Having A Day In The NorCal Wine Country?
Better have dinner there!

Almost everyone agrees that Sonoma and Napa counties have increased the quality of their wines in the last 20 years. Unfortunately, traffic has dramatically increased as well.

A Tale Of Two Valleys

Sonoma and Napa valleys run  north-south  parallel to each other, separated by a steep mountain ridge. From the central Bay Area these valleys contain the most accessible wineries for a day of tasting.  Access to Sonoma Valley from the central Bay Area is via US  101, the major state artery that runs from Mexico to Oregon. And Napa Valley is similarly accessed  beginning via US 80 then on to State Route 29.  When wine country travelers start their journey from the central Bay Area, both feeder highways begin with 8 lanes for traffic (4 in each direction). But both passages narrow by the time that travelers reach the edge of true wine country.

 

Sonoma and Napa valleys are favored destinations for both Bay Area based adventurers as well as visiting pleasure and business travelers. In the summer, those combined visitors overload the wine country’s limited roadways and upset many travel schedules.

Traffic Relief Is Not On The Way

Both Napa and Sonoma have no plans to expand their highways or rural roads despite the influx of tourism. Although many believe that Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino have become sort of a huge gastronomical  Disneyland, most local residents and county officials realize that ever increasing tourism will be a downward social and financial spiral affecting infrastructure costs, income disparity and real estate prices. Much of the wine country success is owed to field laborers that live locally, and residential and agricultural real estate prices affect the winemaker’s ability to remain competitive.. So locals and government officials agree that they want no new roads, and if you find it too inconvenient, locals say “party elsewhere”.

Timing Is Everything

So, begin your explorations by leaving early and get to your wine country destination at least before 11 am, preferably before 9:30 or 10. On weekends the Golden Gate bridge at midday takes between 30 minute to over an hour just to cross. When you get to the other side, the freeway is 8 lanes but if it is a weekend, the traffic crunch will be worse than rush hour at 7:00 am on a workday. By the time you get 20 miles north of the GG Bridge, 101 will narrow to 4 lanes and traffic will crawl for many miles.

Northbound traffic on HWY 101 20 miles beyond the Golden Gate Bridge and just south of the town of Petaluma at 12 noon on a Friday. Most wineries alongside HWY 101 are much further north of Petaluma.

Likewise if you are headed up Highway 80 to State Route 29 to visit Napa wineries, by 10 am even the beginning of the highway north of Vallejo will be stop and go. Don’t despair, if you can schedule arriving in wine country early enough, your trip there from the central Bay Area will take about 90 minutes.

Approaching downtown Napa, the beginning of Napa County wineries, a few miles after transferring from HWY 80.

 

Use Caution On Scheduling Your Return

Returning traffic at the end of the day on one of the many local roads leading from wineries.

Much of the wine country is serviced by 2 lane roads. If you finish a day of wine tasting late in the afternoon and are looking to return to the central Bay Area for a restaurant dinner, you will probably not get back before the restaurant closes.

It is best to dine in the wine country and you should make reservations days in advance as the many good restaurants will be booked up. Make sure that you pick a dinning location close to the last winery that you plan to visit as nearly all the roads in the wine country are just two lanes. By 3:30 in the afternoon the roads are bumper to bumper and everyone is just rolling along with their feet off the gas pedals.

.Dire traffic delays are avoidable. Once again timing is everything.

  • If you do decide to leave the wine country after 3:30 in the afternoon, budget 2.5 -3.5  hours to get back to the central Bay Area
  • Get up there early, have dinner there and get home after the crunch.
  • Do your wine country exploring in the middle of the week rather than weekends or holidays.
  • As a possible alternative, try off-season excursions during the winter months. Nearly all the wineries will be open and also the restaurants will welcome you with open arms.
  • Some corporate business travelers with business appointments in the central Bay Area frequently book a separate hotel/B&B in the wine country for their personal day of exploring, thereby avoiding the commute issue altogether. Local hosts are experts in connecting guests with appropriate tour providers and suggesting wineries based on tastes and budgets.
  • If you are part of a touring group, designate one person in your group as the driver.

But whatever you plan, definitely spend at least a day in Northern California’s fabulous wine country. The beautiful venue is simply unmatched in the U.S. and must be experienced.

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#sonomatour #sonomatravel #napatour #napatravel #winecountry
#winetasting #sanfranciscotour #sanfranciscotravel

Sonoma/Napa Hospitality Businesses Coming Back On-Line, But Traffic Is Heavy.

Hilton Hotel, Santa Rosa
The remains of the Signorello Estate winery.

A number of wineries and hospitality sites received damage from the wildfires that swept through Northern California’s Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties in early October. Although nearly all have resumed regular business, traffic remains well above normal volumes and drive times in many areas are severely affected.

The flames have died down and many of the fire crews from far away locales have begun returning home, but many important roadways remain closed.

Additionally, service vehicles and work crews tasked with cleaning up debris and restoring services are on roadways to the affected areas. It is not uncommon to see commute-hour like congestion in the middle of the day on Highway 101 in Sonoma. Further north on Highway 29 in Napa, the closure of the Silverado Trail and Mark West Springs Road have created delays of over 90 minutes getting to parts of St. Helena and Calistoga.

Travelers should call the hospitality sites they plan to visit to ensure their continuing availability and also to ask for advice on drive time estimates.

Quicksilver TownCar Service
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Want help with your Bay Area Itinerary?
Call Us Toll Free In The U.S. (800) 486-9622  Or (650) 589-4500
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Last Minute SFO Gotcha: Arrival Gate Delays!

Your plane that’s bound for San Francisco’s International Airport takes off on time and then lands at SFO on time. You have an hour and half before before your dinner meeting in San Francisco.

Everything looks good for you and then the pilot comes on the P.A. and says that there will be a little delay to get to the gate. Just 15 minutes. Well, that can still work. But then, after 15 minutes goes by the pilot again says that it will be another 15 minutes before the plane can pull to the gate. Now you are getting a little nervous. When the third postponement is announced, your blood pressure rises and now you will be late for your meet-up. This may be an uncommon occurrence for you, but arrival gate delays are an increasingly common occurrence at SFO.

As the San Francisco Bay Area’s business community has grown from the influence of the web and related technologies, its principal airport, San Francisco International has become congested with planes. Passengers arriving at SFO have oftentimes seen delays from 10 minutes to nearly an hour while waiting for a gate to become available.

SFO is a significant hub for United Airlines and sometimes their flights must wait for long periods for a gate to become available. Other domestic flights like Delta and the merged Alaska/Virgin America suffer from not enough parking places for passengers to disembark.

SFO’s international terminal, completed 17 years ago is frequently a source of anxiety for travelers from afar. It is not uncommon for international flights to wait 30 minutes to over an hour to be able to pull up to the terminal.

In one domestic flight case, a plane from Southern California was diverted to San Jose, 40 miles south of San Francisco because of fuel shortage. Not because the plane did not have enough fuel for the 7 extra minutes to make it to SFO, but not enough fuel to land and idle until a gate was available. After waiting at San Jose airport for nearly 20 minutes, the airline decided to let passengers off if they wanted because there was no solid prediction of when they would arrive at the gate in San Francisco. One passenger took a taxi all the way from San Jose airport to Marin County, nearly 70 miles away and a taxi bill of well over $300.00

Transportation greeters, family members and others can see that a flight has landed and wait at luggage carousels to meet their party but are mystified as the minutes go by with no passengers showing up.

In one of the most extraordinary cases, in May of this year (2017), when SFO was undergoing runway repairs in addition to a shortage of gates, a plane in Los Angeles pushed back from the departing gate and taxied to a holding spot. The plane waited there for 2 and a half hours, finally ran short of fuel and had to go back to the terminal to be re-fueled! It finally took off, arriving at SFO 4 hours later than scheduled.

Here is the new Terminal 1, part of construction to be completed by 2024.

SFO is currently underway with construction of a new Terminal 1 with expanded gate capacity.  The old terminal has been torn down and the loss of those gates only makes the matter worse until it is completed in 7 years.  More on this airport upgrade in a later post.

Many airlines, needing to add flights to the Bay Area are now routing them to Oakland International and the recently expanded San Jose International airport. Both of which currently have more available gates and time slots. More on this too on a later posting.

Pilots also seem to be the ones surprised and unable to estimate how long the delay will be. Passengers frequently get an optimistic prediction about wait times from the cockpit right after landing but then a few minutes later, the crew is on the P.A. announcing further delays. It certainly makes it hard for a business traveler to accurately relay their situation to greeters, co-workers and meeting planners.

So……
Passengers and travel managers: Be wary of scheduling meetings and events close to scheduled arrival times
.

 

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Much-anticipated restaurant Bellota opens in SoMa

Much-anticipated restaurant from Coqueta alum opens in SoMaMay 24, 2016,

In 2013, chef Ryan McIlwraith signed the lease at 888 Brannan St. with plans to open a Spanish-style restaurant within the year. Tomorrow night, three years of work will come to fruition: Bellota’s doors will finally open.

Former chef de cuisine at Coqueta, McIlwraith partnered with the Absinthe Group to open the 5,300-square-foot space on the ground floor of the four-story building, which houses Airbnb and Pinterest, in the design- and tech-centric SoMa neighborhood. VIEW SLIDESHOW4 photos Former chef de cuisine at Coqueta, McIlwraith partnered with the Absinthe Group to open… more

“This area has great options for food, but not as many high-end places,” McIlwraith said. “We wanted to provide that. And this is a social space, too, where you can lean over and talk to your neighborhood, which is important to the tech crowd.”

Join the conversation: Follow @SFBusinessTimes on Twitter, “Like” us on Facebook and sign up for our free email newsletters.The design community will appreciate the space, too.

Designed by Sagan Piechota Architecture in Hayes Valley, the restaurant features a fully open, copper-colored “stadium kitchen” with wrap-around seating as the restaurant’s anchor, and hand-painted tile walls, bay laurel tabletops and counters and custom-made leather upholstered seating.

The space can seat 170 in the main dining room and bar with the capacity to hold an additional 40 in the private dining room.With a full bar and dining room, Bellota will offer different experiences in the same space, whether it’s after work drinks and small plates or a long sit-down meal. The restaurant will offer tapas, but because it is so much larger than most Spanish restaurants in the city, the main focus will be larger plates.Half the kitchen is devoted to the four paellas on the menu, and meats will be grilled in the eight-foot-long wood-burning hearth and oven, or, as McIlwraith puts it, the “whole wall of fire.”

A former factory site, the space was essentially empty when McIlwraith signed the lease, which is one reason why the buildout took so long. But apart from adding the infrastructure, McIlwraith also had to renegotiate the lease last year when the building sold to TIAA-CREF for $312 million.The restaurant will serve dinner Monday through Saturday with plans to open for lunch in the coming months and brunch soon after that.

 

A down-to-earth wine tour in Sonoma Valley – The Boston Globe

A down-to-earth wine tour in Sonoma ValleyCompared with flashier Napa, the feeling is more laid-back in Sonoma  — the perfect place to learn a little something while you sip.

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Source: A down-to-earth wine tour in Sonoma Valley – The Boston Globe

Barrels for wine; Shutterstock ID 294249365; PO: 5/8 mag

THE DEVICE, A CURVED GLASS CYLINDER with a conical nose and a handle at the top, is called a wine thief. A winemaker plunges the tip into a barrel and places his thumb over the hole at the top, drawing a measure of wine from the barrel and then, if you’re lucky, depositing a taste into your glass.

This is the ritual known as barrel tasting. Ordinarily the only people tasting wine at this early stage are winemakers, who sample their concoctions as they mature. But for two weekends each spring in northern Sonoma County, the California wine region just west of the more celebrated Napa Valley, more than 100 wineries open their barrels and allow visitors to sample the nascent varietals — primarily the chardonnays, cabernet sauvignons, and pinot noirs that are this region’s best-known styles.
My knowledge of wine is quite limited compared with that of serious oenophiles, who look at barrel tasting the way cinephiles look at the Cannes Film Festival — they’re getting an exclusive taste of something that the broader public won’t experience until months later. The weekends also provide a chance to buy “futures,” that is, paying discounted prices today for wine that will be delivered when it’s ready to move out of oak and into bottles.

I’m in Sonoma for a wine-tasting weekend. As I walk between wineries in Healdsburg, a restaurant-and-shopping destination 70 miles north of San Francisco, the differences between Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley become apparent. Most of the wineries I encounter are small and family-owned, and as I taste from barrels, the person wielding the wine thief is often the owner. Many of these wines will be available only in restaurants; some are available only via mailing list. The feel in Sonoma is in stark contrast to Napa, where winery parking lots are built to accommodate large tour buses, young “tasting room hosts” often preside, and the adjacent vineyards produce oceans of wine for large corporations whose familiar labels crowd your neighborhood package store.

But the wine isn’t the only difference. In his book A Tale of Two Valleys: Wine, Wealth, and the Battle for the Good Life in Napa and Sonoma, journalist Alan Deutschman says Napa is “synonymous with elitism and prestige and the excesses of wealth and hedonism,” while Sonoma has “an almost anachronistic ideal of rural living and small town community.” He adds: “While Napa was transformed from a provincial backwater into a bastion of luxury and status, Sonoma became a refuge for free-spirited countercultural types . . . a new bohemia . . . Berkeley in the country.” In East Coast terms, think of Sonoma as having the authentic rural vibe of northwestern Connecticut or Vermont, with Napa more like the Hamptons.

Grapes at harvest time.Grapes at harvest time.SONOMA VISITORS BUREAU

While I had fun in Napa Valley on an earlier vacation, Sonoma is more my speed.

MY BASE FOR THE WEEKEND is a comfortable corner room at the Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort (707-935-6600, marriott.com), 44 miles north of San Francisco. My room has a gas fireplace — useful on this unseasonably chilly weekend. The hotel features wine tasting and live music in the lobby each evening, and a shuttle bus frequently runs the mile or so north to Sonoma Plaza, a large grassy square in the center of town, where most of the shops and restaurants are located.
My time is limited and the choices many, so I join the Sonoma Food Tour (866-736-6343, sonomafoodtour.com) — an eating-and-drinking walkabout led by Mia Steiger, a bubbly local who launched the business last year. We start at 11 a.m. at Depot Hotel Restaurant (707-938-2980, depotsonoma.com), where chef Antonio Ghilarducci pours a house merlot and a sauvignon blanc (each made from grapes grown in the restaurant’s small vineyard) and slices of a blister-crusted, truffle-topped pizza. At the next stop, the family-owned Vella Cheese (800-848-0505, vellacheese.com), we try eight varieties; several are the same cheese aged for different periods, and the variety of texture and complexity is striking. At other stops just off the plaza, we taste local olive oils and chocolates; at a wine shop, we try two more wines, along with bites of house-made burrata and mushroom pasta from Della Santina’s (707-935-0576, dellasantinas.com), the Italian restaurant next door.

Along the way, Steiger describes the history of Sonoma, originally settled in the 1820s as the northernmost of Mexico’s Franciscan missions. Its pivotal figure was a Mexican officer named General Mariano Vallejo, who in the 1830s built military barracks and later a stately home in the town (both still standing and open to visitors) and laid out the street plan, including its central plaza — the largest in California and the only one to allow picnickers with open containers of alcohol, Steiger notes. The northeastern corner of the plaza is a special place in the history of California: There, in 1846, a small group of settlers raised a homemade flag with a bear and declared independence from Mexico. The revolt lasted just a few weeks before the United States settled the matter by annexing the territory. Today, the bear remains the central image of California’s state flag.

The tour also takes us past Sonoma’s most venerated restaurant, The Girl & The Fig (707-938-3634, thegirlandthefig.com), where I dine one evening. The French country restaurant, founded in 1997, enjoys stellar online ratings and routinely wins awards for its food. I bypass the Restaurant Week special — three courses (including a pork ragout) with wine pairings, for $39 — and let the waiter steer me toward the signature fig and arugula salad, with a northern California trout as an entree. I’m disappointed. There’s nothing wrong with the meal; it’s just unremarkable. The next day, while chatting with locals, I express my regret that the restaurant hadn’t lived up to the hype. “We’re hearing that more often,” says one hospitality worker.

Grilled Bread with Burrata, Broccolini and Romanesco Sauce at OSO Restaurant in Sonoma, California

Grilled bread with burrata, broccolini, and romesco sauce from Oso in Sonoma.

I fare better at Oso Sonoma (707-931-6926, ososonoma.com), which opened in 2014 on the south side of the plaza. Its chef-owner, David Bush, was previously executive chef at the awarding-winning St. Francis Winery. At Oso, Bush serves smallish dishes (larger than tapas, more petite than an entree, but very shareable) of flavorful, imaginative food. I sit at a counter overlooking the tiny two-man kitchen and watch them prep my dishes: a raw tuna with avocado, cucumber, and salty nuts; grilled bread with garlicky romesco sauce and creamy burrata; and pork tacos in a mole sauce. It’s too much food for a solo diner, but I enjoy every bite.

WHILE I FOCUSED ON FOOD IN SONOMA, I concentrated on wine in Healdsburg, home to the county’s barrel-tasting festival. Tickets cost $45 per day or $60 for the weekend; each guest is given a wristband and a specially marked wineglass, which entitles barrel tastes at participating wineries (wineroad.com). At first, wandering the streets with an empty wineglass feels weirdly inappropriate, but everyone else is doing the same thing and you soon get used to it.

I have much to learn. At restaurants, I often default to a glass of the house red. If the evening calls for a bottle, I hand the menu to someone who knows more than I do. I’ve never written a tasting note, but if I did, it would be filled with unsophisticated remarks: “mmmm” or “more, please.”

Though many visitors to Sonoma are true oenophiles, I observe none of the pretense or wine snobbery you see in a movie like Sideways. Tastings seem more laid-back than I recall from my trip to Napa. While many of the wines I try during this weekend retail for $40 or more, the Sonoma winemakers I meet talk about their wares not as works of art but with a hobby-ish nonchalance, as something they’ve whipped up as a nice complement to a meal.

During my visit, the crowd is decidedly middle-aged, and over several hours in more than a half-dozen wineries, I don’t see anyone visibly tipsy. In years past, the all-you-can-drink admissions scheme of barrel tasting began attracting the wrong crowd — young people who would supplement the wine tasting by swilling beer or shots in the parking lot and generally treating the event as a venue for getting wasted. In response, the local winery association banned full-size buses and posted notices that anyone intoxicated would be cut off. (They also provide a cut-rate admission price for designated drivers, who are given nonalcoholic beverages.)

For a novice like me, it’s always surprising how, in the right setting and under guidance, tasting wines can be surprisingly engaging. Perhaps a neuroscientist can explain why our brains have a natural affinity for compare-and-contrast exercises. Tasting a number of wines in succession, with someone knowledgeable explaining the differences, helps make the subtle variations more obvious. There’s pleasure in becoming aware of small preferences.

Davis Family Winery in Healdsburg

Davis Family Winery in Healdsburg MONICA SCHWARTZ FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

In Healdsburg, the tasting room at the Davis Family Vineyards.

At Davis Family Vineyards (866-338-9463, davisfamilyvineyards.com), the owner’s son, Cooper, pours me tastes of several not-ready-for-prime-time barrel wines, then goes to the storeroom to bring out last year’s version of the same wine in a bottle, offering tastes and explaining how the “young” wine will increase in flavor and body as it spends more time in oak. The differences are obvious, even to me. Then he thieves an ounce or so from a barrel made with grapes from vines that are more than 100 years old, explaining how these “old vines” produce lower volumes of more flavorful fruit, leading to more complex and satisfying wines. This time I can’t taste it, exactly, but I nod along appreciatively.

It’s raining as I pull out of Healdsburg late on Sunday, but after epic drought in California, everyone I meet is thankful for the precipitation. Even amid galleries and boutiques, Sonoma County remains an agricultural community — a place where people understand that for miles in every direction, this rain is providing sustenance to thousands of acres of grapes. Come harvest time, local vintners will convert them into something about which I can only say: Mmmm.

Daniel McGinn is a senior editor at Harvard Business Review. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

 

Sonoma Wine Country’s Gay Wine Weekend – Passport Magazine – Gay Travel, Culture, Style, Adventure

SONOMA WINE COUNTRY’S GAY WINE WEEKEND

If you have a passion for food and wine, we have found the event that will have you drinking straight from the source. Enjoy three days of exploration in the majestic Sonoma Wine Country, located just 45 minutes north of San Francisco.Out In The Vineyard, a Sonoma-based LGBT Tour & Event Company, produces the annual Gay Wine Weekend.

Immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle of Wine Country living and make friends for a lifetime. Think Gay Ski Week, but for wine!This year marks the fifth year that Gay Wine Weekend will take place; attracting people from all around the country to partake in VIP Wine Receptions, Winemaker Dinners, Winery Tours, a brunch and Wine Auction, along with a pool soiree and some very fun after parties! The signature event of the weekend is the hugely successfully Twilight T-Dance, where guests dance through the magic hour of the summer sunset and into the evening, literally Out In The Vineyards of Sonoma Valley Wine Country! This year at Sonoma’s iconic Chateau St. Jean Winery, located in the heart of the bucolic and historic Valley of The Moon.Gay Wine Weekend also is host to annual AIDS fundraiser benefitting Face to Face, Sonoma County HIV/AIDS Network, whose mission it is to end HIV in Sonoma County. Over the course of the past 5 years Gay Wine Weekend has helped raise over $130,000 for the organization.GWW is founded by Gary Saperstein and Mark Vogler, true winery insiders who reside in the Sonoma Wine Country and strive to bring the best of Sonoma to Out In the Vineyard guests that attend this very special weekend of wine and celebration.This year Gay Wine Weekend takes place June 17th through 19th. For the full experience, stay at the host hotel, MacArthur Place.Advance Purchase VIP Party Passes on sale now. À la carte event tickets go on sale in March. For further information and to get your tickets visit www.GayWineWeekend.com.

Source: Sonoma Wine Country’s Gay Wine Weekend – Passport Magazine – Gay Travel, Culture, Style, Adventure

Inside Sunset Magazine’s grand opening at Cornerstone this | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA

Inside Sunset Magazine’s grand opening at Cornerstone this weekend

Sunset magazine garden editor Johanna Silver in the greenhouse at the Sunset test gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma on Arnold Drive. (Photo: Erik Castro/for The Press Democrat)

Jim Jenkins, of Jenkins Construction, who is the general contractor for the outdoor area, instructs a worker on installation of kitchen equipment.

The Sunset Outdoor Kitchen Stage at Cornerstone will be ready for the grand opening on Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15. (Photos by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)(1 of 5) (From left) Kevin Griffin, Mario Newton and Donald Lewis install the banner at the entrance to the outdoor kitchen. The Sunset Outdoor Kitchen Stage at Cornerstone will be ready for the grand opening on Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15. (Photos by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)(2 of 5) Julie Lennon, executive director of marketing at Time/Sunset, takes time to walk through the almost-completed kitchen area. The Sunset Outdoor Kitchen Stage at Cornerstone will be ready for the grand opening on Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15. (Photos by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)(4 of 5) Sunset magazine garden editor Johanna Silver in the greenhouse at the Sunset test gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma on Arnold Drive. (Photo: Erik Castro/for The Press Democrat)(5 of 5) Jim Jenkins, of Jenkins Construction, who is the general contractor for the outdoor area, instructs a worker on installation of kitchen equipment.The Sunset Outdoor Kitchen Stage at Cornerstone will be ready for the grand opening on Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15. (Photos by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)(1 of 5) (From left) Kevin Griffin, Mario Newton and Donald Lewis install the banner at the entrance to the outdoor kitchen. The Sunset Outdoor Kitchen Stage at Cornerstone will be ready for the grand opening on Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15. (Photos by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)(2 of 5) Julie Lennon, executive director of marketing at Time/Sunset, takes time to walk through the almost-completed kitchen area. The Sunset Outdoor Kitchen Stage at Cornerstone will be ready for the grand opening on Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15. (Photos by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)LORNA SHERIDANINDEX-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER | May 12, 2016, 6:56PMAll you need to knowTickets for the celebration are $35 online, $45 at the gate, kids 12 and under are free in advance, $5 at gate. A wine glass is $15 wine and it include two taste tickets. Additional taste tickets are $3 each. Beer and wine seminars cost $20 with tastings.VIP ticket holders can enter at 10 a.m., they receive a gift bag, unlimited beer, wine and spirits tastings, access to a VIP lounge access and catered meals and snacks.There is a shuttle from the Plaza from 9:30 a.m. all day. There is also parking at Sonoma Valley Airport with shuttles. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, VIPs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Advance tickets are available at sunset.com/cw.Who will you find at Cornerstone besides SunsetArtefact Design & Salvage Chateau SonomaEurasian Interiors Keating WinesThe LoopMeadowcroft Wines Nomad Chic Park 121 Café & Grill Poseidon Vineyard & Obsidian Ridge Prohibition SpiritsPotter Green & Co. Sonoma Valley Visitors BureauStrata a|p Tesoro FlowersAfter much anticipation, national home-and-garden magazine Sunset will unveil its new outdoor kitchens, test gardens and an Airstream Village this weekend at Cornerstone Sonoma.This is the magazine’s first time hosting its annual “Celebration” event at its new “country house” in Wine Country. The two-day event includes celebrity chef demos (including MVP Warrior guard Steph Curry’s wife Alyesha); more than 50 home, garden and travel seminars; wine, beer and spirits tastings; shopping; and live music.Throughout the weekend, in addition to the cooking demonstrations on Sunset test kitchen stages, food editors will cook campfire recipes from Sunset’s new “Camp Sunset” cookbook. Visitors will tour Sunset’s test gardens, which are divided into distinct “garden rooms”: a cocktail garden, a farm garden, a gathering space, a backyard orchard and a flower room. And scattered throughout the Cornerstone campus will be a caravan of Airstream and travel trailers, some reimagined as cocktail bars, retail shops and home layouts.Julie Lennon, Sunset’s executive marketing director, manages the magazine’s operations at Cornerstone. She estimates upward of 5,000 visitors will stop by over the course of the weekend.In anticipation of Sunset moving in, retail space at Cornerstone has been snapped up in recent months, including outposts of Chateau Sonoma, Nomad Chic and the Loop, as well as a new Prohibition Spirits tasting room opening this weekend.Sarah Anderson’s French-style home décor store, Chateau Sonoma, left its West Napa Street location to open at Cornerstone Sonoma in November. High-end apparel, accessory and furniture shop Nomad Chic opened its doors the same week. The popular Plaza women’s clothing store, The Loop, op

Source: Inside Sunset Magazine’s grand opening at Cornerstone this | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA

The Rise of Private Jets in Corporate Managed Travel: Business Travel News

T R A V E L   P R O C U R E M E N TPROCUREMENTThe Rise of Private Jets in Corporate Managed TravelBy Michael B. Baker / May 06, 2016 / Contact ReporterBoosted by mobile tech and demand in secondary markets, private jet suppliers now offer a variety of service levels, booking styles and corporate agreements. Here are four U.S. booking engines, three operators & the inroads they’re making into corporate managed travel.JetInsightThis booking engine provides operators a network and technology platform. It does not add every possible aircraft but rather handpicks “the highest-quality operators focused on safety and customer service,” according to founder and CEO Dave Benjamin. Primarily for the United States, its aircraft reach worldwide.How it works: Customers search, view options, book and pay online in moments.Fleet: Aircraft range from turboprops to heavy jets like the Gulfstream V.Traffic: “We hope to continue growing as fast as we can handle in 2016,” according to Benjamin.Pricing: No membership fees, annual fees or commitments. Operators determine rates, and JetInsight technology calculates cost as requests are received. “As we grow the network, we are able to route aircraft more efficiently, and we expect prices to decrease significantly.”Corporate travel penetration: A slight majority of business is corporate. JetInsight has had “initial conversations” with corporate travel buyers but is working to “deliver the right experience for them from the start.”Distribution: It is looking into travel management company collaborations.JetSmarterThe mobile-based jet supplier aims to “make flying private something accessible to the masses, not just a privileged 1 percent,” said CEO Sergey Petrossov.How it works: Via the app, passengers charter entire aircraft, space on scheduled flights or space on flights assembled from pooled demand. They often fly within six hours of booking.Fleet: More than 800 carrier partners around the world.Traffic: More than 300,000 have downloaded the app, a monthly growth rate of 15 to 20 percent since its March 2013 launch.Pricing: A $3,500 initiation fee, plus $9,675 annually. Memberships include free flights on one-way JetDeals flights, as well as free seats on regularly scheduled shuttles including Dallas-Houston, New York City-Chicago, New York City-Los Angeles and Los Angeles-San Francisco. Nonmembers can book these at discounted rates. Additional membership amenities include wholesale charter pricing and a luxury concierge service.Corporate travel penetration: A typical user, Petrossov said, is a corporate traveler needing to book a last-minute trip. Corporate travel buyers also have booked charters and seats.OpenJetOpenJet’s cloud-based management software for private jet operators calculates and modifies the availability of fleet and crews in real time.How it works: Travel arrangers submit origin and destination, date and number of travelers and OpenJet checks crew availability, runway configuration, fuel prices and aircraft performance, among other data points. Arrangers receive a choice of jet types and prices within 45 seconds and pay online.Fleet: Turboprop to midsize. It partners with five operators in Europe and will expand to the United States this year.Traffic: €1.5 million in revenue projected for 2016.Pricing: OpenJet takes fees from operators for each flight sold and costs bookers no more than direct booking with the operators.Corporate travel penetration: 65 percent corporate and 35 percent leisure. Corporate travel buyers are OpenJet’s “first target,” and it is launching a commercial campaign aimed at corporate travel managers, COO Raphael Vullierme said.Distribution: A partnership with Amadeus launched in January, and others are forthcoming, Vullierme said.VictorVictor allows travelers to search, com-pare and book private jets to “cut out the inconsistency of brokers,” according to senior vice president for North America David Young.How it works: Travelers search routes via mobile or desktop, and Victor responds within an hour with multiple price estimates.Fleet: More than 7,000 jets worldwide.Traffic: Membership grew 260 percent from May 2014 to May 2015, and the three-year average for sales has grown 142 percent per year, Young said. Victor introduced an app in April 2015 that accounted for half the year’s bookings.Pricing: Flights booked through the app have ranged from $7,500 to $250,000, according to Young. Victor caps booking fees and provides “complete trans-parency of pricing and flight details.”Corporate travel penetration: Its membership roster includes corp-orations and C-suite executives. Travel buyers use the tool to “quickly create bespoke plans with preferred operators,” Young said.Distribution: It has established relationships with TMCs like the United Kingdom-based CTI.Three Private Jet OperatorsJet EdgeThe on-demand operator flies super medium, ultra-long-range, large-cabin planes, according to CEO Bill Papariella.How it works: A significant volum

Source: The Rise of Private Jets in Corporate Managed Travel: Business Travel News

Hilton Sees Gains from Direct Booking: Business Travel News

Hilton Sees Gains from Direct BookingBy Julie Sickel / April 27, 2016 / Contact ReporterThree months after launching a campaign intended to get guests to book direct with the promise of lower room rates and free Wi-Fi, Hilton Worldwide reported growth in bookings through Hilton.com and its mobile app.”We have global scale in a business where scale matters and are using it to drive a more direct relationship with all of our customers,” CEO Christopher Nassetta said during the company’s quarterly earnings call on Wednesday. “The business we received through web direct is higher than it’s ever been and is growing faster than ever, thanks to increasing share shift. The share of web direct channels in our distribution mix is growing five times that of the [online travel agency] share of growth in the quarter.”Nassetta said HHonors enrollment since the launch of its direct booking campaign increased almost 90 percent, and HHonors occupancy hit a record 55 percent during the first quarter, a 4-point year-over-year increase.Hilton’s decision to market direct booking through its loyalty program as a way for guests to gain perks like free Wi-Fi and online check-in has led other lodging players to follow suit. Marriott this month began adding Marriott Rewards member rates to its website that are lower than retail rates. Hyatt last week announced a similar initiative, tying lower rates and complimentary amenities to direct bookings made on Hyatt.com or through its app.One travel manager, who preferred not to be identified, noticed the new Marriott rates and expressed concern about the growing trend from hoteliers. “It confirms my suspicions that the sales teams are not working close enough with [the loyalty teams] to protect the integrity of the corporate rates offered,” the travel manager said. “I am almost convinced that they are trying to take our travelers from our managed programs and push them right into their own Brand.com. This tactic may seem good right now, but long-term I think they will hurt themselves as they hurt the relationship between the buyer and supplier.”Hilton’s Q1 ResultsHilton reported positive metrics for the first quarter despite softening occupancy and corporate transient demand.Average daily rate increased 2.5 percent year over year to $141.62. Occupancy dropped 0.3 percentage points year over year to 70.2 percent. Weakness in business transient growth caused a 60 basis point drag on occupancy, CFO Kevin Jacobs said.”The best visibility we have on the demand side continues to be in the group business segment, which remains healthy,” Nassetta said. “We have less visibility in the transient segment, which makes up the largest portion of our business and historically tracks more closely [than group] with macro-indicators, such as GDP growth. We did see strong U.S. booking pace across all segments and channels, in the month for the month of April, particularly in corporate transient.”Group room revenue increased almost 4 percent year over year during the quarter in Hilton’s Americas owned and managed portfolio. Hawaii and San Francisco were the two top markets for year-over-year group revenue growth, Jacobs said, and the company benefited from corporate meetings.Hilton opened 67 hotels, comprising a total of more than 9,200 rooms, during the quarter. Its global portfolio currently stands at 4,615 properties. Hilton cited significant interest in its new Tru by Hilton brand, first unveiled in January. Nassetta said the company currently has 48 hotels in the pipeline and 170 more deals committed or in-progress.Hilton’s total first-quarter revenue increased to $2.75 billion from $2.6 billion last year.

Source: Hilton Sees Gains from Direct Booking: Business Travel News

In-Flight Wi-Fi: What to Expect During Your Business Travel

 *** Now available on most Gogo equipped flights is a “messaging pass” that provides travelers with minimal inflight Wi-Fi that is needed tocontinue conversations via apps like iMessage, Skype, etc. and utilize basic mobile web browsing. This low-bandwidth solution is perfect for the busienss travel that wants to complete a little work during travel as opposed to catch up on their Netflix cue. Because it is a low bandwidth, it’s offered at the bargain price of approximately $3 per flight.***Being connected to the world is possible both on the ground and in the sky thanks to the increasing availability of in-flight Wi-Fi.Internet connectivity while in the air is now becoming an expectation rather than the unexpected surprise it was just two or three years ago, especially for those conducting business travel.CorpTrav breaks down what you can expect when it comes to your Wi-Fi experience on the major U.S. airlines:Alaska Airlines – Available only on certain aircrafts, Alaska Airline’s in-flight internet provider is Gogo. Passengers can purchase an unlimited monthly pass that can be used on all Gogo equipped airlines for $59.95/month, or various hourly and daily rates found here. Allegiant Air – It’s no surprise that this no-frills airline has the same concept when it comes to their in-flight Wi-Fi availability. Internet connectivity is not currently available on any Allegiant flights. American Airlines – Domestic Wi-Fi is currently available on almost every single aircraft in American Airline’s fleet. Gogo is also the internet provider for this airline with similar price points, although travelers can purchase The Airline Unlimited at $49.95, which is a monthly subscription for unlimited internet on AA/US Airways flights only.Delta Air Lines – Delta is another airline that has in-flight Wi-Fi powered by Gogo. The Airline Unlimited internet pass is also available for all Delta aircrafts that have in-flight Wi-Fi at $49.95 per month. Frontier Airlines – This budget carrier is in the process of implementing a more widely available in-flight Wi-Fi system, but currently in-flight internet connectivity (also powered by Gogo) is confined to its Embraer 190 aircraft, so be mindful of flying Frontier if you require internet access during your travel. Hawaiian Airlines – While they may be known for their Aloha Spirit, this airline does not currently provide in-flight Wi-Fi for its passengers. JetBlue – While not available on every plane, JetBlue provides basic internet connection at no additional charge for its passengers on all A320 and A321 aircrafts, and progressively across all E190 aircrafts. Southwest Airlines – Although a few planes here and there may lack it, in-flight Wi-Fi is progressively available across nearly the entire Southwest fleet. The internet connectivity is provided by Row44 and comes at a sensible $8 per day, per device. Keep in mind that your “unlimited airlines” monthly subscription from Gogo will not apply here. Spirit Airlines – Again, as expected for a no-frills airline like Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines does not currently have in-flight Wi-Fi capabilities. United Airlines – Chances are that if you’re flying United, your aircraft will have in-flight internet connectivity as most of United Airline’s fleet is equipped with this capability. This airline is also powered by Gogo, with the same aforementioned prices and time-frames available. Virgin America – The entirety of Virgin America’s domestic fleet is quipped by Gogo with in-flight Wi-Fi capabilities for its passengers, with the same fee structures listed above.Are you looking forward to the eventual rollout of complete Wi-Fi availability in the sky? Comment below or tweet us to share your thoughts on how it will or will not affect your corporate travel!Topics: Travel Tips, Travel Fun

Source: In-Flight Wi-Fi: What to Expect During Your Business Travel

The most expensive cities for business travel

San Francisco is the priciest destination in America – and the third most expensive city in the world, according to the 32nd annual Corporate Travel Index, which calculates average travel spending in key categories. This slideshow reveals the ten most expensive here and abroad.

1. San Francisco, $547/day. Hotel: $370.78; car: $56.01; food: $120.55  Kirby Lee, Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsFullscreen1 of 20 Next Slide20 PhotosWorld’s most expensive citiesIf you’ll be traveling to San Francisco for your next business trip, you might want to tell your corporate accountants to brace themselves. For the third year in a row, San Francisco is the priciest destination in America – and the third most expensive city in the world, according to the 32nd annual Corporate Travel Index, ranking the most (and least) expensive cities for corporate travelers.The average per-diem for the California city was a whopping $547.34, which includes the cost of a hotel, rental car and food, an increase of 7% over last year’s already expensive total.

2. New York, $523/day. Hotel: $327.63; car: $77.35; food: $118.06

3. Boston, $503/day. Hotel: $344.18; car: $62.59; food: $95.92

4. Seattle $419/day. Hotel: $253.22; car: $49.40; food: $116.25

5. Washington, D.C., $411/day. Hotel: $245.81; car: $44.07; food: $121.21

6. Santa Barbara, Calif., $409/day. Hotel: $224.68; car: $52.87; food: $131.77

7. Honolulu, $404/day. Hotel: $237.97; car: $38.29; food: $127.67

8. Los Angeles, $403/day. Hotel: $245.46; car: $46.22; food: $111.11

9. San Jose, Calif., $398/day. Hotel: $246.78; car: $47.22; food: $104.28

10. Hartford, Conn., $387/day. Hotel: $218.02; car: $48.92; food: $120.1

.The national average for a hotel, transportation and three square meals was $318.80 per day, or about what it would cost you to spend a night in St. Louis ($318.71), the 26th most expensive city on the list. Across the United States, the average costs were up 3.9% in 2015, compared with the average in 2014, which added up to $306.91 per day. Hotel costs have increased 5.6% in the past year, up to a nightly average of $172.80. Although the average cost of food has only increased 1.9% across the country, the cost of three meals in Santa Barbara, California – the most expensive city for business travelers to eat in – has increased by an appetite-killing 27%, to a daily average of $131.77.

The most expensive city in the world for business travel is Caracas, Venezuela, $1,702/day. Hotel: $510.48; car: $64.88; food: $1,127.07

On the opposite side of the rankings, the five least costly cities were less than half of the price of a night in San Francisco. The 100th ranked city on the list was Norfolk, Va. ($248.15), preceded by Jackson, Miss. ($250.76), Bakersfield, Calif. ($251.28), Shreveport, La. ($251.31) and Tucson, Ariz. ($252.79).Business Travel News also calculated the average per diem cost for cities outside the United States and its priciest destination for 2015 might be a surprise. Caracas, Venezuela, took the top spot with an average per diem of $1,702.44, the result of an inflationary spiral that makes San Francisco – and the rest of the world – look like bargains by comparison. See the slideshow above for complete rankings.

Source: The most expensive cities for business travel

Detour and SFMOMA reinvent the audio tour. Groupon founder Andrew Mason, seen here in 2010, now leads Detour, a company that has devised a new form of audio tour for SFMOMA. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Detour and SFMOMA reinvent the audio tour. Groupon founder Andrew Mason, seen here in 2010, now leads Detour, a company that has devised a new form of audio tour for SFMOMA. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
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