Hopscotching to Hotel Healdsburg, from Wine to Divine!

Still, we are yearning to escape as the world continues to rattle us with daily pandemic updates. Our clients are headed to Europe from September onward, private yachts and villas make the Journey feel significantly safer. I’m plotting Morocco, Madrid, and Paris in autumn. Benjamin will relish La Dolce Vita on an Italian Grand Tour – including two nights at the famed chef Massimo Bottura’s Casa Maria Luigia in the Emilian countryside. We connect in France for a Parisian Thanksgiving, how splendid is that?!

To satisfy the escape cravings, we are re-discovering boutique hotels in the wine country – there are lovely avenues for satisfying the urge to meander. Small towns near the vineyards offer downtown properties delivering a distinct advantage in summer heat. I favor weekday, rather than weekend escapes, my recent midweek stay at Hotel Healdsburg was a delightful reminder of why parking the car and walking everywhere is such a delight. We did mosey out of town a bit for a private wine tasting and scrumptious lunch, a driver assured no tipsy travelers traversing the trails!  

Not far north of San Francisco, Hotel Healdsburg is in the heart of the Sonoma wine country. The Hotel has a spa, a lovely sixty-foot pool and Jacuzzi, flanked by sun-shaded chaise lounges, set in a garden of olive and fig trees, boxwood, hydrangea, and roses. A pool bar offers chilled drinks and dining service during the summer months. Shark Laps (swim as if sharks are trailing your toes), and avenue rambling will burn off the multiple meal calories! Check in, wander the idyllic town plaza for retail therapy, there are several delightful bookstores, with comfy chairs for flipping through the pages, such a treat! Try a new restaurant for lunch, mosey back for a snooze at the pool or in your comfy room. Hotel concierge can assist with outdoor activities: adventure through Sonoma County with a bike tour, hot air balloon ride, hike, horseback ride or with a canoe or kayak along the Russian River. Late afternoon, meander the boutiques or take a nearby hike, run through vineyards, and meet for cocktails at a cozy bar then discover another innovative foodie emporium – no driving required! Who said you can’t stay in town and luxuriate?! It’s small and intimate in the hamlet.

The Hotel is set on the edge of Healdsburg’s historic town plaza, enjoy some of the world’s finest vineyards, restaurants, and shops mere feet from front steps. Worth getting out of bed for: when we make your room reservations, happy to supply my list of favorite retail therapy boutiques! Also, we have an inside track with Blue Rock Vineyard and Winery for private lunch and tastings at the beautiful property. The Farmhouse Inn, 15 minutes away in Forestville is a favorite of Healdsburg foodies for its fresh seasonal ingredients. One of the most well-known restaurants ever, Single Thread Farms, is within walking distance. The numbers: 19 wine-tasting rooms, 26 restaurants, 60 shops and galleries all within walking distance! Including the only Hand Fan Museum in the country. Sip and skip responsibly!

Beautifully appointed guest rooms, clean stylistic interiors, surrounded by country gardens. All rooms feature to drown in, six-foot bathtubs, generous beds, French doors opening onto private balconies and oak floors covered with Tibetan rugs.

Dining is a highlight of the Hotel where guests can savor Sonoma County’s bounty of extraordinary wines and fresh seasonal ingredients at Super Chef Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen. Mosey downstairs to the complimentary breakfast bar for a yummy selection of fruits, pastries, house-made granola, and delicious black coffee.This is an occasion when I have enjoyed the pandemic mask protocols, caftan is always in my bag, mask up, don the big sunglasses and one won’t be recognized if you need coffee in bed, as I do before you present the party face! I must share that the hotel had the MOST gracious staff, when you travel with a gaggle of girls, you might imagine there are needs; one staff woman knew our desires before we asked, she was ready to stash or deliver every bag that appeared from a shopping foray, cases of wine – she was truly a gem!

We gathered on my vine covered balcony for a nightcap, you can count on balmy warm evenings in Healdsburg. Ring me for Hotel Healdsburg reservations, of course, they adore our clients!

Hotel Healdsburg is a member of Design Hotels. Succumb to the notion of pressing pause, park the car, stroll the charming little hamlets…it’s wonderful downtown!

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.

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!