Best Wine Tasting Passports Out There in 2017 in Napa and Sonoma!

Happy New Year Everyone! I love a new year, it gets me excited for what’s ahead for the year.  It’s also a good time to think about that year’s travel and where you want to go, and of course, a good time, to start looking at the best deals out there for your passions.

For me, that includes Wine Tasting, and wine exploring all the great California Wine Regions.  With that being said, during the winter months, there’s often some great passport programs available to help make the most of your wine exploration!

The winter is a GREAT time to go wine tasting too because the tasting rooms are a lot less crowded, giving you a more one on one experience with your wine tasting: truly a win-win! This is the time of the year when you will find me in the tasting rooms!

So, with that being said: Here’s some GREAT Passport Programs Happening Now to Get you PSYCHED for the Year ahead:

Calistoga’s: Winter in the Wineries Passport:

Truly! This is the best Winter Deal: This has become an annual tradition in Calistoga.  I’ve participated in this passport program the previous 2 years, and loved it.

Calistoga is the northern most town of the Napa Valley, their main street has adorable tasting rooms and boutiques to shop in, along with great restaurants and inns.  Also, if you’ve ever wanted to experience a mud bath, you come to Calistoga to do so!

But with that being said, this passport program is a great deal: From December 3 through February 5, your passport will give you tasting flights at 15 Tasting Rooms throughout the Calistoga area for only 50 dollars! YES: Only 50 Dollars! You get your money back by your third tasting! Every year the Tasting Rooms are a little bit different but this year includes tastings at: Castello Di Amorosa, Chateau Montelena, Maldonado, Fairwinds Estate, August Briggs, Lava Vine, Laura Michael, T-Vine, and many more tasting rooms and wineries in the area!

Along with the 15 Tasting Rooms, they also have discounts at Downtown Calistoga Restaurants, Shops and Inns in the area making it the perfect getaway escape!

Saint Helena’s Little Book of Big Experiences:

Little Book of Big Experiences

So, this passport program started this past November and goes all the way through March 2017!  For just 100 Dollars, you get 25 different experiences that include wine tastings, foodie experiences, and discounts on inns in the area!

Tasting experiences include top spots such as: Freemark Abbey, Charles Krug, Beringer, and many more experiences. A full list of the experiences can be found here.  These are truly one of kind experiences, and St. Helena has truly pulled out ALL the stops in this passport program!

Truthfully: This is the passport I’m supporting this year because of the incredible experiences available, and for me to explore more of the Saint Helena area!

Sonoma Passport 2017:

an image of the Sonoma Passport

The start of the year is ALWAYS a great time to buy a year-long passport, especially if you do a lot of wine tasting, and frequent an area often.

That’s why the Sonoma Passport is worth it: For just 59 dollars, this passport lasts an entire year!  So, if you purchase now, you have 12 months of use, talk about a GREAT deal.

The passport includes 2 for 1 tastings at many local wineries in the area, along with discounts on bottle purchases.  And there are some complimentary tastings in the passport, as well.  A great investment, especially if you’re a couple!  You just need to buy one passport for two.

Do a Downtown Napa Wine Tasting Card:

If you are headed to Napa for a weekend getaway, or even longer, purchasing the Downtown Wine Tasting Card is a great deal to have in your back pocket: For just 15 Dollars, this wine tasting card will get you tastings for 1/2 off in all 12 of the Napa Tasting Rooms in Downtown! This tasting card lasts the entire year too!

Park the car at your Downtown Inn, and walk through the tasting rooms of Downtown in a safe and casual way!  Plus, shop at the adorable boutiques along the way, and enjoy some of the great restaurants in the area while saving over 150 Dollars in savings.

Russian River Inns:

Sometimes, when doing your research, you run across a GREAT deal, and often times, great inns in an area will offer complimentary tasting cards or passports during your stay.  This is the EXACT case when you book with the Russian River Inns, upon booking, you will receive a complimentary tasting card/passport to over 120 wineries in the area.  Talk about a GREAT deal, and the perfect excuse for a nice getaway in 2017.

The Wine Road:


Sonoma County’s Wine Road has great events throughout the year include: Winter Wineland, Barrel Tasting Weekends, and their November Wine and Food Affair event.

However, throughout the year, they also have a 1 Day (30 Dollars) or 3 Day Tasting Ticket (60 dollars) to the Wine Road Wineries and Tasting Rooms that will offer you complimentary tastings and/or discounts with these tickets.

Just keep in mind when purchasing these tickets that you may need to make separate tasting appointments for the wineries you want to visit during your stay. Also, pay close attention to the blackout dates where these tickets won’t be accommodated. BUT, this is highly recommended when planning a vacation getaway to Sonoma County!




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Santa Rosa’s Historic Railroad Square!

The other day, I was invited to Downtown Santa Rosa, on behalf of Sonoma County Tourism, and as I met some other travel writers across the Bay Area, many mentioned how they didn’t realize how thriving the downtown Santa Rosa area has become, or knew about the beauty of Railroad square, so it dawned on me, Santa Rosa, really needs to be written about, so here it is.

Santa Rosa, really a central hub to Sonoma Wine Country, is a fun place to visit, and actually a GREAT place to find some fun gifts for loved ones, especially with the impending Holiday Season! And a GEM that many outside the area of Santa Rosa don’t really know about is the Historic Railroad Square.

Railroad Square:


Railroad Square developed in the 1880’s, when the first trains descended into Santa Rosa!  The city has continued to develop the area in the past few years, and for anyone local, it’s definitely a little gem within the city.

Flying Goat Coffee:

If you start your day early and need a little pick me up, begin at Flying Goat Coffee.

Omelette Express:

Begin your day with breakfast or brunch at Omelette Express.  Seriously, the BEST place in Santa Rosa to get an Omelette!  If omelettes aren’t your thing, do not worry, they have other breakfast options available including Eggs Benedict, Fruit Bowls, Waffles and more!

After breakfast, begin your descent along 4th St, exploring the Shops along the way.  If YOU love Antique’s, then you will absolutely love Railroad Square, as this is Antique Row in Santa Rosa.


Shuffles Magical Ice Cream Shop:

Craving ice cream?  Stop into Shuffles Magical Ice Cream Shop where they will perform magic for you behind the counter!  They also occasionally put on full on Magic Shows!  Also, a great place to throw a birthday party if you have a little one.

Holiday Carriage Rides:

During December, Carriage Rides take place along Railroad Square from 11am-3pm every weekend!  A really special time of the year to visit.

6th Street Playhouse:

Love Theater?  Be sure to check out a show at 6th Street Playhouse! In 2004, a new partnership reunited the Santa Rosa Players and Actors Theatre under one board of directors. Together they renovated the 107-year-old Del Monte cannery into the 6th Street Playhouse.

Dinner Options:

There’s some REALLY Great restaurants around Railroad Square, some favorites include:

Jack & Tony’s: A full on Whiskey Bar and Restaurant!

La Gare French Restaurant: Probably known as one of Santa Rosa’s most romantic restaurants! This little gem has been in Railroad Square for well over 30 years! Serving Authentic French Cuisine with many great wine offerings!

The Pullman Kitchen: Always a GREAT option when visiting the Railroad Square area!

The Brasserie & Lounge: Located right in the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel. Convenient for those staying at the hotel.

After exploring Railroad Square you could continue your holiday shopping at the nearby Santa Rosa Plaza, or across the mall, descend into Downtown Santa Rosa, and shop along 4th Street! (which, another post will have to be written about this area!)



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Seeing The Walnut Harvest In Action!

Disclosure: I was invited on a California Farm Water Coalition Farm Tour of the Sacramento Valley this past October.  This was part of my experience while on tour.  All opinions are my own.

As we head into baking season, those, fresh, walnuts, come to mind, that are added to so many desserts in the coming weeks ahead!


But have you EVER thought about how a Walnut is farmed, or how it is harvested?  I have to admit, I never really knew the process either until a few weeks ago when I saw the process in action at Lester Farms.

Lester Farms is located in Yolo County, which also happens to reside in the Sacramento Valley (think area of Winters, CA.)


Upon arrival, we met up with Stan Lester, owner of Lester Farms.  The farm has been operating since the 1800’s, and has always been a family-owned farm.  The farm started in the Santa Clara area originally, but as Urban Sprawl began, the family begin to look for property elsewhere, and that is when they found the area of Winters, CA.

We then headed closer to the Walnut Trees to take a closer look:


One of the first things I noticed as we drove through the Walnut Trees was the black trunk below the white trunk.  What I found out, is that the Black Walnut Trunk is used for the planting, then another varietal is grafted on top of the black walnut trunk due to the sturdiness of the Black Walnut.


The previous weekend, rain has come in, and actually helped the Walnuts open up their hulls; the hulls are what surround the walnuts for protection as they grow. Once the hulls split open, it’s a good sign, the walnuts are ready to be harvested.  A shaker then comes through to knock the walnuts to the ground.


After the crew has gone through shaking the trees, a sweeper will then come through the rows of trees to sweep the walnuts away from the tree trunks in a long row.  Then another vehicle will come through to pick up all of the walnuts to bring to the processing area.

Once in the processing area, the walnuts are dumped into one area, where they are dropped below ground, then lifted into a conveyor belt to go through the cleaning process:


Watching them being dumped below was pretty cool watching… actually, it was pretty mesmerizing.


The Conveyor Belt where the Walnuts are lifted into the area where they will be cleaned:


During the cleaning process, machinery will take away the extra stems, and leaves that may come in with the Walnuts, then the walnuts are washed and cleaned up.


After the Walnuts are cleaned, they are then put in for the drying process.  The drying process can take anywhere between 12 and 30 hours!

And that completes the harvesting process for Walnuts!  A huge THANK YOU to Stan Lester and his team for letting us come tour his property during the harvest season, but not only that, the fact that ALL this happened in front of our eyes while we WERE there.


Lester Farms also owns a bakery in downtown Winters, CA, but more on that in a future post!

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