This year, I’m all about the staycation. It may be only a couple hours’ drive away for me, but Sonoma Wine Country sure feels like a real getaway that relaxes and recharges.
When I was invited as a guest for an overnight stay at the Vintners Resort in Santa Rosa, the weather may have been drizzly. But it didn’t put a damper on the time spent at this expansive 92-acre, bucolic, European-style resort with bubbling fountains. Because it’s a little more secluded than other Wine Country properties, there’s a lovely sense of calm that permeates.
One of the best ways to start the morning is to go for a walk around the property, especially on the vineyard trail. There are working vineyards on the property, with the grapes now sold to Kendall-Jackson and La Crema wineries. The gravel trail winds around the rows, which on a fall morning are often veiled by morning mist.
Follow the path around to the events center and beyond to find one of the property’s onsite culinary gardens. At this time of year, there is kale, cauliflower and citrus growing abundantly.
I snagged a perfectly ripe black Mission fig off a tree to snack on. Shh, don’t tell.
You know a restaurant has got it going on when it is packed on a Monday night.
The start of the week is typically a sleepy night for most restaurants. But not for Valette in downtown Healdsburg. On a recent Monday night, when I dropped in to dine at the bar solo (paying my own tab at the end), the place was bustling shortly after opening at 5:15 p.m.
Chef Dustin Valette and his brother Aaron Garzini opened the beloved restaurant in 2015 in the same property that their great-grandfather once owned. They turned it into a convivial space, with warm polished wood, big hefty leather bar chairs, and a golden glow from globe chandeliers.
Dustin was off that night. But I did get to meet his father, who in his mid-70s, still flies for the state Department of Forestry, responding to forest fires, including the devastating fires in Napa and Sonoma in the last two years.
Ahi poke that stands out from the pack.
When Dustin was a kid, his father would take him to school — dropping him off in his plane — because it was quicker than the school bus. How’s that for one cool ride?