Laid-Back Luxury Trip to Northern California Wine Country

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With numerous Michelin stars, stylish resorts and spas, and hundreds of top wineries, Northern California Wine Country represents the good life, in just about every way. For travelers, the region is best explored slowly, with plenty of time to stop, relax, and appreciate breathtaking views and memorable experiences.

Introduction to Sonoma County

Sonoma County is one of the richest and most famous winegrowing regions in Northern California. It’s also an eclectic landscape of beaches, forests, river valleys, and everything in between.

Head north from San Francisco and savor the view of the bay from the Golden Gate Bridge, the gateway to Northern California Wine Country. About 70 miles north on the 101, head west on River Road and check in at the Farmhouse Inn for the first half of your 6-night stay.

As the name suggests, this exceptional spot has a rich history as a working ranch—a ranch that owners (and siblings) Joe and Catherine Bartolomei used to visit as kids before they bought it in 2001. Since they took over, they’ve expanded the inn to incorporate a Michelin-starred restaurant, high-end accommodations, and a world-class spa.

Take time to explore the grounds at the Farmhouse and lounge by the pool. Later that afternoon, head across the Russian River Valley to the hilltop tasting room at Gary Farrell Winery, which is renowned both for its commanding view and its pinot noir. Enjoy the 90-minute seated Inspiration Tasting, which includes six wines paired with three small bites.

That night, return to the Farmhouse Inn for a three-course, prix fixe meal. Chef Steve Litke is one of the biggest proponents of farm-to-table dining, so you’re guaranteed to eat dishes made with fresh, locally-sourced produce. Another must: The eatery’s signature dish that features rabbit prepared three ways.

Into the Woods

The Farmhouse Inn sits on the outer edge of the Russian River Valley where giant redwoods grow. After breakfast, load up a backpack and set out to get a closer look.

Your destination: Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, just outside of downtown Guerneville. Park near the visitor center, grab a map and pick one of the self-guided nature trails. The park boasts 20 miles of trails in all—even more if you venture into the adjacent Austin Creek State Recreation Area. Be sure to check out the Parson Jones tree, which stands more than 300 feet tall.

Following a light lunch in Guerneville at the Big Bottom Market (try the mezze plate), return to the Farmhouse Inn and prepare for an afternoon spa treatment. The menu offers an eclectic mix of options. Our favorite: The Medley Message, which incorporates a number of different techniques and uses warm stones and aromatic towels to promote relaxation.

That night, drive into Healdsburg for a memorable dining experience at SingleThread. This Japanese-concept restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars in its inaugural year, and it continues to impress. Executive Chef Kyle Connaughton builds his 11-course menu around capturing produce and proteins at the peak of freshness, so the menu changes constantly. Without question, the first course is the most impressive—a host of small and delicious bites are spread out on tiny plates around a tree stump on the table.

 

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