We are acutely aware how lucky we are to live on the West Coast. Living in this area provides unparalleled proximity to several world-class wine regions and we have been fortunate enough to have shared some very memorable experiences together. With Valentine’s Day looming, there are few things that pair better with romance than a great bottle of wine, particularly when shared over a great meal. Expand that date into a weekend away with a loved one and you’re virtually guaranteed to win his or her heart.
From the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia down to the American Riviera in California, we’ve put together our Top 5 Romantic getaway pairings on the West Coast…
1.Glamping at BC’s Rockwater Secret Cove Resort
Tucked into Halfmoon Bay on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, Rockwater Secret Cove Resort provides a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city (Vancouver) and is only a 35 minute ferry ride from the mainland combined with a 45 minute drive. Incredibly easy access to a place that will make you feel as far removed as if you had travelled for days to get there.
The Resort itself sits oceanside surrounded by indigenous forest and is made up of a main building housing Ocean View rooms and Poolside Suites, as well as Ocean Front Cabins and several luxurious Tenthouse Suites which are the very definition of “Glamping” (glamourous camping). Not only were we lucky enough to stay in one of the Tenthouses, we were in #60, the furthest one out along the Treetop Boardwalk offering completely unobstructed and seemingly endless views of the Pacific Ocean and outlying islands.
While the restaurant at Rockwater was certainly very good, when you have a luxury tent on a point with 200+ degree views, this is where you bring food in and enjoy the view – draw up a bath, grab your favourite bottle of bubbly and this is “glamping” at its best!
2. Fine Dining in Woodinville, Washington
Outside of Washington State residents, not many people have heard of Woodinville, a small suburb approximately 25 minutes north of Seattle. But one of the Pacific Northwest’s best kept secrets is quickly being discovered by anyone looking for a spectacular weekend getaway where great wine, terrific food and absolute relaxation is the objective.
Willows Lodge has firmly entrenched itself as THE place to stay in Woodinville and for very good reason. A member of the Preferred Hotel Group®, it has been recognized multiple times by both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure as one of the very best hotels in the United States. The moment you pull into the driveway you’ll understand why. The property sits alongside the Sammamish River on five beautiful acres of natural landscape filled with tranquil gardens, soothing water features and serene sitting areas perfect for enjoying a quiet moment to yourself.
When we want to make a visit to Woodinville extra special, we make a reservation at the Herbfarm. The Herbfarm sits in its own small and very cozy house on the grounds of Willows Lodge, right across the street from the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. It has become a recent tradition for us to celebrate our anniversary with dinner at the Herbfarm. Actually, dinner is not the right word, a dining experience is what you get!
3. Storm Watching on the Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast is stunning any time of year but, for us, the “off-season” (November to March) is when it shines. We had cool, sunny days to explore the countless national parks along the 584km coastline with hardly a soul in sight. In the evenings, we were treated to spectacular winter storms, which when watched sitting beside a fireplace with wine in hand, rivals any night of Netflix. Watching Mother Nature’s powerful demonstrations while tucked in the confines of the luxurious Stephanie Inn easily ranks as one of our most romantic weekends to date.
If you’re even remotely interested in learning about the work that goes behind a truly wonderful meal, we recommend making a reservation at the EVOO Canon Beach Cooking School. It’s the creation of chefs Bob Neroni and Lenore Emery a married couple that are both trained chefs—he at the Culinary Institute of America and she taught at the School of Culinary Arts in Maryland where they met. Both are passionate foodies and following this passion they decided to open a restaurant in the form of a cooking school. Dining at EVOO is the combination of a show, a class, a delicious meal, a social function and a great way to spend an evening. Guests watch and learn as Chefs Bob and Lenore prep and cook and teach you how to make three different meals, which, of course, you then get to eat!
4. Luxury Among the Vines in Sonoma, California
Without question one of the most stunning properties we have ever had the pleasure of staying at would be the Residence at Comstock Wines in Healdsburg. Not only is this the height of luxury but the added ambiance of literally being in the middle of a vineyard is hard to beat for wine lovers. As you enter the Residence you are immediately struck by a feature wall in the front entrance. Rising about 15 feet and made from old wine barrel staves, it has about a dozen built-in enclaves, each holding a specially made Murano glass bottle from Italy. Written on the wall is the Italian phrase “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici che la bellezza infiora” which means “Drink from a Joyful Cup of Life”. It is a wonderful way to enter a building that sets the stage for the perfect wine country vacation.
When in Sonoma wine country, an absolute must-stop is the St. Francis Wine & Food Pairing Experience. What we’ve always enjoyed about it is that the dishes are built around the wine as opposed to finding a particular wine to pair with a set menu. As a result, the characteristics and complexity of each featured wine is truly enhanced to a level where the enjoyment and appreciation of the winemaking aspect is maximized to the fullest. The pairing is limited to 16 people seated at two tables of eight in a circular formation. The menu features five wines paired with five plates and the portions are sizable–and the wine will continue to pour as long as you still have food on your plate! While wine and food are the primary focus, the atmosphere and service is what brings it all together. It is a beautiful winery that sits on a stunning piece of land.
5. Explore Santa Barbara’s American Riviera
Dubbed the “American Riviera”, Santa Barbara encompasses a delightful span of California’s central coast that is surprisingly underdeveloped particularly given its location and what it offers visitors: beautiful beaches lined with palm trees, fantastic restaurants, and easy access to a truly unique wine region producing world-class wines. We were lucky enough to stay at the Harbor View Inn, a Four Diamond boutique hotel located directly across the street from Stearns Wharf and West Beach. It features elegant and very spacious rooms and sits right on the corner of State Street, meaning easy walking distance to both the waterfront as well as downtown. The service was definitely worthy of its Four Diamond designation as the staff went above and beyond for even the smallest request.
One of the newer developments in downtown Santa Barbara is “The Funk Zone”, an interesting name for an area of town that has its own unique spirit. And while the locals we asked seemed mixed about whether they liked the name, if your definition translates into hip (without being trendy), and cool (without being pretentious), then it’s perfectly suited. We found it to be a gathering of likeminded people that love good quality food, are proud of their local wine scene and welcome you with a warm smile. The former Santa Barbara Fish Market building has been re-invented into a fantastic place for locals and tourists alike to meet. One of our favourite stops was the Santa Barbara Wine Collective. It is a tasting room featuring five local wineries: Babcock Winery, Ca’Del Grevino, Fess Parker, Notary Public, and The Paring. Unlike a standard individual winery tasting room, it provides a fantastic opportunity to taste from five excellent and diverse wineries that each reflects the terroir in their own unique way.
The easiest way to get a crash course on Santa Barbara County wines, is to visit The Valley Project. Winemaker Seth Kunin and his wife Magan Eng have set out to educate wine lovers on the unique climate and soils that make up the five distinct Santa Barbara AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). Because they produce wine from each of the AVAs, they aren’t just providing a wine tasting experience; they’re taking you on a wine tasting journey through each of the areas, and through your palate demonstrating the incredible diversity between them.