River Road, just north of Santa Rosa, is a main artery for Sonoma County that leads to countless adventures and exploits in a lazy Wine Country meets riverside fun kind of way.
You may have driven down it a million times and never noticed the sign to Farmhouse Inn on your left. But it's a shame to miss this gem, a historic property long-known for upscale comforts that has recently undergone some upgrades.
Here's how to make the most of the weekend.
A guest room in one of the new petite suite cottages completed in April 2022.(Adam Potts Photography)
Friday: Check in at Farmhouse Inn
First of all, everyone who works here seems happy. From the minute you step onto the rosebush strewn property, you can just tell that the employees are treated well and glad to be here. That doesn't just say something about this spot, it is also an indicator of the kind of authenticity you will feel staying in a hotel that's been owned for the last 21 years by local siblings Joe and Catherine Bartolomei: You're under the care of a deeply rooted, fifth generation Sonoma family that's enmeshed in the community and has a singular goal of showcasing the area to all of their guests. They have stories to tell, if you stop for a minute to listen. And they are actually onsite much of the time, another notable difference between larger, corporate entities and boutique hotels such as this.
But back to check in.
Registration occurs in a small cottage-type space at the front of the property. There is a large cat that sometimes lounges in the corner, fresh coffee and housemade pastries near the front desk, and a self-serve bath bar that is exactly how it sounds. There are locally made bar soaps in a rainbow of colors and scents, brown sugar scrub and bath salts, all with little takeaway containers for you to maximize your soak once you get into your room.
After check in, you take your bath goodies and head along a main path that leads further into a verdant landscape than you would ever guess from the entrance. There are 25 rooms in a variety of formats, including two historic farmhouse rooms above the restaurant, barn one-bedroom suites and, just completed in April, the 55-square-foot cottage petite suites. Regardless of size, you will find the signature modern farmhouse aesthetic—unique touches like real tea light candles, complementary local snacks, thick yoga mats, heated bathroom floors, steam showers (with boughs of greenery), and Sebastopol brand Sumbody products—really hit the mark for an elevated experience.
Once you settle in, wander around and take in the beautiful setting and lovely landscaping. There are roses as big as your face, a chicken coop, tucked-away benches, and even a lawn for playing croquet. Every day at 4pm, the free wine hour features a curated roster of local, small production wineries who send a representative or winemaker to pour a selection of their wines. This is a great opportunity to learn a bit about the area and the wine-growing region around you. The wine partners that participate are also on the Farmhouse wine map, which serves as a wonderful insiders guide if you choose to go tasting (and the Farmhouse Inn name tied to your reservation generally opens doors for special treatment).
Tortellini with truffles.(Courtesy of Farmhouse Inn)
Dinner at The Restaurant
The Michelin-starred Restaurant at Farmhouse Inn has long been a destination for food lovers in the know. With two-decade-long chef Steve Litke’s retirement at the end of 2021, the new guard culinary team helmed by chef Jackson Clark is bringing fresh life to the menu and dining experience. The six-course tasting format features hyper-seasonal, ever-changing dishes such as gazpacho of asparagus flavored with green garlic, lemongrass, lime, and herbs and topped with a Hokkaido scallop, or the Akaushi steak tartare with spring onion mayonnaise, caper relish, and parmesan foam. Opt for the wine pairing with picks by the staff sommelier.
Biking through Wine Country.(Courtesy of Adventures in Cycling)
Saturday on Bikes: Explore Wine Country without a car.
There are countless beautiful drives to take and things to do from your headquarters at Farmhouse Inn, but don’t we all spend enough time sitting in one spot? Instead, take advantage of the central location that plops you right in the middle of pleasant, easy rolling roads for a day of biking (and drinking wine). Led by the highly engaging Dave Brazell, Adventures In Cycling is a 10-year-old family-run outfit that partners with Farmhouse Inn on a variety of routes and itineraries. Their newest excursion is the Pedal to Wellness outing that takes you to Bricoleur Vineyards for some yoga and a six-course wine and food pairing lunch.
Or you could opt for some vineyard bathing at MacRostie Winery, starting with a five-mile guided electric-assist bike ride, which takes you down a shortcut from the hotel over the historic Wohler Road Bridge. When you get to the winery, you are greeted with a splash of rosé and then led down to an oak tree in the middle of a vineyard. Certified nature therapist Jenny Harrow, who actually wrote her thesis on forest bathing, is a literal expert on the topic and has developed the concept of incorporating vineyard spaces into the practice.
“Research is showing that just being mindful in nature is the simplest and quickest way to regulate the nervous system,” she says. According to data from Japan, “even just 20 minutes in nature can reduce stress by 30 percent."
Her idea is to create a more conscious relationship with wine, and instead of the typical post-forest bathing ritual of a tea ceremony, she believes that sensory experience can be the same with wine. Finish your session with a taste of the MacRostie pinot noir.
Pizza and veggie sides from Farmstand.(Aubrie Pick)
Dinner at Farmstand
Tonight can be a bit more casual, with dinner at Farmstand. The new all-day eatery is in fact a food truck, although the innovative indoor/outdoor seating areas make you feel like it is a full blown restaurant. A pizza oven takes center stage on the menu and the pizzas are legit, as well as fresh items like beets with feta, blood orange, and everything crumble or the baby lettuce salad with snap peas, pickled onions, buttermilk dressing, and bacon. Wine options are again great, with an emphasis on small producers.
S'mores Before Bed
Just a few steps from Farmstand you will find two inviting fire pits with a full self-serve s'mores buffet bar, complete with homemade marshmallows, TCHO chocolate disks, and both regular and gluten-free graham crackers. It is a highlight of the property and a hard-to-refuse, cozy end to the evening.
A treatment room at the Wellness Barn.(Paul Ferradas)
Sunday: Chill Out
There are certain hotel spas that you can take or leave, but the new Wellness Barn at Farmhouse Inn is not to be skipped. Spa director Irisha Steele (formerly of St. Regis Aspen) has launched a unique treatment menu with an emphasis on holistic wellness and nature. There are only three treatment rooms, each one spacious and light with distinct bucolic-themed decor. Services include the Gems & Stones massage which incorporates hot and cold elements and a guided sound bath meditation. On Wellness Wednesdays, the spa hosts a series of self-care workshops for making facial masks, teas, and body scrubs.
Pool Time Picnic
After your treatment, float directly across the walkway to the pool at the center of the property. A brand new dining feature, the Farmhouse Cooler, allows for maximum laziness come lunchtime. There are three menu options, all of which come in the hippest cooler you’ve ever seen, complete with little tin containers and real glassware. Blissed out from a massage, sunshine, and that poolside picnic wine…maybe you can just stay another day?
// Farmhouse Inn, 7871 River Road, Forestville, farmhouseinn.com