Words by Irene Moore

The Farmhouse Inn combines the charm of a family-owned country inn with the hospitality of a Four-Diamond luxury boutique hotel. Owned by siblings Joe and Catherine Bartolomei, it’s situated on a scenic ten-acre property in the middle of Sonoma County’s world famous Russian River Valley. It’s consistently winnning awards—it is a Conde Nast Traveler 2108 Gold List recipient; in 2017, Conde Nast Traveler awarded it “#1 Best Hotel in Northern California.”


The Bartolomei family’s history in the Sonoma Valley dates back more than a hundred years through five generations. Joe and Catherine Bartolomei’s Italian immigrant great-grandparents, Domenic and Catherine Giovenetti, purchased a ranch in Sonoma in 1911 when their great-grandfather’s windfall in the hops market made his dream of owning a ranch a reality. Back then the family farmed hops, apples, pears and cattle. Today, the family still farms the same 220-acre ranch, but now pinot noir is their main crop.

In 2001, Catherine was the GM of a local Healdsburg winery, and her brother Joe, a structural engineer, had moved to the East Coast for employment. About three miles away from the Bartolomei ranch was a rundown bed and breakfast farmhouse inn built in 1837 that came up for sale. The location was ideal—right in the middle of Sonoma wine country. Catherine called her brother about the property, convinced him to to come back to the Sonoma Valley, and they bought the property in 2001.

They did a complete renovation of the Inn’s eight guest rooms, restaurant, grounds and spa area, leaving the clapboard exterior and big whitewashed porch intact. In 2015, they did a renovation that more than doubled the Inn’s size, building 17 new premium rooms and suites, a luxury spa with three treatment rooms, plus an outdoor couple’s retreat room, and redoing the pool and grounds.


Joe and Catherine have always been committed to keeping Sonoma life as authentic as possible. Their quest at the Farmhouse Inn is to provide a singular Sonoma experience, a respite from the frenzy of everyday life, providing a relaxing wine country vacation. Through their love for the property, the Inn has been transformed from an under-performing B&B to one of the most awarded and highest rated hotels in the world. In addition to Conde Nast Traveler, it’s been featured in national and international media such as Michelin, Travel and Leisure, Town and Country Travel, Bon Appetit, Departures, Zagat, Afar, The San Francisco Chronicle and many others. 

The Inn’s rooms offer a style for everyone, from a spacious suite with vaulted ceilings and forest views, to charming smaller rooms where guests can snuggle in for a romantic weekend or a relaxing getaway. Oversized fireplaces in every room encourage curling up with a good book. The cottages feature wood burning fireplaces, and the premium king deluxe and luxury suites have indoor/outdoor gas.

Farmhouse Inn

Fluffy feather beds with European linens and down comforters invite sinking in for a long nap. Bathrooms are perfect for unwinding, with cottages offering dry saunas and steam showers, and combo shower and jetted tubs. The King Deluxe and Luxury Suites boast a heated marble floor, oversized jetted tubs for two overlooking the trees, and large steam showers. Cookies and milk are served in the room with the nightly turndown service.

The cornerstone of the Inn is The Farmhouse Inn Restaurant. The Restaurant won Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence 2018. Executive Chef Steve Litke sharpened his skills at restaurants such as Maxwell’s Plum in San Francisco, Bistro Ralph in Healdsburg, and Gordon’s in Aspen. Classically-trained, he was an early proponent of the Slow Food Movement, and was one of the first American chefs to cook at the world-famous Salone del Gusto Slow Food event in Turin, Italy. 


Chef Litke’s commitment to quality at the Farmhouse Inn Restaurant earned him a Michelin Star in 2006, which he’s maintained every year since. He orchestrates everything down to the last detail, backed up by careful attention to service by the restaurant’s friendly, professional staff.


Chef Litke’s New American menu changes frequently, as he uses as many fresh, seasonal ingredients straight from the Bartolomei's ranch as possible. Joe Bartolomei’s 120 hens lay the eggs for breakfast, and vegetables, greens, tomatoes, melons and honey are just a few of his organically-grown and harvested products. Joe even raises the turkeys himself for Thanksgiving. Chef Litke, an avid gardener, works with an estate chief and head gardener who grow the herbs, flowers and fruit in the Inn’s gardens that are used in the kitchen.


In spring, 2018 Farmhouse Inn launched Farmstand, their new farm-to-fork all-day dining option. The restaurant features locally sourced seasonal vegetables, and the best produce, meats, and artisan products that Sonoma has to offer. Favorites are the stone fruit cobblers with fruit from Joe Bartolomei’s garden. Lunch is served seven days a week poolside, on the Inn’s sun-dappled terraces, at The Spa, and in-room. Farmstand also features local brews, wine and seasonal mocktails. Meals are served family-style at the communal table since great food and great company make for the best Sonoma evenings.


The hotel’s wine program offers opportunities to experience the finest wines of Sonoma and Napa wine country. Sommelier Jennifer Jespersen joined the Farmhouse Inn in April 2015. The daughter of devoted wine enthusiasts, she studied Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, and fine-tuned her palate with several positions in restaurants around Sonoma and Napa County. 


Through the Inn’s Personal Sommelier Program, Jesperson customizes guests’ wine country experience by working with them prior to arrival to stock their rooms with wines suited to their preferences and itinerary.


Whether guests are new to wine or passionate oenophiles, they may experience wine country in two ways: A sommelier-lead tour for $1750 a couple, curated by Jesperson based on the guests’ preferences. She escorts the tour in the Inn’s Tesla Model X with a private driver. 


There is also a 5-Hour Tesla Tour with a private driver for $395 pp, which includes the Inn's Wine Country gourmet picnic lunch from the Farmstand restaurant. The concierge creates the personalized itinerary with the Inn’s wine partners for the day, and it typically includes three hard-to-get winery visits. 


Noted spa operators Peggy Francis and Loma Alexander oversee the Spa’s farm-inspired experience. Exclusive treatments feature ingredients such as Forest Honey and heirloom cider apples from the Bartolomei’s ranch. The Spa’s organic Sumbody bath and beauty products are made in Sonoma. Francis and Alexander have consulted, operated, and helped design many other prestigious spas, including The Spa at Auberge du Soleil in the Napa Valley, Solage in Calistoga, and The Spa at Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina. 


The Sonoma Valley is known for its winemaking, but that’s not all there is to explore.  Events include movie festivals, wine and food events, restaurant openings, crab season, holiday parties and more. Redwoods State Natural Reserve is a short 20-minute drive from the hotel, offering great hiking trails. There is the Forestville Certified Farmers Market in season, and Burke’s Canoe Trips are just what one needs to reconnect with the great outdoors on a trip down the Russian River. It’s always a good time to visit the wine country.


The Farmhouse Inn
7871 River Rd. Forestville, CA USA

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