and want to make sure each and every Journey is packed full of positive lifelong memories. They listen, suggest, adjust, understand and become a friend. They are with you before, during and after your Journey. 

Like any professional advisors, they really do know more than you do. 

Travel Consultant Wandering the World, in Wadi Rum Jordan

Resource

• https://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolmsted/2020/01/26/5-reasons-why-you-need- a-travel-agentmore-than-ever/?sh=43bea6c45343

Planning My Personal Journeys My visit to Bhutan reinforced my goal of seeing countries with well-preserved cultures with customs that haven’t been touched by outside influences. As much as I love Paris and Italy, at this point in my life, I’m drawn to lands that feel raw and less explored. Tribal traditions all around the world, understanding the culture of people who live so differently, the remoteness and physical natural beauty of foreign lands are always beckoning. 

Morocco I am planning to return this November wanting to immerse further into the culture and landscape, beyond Marrakesh and the medina.

Ethiopia Talk about my ideal Journey; the origin of mankind, their own calendar that says it’s still 2010 instead of 2021, the ancient architecture, sweeping gorgeous landscapes, people, cuisine…I cannot wait to begin planning!

Papua New Guinea Here tourism is a fairly unexplored area of the world which is very appealing to me. The culture of Papua New Guinea is complex. There are more than 7,000 different cultural groups mostly with their own language. I definitely plan to experience a celebration with the Mudmen of the Asaro tribe.

Botswana Although I’ve visited Africa eight times and trekked for several days with the magnificent gorillas in Rwanda, Botswana will be my next safari. From the Okavango Delta to the large elephant herds in the Chobe National Park and the unpredictable Savute Channel, which runs dry and floods seemingly at random – Botswana has some of Africa’s most beautiful reserves and exceptional wildlife.

Potato Farmer Bhutan Amankora