Boney James, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016

Rodney Strong Concerts 2016

Cover: Boney James at Rodney Strong
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


As the crowd swayed to the soulful sounds of sax-man, Boney James, and sipped award-winning Rodney Strong wines, the 26th season of Rodney Strong Concerts kicked off in Sonoma County on June 18. A wine country summer ritual for many, including us, the concerts are well-known and well-loved for presenting top artists in an intimate setting amidst the vines. If you’ve never attended a Rodney Strong concert, or if it’s been a while since you visited, here’s why they deserve a place on your summer schedule.

26th season of Rodney Strong Concerts
26th season of Rodney Strong Concerts
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Top performers

Boney James heading to the stage, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Boney James heading to the stage, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Four-time Grammy nominated Boney James has an amazing stage presence and delivered a fabulous show in the early evening Sonoma summer sunshine.

Boney James performs at Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Boney James performs at Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Performing from his latest release, Futuresoul, along with some longtime crowd favorites, Boney continues to bring a fresh sound to his R&B and jazz style.

Boney James performs at the Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Boney James performs at the Rodney Strong Summer Concerts 2016
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Backed by a phenomenal band, the clear evening sky was filled with sultry sounds and an energy that had the entire crowd participating in the experience.

Boney James & his phenomenal band, Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Boney James & his phenomenal band, Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Photos: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Perhaps it’s the venue, perhaps it’s relaxed wine country atmosphere, but artists appear to enjoy the Rodney Strong Concerts experience almost as much as the crowd.

Boney James in the crowd, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Boney James in the crowd, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Having seen B.B. King, George Benson, Mindy Abair, Michael McDonald and more at the concerts of the years, each evening has always been an unforgettable experience.

Professional production

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After 26 years of hosting concerts, Rodney Strong has the process down. The events are professionally produced, with great sound quality and concert-goers’ needs considered and wants delivered. Local jazz radio station, KJZY sponsors the event and on-air personalities, such as Scott Mitchell, are on hand to MC the concert, enjoy the music and have been seen capturing a few shots themselves before and during the concerts.

Scott Mitchell, KJZY, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Scott Mitchell, KJZY, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Phenomenal venue

Phenomenal venue, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Phenomenal venue, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of our favorite concert venues anywhere, the Rodney Strong Concerts are hosted in a casual, intimate setting surrounded by vineyards. If that sounds ideal – it is and makes for a perfect summer evening!

Concert goers have the option of bringing low chairs or blankets for general admission or purchasing VIP tickets, which provide reserved seating in the front on white folding chairs provided by the winery. Regardless of which option you choose, the location is small and once the music starts, it’s all about the experience. We’ve had VIP seats up front and it was great. We’ve sat on the ground under a big shade tree and it was perfect. We’ve stood at the back for an entire evening, chatting with new friends, sipping wine, watching the crowd and grooving to the sounds – also, a fabulous evening.

Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Amazing wines

Great music is only made better when a glass of amazing wine is in hand.

We usually start a summer evening with a crisp white, so we began the evening with a Davis Bynum Virginia’s Block Sauvignon Blanc. We fell in love with the Davis Bynum wines early this year when we were on the Rodney Strong Master Blender experience and, since then, that’s what’s in my glass many an evening.

Davis Bynum Virginia’s Block Sauvignon Blanc, Rodney Strong Vineyards
Davis Bynum Virginia’s Block Sauvignon Blanc, Rodney Strong Vineyards
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Moving on to red, the line up was deserving of a sampling of more than one. We started with the Alexander Valley and ended the night with a bit of Symmetry.

The line up of reds, Rodney Strong Vineyards
The line up of reds, Rodney Strong Vineyards
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While the winery is closed during the concert, the Rodney Strong tasting room is open daily and offers a complimentary tour of the vineyards and winery, subject to availability.

The tours are a perfect way to learn about the winery’s history and catch a behind-the-scenes view of how the wines are made, so be sure to either visit the winery earlier in the day before the concert or the following day after brunch.

Tours and tastings at Rodney Strong
Tours and tastings at Rodney Strong
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The July – September Rodney Strong Concerts 2016 lineup

July 2016

The legendary Smokey Robinson is next to appear in the 2016 concert series on July 23.

August 2016

On August 13, Dave Koz and David Sanborn will perform together and on August 21, Huey Lewis and The News take the stage.

September

The B-52s close out the season on September 17.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series 2016
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series 2016
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Making the most of your Rodney Concert

Doors open an hour before showtime, however, the gates may open earlier. General admission attendees may start lining up hours before the doors open.

What not to bring

We’ll start with things not to bring to the concert since the list is shorter. No glass, video camera or alcohol can be brought into the venue. High back chairs and umbrellas are also not allowed.

The Terrace, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
The Terrace, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What to bring

Concerts are held regardless of the weather, hot, cold, rain or shine. It can be warm, okay hot, in the late afternoon sun, so wear/bring sunscreen, comfortable clothing, and a hat. Toward the end of the show, it can cool off, so bringing a light jacket or sweater is always s a good plan. Bring a rain jacket if rain is in the forecast.

For those in the general admission area, chair legs cannot be taller than 12 inches and the overall chair should not exceed a maximum height of 32 inches. Otherwise, bring a blanket to sit on.

Water is provided free during the concert, so bring a plastic cup or water bottle (no glass) to fill. Coolers, ice, food and non-alcoholic beverages can be brought into the concert area. Beverages, including wine, can be purchased on site and local food vendors are on hand. Rodney Strong’s beverage sales locations accept cash or credit cards. The food vendors typically only accept cash.

Local food vendors, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Local food vendors, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Vineyards is located at 11455 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg


Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Rodney Strong Vineyards for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Boney James
Boney James
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Water tower at entrance of Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California

Martin Ray Winery

Cover: Water tower at entrance of Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Driving up Laguna Road toward Martin Ray Winery, the first thing you’ll notice is a water tower soaring high above the vines against a perfect Sonoma sky. As you turn down the long drive, vibrant flowers and olive trees welcome you to the beautiful, historic winery just west of Santa Rosa.

Flowers & olive trees welcome you to Martin Ray Winery
Flowers & olive trees welcome you to Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While we’d tasted Martin Ray’s wines over the years, this was our first visit to the winery and we quickly realized we’d uncovered a gem. Serene and lavishly landscaped, the winery is one of those where you grab a glass, find a chair near the vines or a table next to the gardens, and casually enjoy the wine country experience.

Relax in a chair near the vines at Martin Ray Winery
Relax in a chair near the vines
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We visited on a Saturday afternoon during Grill 116, a tasting event hosted by 12 wineries along Route 116 in West Sonoma County where attendees sampled their way through wines and grilled specialties along the route.

Grill 116 event at Martin Ray, Sonoma County, California
Grill 116 event at Martin Ray 
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Tasting at Grill 116 at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa
Tasting at Grill 116 at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As visitors meandered about, enjoying the food, wines and a glorious Sonoma afternoon, we caught up with Andy Barker, Director of Consumer Sales & Hospitality, who gave us a tour and shared a bit of the winery’s history along the way – and quite a history it does have.

Kim Hull & Andy Barker, Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Kim Hull & Andy Barker, Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The oldest continually operating winery in Sonoma County

Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Oh, the stories the vineyards surrounding the winery could tell. Martin Ray is the oldest continuously operating winery in Sonoma County and one of the oldest in all of California.

Back in 1881, Twin Fir Winery set up a vineyard and winery on this spot in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. In 1902, an Italian immigrant, Rafael Martini, purchased the winery and, in the years following, Martini further developed the estate, building a stable and bunk house where Italian immigrants stayed during harvest. Today, the Martin Ray Tasting Room is housed in this very structure.

Martin Ray Tasting Room, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray Tasting Room
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tanks were crafted from old-growth redwood in 1904 and, soon thereafter, Martini turned the operations over to his sons. The Martinis produced wines that put the winery on the map. Enduring prohibition by producing sacramental wines, the winery survived and the Martinis resumed making wines for the public after it was repealed in 1933.

Old-growth redwood tanks at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Old-growth redwood tanks at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1950, Enrico Prati joined the Martini family, and the new Martini & Prati label produced wines at the location until the winery was sold to Courtney Benham in 2003.

Martin Ray Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Courtney Benham brings Martin Ray Wines to Sonoma County

One of the reasons I love visiting a winery is hearing the history of the vineyard, the winemakers and the winery while walking the grounds and tasting the wine. Somehow, from then on, when the wine fills your glass, the provenance, the terroir, and the winery visit converge in your glass along with the juice, bringing the wine country experience to you as you taste the wine, wherever you may be in the world.

2014 Martin Ray Winery Pinot Noir Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media
2014 Martin Ray Winery Pinot Noir
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

By the time Courtney Benham acquired the Martini & Prati location in 2003, the winery had seen better days and was on the decline. Benham, who had acquired the rights to the Martin Ray brand in 1990, purchased the Martini & Prati vineyards and winery in 2003 and set about renovating the property, bringing it to modern standards, while still embracing its history and tradition.

Today, the winery is a great example of form and function coexisting. The beautiful barrel room serves as a stunning backdrop to parties and events but, when harvest rolls around, the tables are cleared out and the room is used as a production facility.

Beautiful Martin Ray barrel room serves as a stunning backdrop to parties and events Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Beautiful Martin Ray barrel room serves as a stunning backdrop to parties and events
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

State of the art storage facilities are housed in buildings that once were home to over 1.5 million gallons of the old redwood storage tanks. Utilizing a variety of production equipment and fermentation methods, the Martin Ray winemakers have at their disposal the tools required to produce the award-winning, artisanal wines for which they are known and respected.

Martin Ray production facilities Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Martin Ray production facilities
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Barrel room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Barrel room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Leaving the barrel rooms and production facilities, we wandered over to the serene setting of the pavilion located under the water tower, which is available for corporate retreats and also used for winery events, such as wine under the stars evenings.

Event pavilion at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Event pavilion at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Lush landscaping at Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Lush landscaping at Martin Ray Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Speaking of wine, it was time to do some more tasting – next stop, the tasting room.

Yield to tasters, Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Yield to tasters, Martin Ray Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Martin Ray tasting room

Tasting room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Tasting room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Welcomed by a knowledgeable and friendly staff, the low-key tasting room is just what you’d expect in such an inviting atmosphere.

Martin Ray's casual tasting room
Martin Ray’s casual tasting room
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Martin Ray Wines

We’d tasted the Russian River Valley Chardonnay & Rosé during our tour and we really liked both wines and decided to also try/take home a few of the limited release wines. For our chardonnay choice, we selected the 2014 Mill Station Vineyard-Dutton Ranch Chardonnay from Green Valley.

While I’m generally not a chardonnay fan, Greg is, so we try to find chardonnays that appeal to both our tastes. This one fit the bill, refreshing and not too oaky, with a richness and clean finish. As far as the rosé – we’d loved the 2015 Estate Grown Rosé. Bone dry, complex, crisp – just a perfect summer wine.

Next up, the 2013 Puccioni Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel. Robust with an earthy tone and nicely balanced. Liked it, and in the box it went.

Martin Ray 2013 Puccioni Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel
Martin Ray 2013 Puccioni Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Time to get serious, we moved on to the 2013 Martin Ray Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. A truly special wine, the Cab was full bodied, rich and simply divine. This one was a definite purchase and probably will make an appearance around the holidays.

Martin Ray 2013 Martin Ray Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
Martin Ray 2013 Martin Ray Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Martin Ray 2007 Diamond Peak District Cabernet Sauvignon
Martin Ray 2007 Diamond Peak District Cabernet Sauvignon
Photo: Ryan Hull © Chasing Light Media

Martin Ray has a small quantity of older vintages available in their library collection. Highly-praised by fans and pros alike, you can also find Martin Ray wines on many quality restaurant wine lists.

Certified Sommelier and general manager of Boulder, Colorado’s L’Atelier, Ryan Hull explains why he regularly features Martin Ray wines in the restaurant:

Martin Ray was legendary…one of the first to bring the French philosophies of wine making and vineyard management to California. The proof is in the pudding. This is apparent from the juice in the glass.

I was recently pouring the 2007 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon by the glass and nearly every customer opted for a second. Amazing vintage, incredible complexity and luscious fruit.”

– Ryan Hull, CS & GM, L’Atelier

Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Visiting Martin Ray

Getting there: Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery is located on the quieter side of the 101, about 10 miles west of downtown Santa Rosa. The address is 2191 Laguna Road, Santa Rosa, California 95401.

Hours: The tasting room is open daily from 10am to 5pm.

Book a tour or reserve a box lunch in advance. The winery welcomes visitors to pack a picnic and enjoy the beautiful gardens while having lunch or, call two days in advance to order a box lunch for your visit. A variety of tours and tastings are available and can be reserved on the Martin Ray website.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Martin Ray water tower, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray water tower, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California

Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa: A luxury Sonoma wine country hotel

Cover: Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Quietly tucked away amongst the vineyards just off the 101, Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa treats guests to a luxurious and relaxing wine country retreat when visiting Sonoma.

Vintner's Inn Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A four-diamond luxury hotel owned by Don and Rhonda Carano of Ferrari-Carano Vineyards, the wine country inn exudes casual elegance.

Our Vintner’s Inn stay was in conjunction with the Rodney Strong Master Blender experience, one of our all-time most enjoyable adventures, with fabulous wine, amazing food, vineyard visits led by the winery’s viticulturist, sessions with Rodney Strong’s winemakers to learn about the winemaking process, a blending seminar led by Rodney Strong’s head winemaker, and luxurious accommodations at Vintner’s Inn.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Upstairs fireplace room at Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we opened the door to our upstairs fireplace room, sunlight flooded into the warm, inviting spot we would call home during our time in Sonoma wine country.

With a big Cal King bed outfitted with a featherbed and down bedding, two overstuffed chairs, an electric fireplace, flat screen TV, desk, a small refrigerator, and a complimentary half bottle of wine, the spacious room was a delightful haven.

French doors led to the balcony with a table and chairs that overlooked the gardens – and prompted me to pop a bottle of wine into the fridge for late afternoon enjoyment.

Vintner's Inn Upstairs fireplace room, Santa Rosa, California
Vintner’s Inn Upstairs fireplace room, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Luxuriously appointed upstairs fireplace room at Vintner's Inn in Santa Rosa
Luxuriously appointed upstairs fireplace room at Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The large bathroom with a vanity separated from the shower and tub was furnished with white fluffy towels, olive oil themed toiletries and bathrobes.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The hotel

Fountain at Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Fountain at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving early afternoon, we had plenty of time to explore the hotel before dinner.

The 44 rooms and suites at Vintner’s Inn are set in three buildings encircling a fountain and connected by brick pathways.

Walking paths at Vintner's Inn Santa Rosa
Walking paths at Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Such a beautiful Sonoma afternoon behooved a stroll, so we set out on the two-mile hiking and jogging path that winds through the 92 acres of vineyards.

Along the way, we met up with some local residents, who seemed to be enjoying the gorgeous weather as much as we were.

Goats along Vintner's Inn hiking and jogging path
Goats along Vintner’s Inn hiking and jogging path
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's Inn vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving back at the hotel, we stopped by the Bocce ball court – a beautiful area with an assortment of tables and chairs under towering redwoods.

Bocce ball court at Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Bocce ball court at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Quiet enclaves are scattered about the lavishly landscaped gardens and courtyards, perfect for sharing a glass of wine, stories from the day, and plans for the next.

Vintner's Inn, Santa Rosa, California
Vintner’s Inn, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those that don’t believe a day of wine tasting is a form of exercise, a fitness center is located near the edge of the vineyards, along side a hot tub and lounge chairs.

Vintner's Inn workout room
Vintner’s Inn fitness room
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's Inn hot tub and lounge chairs
Vintner’s Inn hot tub and lounge chairs
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving back at our room, the wine was chilled, the doors of the balcony were open, and it was time to enjoy a bottle of Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay. Cheers!

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay on the balcony at Vintner's Inn
Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay on the balcony at Vintner’s Inn
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The restaurants and bar

John Ash & Co at Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
John Ash & Co at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

John Ash & Co. and the Front Room Bar & Lounge

When we lived in Santa Rosa briefly a few years back, we’d become frequent patrons of John Ash & Co. and the Front Room Bar & Lounge. It quickly became our go-to-spot for happy hours, birthdays, holidays – any excuse is a good one to head to John Ash.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A showcase of the best of Northern California cuisine, John Ash & Co. prepares fresh, local, creative food in a gorgeous setting.

From appetizers in the Front Room (the rosemary nuts and fish tacos are amazing) to dining excellence at John Ash & Co., the restaurant delivers some of the best food found in Sonoma County.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience dinner at John Ash & Co., Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience dinner at John Ash & Co., Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After an amazing evening at John Ash, only made more enjoyable by dining with the Rodney Strong team including winemaker, Justin Seidenfeld, we walked back to our room admiring how pretty the grounds at Vintner’s Inn look in the evening.

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vintner’s Inn Café

Vintner's Inn lobby, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn lobby, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After enjoying our morning coffee from the coffee service, which is available in each of the hotel buildings every morning, we headed over to the hotel’s main building for breakfast.

A great place to have a coffee or tea, read, or spend time with friends, the lobby has multiple seating areas in a cozy environment.

Lobby of the Vintner's Inn
Lobby of the Vintner’s Inn
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's inn, Santa Rosa, California
Vintner’s Inn, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Various items are available for sale in the lobby, such as hats, cookbooks, and the estate’s award-winning olive oil.

Vintner's Inn Estate Olive Oil
Vintner’s Inn Estate Olive Oil
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Also located in the lobby is the Vintner’s Inn Café, which serves breakfast weekdays and brunch on the weekend.

Vintners Inn Café
Vintner’s Inn Café
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Diners can enjoy a wide variety of breakfast specialties and beverages to start their day in the cheerful indoor dining room or on the heated terrace overlooking the gardens.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting there

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vintner’s Inn is located in Santa Rosa, California. From the 101, take the River Road exit and head west to Barnes Road. Turn left on Barnes Road and Vintner’s Inn is on the left.

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vintner’s Inn, Santa Rosa

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Location: 4350 Barnes Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Design: Italian architecture set in Northern California wine country

Rooms: With the exception of service animals, pets are not allowed.

Toiletries: CALI from Italy

Additional services and amenities: On-site Event Center with private banquet rooms and full-service banquet kitchen that can accommodate small groups, meetings with up to 300 participants, and receptions of up to 500 guests.

Vintner's Inn Event Center
Vintner’s Inn Event Center
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

WiFi: Free in lobby and public areas, for a fee in rooms

John Ash & Co. at Vintner's Inn
John Ash & Co. at Vintner’s Inn
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Restaurants & bars: John Ash & Co., Front Room Bar & Lounge, Vintner’s Inn Café

Parking: Free


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Rodney Strong Vineyards for hosting us as their guest for the Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience. The content & opinions expressed in our Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa review are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kim Hull at Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Kim Hull at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rodney Strong Vineyards

Rodney Strong Vineyards

Cover: Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


 I knew I couldn’t be an old dancer, but I could be an old winemaker.”
Rodney Strong

In 1959, after a successful career in dance, Rod Strong married his partner, Charlotte Ann Winson, moved to northern California, and became a winemaker. The couple purchased an old boarding house and began making their first wines using bulk wine Strong purchased, then blended to his taste.

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1962, Strong acquired a 159-acre vineyard and winery in Windsor, California, acquired additional vineyards in the Russian River Valley in 1968, and then, in 1970, began construction on a winery.

Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rockaway, Rodney Strong, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Strong was one of the first to plant vineyards in Sonoma, where fruit orchards were prominent at the time. An early advocate of single vineyard wines, his wines were were both of high quality and an excellent value.

That winery is now the site of the tasting room for Rodney Strong Vineyards – a beautiful location where visitors can sample the world-class wines for which Rodney Strong has become known over the decades, take a tour of the winery or attend one of the many events held throughout the year.

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1979, Rick Sayre, the winery’s current head winemaker, joined Rodney Strong as a winemaker.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tom Klein, who had met both Rod Strong and Rick Sayre in 1979 as a consultant to the winery, acquired the winery in 1989. Since that time, they have installed state of the art facilities and employed leading edge winemaking techniques in their pursuit of crafting world-class wines.

The Klein family also has a commitment to protecting the environment and operates the winery with a carbon impact of zero, making Rodney Strong Vineyards the first carbon-neutral winery in Sonoma. Additionally, the winery was officially certified by the California Sustainable Winegrower’s Alliance for its continuous improvement in the adoption and implementation of sustainable winegrowing practices.

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Tastings

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From complimentary tastings to the estate and reserve tastings, Rodney Strong Vineyards offers visitors a wide variety of options for sampling their wines. Friday through Sunday, The Terrace’s tranquil setting is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy wine flights or food & wine pairings (reservations are recommended).

The Terrace, Rodney Strong Vineyards
The Terrace, Rodney Strong Vineyards Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Events and the Summer Concert Series

Throughout the year, Rodney Strong hosts a variety of events from its harvest party and grape stomp to the highly acclaimed Summer Concert Series.

Boney James, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Boney James, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For over two decades, the Summer Concert Series has entertained wine and music lovers in a spectacular, intimate vineyard setting.  Learn more about the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series »

Georee Benson at the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
George Benson at the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Tours

Rodney Strong offers a complimentary tour of the vineyards and winery, subject to availability. The tours are a perfect way to learn about the winery’s history and catch a behind-the-scenes view of how the wines are made. Tours are offered daily at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm.

Getting to Rodney Strong Vineyards

Rodney Strong offers tastings and tours to its visitors daily throughout the year. Check the Rodney Strong Vineyards website for hours, events and to schedule reservations.

Rodney Strong is located just off the 101 near Healdsburg, California.

11455 Old Redwood Highway
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 431-1533
(800) 678-4763

Rodney Strong Vineyards
Kim Hull @ Rodney Strong Vineyards
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series

Cover: Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Nothing goes with great wine like fabulous music in an intimate setting.

With a wide range of world-class performers, a stunning venue surrounded by vineyards and, of course, their superb wines, the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series delivers that and re, and deserves a place on everyone’s must-visit list.

In 2015, the Rodney Strong Concert Series celebrated their 25th anniversary of wine country summer concerts and we were on hand to close out the season with ten-time Grammy winner, George Benson.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It wasn’t our first visit to the series – over the years we’ve seen Mindi Abair, Michael McDonald, and the late, B.B. King.

Mindi Abair at Rodney Strong Concert Series 2014
Mindi Abair at Rodney Strong Concert Series 2014
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

25 years of summer concerts

Curious how the series began, we inquired with Rodney Strong Vineyards and were told:

Before the Summer Concert Series was created, the tasting room manager would put on impromptu concerts every once in a while and based on the success of those weekday shows, the Rodney Strong team decided it was a great idea to create an official concert series. We started with good, local talent covering many different types of music.”

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the years went by the series grew and, as they say… the rest is history.

Today, the Summer Concert Series is a must-see event. Surrounded by acres of beautiful vineyards, guests are treated to top performers in contemporary music while enjoying the winery’s intimate concert venue, The Green. There is no bad seat on The Green! Fans can bring a picnic to enjoy with friends or purchase an assortment of prepared foods from local purveyors on site. Rodney Strong Vineyards’ wines are available for purchase as well as non-alcoholic beverages.

Guests can purchase general admission tickets and bring a blanket and/or low back chair to enjoy the concert from The Green. VIP tickets are also available with up front seating directly in front of the stage with fantastic direct view of the performers.”

George Benson on the Green

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We plan a visit to Sonoma every year in conjunction with the concerts and that always includes a Rodney Strong tour and tasting. This year was no exception and even included a stop by the stage during set up for the show.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Then, in the evening, after grabbing a few shots of the fabulous George Benson, we progressed to sipping the fine Rodney Strong wines while enjoying the smooth sounds of the jazz master as he delivered a fantastic performance to a sold-out crowd of over 1000.

Rodney Strong Concert Series 2016

What’s ahead for the series in 2016? The  Rodney Strong team begins looking for artists for the upcoming season around the first of the year and announces the concert series lineup in late spring. To stay in the know about the concert series and all events, check the Rodney Strong Concerts and Special Events page.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Rodney Strong for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Michel Schlumberger winery

Michel-Schlumberger

Cover: Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


A gently winding road heads through rolling hills and vineyards to the spot where Jean-Jacques Michel first planted vines to establish his winery in 1971.

Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the west edge of the Dry Creek Valley, the area has both the cool climate conditions and the gravely soil to produce premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Chardonnay grapes.

Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1991, Jacques Pierre Schlumberger joined Michel and the Michel-Schlumberger brand was formed. Since that time, the Michel-Schlumberger Benchland Estate has gained worldwide recognition for their Bordeaux-style wines.

Michel Schlumberger winery
Michel-Schlumberger wineryPhoto: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Michel-Schlumberger is a beautiful estate influenced by both the European backgrounds of Michel and Schlumberger and the architectural heritage of California missions.

Michel Schlumberger
Michel Schlumberger Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From the reflecting pool to the overflowing baskets of flowers, to the inviting chairs found throughout the winery, Michel-Schlumberger offers a tasting experience that exudes a welcoming warmth.

Michel Schlumberger winery
Michel Schlumberger winery Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With one of the few tastings where guests find a quiet area to sit and enjoy the wines, Michel-Schlumberger offers one of the most relaxing guest experiences in all of Sonoma and Napa.

Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On our visit, tasting room manager Ryan Leonhardt circulated from table to table, pouring wines for guests, taking the time to explain each wine, and then allowing them to experience the wines at their leisure.

Michel Schlumberger winery
Michel-Schlumberger winery Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to both a classic and a reserve tasting, Michel-Schlumberger offers five-course food and wine pairings on select days of the week and a daily vineyard tour and tasting option.

Michel Schlumberger tasting room
Michel-Schlumberger tasting roomPhoto: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting to Michel-Schlumberger

Michel-Schlumberger is located about 10 minutes west of downtown Healdsburg.

4155 Wine Creek Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448
707-433-7427


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Michel Schlumberger winery
Michel Schlumberger winery Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Iron Horse Winery, Sonoma County, California

Wine tasting in Sonoma

Cover: Sonoma Country, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


The wine region of Sonoma is the quieter side of Northern California wine country.

Located just 45 minutes north of San Francisco, the Sonoma wine region includes over 400 wineries that range from large brands to small family owned properties. Generally more relaxed than Napa, Sonoma is a great place to unwind, enjoy the perfect weather, take in the scenery and sample some world-class wine.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Mustard and vines, Rodney Strong, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Where to stay

Santa Rosa is the largest city in Sonoma County and has the most hotel options which range from chains to luxury retreats.

The Hyatt Vineyard Creek is close to downtown Santa Rosa, just across from Railroad Square, an area of restaurants and shops. The property has a large fire pit in the courtyard and the restaurant, Brasserie, turns out some tasty cuisine and has a nice patio. The Hilton Sonoma Wine Country is located in northern Santa Rosa on a hill with a beautiful view of the valley. The Lanai rooms have access to a shared deck overlooking the pool area, with each room having a private table & chairs. The Hilton’s patio is a great place to dine or enjoy a glass of wine and they serve a popular brunch buffet.

Just north of Santa Rosa is the Vintner’s Inn, a beautiful hotel in the midst of the vineyards with fountains, lovely décor & meticulous landscaping. One of Sonoma county’s best restaurants, John Ash & Co, is located on the property and home to our favorite happy hour in the area.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A little further north is Windsor, which has several hotel options, including a Hampton Inn & Holiday Inn Express.  Windsor Town Green is a great gathering spot with shops, restaurants and in the summer, a wide variety of activities and concerts.

Healdsburg is just further north and is known for their fabulous square filled with restaurants, tasting rooms and shops and a variety of hotels. To the south of Santa Rosa is Petaluma, which has a vibrant downtown and the town of Sonoma, which also has a wonderful historic square.

Getting around

Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Step 1 – select a designated driver. Wine tasting is great fun, but drinking and driving are not. Roads can be narrow and winding, so drive slow. Sonoma is an agricultural community and farm equipment can be entering and exiting properties.

Dogs run off leash. People ride bikes. So, leave the hurried place of the city behind, select someone to drive and enjoy the slower pace of Sonoma. An even better option – hire a car service. The drivers know the ins and outs of wine country and there’s no better way to see and taste your way through Sonoma.

Special events

Sonoma is host to hundreds of events each year with highlights being the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend held each Labor Day weekend and the Rodney Strong Vineyards / KJZY Jazz Concert Series.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series

George Benson, Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Imagine sitting amidst the grapevines sipping world-class wine while listening to the sounds of a legendary musician as the sun slowly sets.

No need to imagine – it’s the Rodney Strong Vineyard concert series – the magical venue that brings out locals and visitors alike. World-class acts ranging from Chris Botti to Mindi Abair to George Benson entertain in the intimate environment surrounded by beautiful vineyards, creating a perfect evening of wine, relaxation, and music.


Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is Sonoma County’s largest charity event held annually with hundreds of wineries pouring thousands of world-class wines and local chefs serving a wide range of fabulous culinary creations.

Tasting

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to almost 60,000 acres of vineyards, Sonoma County has 17 different American Viticulture Areas (AVA) or appellations (growing regions) producing a wide selection of varietals including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah.

Yield to tasters, Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Yield to tasters, Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If targeting visits to specific wineries, it is best to check with them via phone or their website before visiting – some wineries are by appointment only and hours vary for tasting rooms. Sonoma.com has a good list of Sonoma wineries to do so.

Otherwise, you can simply set out in one direction and follow the signs. Most wineries have a tasting fee; some have full tasting menus with numerous options. Some wineries refund the tasting fee with purchase.

Our favorites

We’ve visited quite a few wineries throughout Sonoma county. When we go, we usually grab a camera and take a few shots as we taste.

Martin Ray Winery

Wine tasting at Martin Ray, Sonoma County, California
Wine tasting at Martin Ray, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Vineyards

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Michel-Schlumberger

Michel Schlumberger winery, Sonoma County
Michel Schlumberger winery, Sonoma County
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Iron Horse Vineyards 

Iron Horse Ranch and Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Iron Horse Ranch and Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Matanzas Creek Winery

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

St Francis Winery

St Francis Winery, Sonoma County
St Francis Winery, Sonoma County
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Red Car Tasting Room

Red Car Tasting Room, Sonoma County
Red Car Tasting Room, Sonoma County
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kenwood Vineyards

Kenwood Vineyards, Sonoma County
Kenwood Vineyards, Sonoma County
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rochioli

Rochioli Vineyards & Winery, Sonoma County
Rochioli Vineyards & Winery, Sonoma County
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.