Sonoma County is big. Really big. You’ve got the Valleys… Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, all with about a zillion wineries… you’ve got Redwood Forests, miles of coastline, cute towns (with shopping) and world-class restaurants. And in an entirely different category, you’ve got Safaris West.
Although it is physically impossible to see even a fraction of it in 36 hours, with the help of the wonderful folks with Sonoma County Tourism, we did our best.
The background… I partnered with SCT to organize a Hosted Buyer Familiarization trip… hey, it’s my job… and six qualified planners (and I) met on a Friday evening and “experienced” as much as we could through lunch on Sunday. Here are just some of the things we did and saw (and not in any order of importance other than the order in which we saw them). If you are considering a meeting and/or event and Wine Country is in the consideration set, consider these…
Vintners Inn/John Ash & Co. www.vintnersinn.com
In September this 44-room boutique hotel on 92 acres of vineyards just outside Santa Rosa will become a 78-room boutique hotel and Spa (on 92 acres of vineyards). The property also features 4500 square feet of meeting space and the (fantastic) restaurant, John Ash & Co. (it was really good). (Full disclosure… I was GM here back in 1999-2000 and so I like them)
Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country https://sonomawinecountry.regency.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.htmlLocated in Santa Rosa on the edge of Railroad Square (read shops and restaurants), this convention-style hotel currently has 155 rooms… BUT… is in the midst of a major expansion and is about to have a total of 253 guest rooms and suites. They also offer 10,000 square feet of indoor space and another 10k of outdoor space (with gardens and lawns etc).
Farmhouse Inn www.farmhouseinn.com
If your group needs a small luxury boutique top-rated 25-room Inn with a Michelin starred restaurant… and quiet and discreet and service (but not rate) are your “hot buttons” and you want to stay at a multi-award-winning Inn owned by a 5th generation Sonoma winemaking family (that knows everyone) in the heart of the Russian River Valley… then this place is for you. Their boardroom comfortably holds twelve… or you can buy out the whole place. Either way… nice.
AutoCamp Russian River autocamp.com/guides/location/russian-river/
The moment I stepped on to this property located in a grove of Redwood Trees a short walk from the Russian River and the town of Guerneville I thought… oh, this is perfect for a Google group (or its demographic equivalent). It offers 23 customized Airstream trailers and during the season, 10 additional luxury tent-cabins… plus a big central lawn for the teambuilding thing (plus firepits)… and each airstream has a BBQ… and there is a clubhouse… and other cool stuff. If you have the right kind of group, they will love it.
Martin Ray Winery www.martinraywinery.com
Located on the site of one of the oldest continually working wineries in California, this Russian River Valley winery has indoor space for about 100 guests, and plenty of outdoor space for larger events and fun (including the requisite bocce ball court). If your group wants a nice place for an off-property event, combined with excellent wine and a beautiful setting, consider it.
Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa www.flamingoresort.com
There are not many places quite like the Flamingo. The hotel opened in 1957 and quickly became a society hot spot, the place to see and be seen. In 1959, the Flamingo became renowned by Hollywood as the place to stay north of the Bay. Movie stars like Jayne Mansﬁeld were often found sunning themselves by the pool.
Even though the town has kind of grown around the three-star 170-room Resort over the last 60 years, the Resort still has an authentic retro feel. It also offers 15,000 square feet of meeting space AND… an 8,000 square foot Health Club plus a seven-treatment room Spa. Full disclosure… I used to be a member of the Health Club and really enjoyed it. Those were the days I used to take care of myself. I moved away and now I don’t. Advice… do not follow my example.
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa www.fairmont.com/sonoma/
Full disclosure… I was DOS here from 1987-1999 and still have dreams about it… so I think it’s a special place… but it’s not just me… everyone who has ever stayed there thinks the same thing. The facts… 226 guest rooms (many are suites), a 40,000 square foot Spa featuring natural thermal mineral water pools, a “renowned” 18-hole championship course, located in Sonoma Valley (so close to “stuff”), and 10,000 square feet of meeting space (plus additional venue space at the Golf Club). Oh… and it’s a Fairmont.
Safari West www.safariwest.com
There is nothing like it, so if you have a group in Wine Country you should somehow figure out how to take them here. The following words will not do it justice… your group boards open air 1953 military vehicles and proceeds, with the help of some expert guides, to bounce around 400 acres containing approximately 1200 African animals (give or take depending upon the birth rate). You can come for the day… do some custom-designed teambuilding stuff (in addition to the bouncing around part), have some great food… and even stay overnight! Yes, call it Glamping… they have thirty luxury tents (imported from Botswana) with private viewing decks, real bathrooms and polished hardwood floors. You should do this.
Sonoma County Tourism https://www.sonomacounty.com/
These super nice folks know what they are doing (and everything there is to know about Sonoma County). They can help you find the perfect lodging, venue, supplier… and just tell you the truth about what they think will work for your group and what won’t. Call them first.
Like I said… We had 36 hours and Sonoma County is big, really big, and offers a zillion more things than I just told you about. I will put this in our web site’s Library and keep adding things to it as we go. It’s my job. :)
Please enjoy some photos from my time at Safrai West - Neil Cramer Photography
You an view more of Neil's photos at http://neilcramerphotography.com