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BWW Review: Another Openin' Weekend at Transcendence Theatre, Wine Country Paradise, Sonoma Valley Inn and More!

With more than 900 wineries combined, Napa Valley and Sonoma County are truly a wine lover's paradise. But more than wine, these regions offer the best of Northern California, including miles of Pacific coastline, towering redwoods, breathtaking views, luxury resorts and spas, world class restaurants, and over 50 state and regional parks, making it the perfect destination for any of your travel needs.

For the third annual year, we spent the weekend at our favorite sojourn in the country on a girls' weekend retreat. Check out our top picks below!

Transcendence Theatre Company's 'Broadway Under the Stars'

"Every day is a new beginning," wrote Artistic Director Amy Miller, who opened the production with passionate, inspiring words as Transcendence Theatre presented 'Another Openin' Another Show' at Jack London State Historic Park. The incredibly talented and diverse cast comprised of Broadway and Hollywood stars gathered together on one stage to share their magical journey through gorgeous song and dance under the breathtaking canopy of moonlit skies.

The park opens two and a half hours before the show for picnicking with local food trucks, live music, and premium wine tastings from Adastra Wines, Rancho Maria Wines, Kivelstadt Cellars, Bartholomew Winery, Kenwood Vineyards, and Idell Family Vineyards. VIP offerings feature sparkling wines from Jardesca and premium foods from Whole Foods Sonoma. Jardesca was especially refreshing and a perfect pairing with picnicking or garden gatherings. The overall atmosphere is casual but elegant where theatergoers can relax and enjoy all the festivities while taking in the fresh California air and stunning views.

Now celebrating its sixth season, this year's presentation of 'Broadway Under the Stars' offers something for everyone, featuring an eclectic mix of Broadway classics from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, FUNNY GIRL, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, contemporary show tunes from HAMILTON, BILLY ELLIOT, 9 TO 5 and AVENUE Q, and old standards such as "Lean on Me," "San Francisco," and "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Act One explores the evolution of a dream and Act Two offers the choice to rise up against obstacles, embrace uniqueness, and let go of limitations. Artistic Director Amy Millerpassionately assures us that "we're in this together" and humbly honors those who have helped Transcendence Theatre along the way with heartfelt and sincere appreciation.

While the entire cast pours their heart and soul into each song and dance, some standout performances include Stephan Stubbins in "I Dreamed a Dream" from LES MISERABLES and "The Hills Are Alive/Climb Every Mountain" from THE SOUND OF MUSIC, a powerful Natalie Gallo singing "San Francisco," and Meggie Cansler belting "Don't Rain on My Parade." Strong ensemble performances are "Let It Go" from FROZEN with Erin Maya, Meggie Cansler, and Natalie Gallo, "Electricity" from BILLY ELLIOT with men Andrew Hodge, Nick Kepley, and Tim McGarrigal, "Cell Block Tango" from CHICAGO with ladies Amy Miller, Jessica Lee Co man, Lauren Sprague, Meggie Cansler, Sierra Lai Barnett, and Taylor Markarian, and the company in a stellar "Seasons of Love" from RENT. The best performance of the evening, however, can be heard around the valley in "My Shot" from HAMILTON featuring Colin Campbell McAdoo, Eric Jackson, Erin Maya, and Nikko Kimzin, which moved the audience to 'rise up' for a standing ovation.

Spectacular choreography this year by Jim Cooney was turned up several notches from previous seasons which allowed performers to show off their impeccable dance skills, especially in numbers such as "Anything Goes," "Electricity," "Cell Block Tango, "Tradition!" and more. Lighting by Jeffrey Porter highlighted the mood of the evening where everyone was able to individually shine under the breadth of the moonlit skies. Sound Designer Nils Erickson amplified the authenticity of each singer's voice to pierce through the majestic ruins as the live orchestra led by Daniel Weidlein provided the background to make it happen.

This isn't your typical musical revue. 'Broadway Under the Stars' is the culmination of dreams coming to life on stage with talented performers sharing their journey through passionate song and dance. Take the journey with them and be prepared to have the "Best Night Ever."

Transcendence Theatre Company's "Broadway Under the Stars" continues with Another Openin' Another Show through July 2; Fantastical Family Night July 14 & 15; Fascinating Rhythm Aug. 4-20; Gala Celebration Concert Sept. 8-10. Pre-show picnics begin at 5 p.m. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Jack London State Historic Park is at 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen. Tickets are $40-$149 (with $5 of each ticket benefitting Jack London State Historic Park). Call 877-424-1414 or visit BestNightEver.org.

*If you want to dine out pre-show, check out the Glen Ellen Star Restaurant just steps away from Jack London Park, offering fresh and delicious local and international cuisine with a rural and rustic feeling of California wine country. Our annual favorite!

Watch the promo video of Transcendence Theatre's 'Broadway Under the Stars' below!

Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn & Krug Event Center

Situated among premier wineries, tons of recreational happenings, and steps away from the Sonoma Plaza, Whole Foods, CVS, fine and local dining and boutique shopping, the Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn offers luxurious living in an ideal location. Its spacious rooms and warm and inviting surroundings perfectly complement a long day of wine tastings, bus tours, or other fun-filled activities.

The rooms are pet-friendly, spacious, and offer a slew of amenities including refrigerators, fireplaces, jacuzzis (in certain rooms), private patios, free Wi-Fi, free parking, free laundry, flat screen TVs, and a full complimentary breakfast which not only includes staple items such as eggs, waffles, assorted cereals and juices, but also features a new healthy station with three types of fresh smoothies, granola, Greek yogurt, fruit, and other quick brown bag to-go options.

The resort has a Tuscan vibe with hand-painted motifs, cobblestone walkways, archways, and fresh plants and flowers throughout. They also feature a refreshing saltwater pool, a soothing sauna, hot tub, and basic fitness center. Guests staying at the Sonoma Valley Inn can also enjoy free yoga by the pool on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as complimentary wine tastings every Friday in their garden courtyard. If you're a runner, walker, or cyclist, the Sonoma Bike Path won't disappoint, which is merely steps away from the hotel. There, you can pass through scenic vineyards, historic mansions, beautiful parks and an old railroad depot museum.

The Krug Event Center provides 2,000 square feet of space to adequately fulfill any of your business needs. Staff are friendly and knowledgeable and more than happy to answer any of your questions or immediately attend to your needs. Whether your stay is for business or pleasure, the Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn offers the most ideal travel destination in the heart of the country's most breathtaking travel hotspots.

For more information, visit: http://www.sonomavalleyinn.com/

*Favorite restaurants in the Plaza include the Sonoma Grille and Bar, Swiss Hotel, Della Santina's Trattoria, the girl & the fig, El Dorado Kitchen, and Oso.

Watch the promo video of the Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn below!

Wineries/Tasting Rooms

NAPA

Trahan Winery and Prime Cellars. With the tasting room in downtown Napa, Prime offers a flight of six vintages from Prime Cellars and Trahan Winery that focuses mainly in the Coombsville region. A favorite was the 2014 Chardonnay Coombsville that presents a unique profile of crisp, fresh fruit with high acidity and a long finish. Other wines on the tasting menu include a 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir from Trahan Winery, two 2012 Cabernet Sauvignons from Prime and Trahan, a 2014 District 4 Red Blend from Prime, and a 2011 Petit Verdot from Trahan. Prime wines are extremely limited with production levels of less than 1000 cases annually, making them rare and exquisite.

Robert Sinskey Vineyards. A new favorite of ours in Napa, Robert Sinskey Vineyards is a second generation, family-owned and operated vineyard and winery practicing a "whole farm" philosophy with every vine planted and certified organic. Mostly producing reds, RSV offers several tasting options, including a first-come first-served flight of five at the bar ($40), an Eat/Drink experience with seasonal offerings ($70), a Perfect Circle Tour to learn about the winemaking process plus seasonal dishes paired with wine ($95), or the Chef's Table featuring an exploration of the gardens and caves plus five course food pairing with wine ($175). The Flight of Five that we tasted was a superior array of intricate and complex flavors that were perfectly balanced with smooth finishes. We also sampled the newly released 2012 SLD Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stags Leap District, which has been aptly called an "elegant beast." It is an exceptional Cabernet with rich flavors and soft tannins to reveal a powerful but delicate complexity that can be enjoyed now or for many years to come. This winery is a must-see while in Napa.

Darioush Winery. A stunning winery with majestic pillars upon entrance and throughout the estate, Darioush is located on Silverado Trail, in the heart of Napa, and features vintages spanning the Mount Veeder and Oak Knoll regions. Tastings range from an $18 Amuse 2-wine or $40 5-wine Signature Flight at the bar, to wine and cheese pairings ($75), to an intimate 120 minute wine experience indulging in small bites and limited, winery-only releases ($150), to a full Culture of Wine lunch with wine historian Nina Wemyss who will teach you the 7,000 year history of the winemaking process. The wines are rich and intense and display extraordinary depth of character.

Stags Leap Wine Cellars. A historic and prestigious winery in the heart of Stags Leap District, the Stags' Leap Winery, established in 1893, is a place of natural beauty, stunning architecture, beautiful gardens, and an unmatched reputation for elegant and intense wines. When you enter the Stags Leap Winery, you are emerging on a piece of history that few wineries can match. For $45, the Estate Collection Tasting Flight offers a 2015 Arcadia Vineyard Chardonnay and three other 2014 Cabernet Sauvignons to compare, ranging in retail price of $145 to $275 per bottle. All tastes are exquisite and the hospitality is extraordinary.

Chimney Rock Winery. Located in the Stags Leap District, Chimney Rock Winery is another premium tour and tasting experience featuring world class vineyards in a state-of-the-art facility. The $50 Winemakers Selection featured an exceptional group of wines, including the 2011 and 2012 Elevage, the 2013 and 2014 Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2013 Arrowhead Cabernet. One of the most coveted regions in Napa, wines of the Stags Leap District portray explosive power, balanced richness, and elegant tannins, which are all featured at the Chimney Rock Winery.

SONOMA

Hawkes Wine. First established in 1972, the Hawkes family farms over eighty-five acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay vineyards in the southern half of Alexander Valley. We visited the tasting room at the historic Plaza in downtown Sonoma, which is a small, intimate experience with extraordinary hospitality from Virginia Prates-Scirrotto. For $15, the generous tasting includes Chardonnay, Merlot, Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Virginia was friendly, knowledgeable, and offered several tasting cards and recommendations for surrounding wineries.

Walt Wines. Mostly known for their Pinot Noirs, Walt Wines farms over 1,000 acres in the Anderson Valley, the Central Coast, the Willamette Valley, and Sonoma and Napa Counties. Directly across the street from Hawkes, the tasting room at Walt combines the warmth of a home with the inspiration of an art gallery. Wine Educator Chris Brock guided us through an exceptional portfolio of five Pinot Noirs and one Chardonnay for $30 on the beautiful garden-like setting of their patio.

Pangloss Cellars. Stellar service by Hospitality Coordinator Dan Washburn, Pangloss Cellars offers a tasting of 5+ wines for $25 in their tasting room. Dan was more than generous with the pours and even enjoyed various samplings himself. The tasting bar is an exquisite room with dark wood, stone accent walls, elegant furniture, and an entire wall of wine bottles from floor to ceiling (no reservations necessary). We sampled everything from Rose, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. A small production winery, the vintages are made in open-top fermenters and French oak barrels to allow balance and complexity. Although the wines seemed still young, they will age well and will be enjoyed in years to come.

Landmark Vineyards. Located at the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains in Sonoma Valley, Landmark features small-production Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley that are sourced from Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Monterey counties. Fun fact: The grapes are sourced from the vineyard of John Deere's great-great granddaughter! Tasting Room Supervisor Margeve Horgan led us in a Chardonnay-only tasting which included eight samplings that captured the uniqueness of each region, appellation, and single vineyard. The wines have outstanding character and are lush with notes of subtle oak and long, crisp and balanced finishes. If you love Chardonnay, you will definitely want to visit Landmark Vineyards. *Bonus* A membership to Landmark also includes discounts and benefits to their sister winery, Justin Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles, CA.

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards. Built in 1999, St. Francis is a Certified Sustainable, family-owned Winery that includes a 457-kilowatt solar energy system to conserve nearby creeks and waterways. The mission-style Visitor Center is in the heart of Sonoma Valley and includes a bell tower that houses a 1,000-pound bronze bell from the Marinelli Foundry in Italy which chimes every hour. We indulged in the wine and cheese pairing for $25, which featured three local cheeses exquisitely paired with a 2015 Chardonnay, a 2015 Pinot Noir, and a 2015 Zinfandel. The tasting tables and outside patio overlook breathtaking views of the courtyard and vineyards to offer guests the ultimate tasting experience.

La Rochelle Winery. Located in the Heart of Sonoma Valley, La Rochelle is a small, family owned winery that features limited production, single vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from California's greatest growing regions. For a minimal tasting fee of $20, you can experience a single vineyard Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine, then small lot, single vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs in a rustic, barn-like setting overlooking the vineyards. No appointment is necessary.

Kamen Estate Wines. With a modern, sleek tasting room in the heart of the historic Plaza in downtown Sonoma, Kamen offers an exquisite tasting experience like none other. Featuring low-production/high quality wines from Robert Mark Kamen, author THE KARATE KID, THE FIFTH ELEMENT and more, Kamen wines are superior in every way. You will savor every sip of these limited production wines, knowing that you are tasting a piece of history from the most coveted vineyards in Sonoma. The 2013 Kamen Cabernet Sauvignon Kasmir is near perfection, offering powerful flavors of rich, ripe fruit, with seamlessly balanced tannins and a warm, full finish. With only 260 cases produced, consider yourself among the elite if you have a chance to snag this vintage.

Victor Hill Wines. Another tasting room located in the heart of Sonoma Plaza, Victor Hill Wines makes small lot premium wines produced exclusively from grapes grown in top Sonoma County locations. They have traditional, 'old world' values which yield pure varietal wines. Their tasting room is relaxed and cozy and each tasting is presented with knowledgeable staff to guide you in your wine journey. For $20, you can choose any six varietals from their seasonal tasting menu.



Sonoma and Napa are truly a wine lover's paradise, covering 70,000 acres of vineyards and 425 wineries in Sonoma and 43,000 acres and 400 wineries in Napa, each with its own distinctive characteristics. But wine is only the beginning. Plan excursions by bike or bus, stay in cozy resorts such as the Sonoma Valley Inn, dine in world-class restaurants, or watch the amazing talent of Transcendence Theatre's 'Broadway Under the Stars.' Whatever your pleasure, take the journey and you will no doubt have the Best Time Ever.


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