Category: Sonoma County

Rohnert Park got a nice addition this year — Bear Republic Brewing! With Lagunitas Brewing a mere 12 minute drive south, the Bear Republic opened (technically in September 2017) with a massive dining hall with outdoor seating overlooking a beautiful lake. The former nightclub/ restaurant is the perfect spot for this Healdsburg based brewery to make a splash.

When I visited the brewery had just opened, I was impressed by the open glass window kitchen concept, and blown away by the sheer volume and capacity the brewery had (the images I took don’t do it justice, there are lots of places to sit!), along with the adult games (cornhole, etc.) I was not prepared for this.

The beer menu was extensive. I love their IPA’s, in fact they rank as some of my favorites, so I made no qualms ordering a double IPA at my 11am business meeting (they understood). I’ll have to go back for more meetings (I felt a tasting flight might have been overkill). Anyways, this place is definitely worth adding to your itinerary, especially if you’re already a fan of their beer, or of Lagunitas.

Check them out at 5000 Roberts Lake Road, Rohnert Park.

Instagram: @bearrepublic
Website: bearrepublic.com
Facebook: facebook.com/bearrepublic

 

Amy's Fast Food - sign

Only in Sonoma County could you find an organic, vegetarian fast food restaurant that excels in satisfying even the most staunch carnivore. Make no mistake, this GMO free restaurant is no half-assed attempt at fast food. It is a legitimate contender to neighboring restaurants and they do it with competitive pricing, inviting atmosphere, healthy options, and a few not-so-healthy treats.

I was slightly tricked my first time here. Having been a resident of Sonoma County for a few years before Amy’s opened, I had known of the Amy’s factory. Amy’s in Rohnert Park has been producing the famous line of organic foods for grocery stores for years (canned goods, frozen things like pizza’s and burritos, and boxed dry grocery). When they opened in the same town, I never put two-and-two together and realized that the food would model that of their organic, vegetarian cuisine.

Amy’s, in fact, is named after the company’s daughter. They built their company on the idea that there was a lack of quick, healthy options to feed their daughter. So my first time in I ordered the burger, fries and milkshake. The burger was delicious but it tasted just different, so I investigated. Oh it was a veggie burger. Again, no worries, it was delicious!

Let’s Talk About the Food

I haven’t eaten everything on the menu, but that’s my goal. I have goals. The chili cheese fries are my guilty pleasure. When I need a meal that will fill me up, the classic burrito (red beans, red rice, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and salsa) is my staple. I have yet to try the oh so tempting Mac ‘N’ Cheese or the organic and vegan pizza’s. The salads are wonderful and so are the milkshakes (yes, they have non-daily shakes). Most recently, I heard someone in line talking about their cinnamon rolls. “Cinnamon Rolls?” I thought. So I tried the gluten free, vegan cinnamon roll, just for fun and it was absolutely the most delicious thing I’ve had in the last month! I am not gluten free or a vegan!

A Sustainable Fast Food Model

Bottom line is Amy’s organic and vegetarian food is delicious. The design of the building reminds me of Radiator Springs from the Disney movie, Cars. What really intrigues me is their business model. The water tower actually stores rainwater, they have a solar array, and the roof top is a living garden. All this good stuff — and the prices are completely on par with other fast food restaurants.

Amy's Drive Thru menu - picture of the front menu

Amy's Drive Thru menu - picture of the back menu

Why you should go: If you’re hungry. Or if you are trying to satisfy that gluten free, vegan, or vegetarian in the group!

Website: amysdrivethru.com

Instagram: instagram.com/amysdrivethru

Menu Highlights: The Amy (burger), Classic Burrito, Gluten Free & Vegan Cinnamon Roll, Chili Cheese Fries, Milkshakes, Super Salad.

RFO-observatory

Coming up on August 11th and 12th is the Perseid meteor shower. I used to watch this shower every year and would bring my friends out to watch in the middle of whatever field was near us. As it rolls around again this year, I’m heading up to my local observatory for a stargazing party! 2016 is said to have the best show in the last 20 years, with roughly 150 shooting stars per hour.

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train town

Located just south of the historic Sonoma Square is TrainTown, an amusement park that features a 1:4 scale model railroad that the whole family can ride. It’s a fun place to take the kids in the North Bay!

TrainTown features a 1:4 scale model railway that will take you around the 10 acre park with a destination stop in a little mini western town where you and the kids can walk through mini model schoolhouse, jail, general store, fort, and church. You can also feed goats, chickens and lamas at the stop. It’s all very well kept since it opened in 1968. It’s also still family owned and very much affordable.

TrainTown also has a handful of amusement park rides like their mini rollercoaster, slow moving spinning ride, carousel, circular flying airplane ride, and a ferris wheel. I like the little train depot/garage where they work on the 1:4 model trains. They also have some vintage boxcars that the kids and adults can climb on, a snack bar, and a little gift shop.

The real highlight at Sonoma TrainTown is the ride around the park. I still have memories as a kid going through the tunnels, and seeing all the little hidden stuff they decorate the 10 acre park with.

train-town-sonoma

train-town-sonoma-trains

After TrainTown

Stop downtown afterwards for some ice cream at Sweet Scoops on the square!

I have mixed feelings on posting about Armstrong Redwoods. Armstrong feels more like home than many of the places I’ve lived. After spending a few years living out in my uncle’s riverside cabin in the semi-remote town of Guerneville, I explored Armstrong Redwoods often. It became a quiet place of meditation to me, my own zen garden, and it’s also my favorite place in the North Bay to take photos.

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When my friend told me, “Hey, want to come with me to go see some Christmas lights in Rohnert Park?” I thought okay, I like Christmas lights. I did not expect this. This was crazy.

The Weaver Winter Wonderland is a thing here, but this was my first time out to go see it. They’ve won The Great Christmas Light Fight, featured on ABC, along with winning other awards locally.

  • Holiday Weavers Winter Wonderland
  • Holiday Genie Weavers Wonderland
  • Holiday Scene


    It’s spectacular. You actually feel as though you drove to Disneyland, and were walking through Toon Town or Main Street — Minus the huge ticket cost, hotel, parking, crowds (ehh, sorta), etc. So yeah, Disney is a huge part of their theme, but certainly not exclusive, they have characters from just about every Holiday movie, down to the details. We were looking at the Dalmatians on the front lawn and joked how there weren’t 101, but as we looked around it became apparent that there were dogs hidden all over the spread of stuff — so maybe we were wrong.

    I’d say that the 20-30 foot Genie from Aladdin was the pinnacle of the spread, but I can’t say that, there’s just too much well placed characters and subtleties here. Everything works and is balanced and doesn’t have a too crowded feel. I’m starting to sound like an expert on Christmas lights. I’m not, it was just a fun place to check out.

    Grab some hot cocoa and head out to the Weaver Winter Wonderland at 1190 Cielo Cir, Rohnert Park, CA. And check em out on Facebook.

    I’ve been craving some real BBQ lately. And while Northern California has its more then fair share of every ethnic food you can imagine, anyone who’s been to real Barbecue Country can attest we lack a significant BBQ community out here (other than of course the Hamburger Ranch & BBQ up in Cloverdale).

    Kinsmoke delivers in this department. I ordered the brisket on white roll and was not disappointed. They gave me a choice of type of meat cuts (I went with the combo), and ordered the mac and cheese. Kinsmoke also offers chick, fish, and ribs, but I’ll have to come back to sample those. The meat was well seasoned, juicy and the cuts were generous and not overly fatty. The table offered 5 different sauces to compliment the meat. I’m no expert on BBQ, but I have been to Kansas City and tried out a lot of different spots, but I do know that different regions have different styles of BBQ. At Kinsmoke they take a very Californian approach and offer “non-denominational” BBQ.

    The location is conveniently located right on the Healdsburg Square. The atmosphere is that which a BBQ joint should be — old wooden floors, big spacious tables (lots of room to move around here), lots of metal and wood working together, a nice bar in the back with a few good sized TVs. Prices were reasonable as well. Overall very happy with this spot and I’ll be recommending them on my tours for sure.


     

    Why you should go: Because you like real BBQ. Also great place for Monday Night Football or to watch the game.

    Website: kinsmoke.com

    Menu Highlights: Brisket Sandwich, Cajun Dusted Scallops, Pollo Borracho Sandwich, Seared Ahi Salad, Granny Smith Apple & Horseradish Slaw, Pulled Pork Sandwich, St. Louis Style Pork Ribs

    Location: 304 Center Street, Healdsburg Plaza, Healdsburg, CA 95448

     

    Brisket at Kinsmoke BBQ in Healdsburg

    Picture of a Kokomo sticker on a barrel

    Picture of a Kokomo sticker on a barrel

    Solid wines across the board. One of my favorite wineries because the wines, value, location, and experience.

    Kokomo Winery, named after the city in Illinois where winemaker Erik Miller is from, is home to an extensive tasting menu where you can get cab with your pinots, but what really makes this winery one of my favorites is the friendly staff, the value, and I love all of their wines. That’s a powerful combo, and it’s in a little village of wineries out in the center of the Dry Creek Valley (Zin country).


     

    Why you should go: Go for the solid wines and cool staff. Stay to hit up the other family wineries next door.

    Website: kokomowinery.com

    Case Production: 4,000 – 5000

    Wines: Muscat Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Grenache, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Late Harvest

    My Favorites: ALL OF THEM, but especially Peter’s Vineyard Pinot Noir

    Location: 4791 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448

     

    Picture of the Barrel Room at Blanchard Family Winery

    A passion for wine, charity, with a tribute to the Air Force and the Special Forces.

    Brothers Mark and James Blanchard, came together one holiday to discovered they both had a passion for wine and both had the dream to open a winery. In the early 2000’s, while James became a special forces pilot in the Air Force, Mark moved out to Northern California and learned to make wine. In 2009, they opened Blanchard Family Wines.



    Why you should go: For barrel samples, great wine, meet the winemaker, casual

    Website: Blanchardfamilywines.com

    Case Production: 1500-2000

    Wines: Rosé of Grenache, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon

    My Favorites: Jackson James Zinfandel and Cash Allen Cabernet Sauvignon

    Location: 109 W. North St, Healdsburg, CA 95448


    Today, Mark manages the winemaking and James the financials. Mark’s passion comes through when you visit their small appointment only tasting room and production facility in Healdsburg, CA. He proudly and honestly will chat about how he sources his grapes, how he makes wine, what it’s like owning a winery, and everything and anything in-between. He’ll tell you how sourcing his grapes gives him the freedom to choose the best quality and varietals for his style of winemaking, and how he didn’t inherit land or a chateau and so this is how you build.




    Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs, A beautiful tasting room with a great view, Friendly Staff, in the heart of the Russian River. What’s not to like?

    People always ask me if I’ve been to “Winery XYZ,” and most of the time I get to say yes, but with about 400 wineries in Sonoma County (and another 400 in Napa) I’m always making sure that when I say no I write it down or make a mental note, then I go check it out on my days off. I know, tough job I have. Well I recently checked Twomey Cellars on a whim while I was driving out to the coast. I’ve been directing people there ever since.

    Twomey Cellars is owned by Silveroak (famous Cabs) and Twomey is their Pinot Noir arm. With a super friendly staff, beautiful tasting room with a great view of Mt. St Helena, and great location in the Russian River Valley (Westside Road); you can’t go wrong.

    Why you should go: Impressive tasting room, beautiful view, single vineyard Pinot Noir.

    Website: Twomey.com

    Case Production: 12,000-15,000

    Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot

    My Favorites: Sauvignon Blanc — Great notes of ripe peaches and grapefruit.

    Location: 3000 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448

    “For me, wine is an attempt to capture time and place in the bottle. It is a prism we look through, providing a glimpse of the past as we enjoy the present.”

    Erin Miller

    Twomey Winemaker,

    Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc

    I recommend people start their day here. Oh, and they have been know to give away their logo glasses with your tasting fee, but I’m not sure they do it every time. Also a special shot out to their merchandise buyer — they have great jewelry, shirts, winery branded bicycle jerseys, hats, and kitchenware.



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