Farms aren’t typically too fancy. Or at least, they usually don't house a Michelin-starred chef, half a dozen concierges, three-course breakfasts, and private spa cabanas overlooking meticulous gardens. The Farmhouse Inn is, however, one such fancy and indulgent farm (if you can even call it that).
Tucked along the Russian River of Sonoma County in Northern California, the Farmhouse Inn is a gem once envisioned, and now lovingly maintained, by a fifth generation Sonoma county family. I had the delight of visiting this past December, a sublimely quiet time for Sonoma county when the vineyards are barren roots shrouded by rolling fog. But it was a perfect stay, and here are a few reasons why I'll be returning soon:
The Farmhouse Inn, quietly opened on Valentine's Day in 2001 by brother and sister duo, Catherine and Joe Bartolomei, has become one of the area’s crown jewel properties. Last year, the Farmhouse Inn landed the 28th spot on Travel + Leisure’s most-coveted global achievement list: the World's Best Hotels. Also this year, the humble lodge unveiled an $8 million dollar renovation which added nine new Barn Rooms, expansive gardens and a stunning spa. My Barn Room suite, complete with a live Christmas tree, a double-sided fireplace (for indoor and outdoor enjoyment), and private views of the lush forest and creek outside, was marvelous and so cozy it was difficult to leave.
The hospitality is as warm and comforting as mulled port wine on a bitter cold day. Catherine and Joe are fifth generation Sonoma county farmers and many of the staff members have been at the Farmhouse Inn for more than a decade. Local legacy and loyalty like this make for magic in hospitality.
Breakfast, included in any stay, is foremost unmatched. The Inn has a designated Breakfast Chef, Trevor Anderson, who solely dreams up the daily delights prepared in a three-course breakfast. Staff gushes that guests, even those professed not to be "breakfast eaters," come stumbling out of their rooms, lured by the smell of fresh plump pastries and berries-stuffed waffles. Jams, granolas, eggs and potatoes are all the simple staples of breakfast that have never been richer than under Anderson's magic. Dinner is a whole other event, led by Steve Litke who originally met Catherine and Joe more than 13 years ago at the then run-down property.
The restaurant, simply named Farmhouse, is intimate and unassuming, similar to many of the region's top dining destinations such as the French Laundry. The menu constantly shifts to showcase the region's best harvests, but a few dishes, such as Litke's Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit are legendary among the epicurean elite. Equally noted is the service. Robert, a server here for more than eight years, was born to talk about food and described each dish like a compelling, juicy story.
As part of its renovation, the property announced a prestigious partnership with Peggy Francis and Loma Alexander, the spa consulting duo responsible for many of California's top spa destinations. The Spa at Farmhouse is the result of this thoughtful partnership and one sure to elate guests for seasons to come. The entire spa is housed in the Carriage House, a massive barn structure with a vaulted stark white wood interior. Rustically-rich details such as a large grey horse mural in one of the treatment rooms and mounted barnyard tools complete the aura of barnyard beatitude.
The menu is extensive and crafted personally by Catherine, and the Body Melt experience is distinctly alluring. The treatment starts with a massage applied with custom scents from the Apothecary Cart. My therapist, a willowy and refined practitioner, was born for this vocation; soothing is definitely her calling. A massive wrapping in a blanket made of herbs, alfalfa, chamomile and more followed the great massage. While enjoying my treatment, I also learned that alfalfa was used by farmers in the past to ease tired muscles by extracting lactic acid. It was the ideal solution for me, a devoted runner and weight lifter. To celebrate the grand opening of the spa, the Inn is offering complimentary massages during the month of January, depending on the number of nights booked.
The whole usage of "farm-to-table" has been grossly misused and claimed by many menus in America, but truly the Farmhouse Inn is the epitome of authentic farm-to-table ethos. Case-in-point, the hotel has six concierges ready to customize a number of immersive farm experiences. My favorite was Butchering 101, a hands-on course led personally by the endearing Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu Kitchen + Farm. Their restaurant is credited for its respect of pasture living farming and the use of ingredients from "snout to tail." The package includes a tour of the pigs' farm, expert butchering (which is not for the faint of heart, of course) and a roast tying.
During the summer months, guests can partake in the Foraging tour, led by the property’s in-house gardener Jana Mariposa. After plucking edible flowers, vegetables, and herbs from the gardens, the tour ends with a private picnic lunch. If fitness instead of farming is more your cup of tea, the Farmhouse Inn also has a lovely pedal package that includes a day of leisurely biking through some of Sonoma's 400 plus wineries, a country picnic and a Wellness Solution Massage.