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For past Sonoma and Napa posts and a collection of other travel blog posts, visit my Travel page.

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My September getaway to Sonoma County feels like it was a million years ago. With all of the other travel I have been doing, I’ve been away just about every two weeks, and in between life and the flu have gotten in the way. I am finally sitting down to share a whirlwind recap of the wineries we visited on this trip. We missed a few favorites but discovered some great new-to-me spots, and with another Sonoma visit on the horizon for May, I am in a good place for planning. We also got to eat at some favorite Sonoma County restaurants while having to save others for the next trip. The one lesson we have learned over many trips to wine country is to not cram everything in. It’s easy to want to eat and taste and see everything, but it’s a lot more enjoyable if you pace yourself.

Sonoma County Sunset

This time around I was visiting Sonoma County with a group of friends, and we had a house in Santa Rosa as our home base. On our first night, we enjoyed a picnic spread, live music, beautiful wine, and an epic sunset at Paradise Ridge Winery.

Paradise Ridge Winery

It is hard to believe, but just weeks later, this very special place burned down during the wildfires that swept through the area. Paradise Ridge plans to rebuild, and I know that their many friends and fans will be there at the door when it reopens for business.

Paradise Ridge Winery

We tried to have a few wine tasting appointments on the calendar and to build the days around that. The constants throughout were blue skies and perfect sunshine. On my first full day, we kicked off our wine adventures at the gorgeous Iron Horse Vineyards, where the views are as stunning as the bubbles in your glass.

iron horse sonoma county

The outdoor tasting room at Iron Horse is as perfect as it gets, rustic, open air (but with heaters!) and complete access to the intense beauty that surrounds it. All of the sparkling wines we tasted were insanely good, but a few bottles of the Russian Cuvee made it into the shipment back to Boston for me!

Iron Horse Vineyards

Our next stop, Red Car Winery, was another I had visited before, and a favorite producer of Pinot Noir and their large format rosé of Pinot Noir. A living-room-like setting is a comfy spot for tasting year round, and our club membership means that we will definitely be back on our May visit.

red car wine

Lunchtime and grumbling stomachs brought us to The Barlow for food (more on that in a future post) and more wine, naturally. 

The Barlow

Wind Gap Wines makes some of my all time favorite wines, so it was again a must-visit on this trip. Their Chenin Blanc and Trousseau Gris are always my top choices, and the sun streaming in the open windows of the tasting room plus the dog there on my last visit make it one of my favorite places to while away an afternoon on vacation.

Wind Gap Wine

We ended that day with an incredible dinner at Bird & the Bottle, which I highly recommend.

Our Friday in Sonoma County was dedicated to Healdsburg, which we traveled to in an Uber and spent the day walking and eating and drinking around. We had lunch at Bravas Tapas and a special tasting at another favorite, Cartograph Wines,

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This is definitely a must-visit tasting room in Healdsburg, especially for Pinot Noir lovers and anyone who likes genuinely awesome people. Everyone there is just the best.

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And as it often happens, good people who know good wine, make recommendations on where to go next. Since we didn’t have any set plans, we took the recommendation to walk to Breathless Wines, and we were so glad we did.

This sparkling winery owned by three sisters has a beautiful outdoor garden space to taste their yummy wines.

Breathless WinesHealdsburg wine tasting

They’ve done a really great job with both the indoor and outdoor spaces, and their sparkling rosé was perfect for a hot September day. Their Moscato was the real surprise of the day. We all expected sweet, which we don’t love, but instead got beautiful, complex flavors of herbs and spices and baked apples.

Breathless Wine

Another recommendation we received from Cartograph was DaVero Farms and Winery, a short Uber drive outside of the downtown area of Healdsburg, and so worth the trip.

Davero Wine

Talk about a special place. . . DaVero is a nature-lover’s dream, with gorgeous plants and flowers, views, and piglets!

DaVero makes wines with Mediterranean varietals that thrive in the climate they grow them in. You’ll see Barbera and Sangiovese on their wine tasting list, and they offer an interesting, delicious departure from many of the other wines you’ll be tasting in the area. Be sure to build in some time to walk around to see the property! 

Davero WinerySonoma

On our final day in Sonoma County, as we made our way back to San Francisco, we squeezed in a few more wine stops.

In downtown Sonoma, Roche Family Winery was a destination for us, as one of our party shares a last name with the owners. Another sunshine-drenched outdoor space, this time great for people watching just outside of Sonoma Plaza, and a big, buttery Chardonnay (I like them!) gave us the perfect sendoff out of town and on our way to beautiful and bubbly all-time favorite, Gloria Ferrer, which I blogged about here.

Roche Winery Sonoma

Gloria Ferrer is a tradition for us and a must-visit at least once on every trip to Sonoma County.

Holding on to the very last seconds in beautiful wine country before we headed back to the crowded and much chillier city, we made our last stop to wander around Cornerstone Sonoma, where a cold glass of Meadowcraft Wines Sauvignon Blanc accompanied me on my walk around the gardens.

Meadowcroft WineCornerstone Sonoma

Ahhh. . . some of the best life memories come from travel to Northern California, and as much as we want to see the whole world, we keep coming back to Sonoma County for more.

Stay tuned for a final food recap and some photos of the gorgeous house we rented!

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Tags: California, Sonoma, Sonoma County, Travel, wine, wine tasting, wine travel

Drop everything, and book a ticket to New Orleans, right now!

If only that was possible, I would do it in a heartbeat. We’ve just returned from a visit to Royal Sonesta New Orleans for my Sonesta Hotels blogging and social media work, and we want to go back ASAP.

As part of our stay, we were treated to a tour of the hotel’s fine dining establishment, Restaurant R’Evolution, followed by a delicious dinner at the restaurant’s bar, always our first option when dining out.

New Orleans fine dining

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Restaurant R’evolution celebrates five years this year, and its creative approach to Cajun and Creole cuisine has made it a New Orleans favorite, in a city that is absolutely teeming with great restaurants. Our behind-the-scenes tour was an incredible glimpse into some of the restaurant’s amazing spaces, including this custom-built wine cellar. Walls of wine went on-and-on, holding 10,000 bottles, 10,000 reasons for Wine Enthusiast  to name the restaurant as one of their top 100 wine restaurants.

Restaurant R’evolution

The entirety of Restaurant R’Evolution is truly special, but they offer some extra special dining areas, including the chef’s table, where all of the seats face the action.

Restaurant R’evolution

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Several private dining areas are available, and we’ve heard they attract some pretty A-list guests. We certainly felt like VIPs the entire time we were at Restaurant R’Evolution, and by taking in everything around us, noticed that every guest was treated that way.

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When it came to our own dining, we were brought to comfy seats at the romantic, dimly lit bar, which was once a carriage way; the floor tiles still match those of the sidewalk outside.

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I loved how special this bar felt, upscale yet super comfortable and relaxed at the same time. Excellent bar staff made us craft cocktails (I love my wine, but when in New Orleans, we were all about trying cocktails.)

We also absolutely had to try the restaurant’s famous “Death by Gumbo” which is made up of Roasted Quail, Andouille, Oysters, Filé Rice and presented beautifully with the broth poured over.

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This was absolutely to-die-for. So rich and flavorful. Note that we shared an order, and they kindly split it for us.

We also shared Beer Battered Crab Beignets and an order of fries, because good fries are my favorite food. These did not disappoint! The beignets were heavenly bites of seafood presented with remoulades.

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We could have easily relaxed at that bar for the whole night, but we had big plans at The Jazz Playhouse right next door. More to come on that, but if you get to New Orleans, I recommend doing exactly what we did and making a night of it at Royal Sonesta New Orleans.

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We were hosted by Royal Sonesta New Orleans, however, I was not required to write about the experience for my own blog. All opinions are my own.

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Tags: cocktails, fine dining, Food, food blog, New Orleans, Restaurants, travel blog, wine

To read about family-friendly fun near the Sonesta ES Suites Andover Boston, head over to the Sonesta Hotels blog!

My recent travel blogging for Sonesta brought me close to home, just up the road from Boston to Andover, Massachusetts and the Sonesta ES Suites Andover Boston. It turned out to be a beautiful, warm fall weekend, and our friends who live in Andover were home for us to visit.

 

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The first order of business was to check into the hotel, which is an extended stay property conveniently located near 93 and a variety of businesses, but set off from the road making it a quiet place to relax.

There’s a real emphasis on guests feeling at home throughout Sonesta ES Suites, with welcoming areas for meeting and breakfast (which is hot, delicious, and included in your stay!) and suites that offer full kitchens and living rooms. Our one bedroom suite was larger than our last apartment! I loved that we had the ability to cook right in the suite or even just to grab a proper wine glass from the cabinet for a glass of wine.

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The setup of the rooms is perfect for family travel; not only can the kids be put to bed and the adults stay up, but two TVs in our room meant no fighting over the remote.

Since Sonesta ES Suites are often the home-away-from-home for many on business travel, a spacious work area is a welcome addition.

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We were excited to get out and explore Andover, which is  beautiful New England town with plenty of our favorite things, including hiking trails and places to eat.

Our first stop was the campus of Phillips Academy, which, on a perfect blue sky fall day, was very pretty and very classic New England. Right on campus is the cozy and historic Samuel’s, and since it was 5:00, we decided on cocktails and a cheese plate.

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My Old Fashioned was delicious, and a well-stocked cheese plate hit the spot and got us ready for exploring some more. The Addison Gallery was already closed for the day, and we decided to add it to our itinerary for our next visit to Andover.

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We took the daylight time to explore more of the campus and decided on the sanctuary for our hike the next day.

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Since we’re always up for a meal, we headed to the downtown of Andover, which is adorable, and again very New England. We’d heard of Elm Square Oyster Co. from a few people, and never ones to pass up oysters, grabbed bar seats and wine specials while we browsed the menu.

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My Gruener Veltliner was perfectly acidic, great pairing with the Pemaquid oysters we slurped down.  A homemade hot sauce made it all more delicious; I am a hot sauce fiend!

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We added the shrimp tacos and chilled lobster, which came in the most incredible lemony sauce, to our feast. The Gruener and the lemon sauce were heavenly together!

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Elm Square Oyster Co. is a definite must-visit if you are in Andover, and there were several other restaurants in the area I also wanted to try.

Andover, while to many thought of as just a Boston suburb, is a destination in itself, and it was nice to get away without driving forever or dealing with airport lines.

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My stay at the Sonesta ES Suites Andover Boston was hosted; all opinions are my own.

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Tags: Andover, Boston, cocktails, getaway, hotels, New England, oysters, Travel, wine

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