Russian River Valley restaurants

red car tasting room

4 Days in the Russian River Valley

As I write this, my wife Lynn is helping can some 30 lbs of the most luscious heirloom tomatoes you will ever see with our host in the Napa Valley house we rent. But my mind is drifting back to four incredibly sensuous days just spent eating and wining in the Russian River Valley. If you want to hear what that was like, come along with me.

If Napa is like a bigtime cabernet—opulent, powerful, with its stunning views and branded, architect-designed wineries and celebrity-chef restaurants, the Russian River Valley over in Sonoma is its demurer, down–to-earth cousin, the feel of farmers not business magnates, garage style wineries and farmhouses, and akin to the terroir-rich wine that best represents it: pinot noir. Though you can drink and eat and open the senses ever bit as dreamily as across the mountain in Napa, with its own beautiful vineyard-scapes, it’s a whole different trip– but one we found equally as rewarding.

We stayed at the Farmhouse Inn in the countryside of rural Forestville, about ten miles out of Healdsburg, which has grown into the style and foodie center of the wine country in the past few years. The inn is a tasteful five-star setting on par with the San Ysidro in in Montecito, with charming casita rooms and a Michelan-starred restaurant.Macphail Vineyards Breakfast comes with the room, but it’s hardly your typical scrambled eggs and bacon, but a sumptuous (and filling) way to start the day: heavenly chocolate croissants and Black Mission fig bread; house made ricotta crepes with peach coulis and grilled maple-pecan sausage. We also ate there one night. I had Beskeshire pork with a trumpet mushroom crust and a green tomato chimmichurri. Lynn had halibut in dashi-gasil butter with a fennel-potato puree. That was after zucchini blossoms and a shared grilled lobster sausage with fennel sofrito to go with a terrific sauvingon blanc from nearby Rochioli. The staff at the Farmhouse is as savvy and knowledgeable as any I’ve ever come across, setting us up at the best, small production wineries and directing us to the best eating places not only in the valley, but in the entire region. The kind of staff you go back to on arriving back to the inn and report back how your day went. They made the place a joy.

Our first day, Thursday, we started out with no plans, other than a one pm tasting at a small, hard to find pinot producer, Small Vines, a contact in Napa had set us up with. After breakfast (whoa, did I mention those breakfasts!) we drove around the winding, country roads exploring, passing familiar favorite wineries like Iron Horse and Merry Edwards, and happened to pass Red Car,

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Q&A

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Where is the Russian River valleys

The Russian River is a southward-flowing river in the Northern California counties of Mendocino and Sonoma.