Worth Trying: The Luxe Farmhouse Charming Wine Country
A week before heading to Sonoma County, Calif., I was sitting at the bar at Shukette, a relatively new and seemingly already trendy restaurant in Chelsea. While talking to a restaurateur there, I mentioned that I was off to wine country the following week. She asked where I was staying, so I told her: Farmhouse Inn. She expressed her great enthusiasm for this hotel—and she wasn’t the only one. Everyone I mentioned Farmhouse Inn to told me how much they loved staying there or how amazing they had heard it was. After my own stay there, I am happy to report the rumors are true.
Pulling up to the cottage hotel, it seemed relatively humble. It didn’t throw luxury in my face, the way some luxury hotels do. Instead, Farmhouse Inn embodies a quiet confidence. Upon seeing my room, I understood. I stayed in a Barn Junior Suite, and there was truthfully nothing junior about it. The closet was huge; the bathroom floors were heated (something I’ve really come to miss since returning to below-freezing New York City); the shower doubled as a steam room; the bath was roomy and came prepped with salts, scrubs and soaps to try out; my balcony overlooked a coop full of beautiful hens; the bed was cozy; the fireplace was both inside and outside; and there were two beautiful cheesecake brownies (my favorite!) awaiting me when I arrived, along with a handful of other snacks, including popcorn and trail mix. And so it was, my home away from home.
One thing I can assure you: If you visit the Farmhouse Inn, you will never be hungry. And if you find that you are, there’s no end of options to fix that. The first of which is Farmstand, the property’s casual joint. I ate here twice—once for lunch and once for dinner—and my favorite things were the egg salad toast and the fries. I know, I know—egg salad is hardly exciting. But this egg salad was excellent! It was creamy and slightly tangy, seated atop a deliciously thick piece of brioche. And the fries! I would qualify myself as a French fry connoisseur at this point. If it’s on the menu, I’m liable to order it. And these shoestring fries were hot and crispy with visible flakes of chunky sea salt. They absolutely hit the spot.
If you’re looking for something more upscale, then consider The Restaurant at Farmhouse Inn. A Michelin-starred restaurant, it was both a delightful experience and the talk of the property when I was there. The day I ate at the restaurant was the day their new chef was starting, and while the specifics are under embargo, I can say that their new chef has the potential to really up the ante for this restaurant. Though his new menu hasn’t launched yet (which I will definitely be keeping my eyes out for), I much enjoyed my dinner there with their traditional menu.
This dinner was coursed, beginning with a beautiful amuse-bouche of earthy, hearty porcini mushroom soup served in an espresso cup with a quenelle of cream, a smattering of chives and a super thin crisp that just shatters when you bite into it. This soup was the perfect start to dinner on a chilly night.
The soup was followed by the first course: a winter greens salad. I recognize salad is not usually considered exciting, but this one is. It’s simple, but so fresh and light and flavorful with its Manchego, toasted hazelnuts, winter pear and Champagne vinaigrette. The cheese gives it a little bit of a musky finish, which is nice against the nuttiness of the hazelnuts and the refreshing vinaigrette. A very interesting salad and very fitting for winter.
Out comes the bread, of which there are two types: a seeded sourdough and a more traditional variation, complete with butter that has mascarpone cheese and Maldon sea salt mixed in. The butter was lovely—very rich and slightly tangy. I’ve never had butter like it before.
One of my favorite courses of the night was the cauliflower soup. It had Dungeness crab and shards of tender cauliflower florets in a neat little mound in the center of the velvety cauliflower bisque. This soup makes cauliflower, an unappealing vegetable in my opinion, seem sexy. It was smooth and creamy, and the crab was lemony and bright without being briny; the cauliflower was al dente, giving it a slightly crunchy texture and the Espelette pepper butter gave it an ever so slight kick. Plus, it paired absolutely beautifully with the Russian River Valley chardonnay I was drinking throughout the night.
My main was a potato-crusted halibut, which was tasty, but to be honest was not my favorite thing that night. Although, to be fair, I don’t think this is what you come for. I was recommended the risotto by the waiter, and I overheard other patrons ordering that, but after an afternoon of heavy eating, I just couldn’t stomach it. That being said, the lemon spinach that the halibut was seated atop was utterly delicious, and the sunchoke salsa on the side was bright and lovely.
My finisher for the night was the sticky date cake. The cake served as a nice note to finish the night on. All of the elements made this traditionally heavy cake feel lighter. There were a lot of orange notes in this dessert, from the citrus segments, orange bourbon caramel and a truly masterful orange vanilla ice cream. The ice cream was fragrant and light and silky and beautiful, situated atop crushed toasted hazelnuts, which were nutty and crunchy and went so well with the ice cream. And then, before I left for the night, they had one final bite for me: a decadent chocolate truffle with a liquidy espresso filling. Beautiful.
Overall, it was a fantastic experience. The wait staff and sommelier were very friendly and hospitable, and the space itself felt so intimate.
I awoke to a hazy, brisk morning and excitedly got ready for a day full of wine tastings. We are, of course, in wine country, and so I ought to give you some wineries to consider visiting, right? But first, breakfast. I really like the way Farmhouse Inn does breakfast. Every night during turndown service, they leave a card for you to fill out with what you want for breakfast the next morning and when you’d like it. Then, you stick the card on your doorknob, and within a half hour of the time you ordered it, breakfast is served to you in-room. It’s very convenient. I ordered granola with yogurt both days, which was nutty and crunchy and delicious. I also had written on my card asking for two boiled eggs on one particular morning—something that wasn’t an option on the à la carte menu. And there they were, on my tray, boiled to perfection. It wasn’t much, but it’s the little details that make the difference at hotels and help make your stay feel that much more special and thoughtful. Not long after eating breakfast, I was off to Paul Hobbs Winery, which was truly an elegant experience.
We pulled up to a lush vineyard, even in winter, and walked into a stylish building, where we enjoyed a four-course vegetarian tasting menu, which should be noted is different from their normal tasting menu. Paired with that menu, we sampled largely pinot noirs, cabernets and chardonnays. My favorites were both of the chardonnays: a 2019 Edward James Estate, which I found floral yet oaky and funky like Manchego, and a 2017 Cuvée Louisa, Goldrock Estate, which was a little sweeter but with that same oaky-ness.
After finishing the truly masterful tasting, Tyson Ducker, senior estate host at the winery, gave us a quick tour of the estate, and then we were off to tasting number two at Marine Layer Wines. The two tastings were very different. Whereas Paul Hobbs was sleek and elegant, Marine Layer was modern and chic. Their tasting room had recently been redesigned by local design duo, the Hommeboys. The dreamy space is full of deep blues and plush earth-toned velvets and a cozy fireplace. We took our seat at the end of the amber-colored velvet booth against the back wall and tasted our way through Marine Layer’s wine flight. But first, a mezze platter from the soon-to-open restaurant Little Saint. This mezze plate was so tasty with beautiful stone bowls of apples coated in olive oil and dukka, pickled beets and fennel, and wonton-like crisps with cranberry tahini and cashew cheese with apple butter for dipping. Of all the wines I had at Marine Layer, my favorites were the 2019 Vineyard Chardonnay with its notes of lemon and honeysuckle and the 2019 Walala Vineyard Pinot Noir, which was a complex wine with notes of red berries and licorice root. The Walala was a truly unique wine. But truthfully, I think the wines from both Marine Layer and Paul Hobbs are so different from each other, yet so interesting, that they both deserve a spot in any oenophile’s collection.
After a long day of tastings, I still wasn’t quite done yet. For dinner, I had reservations at the newly opened The Matheson, which incidentally is right down the block from Marine Layer. The Matheson is the talk about town and seems to be the hot reservation to get right now if you find yourself in Sonoma County (which I hope you do). Chef and owner Dustin Valette is not only a complete joy to talk to but is turning out some very fine cuisine. I enjoyed the chef’s tasting menu on this night and truly it was all good, but I did have my favorites. The plates I enjoyed the most were the rich confit egg yolk, briny Osetra caviar, crisp puffed wild rice and an oniony cream sauce that was somewhere between a thick sauce and a foam; the Kona Kampachi ceviche with its zippy, zesty, citrusy, refreshing and slightly spicy notes; and the 28-day aged Flannery New York steak, which was cooked perfectly and super tender, pairing nicely with the horseradish cream and the crispy potato square. I also really enjoyed the palette cleanser I was served before dessert, which was a teeny tiny ice cream cone made from a poppyseed tuile with a small scoop of tangy lemon sorbet.
After dinner, I headed back to the hotel, where I scooped up a hot cocoa from their hot chocolate bar. The cocoa is made from bittersweet Valrhona chocolate, meaning it was rich and cozy but not too sweet. A perfect end to a beautiful day.
My third and final day at the Farmhouse Inn was a spa day, and to be honest, it was one of the best spa days I think I’ve ever had. I started my morning with a sound bath meditation. Now, meditation is hit or miss for me, and I was doubting my ability to sit through an hour of it. That hour went by fast, though. Kellee guided me through the mediation, playing on a set of crystal bowls. The sound was ethereal, hymn-like even. For whatever reason, having a sound to focus on made it easier for me to get through a long meditation. Laying on the floor on a furry blanket, my head on a plush pillow, I felt a gamut of emotions, crying intermittently throughout the hour. The meditation provided a great release for me. Once I came to and the meditation was over, Kellee let me try my hand at playing the bowls, and I am now convinced I need a set, though I doubt my neighbors in my apartment complex would be happy about that.
I took a hot cup of spiced chai tea from the spa back to my room before heading to the front desk to inquire about a Volvo XC90 T6. At Farmhouse, they have a car program that allows you to take out one of these luxe Volvos and drive around Sonoma County for a bit. I figured a nice complement to my spa day would be a walk through Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve—an easy 15-minute drive from the property. The car drives so smoothly, and there’s even an auxiliary cable for you to plug your phone into so you can listen to your music or podcasts on the drive.
The reserve was beautiful and dark—the gigantic, ancient redwoods create a canopy over you, making it both cooler and dimmer than outside the reserve. I walked for 30 minutes on different trails, gazing up at these magnificent trees that I’d never encountered before and crossing over soothing creeks lost in deep thought and gratitude for this moment. After taking it all in, I headed back to the car and drove off.
When I arrived back at the property, it was about time for my Gems & Stones massage at the spa. If you like a hot stone massage, then I think you’d really enjoy this. This treatment is a nice, customized massage that incorporates the use of warm rocks and cool gemstones. I thought the temperature difference would feel extreme—painful even—but it could not have been more soothing. The rocks were the perfect temperature for helping relax your muscles, and the gemstones following that felt like an ice cube melting down your back—cool but not freezing. It was absolutely lovely, and my massage therapist Audra was amazing and so communicative, which is so necessary for a great massage.
I went from my massage right into wine hour. Wine hour occurs daily from 4 to 5 p.m. when one of the property’s winery partners brings bottles of wine over for the guests to try. On this night, Petrichor was there. Sitting by the fire with one of the owners of the hotel Joe Bartolomei, I sampled a glass of their rosé and their Carma, which is a very cool carbonic grenache. After mixing and mingling for a bit and drinking some fantastic wine, I headed back to my room for one last soothing bath before curling up in bed with the fireplace alight, Family Feud flickering in the background as I drifted off to sleep.
In case it wasn’t clear, my stay at Farmhouse Inn couldn’t have been dreamier. The staff, the food, the rooms, the spa, the little details—all of it made for a magnificent getaway. If I was going to knock one thing, it would be that the cell service was somewhat spotty during my stay. That being said, I don’t really think that’s why you come to Farmhouse Inn. I think you stay there because you need some time to reset, recharge and take a break. And for that, I can’t think of a more beautiful or enjoyable place to stay. All of this is to say that I hope if you’re planning to travel this year, you incorporate Sonoma County and Farmhouse Inn into your plans—together, they provide the getaway we all need right now.