Concierge Confidential: Micah James from Vintners Resort Has the Skinny on Sonoma’s Best

Plan a California wine country trip with this advice from an in-the-know concierge

April 29, 2022 7:30 am
Vintners Resort
Vintners Resort

This is Concierge Confidential, a series in which we learn about a city (or a region)’s best-kept secrets from people who specialize in knowing exactly that: long-serving concierges from the best hotels in town.

At the Vintners Resort in Sonoma County’s Santa Rosa, Micah James does double duty as both concierge manager and assistant front-desk manager. With 15 years of experience at luxury hotel properties around the county, James has a local’s insight into the best that Sonoma wine country has to offer.

InsideHook: What’s a unique service that your hotel offers that I won’t find elsewhere?

Micah James: Vintners Resort has 55 acres of vineyards on our property, and we’ve created a one-mile walking/jogging loop that winds through them.  Our guests are welcome to walk, jog or just stroll through our vineyards, giving them a close-up view of the life cycle of wine grapes and plenty of selfie photo-ops.

What’s an underutilized part of your hotel?

Many of our visitors and even locals aren’t aware that we opened Vi La Vita Spa on our property in 2019. Soon after it opened, we had to close due to COVID.  Our spa is now reopened and our guests are pleasantly surprised to hear about it. I always encourage people to be sure to make time for soaking in our indoor caldarium before or after their treatment for a truly relaxing experience.

Where can I get a cup of coffee near the hotel and go for a good walk?

Get coffee at Costeaux French Bakery and then walk around the Healdsburg Plaza and peek into the shops. Or take a short drive to the Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve for a nice morning walk.

Where do singles hang out?

The Barlow in Sebastopol. Especially at the Crooked Goat Brewing Co.

How about a restaurant where only locals go?

The Washoe House in Petaluma.

Late-night spot where I can get into a bit of trouble (but not too much trouble)?

Duke’s Bar in Healdsburg is always a great late-night spot!

Best cheap eats in town?

The Mitote Food Park in Roseland is a new food truck park where you will find delicious, authentic and affordable foods from all over Mexico and other corners of the globe. They often have live music, and it’s a really fun place to hang out.

Where can I go for the best dessert?

For some amazing cookies you can’t go wrong with Cookie…Take a Bite. Their shop is just around the corner from us. For ice cream, my hands-down favorite is Noble Folk; they have a location in downtown Santa Rosa and one in Healdsburg.

Best place for a sunset cocktail?

It’s pretty hard to beat sitting on our outdoor lawn outside of the Front Room Bar at John Ash & Co., watching the sunset over our vineyards while you enjoy a cocktail.  But if you’re like me and are a sucker for sunsets and the beach, the Rivers End in Jenner is definitely worth the drive.

Where should I go in the area for a day spent outside?

Armstrong Woods in Guerneville. A beautiful landscape of giant redwoods and peaceful hiking trails.

Where’s a good spot to snap an Instagram-worthy photo?

Most wineries have a vineyard where you can walk right up to the edge, after a tasting or a tour, and get some great photos. Or head out to the coast and capture the gorgeous beaches and scenery out there.

Best neighborhood to take a four-hour stroll if I want to get acquainted with a more “authentic” side of the city?

The town of Sonoma is filled with historical landmarks that helped shape California and Sonoma County wine country. You could spend at least four hours strolling around the Sonoma Plaza and you would see the Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma, the barracks that were built to house Mexican soldiers that had been transferred from the Presidio of San Francisco, a monument to the raising of the bear flag (this declared Sonoma a short-lived independent republic), and a statue of General Vallejo sitting on a park bench. Within a short drive you can taste wine at Buena Vista, California’s oldest commercial winery and the birthplace of the state’s modern wine industry.

What’s the easiest way to get around town, in terms of transportation?

Uber and Lyft are normally available. If you’re looking for more style, you can always book a private car or limo. We have many connections to help you do that. 

What’s a lesser-known cultural institution worth visiting?

The Charles Schulz Museum. Schulz was the creator of the Peanuts comic strip and he lived in Santa Rosa until he passed in 2000. The museum celebrates the Peanuts comic strip and art works that have been inspired by the characters and the man who created them.

What’s a cool architectural site that’s not mobbed with tourists?

Wohler Bridge is a historic steel bridge that spans the Russian River. It was built in 1922 and you’ll find it in the Russian River Valley area between Healdsburg and Forestville.

What’s the best thing you can only get in your city/county?

Strawberries grown at Tierra Vegetables. This is a great little sustainable farm around the corner from us that sells their produce to the public.

What’s the best thing you can only do in your city/county?

Since I am a bit of an outdoors kind of person, I would say zip lining through the redwoods with Above the Canopy Tours in Occidental.

Best place to eat a meal or have a beer outside when the weather’s better?

John Ash & Co. is our dinner restaurant on property and we are one of the few restaurants in the county where you can sit outside on our heated patio and have a close-up view of our vineyard. This is the perfect setting for enjoying a locally made glass of wine or beer, paired with food that’s been made from ingredients from our own gardens and from local farms and food producers. It is an authentic Sonoma County experience.

What’s the one thing everyone forgets to pack? Or the one thing everyone should remember to pack when visiting?

Surprisingly, everyone seems to leave behind their toothbrushes and toothpaste. Most requested item in the morning.

Finally, what’s the best book to read about the area before I come?

There are two I would recommend: The Valley of the Moon by Jack London, who lived here in the early 1900s, and The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher. Mary Francis Kennedy was an American food writer who lived in Sonoma County until her death in 1992.

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