You probably know of California’s fantastic Sonoma wine region already. A growing number of in-the-know LGBT travelers are making the region’s Russian River Valley – about an hour and a half drive north of San Francisco – a favorite getaway. We don’t know if it’s because the Russian River recently appeared in an episode of HBO’s Looking, but it’s officially a gay hot spot.
We recommend looking for lodgings in the town of Guerneville, along the river, where there are several resorts and vacation rentals to choose from. From there, it’s a quick drive to points of interest like the coastline at Bodega Bay, the Redwood forests, and the picturesque, vineyard-graced rolling hills, home to some of the most amazing wineries.
The La Crema Estate at Saralee's Vineyard
Speaking of amazing wineries, nestled in the wine-geek coveted Saralee’s Vineyard, located in the very heart of the Russian River Valley and about 12 miles from Guerneville, is La Crema's new flagship estate. If you aren’t familiar, La Crema is known for their cool-climate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, and produces wines from regions up and down the west coast from Willamette Valley, Oregon to Monterey, California.
Their new property was recently renovated and reimagined into this rustic chic, sophisticated destination for wine tasting, education and culinary exploration. The drive to the barn is flanked with meticulous landscaping and rows of vineyards. When you walk through the barn doors (greeted with a glass of rosé no less), you become in awe of the estate’s grandeur and vineyard views from every window and patio.
“This new estate is the ultimate expression of La Crema. It’s much more than a tasting room – it’s a lifestyle destination that will allow us to provide the elevated guest experience we’ve always wanted to,” said Caroline Shaw, chief marketing officer for La Crema.
The art of renovating an historic estate
This is a property with rich history. The majestic barn dates back to the 1900s and has seen different uses over the years, from traditional livestock storage to more recently the home for notable winegrower and Sonoma County activist couple, Saralee and Richard Kunde.
The renovation project was conceptualized and designed by San Francisco-based architectural design firm Brayton Hughes Design Studios. Their design works with the historic elements of the barn and uses reclaimed wood, glass and other materials while creating an elegant modern space out of the interior. The result is a breathtaking wine country estate with an authentic connection to the land and to wine production.
Not to be missed, the back decks and downstairs patio look out over a hilly section of the vineyard, which is split by an old creek bed and dotted with coast oak and pine – it’s truly an impressive vista.
La Crema wine tasting experience and tours
Conducted at the main bar and patio, walk-in guests can enjoy La Crema’s signature tastings flights featuring some of their appellation-specific Chardonnay and Pinot Noir selections.
But, because you deserve the VIP experience, La Crema offers private tours of the estate’s sprawling, gorgeous landscape plus access to private tasting areas, all by appointment. Some of the options include:
- The Saralee’s Tasting Vineyard Tour, led by their wine educator, conveys guests through the expansive grounds and features a tasting of each vineyard-designated wine La Crema produces from the property, including a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer and Rosé.
- Held in the cellar, the Nine Barrel Tasting serves a sampling from the winery’s very limited Nine Barrel series and plus a selection of La Crema’s rarest, and most acclaimed wines.
- La Crema’s North to South Flight takes guests on a tour of wines starting from the Willamette Valley and making their way down to Monterey, showcasing the regional difference between some of the best cool-climate growing regions in California and Oregon.
- Vineyard Select Wines is a relaxing experience during which guests enjoy the estate’s private VIP areas and indulge in wines that showcase La Crema’s most coveted vineyards.
Start planning your trip to the Russian River Valley and the La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard, and treat yourself to a truly unique wine-lover's getaway.