Friday, June 29, 2012

Monte Rio and Guerneville

Monte Rio and Guerneville are two small, rustic towns located at the western end of the Russian River Valley wine region, about eight miles inland from the coast.  I recently had the opportunity to visit these two towns with a group of journalists who were looking at hotels, restaurants, and wineries.

In Monte Rio, we saw the Village Inn, a country inn where the Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire movie, Holiday Inn, was filmed in 1942.  The old inn is full of charm and the rooms are comfortable.  Mark, the owner, and Kathy, the innkeeper, will make sure that you have an enjoyable stay.

In Guerneville, the larger of the two towns, we looked at Boon Hotel and Spa and West Sonoma Inn.  Boon Hotel offers simple rooms with a modern look.  You can relax by the pool, enjoy a spa treatment, or play Frisbee with Boon.  Krista, the owner, will make sure that you have an enjoyable stay.  West Sonoma Inn is a very upgraded 1950s (technically 1948) motel that now offers comfortable rooms and an array of spa treatments.  Here too you can just enjoy the sunshine and the redwoods while relaxing by the pool.

We also had the opportunity to taste delicious paninis from Boon Eat and Drink in Guerneville, which has the same ownership as Boon Hotel and Spa.  The dinner menu looked terrific, but we didn't have the chance to dine there.  Krista, the owner, didn't feel like she was busy enough so last year she entered into a partnership to open Big Bottom Market.  If you are passing through, be sure to taste the yummy biscuits; usually made by Krista's mother.

Monte Rio and Guerneville are two very laid back towns.  They don't aspire to be another Healdsburg, which is much more up market.  If you enjoy hiking among the redwoods, relaxing by the pool or along the river, excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and understated accommodation than one of these towns might be the perfect place to base your next Russian River vacation.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Office Park Wineries

Most visitors to wine country picture pastoral settings with rows of grape vines and beautiful buildings housing wineries.  What they don't think of is asphalt, concrete, and steel framed warehouses.  However, one does not need a beautiful building in which to make wine, and the winery need not be located adjacent to the vineyards.  For many wineries, they can save a lot of money by making their wines in an office park.  This means the consumer can get quality wines at better prices.

There are many such wineries in both Napa and Sonoma Counties.  Siduri, a maker of excellent Pinot Noir, is located in an office park in Santa Rosa.  Patz and Hall, a well regarded producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, is housed an office park just outside of the city of Napa.  Both of these wineries welcome visitors by prior appointment. 

Recently, I had a chance to revisit Manzanita Creek, which makes tasty Zinfandel (red, not pink), Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, and Pinot Noir.  I wanted to return to Manzanita Creek because many years ago I took guests there who loved the Zin.  Being a big fan of Zinfandel, I wanted to try the wines.  I was not disappointed.  The staff were friendly and offered us a good sampling of Manzanita Creek's Zinfandels, as well as some Chardonnay and Petite Sirah.  If you like Zin, put Manzanita Creek on your list to visit.  If you are in the Healdsburg area between Wednesday and Saturday, no appointment is needed.  Just drop in between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.  The winery is located at 1441B Grove Street, just off Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg.

If you would like to take a private tour of wine country that includes some warehouse wineries, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or