From the moment you arrive at the bucolic Farmhouse Inn in tiny Forestville in the Russian River Valley, you know you will be in good hands.
After all, Charlotte most likely will be the first to greet you.
This is one friendly, adorable black cat you will want crossing your path. The inn’s resident pet, Charlotte, keeps pests in check on the property. But she’s also not above sneaking into your room to take a snooze.
And what rooms these are.
Eighteen rooms, cottages and suites ($345 to $745 a night) dot the property, whose centerpiece is a pale yellow 1873 restored farm house. The farmstead has been owned for the past decade by siblings, Catherine and Joe Bartolomei, whose family has farmed in Sonoma County for five generations. Recently, my husband and I were invited to be guests of the inn for an overnight stay that included dinner at the famed restaurant on the premises.
We stayed in an upstairs suite in the newly built barn at the back of the property. The suite definitely has a rustic vibe — but one attuned to Ralph Lauren. Bright, airy and chic, the suite featured a four-poster bed adorned with a pillow decorated with a black cat in homage to Charlotte, of course. A double-sided stone gas fireplace sat across from the bed and could be enjoyed from the other side outside on the deck, too. The bathroom featured a jetted tub, separate steam shower and radiant heat floors to toast your tootsies on chilly mornings.
In Wine Country, the options for lunching are practically endless.
One place certainly not to miss is Farmstead Restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena, where Executive Chef Sheamus Feeley turns out lusty, farm-fresh food.
Recently, I had a chance to lunch as a guest of the restaurant, which is housed in a soaring barn that’s been done up in rustic-chic with polished wood tables, a rough granite bar, farm implements turned into contemporary light fixtures and glass milk bottles holding sprays of wild flowers.
It’s a restaurant you can saunter into in jeans or shorts, and park yourself for a good long while.
It’s got to be one of the most breathtaking dining rooms in the Bay Area, what with its floor-to-ceiling windows and wide terrace with a panoramic view of the Santa Cruz mountains. It’s easy to forget you’re in the thick of the hustle-bustle of Silicon Valley and not on vacation instead.
Over the past five years, with its proximity to all the venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road, it’s turned into a hot spot for business wheeling and dealing, as evidenced in my recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle. Even if it’s well known among the VC and CEO set, it’s still rather under the radar for the rank-and-file tech employees, says Chef Peter Rudolph, who is always surprised when he does corporate events at how few people have even heard of Madera.
That’s a shame because it’s such a lovely oasis. And we sure need more of those, don’t we?
Madera boasts a lofty feel with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Chilled wine awaits.
I ate at Madera when it first opened. Although I liked the food, I found many of the dishes had just too much going on.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I was invited in to dine as a guest of the restaurant. The dishes are still far from simple, but they felt more reined in than previously.
Dinner is not inexpensive — starters are $15 to $20, and mains are $33 to $41. But to put it in perspective, this is also a place where tech folks are known to celebrate by ordering premium scotch for $500 a shot (again, see my link to my Chronicle story above). There’s also an impressive 2,000 wines to choose from.
You wouldn’t normally expect to find trendy, liquid nitrogen-molecular gastronomy cooking going on inside an 1881-era Victorian mansion.
But at Madrona Manor in Healdsburg, that’s just what you’ll enjoy at the acclaimed Michelin one-star restaurant on the premises of this 22-room historic inn nestled in the hills above the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County.
Recently, I was invited to be a guest of the inn, which is charmingly decorated with period antiques and art pieces, including hand-painted wooden dolls and a framed Victorian lace wedding gown. The rooms feature fireplaces and claw-foot tubs. Homemade chocolate chip cookies are left by the bedside to welcome you.
Executive Chef Jesse Mallgren has cooked alongside some of the biggest names in the industry, including Jeremiah Tower and Gary Danko.
He draws inspiration from local ingredients, including the 3/4-acre organic garden on the premises, where he harvests tomatoes, herbs, greens and fruit that show up in many dishes on the menu.