When lifelong friends Chris Medlock James and Ames Morison arrived at the rolling pastures and manzanita trees of Bell Mountain Vineyard—heralded as a “near definition of utopia” by Food & Wine magazine—they knew instantly that this was the spot. The pair came to the decision after two years of scouring Sonoma County for the ideal property to start their own wine estate on—that was in 1998. Today, Chris and Ames have their grape-emblazoned flag firmly planted in Sonoma County's wine culture. They've done so by using a completely holistic approach to winemaking—one they believe reflects the beauty of their land and that relies solely on organic farming and solar power. Their philosophy even carries over to their method of pest control, which uses corridors instead of high fences, allowing nuisance animals such as wild pigs and deer to pass through certain spots in the vineyard without harming the fruit, the guests, or themselves. In the same nature-loving vein, Chris and Ames rely on barn owls and hawks to hunt rodents.
With 320 total acres at its disposal, Medlock Ames takes up only 56 with vineyards, leaving the rest for oaks and flowers to grow freely. Upon this portion of the land, Chris and Ames begin their small-production process, which continues inside their custom-built winery with gentle gravity-flow techniques and natural yeast fermentation. The process yields a wide range of high-quality artisan wines, from chardonnay and sauvignon blanc to merlot and cabernet sauvignon. The duo makes the fruits of their labor available in their nearby tasting room, as well as during wine-tasting experiences and tours of their production facility at Bell Mountain Ranch, available for Wine Club members only.
To enliven the local, organic produce that fills his kitchen, Chef Vinay Patel welcomes monthly shipments of spices from India, such as turmeric, fenugreek, ginger, and cardamom. After seasoning his meats, he lowers them into a clay tandoor to cook over handpicked, hardwood mesquite charcoal. For all the effort that goes into each chicken dish, curry, and biryani, the Bohemian has awarded Sizzling Tandoor Indian Restaurant its Best Indian award for 22 years running.
The dishes sprawl from traditional entrees to Northern and Southern Indian specialties and Indo-Chinese fusion dishes. Chefs also tandoor-fire nearly a dozen types of bread, including naan, paratha, and gluten-free and vegan missi roti to sop up sauces. Rather than placing a miniature fire extinguisher at each table, chefs calibrate each dish's spiciness from mild to hot.
As diners expand the depth of their palate, an Indian ambiance envelops their body. At the Santa Rosa location, live belly dancers charm and entertain on Friday and Saturday night, and live musicians stop by for events such as Samosas and Sitar. While watching, guests can nurse Indian beers and specialty cocktails including the Sizzling Sunset, which ups the ante of traditional mango lassi with vodka.
Named for the iconic director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, the Francis Ford Coppola Winery gratifies grape groupies with a wide array of virtuosic vinos. Pirouette your way into the Bottling Ballet Mechanique tour for a chance to examine the winery’s bottling process, which is exactly the same process used to bottle model ships. From the huge barrels of grape soup in which wines are born to the priceless glass containers into which they’re packaged, the 45-minute tour—which takes its name from the way each bottle shimmies and pirouettes down the line—gives guests the chance to see and more fully comprehend how wine comes to take its uniformly bottle-like shape. Visitors also learn the back-stories behind the winery’s labels and take part in a palate-expanding tasting, completing the beautiful circle of libationary life.
The jars of hand-packed, loose-leaf teas lining the shelves of Mr. Trombly's Tea blossom with the fruits of countless orchards and wildflower fields. Mangos mingle with pineapple, orange, tangerine, and strawberries to create citrusy sips, and chamomile, peppermint, and marigold blossoms charm upset stomachs from the herbal section. Alongside black-, green-, and white-tea varieties, the steeping emporium also vends a roster of oolong teas imported from Asia. In the interest of rich and uncorrupted brews, the staff never mixes artificial flavors in with the plants. They also give customers control over their Tea of the Month Club deliveries—members can mix and match their own preferred bags for delivery, unlike with other tea of the month clubs, which only send out shredded calendar pages.
As the site of the classic Bing Crosby movie Holiday Inn, the 10-room Village Inn & Restaurant helps guests revel in vacation bliss with deluxe beds, scenic views of the Russian River, and a surrounding area speckled with wineries and other nearby attractions. Most rooms include a private balcony with a panoramic view of the water, and others feature garden views of majestic redwood trees and mega-lumberjacks. Hungry visitors can enjoy complimentary continental breakfast, and sleepy ones can make queen- or king-sized cocoons atop their European Sleep Works mattresses. Outside the stately quarters, guests can explore nearby hiking trails in the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve or cozy up at the inn's restaurant (closed Mondays and Tuesdays), which serves 140 Sonoma County wines and an array of steaks, chops, and seafood.
From the simple, understated confines behind Bistro M's bright French doors, Parisian-born pastry-punchers pound out traditional Gallic gastronomy. Night-shift noshers can cloak themselves in the warm light of the chandeliers while rhapsodizing on inviting entrees such as trout almondine ($16) and braised pork shoulder with butternut-squash gratin ($21). Otherwise, seek pearls and spark plugs amid the raw, barbecue, and Rockefeller shell-meat of the full oyster bar ($1.75 each). Bistro M also assuages mid-afternoon belly temblors with a storehouse of lunch and brunch provisions. Set upon a refined feast with the croque madame's seared ham and fresh fried-egg chapeau ($11), or unmask hunger and robot invaders masquerading as sandwiches with the honesty of the open-faced vegetable and brie tartine ($8).