Bodega Bay’s Glorious Cultural Legacy by Sue Hughes

Stepping into the soft sands of Bodega Bay’s stunning shores and gazing out into an endless horizon, it’s easy to see why this gem on the coast of northern California entices so many visitors from around the world. From gorgeously adorned architecture to delicious cuisine, festive allure and some of the most beautiful beachscapes on this side of the Pacific, Bodega Bay is a number one destination for many visitors who are craving the ultimate seaside escape with a little cultural flair. Though serenely satisfying, the region enjoys plenty of activities to liven up the seasons, boasting a fine arts community with a fascinating past and promising future.

Seaside Haven

Bodega Bay’s glorious landscape is enough to inspire the inner artist in everyone, and its long history as a picturesque port of call has made it a renowned retreat for painters, poets, and musicians alike. Just a few hours north of the iconic City by the Bay – San Francisco – Bodega Bay’s enduring charm has made it an ideal escape for San Franciscans seeking a quieter side of life. Its proximity to Bodega Bay makes the region a beloved route on many cruise destinations, especially those journeying across the Pacific and up towards Alaska. Like its transatlantic counterparts in the eastern US, this part of the coast is home to a diverse mixture of cultural activity, and people coming from the Golden Gate City have added their flair to Bodega Bay’s rich melting pot of ethnicities. Partaking in the vast array of exciting watersports like surfing, swimming, sailing, cruising, whale-watching and more, visitors can also enjoy the maritime culture which has graced these parts and inspired so many artists from different parts of the globe.

Movie Mystique, Artistic Allure

Bodega Bay’s haunting seascapes certainly didn’t elude the internationally-renowned director, Alfred Hitchcock; the town became an important part of the set for his 1961 classic The Birds using the Potter School House. The attractive yet mysterious white façade bears an ominous look in the film, and even today seems to reflect a sense of intrigue and suspense. These are the same landscapes which have captured the imaginations of painters and sketchers alike, whose works can be found in the famous Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery. Featuring some of the region’s most renowned craftspeople along with artists who are just emerging onto the scene, it’s an absolute must-see, while the Ren Brown Collection is a fascinating showcase of Japanese-influenced work from around northern California as well as overseas. It is a celebration of California’s multicultural legacy as well as the heritage of Japanese families which have settled here generations ago.

Musical Delight, Festive Fun

While California enjoys some of its most eclectic music in the larger cities, Bodega Bay’s own grass-roots scene is impressive. Rocker Oysterfeller’sBluewater Bistro & Bar, and Nick’s Cove are just a few of the restaurants which offer fantastic live music on a regular basis. The Bay is also home to some of the most celebrated festivals of the region. Well-known for its incredible seafood cuisine, Bodega Bay hosts the Fisherman’s Festival in spring and the Bodega Seafood Art & Wine Festival in late summer. It’s an excellent time to try out some of the Bay’s most succulent food, prepared expertly fresh from the catch, as well as check out some great art and music for which the region is so distinct. For many residents of Bodega Bay as well as visitors, it’s the highlight of the season where everything that encompasses the spirit of the community is celebrated, and is an absolute must-see. The Fisherman’s Festival is also worth a visit – its climactic event, the Blessing of the Fleet, not only pays tribute to the long generations of settler and frontier fisherman and their families, but the Miwok Native American family who began the commercial venture in the ‘20s.

From quaint and charming bookshops to antique stores and cozy restos and diners, Bodega Bay is teeming with delights which will satiate the cultural connoisseur without taking away the region’s breathtaking natural appeal. It’s an escape which has everything to offer – the dazzling sunsets, the pastel skies, the soothing beaches – and a great cultural tradition to boot. Whether you’re looking to channel your inner artist or simply experience a once in a lifetime kind of adventure without the hustle of the big city, then it’s definitely worthwhile taking a trip up north

Wine Enthusiast magazine acknowledges Sonoma County Restaurants

Spinster SistersCongratulations to local favorites Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa and Spoonbar in Healdsburg for their inclusion in Wine Enthusiast magazine’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants!

The magazine’s editors focused on eateries combining delicious and creative cuisine with  unique and interesting wine programs.

Zagat: The 7 Best Foodie Trips Around Northern California

shed_10-880x450Virginia Miller writes about the 7 best foodie trips around Northern California which includes: Healdsburg, Saratoga, Port Costa, Jenner, Carmel, Nevada City and Napa.

Restaurants mentioned include: Torc (Napa), The Willo (Nevada City), L’Auberge Carmel, Alexander’s (Jenner), Bull Valley Roadhouse (Port Costa), Plumed Horse (Saratoga) and Healdsburg SHED.

The complete article can be found here –>

A Taste of Geyserville Tour – New Summer Tour!

An hour’s drive north from San Francisco, surrounded by miles of vineyards lies Geyserville, the perfect getaway escape.  It’s the gateway to the Alexander Valley, a California American Viticultural area, home to 26+ outstanding wineries. The town is rustic, the vibe casual…but don’t let that fool you. Serious wine and food happens here.

Tour Details

Price:  $49
Start Time: 11:00 a.m.
Available:  Thurs- Sun. by reservation only
Price Includes: All food, drink and tasting fees!
Duration: 2.5 hours.
Tour ends approx. at 1:30 p.m. however we have been known to have so much fun we might end a little later.
Starting Location: Geyserville Visitor’s Plaza Park at 10:45 a.m.
Group Size: 2 – 8 guests
We gladly accommodate larger parties. Please call us or send us an email.
Have Questions? Call us 707-758-4725


Tasting at 3 locations may include:

Mercury Wines
Ramazzotti Wines
Route 128
Meeker Vineyard
Locals Tasting Room
Catelli’s – California Inspired Italian
Diavola  – Pizzeria & Salumeria

Geyserville Visitors Center

GeyservilleStacked“Oye! Oye!” The Geyserville Visitor’s Center and Museum (located in a cozy room tucked beside Harry Bosworth’s iconic store) is open Friday through Saturday from 12:30 to 4:30PM. Now up to a searing 7 patrons per day from starting point of around 4, attendance is now certainly hitting it’s stride.

The room is crammed floor to ceiling with agricultural curios including a triptych display of antique barbed wire; sundry collectibles donated by venerable Geyserville families; and some beautifully delicate Pomo reed basketry.

The most commonly asked questions turn out to be: “Where are the Geysers?” (more on this in an upcoming post); “Is there a restroom?”; and “What is there to do in Geyserville?”. YOU WHAT? What is there to do in Geyserville?! All of us here at Locals know Geyserville is the thumping metropolitan heart of Sonoma County and the party is always on…

PianoSonoma Brings a New Kind of Classical Music to Sonoma

pianoSonoma 2014 FestivalStep into a new idea of classical music when PianoSonoma comes to town this summer, July 27-August 10. The Green Music Center will welcome this boutique chamber music festival, with approximately 20 participants, 15 Yamaha pianos, and 9 conservatory artists in tow. Highlights of the two-week festival include workshop-style lessons and rehearsals, events at exclusive vineyards, and most notably, two concerts at Weill Hall, Sundays at 3PM on July 27 and August 3.

Concertgoers can expect generous helpings of the classical chamber music canon—the Mendelssohn Trio, Franck Violin Sonata, and Ravel Tzigane—along with new music by New York-based composer Thomas Cabaniss and pianoSonoma’s first Composer-in-Residence Paul Frucht. Crossover artists Charles Yang and Peter Dugan round out the program with their classical-to-pop improvisations that have even the most austere audiences on their feet. Tickets are just $5 and can be purchased through the Green Music Center. < Link to >

Along with these thrilling performances, pianoSonoma will offer three additional events, free and open to the public. Well-known for their father-son performance classes, Michael and Ronald Shinn will give a masterclass in Weill Hall, Wednesday, July 30 at 1:00PM. Using Yamaha’s RemoteLesson technology, concert pianist and Juilliard professor Choong Mo Kang will present a masterclass from Denver to pianists on stage at Weill Hall, the following Wednesday August 6, beginning at 1:00PM. Finally, committed to promoting new music in the classical realm, pianoSonoma will launch its first Young Composer Program on Saturday, August 9 with a public reading at 10:00AM, using the Green Music Center’s state-of-the-art facilities.

With sensational performances and innovative educational initiatives, pianoSonoma gives all audiences the opportunity to experience classical music in a whole new way.

About Us: Founded by Michael and Jessica Shinn, pianoSonoma is a non-profit arts organization dedicated to providing a unique forum for emerging Artists in Residence to interact with serious adult musicians through concerts, chamber music rehearsals, classes and community engagements. For more information, visit

A Trip To Jenner and the Sonoma Coast

RiversEnd2If you find your going to be up in Sonoma County during the next month or so think about a drive down Hwy 116 to the coast to Jenner where the  Russian River meets ocean. The Steelhead are running and you can actually watch the harbor seals catch them right at the mouth of the river.  Lots of bird activity too as small crabs are washed ashore.  The Rivers End Restaurant has a perfect lunch or dinner time view of all the harbor activity and great food including a great wine list.  If you want to stretch your legs and walk the shore Goat Rock Beach has great parking access and you can walk the beach and watch all the activitiy first hand.  Most of the staff at the Rivers End Restaurant have gone through the Sonoma County CTA (Certified Tourism Ambassador) training and can make great recommendations of locations nearby to visit and points of interest to finish out your day.  Tell Bert the owner that Locals sent you.


LocalsFrontSo I just had my first Wine Road event and it was AWESOME! Talk about a trial by fire, day three of my employment saw the bar five deep, the music classic sing along rock and hungry punters over the moon with Porchetta and Polenta from Diavola. 

The morning started with Bill and Doug decking the place out (pictured)  and I organized the food table, brushed up on how the day would unfold with Carolyn,  and at 11am we opened the doors and welcomed the crowds.

One of the best things about this job is the interaction with all the people who are jazzed about sharing our space and wines (you know who you are!) Pouring next to wine makers,  and hearing their recollections about the wines. Seems few people can spin a yarn like a wine maker and most seem pre disposed to have excellent sense of humors’!

9  wineries and over 50 wines meant that it was people’s choice as to which wine was their favorite with the food, and it was a blast watching people sipping and munching in little groups discussing and arguing for their choice..

Bill and Doug kept an eye on me and helped out when it seemed like I might be overwhelmed, and I watched and listened to these Locals experts as they provided a great tasting experience, even on this crazy day.

The day saw hundreds of people make their way through the door and every group brought a different, happy vibe. I went home well educated, about Locals wines, winemakers, and best of all our people!

Make sure you make your way to our next event, (check the calendar)   Next  time I’ll be a seasoned veteran!

It’s about the wine…..or is it?

FarmersMarketWhen you come to look at Sonoma wines what do you see? Vineyards, big, medium, small, wineries jockeying for recognition, tourism expertise providing seamless experiences ? 

I see history, tradition, mixed farms, community and a common human story that though not as  old, echoes wine regions around the world.

We are the embodiment of a wine region, wherever you find it. Our local foods though they might be tagged Italian, Spanish, Greek or other, have one thing in common, wherever grapes grow well, so do these foods, this reality informs our local chefs and is the basis for wonderful restaurant menus.

Our wine makers are a mix of generational, immigrants and upstarts, each bringing an important thread to the story of Sonoma wine country.  But if you want to experience a different pattern of Sonoma life the Farmers Markets offer a rich tapestry of community, small business and quirkiness, unveiling another side of Sonoma’s rich history.

Farmers Markets dot Sonoma county like freckles, some are open all year, like the Sonoma and Santa Rosa markets and others are seasonal, like Healdsburg and Windsor but a quick trip to the Sonoma farmers market website

can get you started on a whole new adventure, discovering all the wonderful produce, meat, cheese and   baked goods that are the back bone of every market. Talk to a third generation grower about their produce and hear a passion in their voice equal to that of any wine maker! The small businesses incubator that is the famers market means you will discover quirky treasures , (pottery anyone?) as people share their artistry. Walk slowly down the aisles and you will hear a community voice emerge, it takes me 20 minutes to buy my food for the week and 2 hours to catch up on the local news!

Sonoma residents proudly claim the farmers markets for their own….. But we are willing to share! Several of these markets have been around for many many years. The Healdsburg market is 35 years old and the original Santa Rosa market is in its 46th year.

This is a don’t miss when visiting Sonoma County.


The Great Joys of Living in Sonoma County

VineyardssunsetphotoOne of the great joys of living in Sonoma County is sharing your home and seeing it afresh through a visiting friends eyes. My friend Claude just this week visited from Montpellier  France  and as I played tour guide the beauty and excitement that is vintage time was brought into sharp focus. Grape trucks zooming up and down the highway the vines showing brilliant gold, red and green hues and the smell of fermenting grapes wafting in the car window as we drove around the Alexander and Dry Creek Valley.  Tired wine makers sat in local restaurants discussing the finer points of vintage and how the wines were looking, ( from my eavesdropping it looks like 2013 is shaping up to be a classic!) and my friend, who comes from a classic wine region of France, embraced his “California ” experience.

Amongst his observations (Claude is a wine consultant who travels the world looking at wine regions).

Claude’s friends in France say that they don’t believe in American cuisine, but the food in Sonoma continuously delivered  with fresh, local flavours and our final meal at Willis Wine bar was a perfect way to top off many memorable meals.

Sonoma wines showed elegant and beautiful balance and small producers consistently surprised with their attention to detail and variety of grapes they are experimenting with.

As we toured around and I shared the beautiful Paradise Ridge sculpture exhibit, Spirit of the Man, the Geyserville sculpture park with its AWESOME Brian Tedrick Coyote, and my favorite walk, Foss Creek Sculpture trail, Claude marveled at the public philanthropy which makes this all possible, then claimed it to be a most wonderful place I now live, (we met in Australia 20 years ago).

Looking back on the last few days I have to concur!