Community & Connections brought together by the love of wine

 

Drive just a less than an hour north from San Francisco’s bustling Bay area and the landscape changes from towering buildings to where country life and times past remain at the core to their essence.

As recently as a few decades ago Napa and Sonoma felt like sleepy farming towns. Before the grapes, the landscapes were alive with fruit and nut orchards. Today, the landscape is constantly expanding with vines and new wineries

Authentic experiences offer a better understanding and appreciation of a place. Yet, few cities and towns uphold their original splendor and heritage as the years pass by, whereas Napa and Sonoma proudly retain theirs and wish to share it with you.

Let’s take a step back in time.

Napa

Napa Valley has long been a cosmopolitan area of diversity for the early settlers from Europe and Asia. Gold miners and mill workers spent their winters in this temperate climate. Before roads, trains and cars, steamship ferries carried San Francisco’s elites up the Napa River to the valley for day or weekend long grandiose parties.

This worthy reputation is still alive and well in this high culture destination today, which attracts culinary savants, historians, wine connoisseurs, as well as those who love the fine arts and a slower pace of life.

Napa’s Embarcadero remains the heart and soul of the community. A place of pride and a reflection of art, times past and the blending of new.  It’s the perfect staging place to experience the spirit of Napa. Best of all, it’s all within a bike ride or stroll.

Sonoma

Though many automatically equate Napa with the term “Wine Country,” neighboring Sonoma Valley has for years now been on the radar of serious wine enthusiasts.

Tucked between the Mayacama’s and Sonoma mountain ranges, Sonoma Valley is blessed with fertile soil in which seemingly everything will grow. More than 250 wineries call Sonoma Valley home, and because some vineyards date to the early 1800s, this area is also the recognized birthplace of the California wine industry. 

Unlike the original days of trading goods and farm orchards covering the hillsides, time has taken this valley in a new direction, grapes. Resembling the coastal influenced area of the Mediterranean climate, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir grape varietals feel right at home here.

With the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937 connecting San Francisco city and the bounties of the north, Sonoma was gaining recognition both their wine and the areas beauty.

Sonoma’s Plaza is still home to the buildings that lay tribute to its past and is regarded as center stage for the communities residents and visitors alike. From its charming town plaza to its chic shopping, historic buildings, and world-class wine, this Northern California gem is shining like never before. The plaza is an eight acres gathering place of beauty, celebrations, festivals, and history.

Napa’s past emerges with new world comforts

The year was 1862 when Albert Hatt saw the potential for a new bustling Embarcadero along Napa River’s banks and constructed the Napa Mill site. Within years that followed, he added two more warehouses and several silos to fulfill the demands for redwood lumber, coal, produce, and agricultural amendments. Steamships, sailing vessels, and barges were frequent visitors up the 55 mile-long waterway connecting San Francisco’s Bay Area residents with Napa Valley’s bounties. 

With the innovations of cars and trains came the elite and the addition of stunning neighborhoods. Architects began designing their elaborate mansions of luxury, like Luther Turton of the late 1890s until the early 1900s, who alone built some 125 in Napa—thus setting the tone and appreciation of fine art for the community, past and present.

In the late 1980s, the Napa Mill underwent the town’s most extensive historic renovation to date, and the Napa River Inn and the Hatt Market was reincarnated to modern times.  

Being blessed with a Mediterranean climate, the bounties of Napa are vast. 

The Vintners’ dedication to growing and crafting exceptional wines are further complimented by the culinary masters who have taken their dining experiences to an elevated level.

Napa Valley has long been a cosmopolitan area of diversity for the early settlers from Europe and Asia. With the addition of San Francisco’s elites, day or weekend-long grandiose parties were frequent happenings. This respected reputation is still alive and well in this high culture destination today, attracting culinary savants, historians, wine connoisseurs, and those who love the fine arts and a slower pace of life.

The town’s charming ambiance is best appreciated by foot or bicycle as you’ll sure to discover more hidden gems along the way.

Works of Art

The Napa Artwalk is designed to beautify the environment and promote art’s enjoyment by inviting regional artists to exhibit their art. Stunning and provocative visual mosaics reflective of Napa’s heritage are presented throughout downtown Napa. “Terrance Martin’s sculpture known as “Fish On” and “The Mosaic Fountain” by Alan Sheep are captivating works of arts and not to be missed.

Napa Valley Opera House

Built-in 1879, the Opera House was the center of life for the community. Vaudeville, masquerade balls and concerts reigned in its heyday. Jack London, John Phillip Souza and the legendary soprano Luisa Tetrazzini among others, performed here. Time took its toll to the point where the residents and donors began a sixteen-year restoration project restoring the Opera House to days of glory.

Churchhill Manor

Built-in 1889 by Edward Churchill, this 10,000 square foot mansion was said to have been the most extensive personal residence of its time in Napa. Great care was taken to preserve the mansion’s original indoor woodwork, redwood moldings, and even the giant pocket doors remain largely in tack to this day.

Churchill built his residence as a tribute to Napa Valley and a legacy for the bygone days of San Francisco’s finest sailings up the river to Napa to indulge in weekend-long grandiose parties for his children and grandchildren. He was known throughout the Bay Area as a famous host and his shared love of libations. He owned both golden Ribbon Beer Brewery of Napa, and the Tokalon Vineyard near Rutherford. The Tokalon’s 700 acres are now part of Robert Mondavi’s estate.

The family continued to live there after his death, with his granddaughter eventually in charge. The Depression forced her to take in borders until the family sold it in 1956. Today, this mansion is a stunning B & B of the grand yesteryear.

Churchill would be proud to know that his mansion was one of the first to be recognized in the National Registry of Historic Places.

485 Brown Street, Napa

Oxbow market

Across over the river and you’ll discover an indoor cornucopia culinary and libations delights. Here a few of the many treats in store for you:

  • Kara’s cupcakes
  • The Olive Press
  • Bar Lucia
  • Napa Bookstore
  • Oxbow Cheese Co.
  • Anette’s Chocolates
  • Hog Island Oysters
  • Eiko’s Japanese Cuisine
  • Cru Tasting Lounge
  • Fieldwork Brewery

610 First Street

Wine tasting experiences

The Ackerman Heritage House

Restoring the quintessence of a Queen Anne mansion is no easy feat, but hard work wasn’t going to stand in the way for Lauren Ackerman of Ackerman Family Vineyards. She began a daunting five-year journey of meticulously restoring one of Napa’s famous pink ladies to its former 19th-century splendor. 

Located just two blocks off of downtown Napa’s iconic Main Street, this historic mansion stands as a reflection of the area’s rich cultural history. Now re-christened the “The Ackerman Heritage House,” this grand old lady proudly welcomes visitors to indulge in Napa’s historic charm and appreciation for high caliber wines.

 

Do you desire to taste some old-world style wines among their vineyards? Then Antica Vineyards is the place.

Legendary Antinori Family brings Italian winemaking techniques to Napa Valley. 


For six centuries, command of the Antinori empire was passed from father to son. But with no male heirs, the Marchese sold a significant stake in the business to Whitbread, a British beer-making company some years ago. “It was a period when I did not know exactly if my daughters would be interested or not to be involved in the business. And so for me, that was a way to guarantee a continuity also to the company,” Piero explains.

One of those ‘next generation’ concepts was an enormous undertaking and has been in the making for the past several years. The idea is to showcase the family’s long wine history and, at the same time, educate the visitors with the innovations and changes made over time.

The other ‘next generation’ concept sent Piero Antinori’s on a quest to explore the ‘new wine world areas,’ which was encouraged by his father, who took him on a journey across the high seas, specifically to Napa, California, in the 1960s. 

Today, Piero and his three daughters, Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia, now work side by side to run Antica Vineyard in every aspect, from tending to the blocks of vines to winemaking techniques to marketing and foremost, to the new world of wine and the next-generation ideas. 

When asked if his family will last for another 500 years, Antinori laughs and says, “At least.” , Antica,

Bites

Waiting for you are over a dozen different restaurants offering diverse styles or places of cuisine origin. 

The Napa General Store is perfect for a luncheon Chicken Oriental Salad or a piping hot bowl of clam chowder. Celadon serves ‘Global Comfort Food’ with a lovely patio setting, and Angéle’ French country cuisine’ offers courtyard or riverfront dining. I savored every last bite of their Coq au Vin Blanc. 

“Good food is very, even most often, simple food.”

Anthony Bourdain 

pillows

Napa River Inn

With roots that date back to 1884, the Napa River Inn continues to be the mainstay of unparalleled luxury among the bustling renaissance of Napa Valley’s Riverfront District.

Located within the Historic Napa Mill initially built-in 1862, daily steamships excursions transporting San Francisco’s elite along Napa Rivers passageway to the Embarcadero dockage in downtown Napa.

Locally owned and operated Napa River Inn’s continual commitment to preserving its history has garnered the prestigious Historic Hotels of America designation’s property. Their dedication to superlative hospitality is honored by receiving the highest Michelin rates and Forbes 4-Star rewards.

Their waterfront location grants walkabout access to all of downtown’s specialty shops, gourmet restaurants, and 30 world-renowned wine tasting rooms.

Sonoma’s Plaza was originally a Mexican military base, then a trading post and now, the heart and soul for its community.

The Plaza is 8 acres gathering place of beauty, celebrations, festivals, and history.

Sonoma Plaza, a National Historic Landmark, represents several monumental events in California’s history. On July 4, 1824, Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma, we were founded by Father Jose Altimira. While the original mission buildings were wooden structures, the present mission church, located at 114 East Spain Street, is Adobe. 

The Pueblo at Sonoma was established in 1835 by General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Military Commander and Director of the Northern Frontier for the Mexican government. The pueblo was used as the military base. The end of Mexican control of California was precipitated by an event that occurred in Sonoma Plaza. 

In June 1846, a party of settlers occupied Sonoma Plaza, proclaimed the Republic of California, and raised the Bear Flag as a symbol of declared independence from Mexico. On July 9, 1846, the Bear Flag was replaced by the flag of the United States. Today, a monument to the Bear Flag Revolt is proudly displayed in the Plaza. 

Unlike the original days of trading goods and farm orchards covering the hillsides, the time has taken this valley in a new direction, grapes. Resembling the coastal influenced area of the Mediterranean climate, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir grape varietals feel right at home here.

With the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937, connecting San Francisco city and the north’s bounties, Sonoma was gaining recognition for both its wine and the area’s beauty.

Sonoma’s Plaza is still home to the buildings that lay tribute to its past and is regarded as center stage for the community’s residents and visitors alike. This Northern California gem is shining like never before, from its charming town plaza to its chic shopping, historic buildings, and world-class wine. An 8 acres are gathering place of beauty, celebrations, festivals, and history.

Standing guard on all four sides of the Plaza is walkable shoppers or browsers paradise. 

Shop owners

Bossa Nova

A boutique specializing in contemporary fashion for today’s women. They also feature an extensive collection of handmade jewelry and gift items that will delight or shipped to anywhere.

524 Broadway

H Frank

A premier home décor and fine art store have withstood the test of time for the past ten years. Time to bring home a lasting memento to capture the spirit of your visit.

28 W Spain St

Socks on the square

22,000+ Socks! This a cool, hip, fun socks shop for all. Who knew such an extensive collection of fun, practical, and utterly fabulous socks for every age. This shop will surely put a smile on your face.

450 1st St E

Bram Cookware

The art of clay pot cooking. From stovetop or oven to table. This shop is for those who enjoy preparing and sharing fantastic cuisine for all to share. Even this cookware is worthy of a dinner topic.

493 1st St W

Sonoma Valley Museum of Art

Offers exceptional exhibitions, interactive education programs, and workshops. They also host incredible annual events such as the Sonoma International Film Festival. The Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival (devoted to the grape harvest to September), attracts visitors from all over the globe.

551 Broadway

The Chocolate Cow is an afternoon treat. The cow motif shop is filled to the brim with handmade chocolates, Hawaiian Shaved Tropical Ice, ‘Cow’ smoothies, and old fashion hand-churned ice cream cones. Not ready for a treat but need a boost, then try an espresso. It’s sure to keep on the go.

BITES:

Just a few steps from Sonoma’s Plaza square, on 127 East Napa St, lies a captivating experience not to be miss.

Della Santina’s Trattoria

Whether it is the mesmerizing voice of Andrea Bocelli or the aromatic orchestra of simmering a marinara sauce that entices you inside, it doesn’t matter. This is the way the Della Santina’ family invites you to come to experience their authentic Tuscan country dishes and their intoxicating Dolce Fariente or “pleasure of doing nothing” embrace of life.

Following in the same footsteps as generations did before him, Quirico Saltavore Giovanni Della Santina, now known as Don, spent his childhood helping his grandmothers, preparing the family meals from recipes built on traditional genuine love.

Tuscan country dishes pay homage to celebrate the seasons’ harvests, slow-roasted lamb, rabbit, duck, cured meats like prosciutto, sausages, and fresh pasta, and daily loaves of bread resting on their window seals.

The Trattoria’s walls are proudly adorned with family photos, past, and present, including their grandmothers, Pia Fontana Della Santina and Clary Gambogi Barsotti, who passed down these lineage recipes, as you’re cheerfully escorted towards their postcard-perfect garden courtyard.

You enter a calm oasis of native Loquat trellises, crisp white linen dressed cafe tables, and a babbling waterfall, all nested under a Lady Bank Rose vine tree-canopied sky.

George Arias, who has worked here for 14 years, offers me the menus. I lean back and browse their selections, and then without even realizing it, I slip gently into the full participation of Dolce Far Niente or ‘pleasure of doing nothing’.

Deciding which dish to order was a mind tease. Since my eyes were bigger than my stomach, I choose to dine for both lunch and dinner during my stay in town. Their cuisine is fantastic, and it is with pleasure that, with further reading, I share my full review of their exquisite dishes and the Della Santina family history and experience. 

Since 1990, Della Santina’s and Enoteca Della Santina represent an authentic Italian experience that both embodies the spirit of the Sonoma’s Wine Country and the Della Santina family’s heritage.

Walkthrough the ornate wrought iron gated entrance of Della Santina’s Trattoria, and like smoke thru a keyhole, you’re transported to the family’s hometown of Lucca, Italy.

Della Santina’s is open daily for lunch and dinner dining.

“Come on in, take your time and enjoy true Tuscan and Sonoma hospitality.”

Rob Della Santina

www.dellasantinastratteria.com

Libations 

Tucked between the Mayacamas and Sonoma mountain ranges, Sonoma Valley is blessed with fertile soil where seemingly everything will grow. A visit to Sonoma wouldn’t be complete without tasting its world-class bounties. There are 250 tasting rooms which to choose from. Here are a few of my favorites, not to be missed.

Enoteca Della Santina’s

The other half of your experience with the Della Santina family is Enoteca Della Santina. Don’s son Rob and his lovely wife Nicole created a “wine library” with a 250+ bottle “wine wall” so visitors can sample, drink and purchase wines from around the world right next door.

“We gathered after hours in our Trattoria, Della Santina’s, in the company of close friends and family. Together we sampled and discussed a variety of wines from around the world. With community and celebration in mind, our international Club Vino was born. You can often find multi-generational wine families sipping wine and sharing stories with visitors from far and wide. Think of us as Sonoma’s “Cheers”, where everybody knows your name, and you are always welcome.”

Robert & Nicole Della Santina

127 East Napa Street

www.enotecadellasantina.com

Three Sticks Wines

This Adobe built-in 1842 is the oldest standing original. 

Adobe homes left in California and is now home to the hospitality of 

Three Sticks, a family-owned boutique winery.

Captain Salvador Vallejo built the Vallejo-Casteña Adobe in 1842, brother of General Marino Guadalupe Vallejo, the Commandant of Mexico’s northern territory (modern-day Sonoma). The Adobe home is located across from Sonoma’s Plaza Square on 143 Spain Street.    

In 1947, Gregory & Harriet Jones purchased the property, which they called “La Casita”, and launched into a major restoration.

Harriet Jones called it home for over 50 years and did a superb job of preserving its original charm. Being an avid gardener, she is responsible for planting many of the roses and trees that still grace the courtyard’s show-stopping display today.

 In 1997 Mrs. Jones’ estate sold The Adobe to her dear friends, Robert & Leslie Demler, who meticulously cared for the building for the next 15 years.

Bill & Eva Price purchased The Adobe from the Dealers for Three Sticks, 170 years after its original construction, in November of 2012, when they embarked on a massive two-year preservation project. 

Proprietor Bill Price III (nicknamed “Billy Three Sticks”) and his team work by side by side with a selection of Sonoma’s historians and the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation to restore and protect the history of the properties rich past.

Once the Adobe renovation was complete, they turned to Ken Fulk, a renowned San Francisco-based designer, and his team to work their magic, creating the perfect balance of times past with the present’s comfort.

This historical landmark is now home to the hospitality of Three Sticks, a family-owned boutique winery recognized for producing exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their six Grand cru level Estate vineyards, including Durell, Gap’s Crown, and Walala.

The mountains’ elevation, rocky soil or coastal conditions of fog and winds rafting in the afternoons, the grapes ripen with a steadiness of heart. Time and care is taken, allowing the vines to marry with the earth and the sun. The results are captured in every bottle.

Gap’s Crown vineyard

Long heralded as one of Sonoma’s premier pinot noir properties, the Gap’s Crown vineyard now shows two faces with their chardonnay grapes gaining notoriety. Perched on the western face of Sonoma, shrouded in fog with cool windy afternoons allowing the grapes to slowly mature in a longer than usual growing season.

2018 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

On the nose, you’ll sense distinctive minerality, enhanced by layers of honeysuckle, Key Lime that seems to dance on your palate.

2018 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir

 A rich and even boisterous wine of delicious black cherries, Earl Grey tea, and gingerbread. Rich in weight and legs with a long lingering finish. This is an excellent candidate for long-term cellaring.

Walala vineyard

Crowning of the Pacific coast hills surrounded by 2,000 acres of pine and redwood forest, the vines rest above the fog allowing the fruit to ripen in the cool, coastal breezes.

2018 Walala Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

This vintage is a glassful of fresh violets on the nose, with raspberry, cherries, plums, and toasted hibiscus on the palate.

Choose from their three tasting experiences: Taste of Three Sticks, Caviar, and Chardonnay and specially created Food & wine pairings. Each adventure comes with a fascinating history lesson and Adobe tour.

Three sticks have a down to earth to growing and winemaking, true respect of the past, and the belief in wine’s power to bring people together. When you combine these talents with their apparent love of hospitality, it is a unique experience I’ll remember with great fondness, with a glass in hand.

“We are for real connections, real history, real wines; experiences you will never forget. We welcome you to our home, the Adobe, for a historic tasting in Sonoma.” 

Three Sticks Wines team

143 West Spain St.

www.threestickswines.com

The Zina Lounge @ Ledson Hotel Small boutique winery with a long history of artisanal winemaking.

The Zina Lounge, carrying on the hotel’s tradition of honoring history and family. Named for Steve’s ancestor, Zina Hyde Cunningham, who settled in Sonoma County in 1865 to grow grapes, this regal, inviting space features a wine tasting bar, a stately fireplace, and an outdoor Lanai sitting area overlooking the Sonoma Plaza. Here are a few wines they pour.

Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Tangerine, green melon, and key lime crispiness with moderate finish and weight are refreshing tastebud awakeners.

Zina Hyde Cunningham Ricetti Lane Estate Vineyard Petite Sirah

Squid ink purple-colored brambleberry, cherry, and ripe plum jam with an earthy layered finish

Mendocino Ridge “Ciapusci Ancient Vine Zinfandel

The Ciapusci family from Italy brought their family Primativo vines with them to America. Deep layers of blackberries, plum, and dark cherry notes before a luxurious truffle finish.

Open by appointment between 10:30 am and 6:00 pm.

480 First St.

zinawinery.com

If taking a drive out to the countryside and visiting a Castle surrounded by vines while sipping delicious wine is on your list, then The Ledson Castle is a perfect choice.

Ledson Castle

With a story over five generations, they are spanning two centuries with one common family trait of hard work and determination, pursuing their dreams from sauterne for breakfast to a majestic castle built from love.

 The 16,000-square-foot custom Gothic French-Normandy structure replete with a custom-colored brick edifice, coffered ceilings, sweeping staircases, cathedral-style windows, and mosaic inlays, slate tile, turrets, balconies, and fountains had begun to take shape and stop traffic in 1990. The 17-acre estate is home to their prized Merlot vineyards and meticulously manicured garden sitting nooks.

Today, Ledson Winery & Vineyards produce more than 70 wines each year- representing the most extensive ultra-premium wine portfolio of any family-owned winery in the United States and offering upwards of 20 different varietals and blends from as many as 20 appellations.

During your visit, be sure to venture into their on-sight gourmet marketplace, where you’ll find a variety of local olive oils, condiments, and picnic sandwiches.

Pillows

Ledson Hotel

Step back in time to a grander era

Situated on the historic Sonoma Plaza, Ledson Hotel blends Old World charm with modern amenities for a memorable stay in Wine Country. The Ledson Luxury hotel with its six individually decorated guest rooms with antique grandeur and modern amenities. Each spacious grand rooms come complete with in-room fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, and plush bathrobes, while each guest room offers its unique personality and room name.

Inn at Sonoma

Conveniently located just two blocks from the historic Sonoma Plaza, the Inn at Sonoma is the perfect destination for your Wine Country visit. This hotel features 19 well-appointed guest rooms in the main building and eight guest rooms in the adjacent Vintners Cottage. Guest rooms in the main building feature a queen or king bed, fireplace, flat panel television with DVD player, and most feature a private deck. Guest rooms in the Vintners Cottage include:

A fireplace, flat-panel television and a spacious bathroom, either two queen beds or a king bed with a jetted spa tub.

Room rates include the Inn at Sonoma Experience: breakfast for two, a wine & cheese mini-picnic, freshly-baked cookies, complimentary parking, and wireless internet, and bicycles to borrow.

630 Broadway St.

www.innatsonoma@foursisters.com

Located less than an hour’s drive above San Francisco, you can embrace yourself in Sonoma’s Wine Country and old-world charm. The landscape features century-old oaks, rows of vineyard, and shaded trails, perfect for a lingering scenic drive and picnics.

The town’s Plaza is a welcoming green space surrounded on all four sides by great restaurants, stylish wine-tasting rooms, unique shops, and architecture that dates back to Spanish Colonial days.

Sonoma Plaza is a favorite of foodies, wine tasters, shoppers, family travelers, outdoor enthusiasts, and travelers alike. Come and behold life’s celebration and take home some new memories you’ll treasure.

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