BWW Reviews: A Weekend in Wine Country - Transcendence Theatre, Sonoma Valley Inn, Wine Tastings and More!

By: Jun. 24, 2015
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Sonoma County is known as the wine lover's dream destination. More than wine, however, this Northern California region is near to miles of gorgeous Pacific coastline, over 50 parks with hiking and cycling trails, world-class restaurants, boutique shopping, and a one-of-a-kind outdoor theatre experience that makes Transcendence Theatre Company's musical revue the "Best Night Ever." Whether you go for a relaxing couple's retreat, a girls weekend getaway, or a family vacation, Sonoma has something for everyone to enjoy.

Transcendence Theatre Company's 'Broadway Under the Stars'

Transcendence Theatre's 'Broadway Under the Stars'
Photo Credit: Rebecca Jane Call

Under the incredibly stunning rolling hills of wine country with the moonlit sky as backdrop, the Transcendence Theatre lit up with the amazing talents of multiple Broadway and professional stage vets who came together to perform favorite showtunes, nostalgic standards, and cherished classics for a night of 'Broadway Under the Stars' at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, California. The theme this year was "Best Night Ever," and I can say without hesitation that it surely was.

The park opened two and a half hours before the show for picnicking, live jazz, and premium wine tastings from Glen Lyon, Korbel Champagne Cellars, Benziger Family Winery, Chateau St. Jean, Madrone Ridge, Pangloss Cellars, and St. Anne's Crossing, just to name a few. Food trucks also lined the area for delicious fare and samplings.

As the sun began to set, the stage lit up with pure, raw talent. With top notch performers from around the country, it's nearly impossible to pick out any standouts. However, avid theater goers will appreciate Broadway classics such as "Summertime" from PORGY & BESS (sang beautifully by Leslie McDonel), Danny Calvert & Company's rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" from CAROUSEL, a medley of FOUR SEASONS by Danny Calvert, Eric Jackson, Nicolas Dromard and Stephan Stubbins, Maggie Cansler's "Gimme Gimme" (THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLE), and a simply gorgeous duet between Courtney Markowitz and Maggie Cansler - "Someone Like You" (JEKYLL & HYDE), just to name a few. Other more modern arrangements included a Stevie Wonder Medley (Danny Calvert, David R. Gordon, Nicolas Dromard, and Stephan Stubbins), "Brave" by Leslie McDonel, and an chilling version of "What a Feelin'" from FLASHDANCE (by Leslie McDonel).

Kudos to choreographers Molly Alvarez with Roy Lightner who kept the pace swift without being overly busy, music director Matt Smart with a live orchestra of 8 very talented musicians, and gorgeous lighting which set the mood of the night without being overbearing.

An absolutely magical night of pure, raw talent surrounded by a breathtaking natural atmosphere, Transcendence Theatre's 'Broadway Under the Stars' is not to be missed.

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*Worth mentioning is the Glen Ellen Star Restaurant located nearby in Glen Ellen, offering fresh local and international cuisine with a rural and rustic feeling of California wine country. If you're lucky enough to get in, you will not be disappointed.

Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn & Krug Event Center

Sonoma Valley Inn & Krug Event Center

Located in the heart of downtown Sonoma, the family owned and operated Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn is a great choice for your wine country stay. Literally only steps away from The Plaza, across from Whole Foods, CVS, and within walking distance to all the major restaurants, tastings, parks, and shopping, the Sonoma Valley Inn offers luxurious living with a warm, comfortable stay and easy accessibility for all your local needs.

We stayed in a fireplace, jacuzzi suite, which was spacious and comfortable and well-maintained. Amenities include free parking, free WiFi in all rooms, a complimentary full buffet-style breakfast, courtyard gazebo with fireplace, private patio, hot tub and steam room, salt water pool, and fitness center. The resort has a "Tuscan" feel with hand-painted motifs, cobblestone walkways, archways, and a pet-friendly environment. As a bonus, every Friday, the Sonoma Valley Inn hosts complimentary wine tastings by a local winery in their garden courtyard.

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, you can't go wrong with the Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn, offering an affordable, comfortable home-away-from-home atmosphere in the heart of wine country.

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Wineries/Wine Tastings

Sonoma County, Napa, Glen Ellen and surrounding areas boast a dizzying array of exceptional wineries, local tastings and pairings, and informative tours at their historical sites, giving any wine enthusiast countless options for the new or refined palette.

While it's impossible to visit all 400+ wineries in Sonoma alone, some of our standout favorites included:


Buena Vista Winery

Buena Vista. A true historical site, Buena Vista Winery is the oldest winery in California. Founded in 1857, Buena Vista is rich in history and a true landmark. They offer an informative and theatrical museum tour with a wide selection of award-winning wines to taste in an elegant atmosphere. Just 5 minutes from Sonoma's Plaza Square, this is one not to be missed.

Sebastiani. Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery is located just a few blocks from historic downtown Sonoma. They pride themselves on using sustainable farming methods to ensure all aspects of their winery are environmental friendly. Sebastiani is a historic winery with a hospitality center, barrel room with antique redwood tanks, grand event space and daily tours and tastings.


Francis Ford Coppola. The Francis Ford Coppola Winery Resort in Napa is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Featuring a massive outdoor pool and cabana, unique memorabilia including posters, costumes, and items from his Oscar-winning films, two delicious indoor/outdoor restaurants, a full bar, movie gallery, performing arts Pavilion, an informative behind-the-scenes factory tour, unique private tastings, kids' smoothie tastings, and more, this "wine wonderland" can be shared with the entire family. You'll want to plan an entire day for this one.

Francis Ford Coppola Winery & Resort
Francis Ford Coppola Winery & Resort
Francis Ford Coppola Winery & Resort

Rutherford Hill. With a commitment to sustainable farming, the Rutherford Hill winery farms a 60 acre, estate-owned vineyard, with an emphasis on Cabernet Sauvignon. Their unique tasting room is located off the Silverado Trail with beautiful views of wine country. A tour includes going through nearly mile-long caves, ending with a picnic in their oak grove.

*Worth mentioning is the Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, CA, which offered exceptional authentic French bistro fare, fresh seafood, and a vibrant atmosphere for indoor or outdoor dining.


Benziger Family Winery. Family owned and operated, the Benziger Family Winery is one of the few wineries who practices Biodynamic growing. Maintaining the highest level of organic farming, the Benzinger Winery takes great care of the environment while producing high-quality, delicious wines. They offer biodynamic tram tours, estate library tastings, VIP tastings, along with informative teachings on their winemaking portfolio.

*Notable wineries that we simply ran out of time to visit included Chateau St. Jean, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Imagery Estate Winery, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, and Cline Cellars. Alas... Next time!

Sonoma Wine Shop

Sonoma Plaza. You don't necessarily have to visit large estates to experience the fruits of Sonoma. Tasting rooms are the perfect way to pack in a lot of knowledge about local wines and pairings in a short amount of time without the hassle of transportation, reservations, and long, guided tours. The historic Sonoma Plaza offers the perfect atmosphere for just that.

Each unique in their own right, some favorites on the Plaza included: Adobe Road Winery, Auteur Wines, Envolve Winery, Hawkes Wine, Passaggio Wines, Roche Winery & Vineyards, Petroni Vineyards, Two Amigos Wines, Walt Wines, Sonoma Cheese Factory, and our favorite, Sonoma Wine Shop.

Directly sourced from very small wineries in California, the Sonoma Wine Shop presented an array of meticulously made wines to suit any palette. Wine ambassador, Ken Malone, was an absolute delight and shared his passion and knowledge of local grape varieties and the wine making process. He was more than accommodating, generous, and helpful in choosing the perfect wine to compliment your own style and palette at an affordable price to fit your budget.

Also worth mentioning are the fresh and delicious restaurants on the Plaza, including El Dorado Kitchen, Harvest Moon Cafe, Oso, Sunflower Cafe, Swiss Hotel, the girl & the fig, and so many more.

While the highlight of Sonoma is the wine country experience, travelers can also enjoy bike tours, hikes, regional and historic parks, farmers markets, countless restaurants, and boutique shopping. Whether you go to escape the monotony of everyday living, learn about unique, local wines, experience the "Best Night Ever" at the Transcendence Theatre, or just take in the beauty of Northern California, Sonoma is the perfect getaway for a relaxing weekend.