wine country

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2015 was a huge travel year for us, with a safari in Africa, three trips to Ireland, trips to Myrtle Beach, Chicago, and more. When 2016 rolled around, between being a bit tired and also getting a new boat, we wanted to spend more time staying local, and with the exception of a couple of trips, we did just that.

January – I got to travel to beautiful Hampshire County Massachusetts for work and to stay in Amherst, soaking up the quiet magic that is January in the region. It was cold, but we warmed up by the Lord Jeff fireplaces and with perfectly made craft cocktails. This was, as it is titled, a perfect Massachusetts getaway.

The Lord Jeffery Inn

 

February – A dreamy trip to Luquillo and San Juan, Puerto Rico was one of the highlights of the year, so much so that we might return again in 2017. 

Boats, beaches, seafood, rum, music, and lots of sunshine made this the perfect getaway, an easy and direct JetBlue flight from Boston.

Outdoor Adventures in Puerto Rico

Icacos sailing

 

AprilA much-needed getaway to Maine with friends included a stay at the beautiful Hartstone Inn, hiking to the top of Mount Battie in Camden, and shopping in Freeport. I heart L.L. Bean. Maine is just glorious, and our April 2017 trip to Camden is already booked!

16 Bayview Camden Maine

June – Sharing my June trip (and one of the best of 2016) is certainly bittersweet, as the amazing publicist who organized it recently passed away. Florence Tambone brought me along on the most wonderful day to the North Fork of Long Island on Cross Sound Ferry, along with other writers, and I just had the best time, visiting Long Island wineries, learning to shuck oysters, visiting a gorgeous farm, and laughing all day long.  Lavender by the Bay was perhaps the most breathtaking experience of my year. Thanks to Florence and Cross Sound Ferry, the North Fork is one of my favorite getaways, and I will always, always think of her when I visit.

lavender fields in Long Island

 

July – Another work trip to Hampshire County gave me time to stay at Hotel Northampton and visit a favorite, Black Birch Vineyard. I’m hoping that 2017 brings more opportunities to visit Western Massachusetts, both for work and fun!

Black Birch Vineyard

August – My cousin got married in Asheville, NC, so we got to visit this beautiful area for the first time. Outdoor time, beer tasting, and family time made it a perfect summer trip.

horses in asheville

September – We traveled just up to Ipswich, MA for the last weekend of summer and rented the most incredible little waterside cottage. We spent a ton of time on the screened in porch, went to the private beach in the Little Neck community we were in, explored Newburyport, Essex, and Ipswich, and ate a ton of seafood. This cottage is definitely in future plans. I love New England summer!

(I caught the sunrise on the first morning; magical.)

sunrise in Ipswich

October – We traveled to Chicago for the Chicago Marathon, which was a disappointing run for me but an amazing trip overall. We absolutely loved the Thompson Chicago, and WE MET EDDIE VEDDER. Maybe the highlight of my year.

image

 

November – Our annual trip to Ireland for Thanksgiving included time on Achill Island as well as plenty of time to wander around Galway, eating and drinking and being merry. We loved Tribeton for cocktails, and I have so many more Ireland posts to come!

wild atlantic way ireland

December – We rounded out the year with a trip to Maine to visit friends who just moved there. It’s great to have another excuse to visit Portland!

We had the most amazing dinner at Sur Lie in Portland, and despite bitter cold temperatures spent some time outside taking in the stunning coastal vistas and lighthouses. Vacationland for sure.

Portland Head Light

There were lots of weekends boating to the Boston Harbor Islands and other places in Massachusetts, along with other little New England trips here and there. Looking back on 2016, we actually traveled more than I realized.

In 2017, we’ll be going to Tuscany for a wedding in July, look forward to MANY more boating adventures, trips to Maine, and hopefully a warm weather getaway, possibly Puerto Rico again.

Cheers to a wanderlust-satisfying 2017 for all!

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Tags: Achill, blogger, boating, Boston blogger, Camden, Galway, Ireland, Long Island, Long Island wine, Luquillo, Maine, New England, North Fork, Puerto Rico, travel blog, travel blogger, travel planning, wine blog, wine country

Our travel style seems to be one giant tasting spree, and Sonoma County is the perfect place for sampling bites and sips here and there rather than having huge, lengthy meals. On our most recent trip to Sonoma, I attended some great events for work and also had some free time to do some great eating. Below are just a few photos from our whirlwind week in Sonoma.

Healdsburg Shed shrub

On the Savor Healdsburg Food Tour we went on last summer, we fell in love with Healdsburg SHED and I couldn’t wait to return for more refreshing shrub drinks and to do some shopping for a picnic. The day we visited was over 100 degrees, and a strawberry shrub was the perfect way to cool down. We filled a basked with cheese and meat, cookies, and other items and brought them to the new winery of Two Shepherds for lunch with the winemaker. Luckily, he had a bottle of my favorite rosé ready.

Shed Healdsburg picnic

Willi's Wine Bar

My media tour day included an incredible lunch at the much-loved Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa. The owners are the sweetest, and their food is just amazing. We shared small plates like local heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella and the most incredible smashed avocado toast. I dream about this meal and can’t wait to visit Willi’s again.

avocado bruschetta

Mexican food is a must-have in California, and we found ourselves seeking out tacos just about every day. Our favorite is still El Sombrero in Healdsburg. Their tacos, guacamole, and hot sauce are possibly my favorite foods ever

tacos in Sonoma

El Sombrero Mexican food Healdsburg

One of the events I attended, the Big Bottle Barn Party, featured all sorts of delicious little bites, like mini omelets and Bloody Marys and cherry pie pops on sticks. It was one of the best parties I have ever been to!

 

mini Bloody Mary

Wine and food pairing options have become more prevalent in Sonoma County since our first visit many years ago, and the tasting at Ram’s Gate brought out the best in the food and the wine. Tasting is by appointment only, and their Palate Play truly demonstrates the art of food and wine at their best.

food and wine pairing at Ram's Gate Another of the unique experiences I was lucky to have was another tasting in the high country at MacMurray Ranch. Perfect Pinot Noir was paired with small bites like strawberry gazpacho and some of the best views ever.

strawberry gazpacho  MacMurray Ranch

MacMurray Ranch, the scene of Taste of Sonoma , offered some of the best food of the weekend. The area where we were working had a beautiful spread, including cheese and veggies galore This may have been the best cheese display I have ever seen.

gorgeous cheese spread

We discovered some new Sonoma County favorites on our date night in Healdsburg where we sipped a tomato water amuse bouche and feasted on Portuguese cuisine at Cafe Lucia and had late night cocktails and sliders at Bistro Ralph. Healdsburg is one of the best places ever for a walking, tasting night out.

tomato water shooters at Cafe Lucia

chourico platter at Cafe Lucia Healdsburg

Bistro Ralph On our last day in Sonoma, we made a trip to The Barlow, which I absolutely loved, for some wine tasting and beer and snacks. Woodfour Brewing was a recommendation from friends, and it was a delicious stop. A sour beer and some of the best pickled veggies I have ever had made for a great afternoon snack. If you get the chance to go to Woodfour Brewing, just do it.

Woodfour Brewing

crab cocktail

 

All good things must come to an end, and so we had to make our way back towards San Francisco, but not without a stop in Sausalito for seafood and cool breezes. It was amazing how much cooler it was than Sonoma. Salito’s Crab House was a great spot for seafood and bubbly. We had crab cocktail and a platter of sizzling shrimp and mussels with a garlicky butter while gazing out at the sea, looking for seals and coveting boats.

 

 

seafood in SausalitoSalito's

 

Northern California has so much to taste, I could easily spend a lifetime there enjoying the food, wine, and outdoors. Until we meet again. . .

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Tags: Dining out, Food, Sonoma, Travel, wine country

Labor Day weekend is an amazing time to visit Sonoma County. Sonoma Wine Country Weekend PR and social media was something I worked on this summer, for full disclosure, but blogging about it is not part of the job at all. I just happened to find Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Estate Vineyards so impressive, beautiful, and filled with delicious food and wine opportunities that I had to share.

As the name suggests Taste of Sonoma takes place at MacMurray Estate Vineyards, also often referred to as MacMurray Ranch, the former home of actor Fred MacMurray. And it is stunning. The property is only open to the public once a year, for this event, so that in itself makes it special. Since I was traveling with the media, I got to tour the house, and it was so charming and lovely that I may have to write a post about it.

Taste of Sonoma is truly that, a place where you can sample the wine and food of Sonoma County all in one place. Wine and food are organized in tents by appellation so you can visit your favorites and discover new ones, comparing and contrasting grapes and characteristics between AVAs.

Taste of Sonoma runs from 11:00 – 4:00, which is a good thing, because there is so much to see, do, taste, and learn. I was impressed at the number of seminars and experiences available in addition to the tasting tents, which could keep you occupied for the entire day on their own. It’s all incredibly organized, and the layout is spacious and aesthetically pleasing. You can’t go wrong with spending a day surrounded by vineyards and redwood trees

Below, you can take a trip through Taste of Sonoma with just a few of the hundreds of photos I captured on this beautiful day. Sonoma Wine Country Weekend happens every Labor Day weekend; start planning your travel now!

 

heirloom tomatoes Sonoma

Sonoma County Marketplace features some of the high quality ingredients Sonoma County chefs love, with the opportunity to taste and purchase on site.

Taste of Sonoma

Grape to Glass was one of the educational seminars that was a huge hit. Attendees learned about sustainable winegrowing and winemaking in Sonoma County and also got to taste fresh-from-the-vine grapes along with grapes in the glass as wine. Pretty neat!

chilled corn soup

Food samples were in serious abundance, and with the hot summer weather, chilled soups were popular. Corn soup and gazpacho (from Woodfour Brewing Company, which I will have a separate post on) were both popular choices, as was the pork belly served up by the Jimtown Store. What made the sampling at this event so fun were the suggested pairings in the tents; planners took the guesswork out so that tasters could maximize the deliciousness of the wine and food. What grows together goes together!

Woodfour Brewing Company
Jimtown Store  pork belly Peloton CateringTaste of Sonoma

 

Those who opted for the Grand Reserve tickets had access to Club Reserve, a quieter area set off to the side where winemakers were pouring some of their limited production wines, a rare treat and a space that was buzzing with conversation and tasting throughout the day.

Reserve tentpaella

 

The Main Stage at the event was devoted to some of the amazing chefs in Sonoma County including Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Culinary Chair Mark Stark owner of, among others, the beloved Willi’s Wine Bar, the must-visit Bravas, and soon-to-be-opened Bird & the Bottle, which I can’t wait to try on my next visit. The Paella Guy Chef Jose Castaneda was also one of the Sonoma Stars on Stage, in addition to having a tent where he was cooking massive pans of paella.

 

 

Taste of Sonoma

wine pairing with Kendall Jackson Pairing with the Pros by Kendall-Jackson showcased their great food and wine pairing program, one that I got to experience at their estate when I visited in June. The sensory garden at Kendall-Jackson is incredibly beautiful and alone a reason to visit. Taste of Sonoma offered a nice peek into the garden experience with an area devoted to the beautiful herbs, food, and flowers that is grown on the property.

food and wine pairings

 

Kendall Jackson Sensory Garden Kendall Jackson Garden

 

There was so much more to Taste of Sonoma than I could capture in one blog post. Guests were welcomed with a Gloria Ferrer Bubble Lounge featuring oysters and caviar. There were Wine Tours with Sommelier Stars, Wine Talks in the Wine Barn, and so much more, truly a splendid way for a wine and food lover to spend the day.

If you’re unfamiliar with Sonoma County, Taste of Sonoma would make a great first day of your visit, allowing you to check out 200 wineries at once and to decide which ones you want to make a visit to.  If you have any questions about the event or other events over Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, feel free to let me know!

 

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Tags: events, Food, Sonoma, Sonoma County, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, Travel, wine, wine country, wine tasting

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