Music happenings in Sonoma County – 2/1 – 2/5

You may be getting ready for the Big Game on Sunday, but we’ve got some big line-ups in Sonoma County this weekend, with a Rat Pack tribute, one of the best blues players in the region, and a couple of eclectic Americana acts.

Photo by Dana Curley.

Photo by Dana Curley.

Saturday, Feb. 2 – Tommy Castro and the Pain Killers
Even after more than two decades on the road, 14 recordings and collaborations, multiple blues music awards, personal and professional breakthroughs, Tommy Castro takes nothing for granted. Still inspired by his blues guitar and R & B vocal contemporaries, Castro has brought together an all-new band he calls “The Painkillers.”

Foregoing the horns this time out, Castro returns to a more stripped-down lineup that recalls the earlier days of the band and even features original bassist Randy McDonald along with new band mates Byron Cage on drums and James Pace on keyboards.
Venue: Last Day Saloon, Santa Rosa, 707-545-5876


sandy-hackettSaturday, Feb. 2 – Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack
They were style with substance, swing with swagger, and a non-stop party that everyone wanted to attend.

Now audiences can experience this critically acclaimed, hugely entertaining theatrical production that includes exciting new arrangements of the classic songs everyone knows and loves and spot-on impersonations of the “Rat Pack:” Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, and Dean Martin.
Venue: Wells Fargo Center, Santa Rosa, 707-546-3600


Saturday, Feb. 2 – Brothers Comatose
Literally brothers, Alex and Ben Morrison, of The Brothers Comatose, grew up in a house that was known for its music parties.

bros-comatose“The Morrison house was a gathering place for local musicians, everyone would bring an instrument, call out tunes, call out changes, and just play for hours” said Brothers Comatose bassist and Morrison music party goer, Gio Benedetti. “I learned more in that living room than in any class I ever took.”

The brothers took this generous, inclusive and rowdy attitude and brought it to stages all over San Francisco. With the addition of members Philip Brezina and Ryan Avellone, the string quintet brings their original string music and the feel of an intimate music party to audiences all across the United States.

Venue: Cloverdale Performing Arts Center, Cloverdale - 707- 894-3222


Tuesday, Feb. 5 – The Wood Brothers
Two brothers decide to form a band, adapting the blues, folk and other roots; music sounds they loved as kids into their own evocative sound and twining their voices in the sort of high lonesome harmony blend for which sibling singers are often renowned.

While that’s not a terribly unusual story, the Wood Brothers took a twisty path to their ultimate collaboration. Indeed, they pursued separate projects for some 15 years before joining forces. Their paths diverged after those teenage explorations, but the two brothers continued pursuing the musical adventure they’d begun in childhood.

For although their paths diverged for many years, and they forged very different careers in disparate places, the Wood Brothers are never far from the musical currents that formed their musical impulses in the first place.
Venue: Mystic Theatre, Petaluma, 707-765-2121


Inside Sonoma bloggers move to


This is the final post for, Sonoma County Tourism’s award-winning blog site.

On Monday, Feb. 4, we’re hitting the switch to a new and improved, and all your favorite Insiders will be moving there. Inside Sonoma will go dark the same day.

Since 2008, we’ve sent out our most talented writers, photographers, and videographers to document the best in Sonoma County. We’ve made you laugh, made you cry, and, hopefully, sparked a desire in you to visit and explore Sonoma County for yourself.

Make sure you visit us at after Feb. 4. You’ll find such topics as Wineries & Wine, Local Secrets, Food & Restaurants, Art, Entertainment/Events/Festivals, Outdoor Adventures & Eco Tourism, Music, Wellness, Shopping & Lifestyle, Gourmet Recipes, Chef’s Recipes, Weddings, and Meetings & Groups.

Once there, take a few minutes to subscribe to you favorite blogs. Existing subscriptions won’t transfer.

Thank you for being a fan of Sonoma County. We’ve enjoyed entertaining you with tips, hints, and local secrets about Sonoma County. We’ll see you soon on


Inside-Sonoma, 2008-2013

 Possibly Excerpted From The Economist, February 1, 2013

Inside-Sonoma, laid to rest January 30, 2013. She was 4 ½. Her contents were subsumed by


At its conception it was to be named “Extreme Grape Juice.”

Originally discussed as a one of the Skunkworks projects of an over-caffeinated and under-regulated marketing department of a brand-new tourism organization, it was never really going to see the light of day. Rather, it was bandied about as a way to reach “millenials” or to “crack the whip on the long tail” or “other marketing terms yet to be named.”

Birthed with a little bit of money and a lot of naiveté, she started off quietly enough with the first post, innocuously titled “Goat Cheese Revolution!” Fellow travelers and in-the-know foodies took notice, but outside the realm of comrades-in-wine and other SonomaSymps, few took notice.

The little blog had one mission, and one mission only: to cover things of interest to Sonoma County aficionados. And to post something roughly every day. In the early days there were one or two lonely writers, usually banging out some purple prose while heavily Pinoted late at night at their homes, or reworking old press releases discovered in the archives, the purple prose in this case being the mimeographed type that was rapidly fading from the paper.

No subject was too racy, too outlandish or too controversial for the blog, which had a way of scooping the bigger, fancier guys. The story about the caged-death match between chefs and a cuddly lamb was first unveiled on its pages, and it was the first (and possible only) to have not only a food-and-wine tattoo contest but to have an actual polling place where voters could choose the winner. The blog took sophomoric delight in achieving ever higher google rankings for ever lower topics. A simple google image search for Bruce Willis still yields to a post about the appearance of his Yippikayyaness at the Sonoma International Film Festival. And, of course, the blog mentioned that the acronym for said festival is still one of the best around, if only because it is so catchy.

Yippekayyay! We hold spot number 9 for Bruce Willis on Google.

Yippekayyay! We hold spot number 9 for Bruce Willis on Google.

After a while, Inside-Sonoma grew far beyond the dreams of its creators. Professional writers were hired, topics were formalized, there were talks of “editorial calendars” and “content fluidity.” While the quality went up, and the awards from the industry piled up with it, it became evident that the blog could not keep up with the breakneck pace of multiple posts daily on several different topics. It was like the last 10 minutes of a “VH-1 Behind the Music” special, but without anyone getting arrested for indecency whilst hanging out the roof of a limo.

She hopes to be remembered for what she was – a bit of humor and irreverence and love letters to and about Sonoma County. She was birthed out of a crazy idea, raised by manic parents and stumbled through her adolescence with help from her friends: Carey, Miguel, James, Duane, Keri, Andrew, Suzie, Jen, Tina, Tyffani, other James (the one with the beard), David, Serena, Lynda, Siouxsie, Jenntern, Matt, Travel Andrew and the anonymous cast of thousands.

The best of Inside-Sonoma will be moved to the new and improved, which will take the essence of the blog, the rebelliousness, the delight in the absurd and joy of living and preaching about Sonoma County, to an ever greater audience. And the rest, the posts about King Lear, or in praise of doing nothing, or picking a fight with a blimp, or lamentations about Pluto’s fall from grace… they will live on in the hearts of the readers. And hopefully

In lieu of flowers, please send coffee.

lobby bar

New and Improved Santé Coming This Spring

Santé in Sonoma has just closed, but worry not, those signature $215 wine-paired chef’s tasting dinners will return in April, served in a new setting that the restaurant’s spokeswoman promises will “better reflect the sophistication of his inspired Sonoma Valley cuisine.”

The AAA Four Diamond destination inside the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is undergoing extensive renovation, updating the historic mission-style architecture of the property that began life as a commercial hot springs on 1840, then became the Boyes Hot Springs Hotel in 1900.

Both the Santé dining room and adjacent lobby bar are getting a nip-tuck. Look for a “minimalist design” featuring more “space and light” and a bit more casual setting of exotic woods, local art and contemporary furniture, says the resort’s regional director of public relations, Michelle Heston.

A particular highlight will be the patio, which is being expanded and fancied up for views of the resort’s geo-thermal mineral pool and fire pit.

Chef Andrew Cain doesn’t plan to mess with his successful California Wine Country cooking, though. First day of new service is scheduled for April 2.

Details: Santé,100 Boyes Blvd. (at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa), Sonoma, 707-938-9000, (

New and Improved Santé Coming This Spring

Santé in Sonoma has just closed, but worry not, those signature $215 wine-paired chef’s tasting dinners will return in April, served in a new setting that the restaurant’s spokeswoman promises will “better reflect the sophistication of his inspired Sonoma Valley cuisine.”

The AAA Four Diamond destination inside the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is undergoing extensive renovation, updating the historic mission-style architecture of the property that began life as a commercial hot springs on 1840, then became the Boyes Hot Springs Hotel in 1900.

Both the Santé dining room and adjacent lobby bar are getting a nip-tuck. Look for a “minimalist design” featuring more “space and light” and a bit more casual setting of exotic woods, local art and contemporary furniture, says the resort’s regional director of public relations, Michelle Heston.


A particular highlight will be the patio, which is being expanded and fancied up for views of the resort’s geo-thermal mineral pool and fire pit.


Chef Andrew Cain doesn’t plan to mess with his successful California Wine Country cooking, though. First day of new service is scheduled for April 2.


Details: Santé,100 Boyes Blvd. (at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa), Sonoma, 707-938-9000, (


La Crema 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

The Russian River Valley has a solid rep for Pinot Noir, that’s understood.

But I had no idea that the Sonoma Coast, which includes the Russian River Valley, is held in such comparatively low regard by informed, high-end wine consumers, until I was recently exposed to new consumer research.

There’s no reason for that, although the Sonoma Coast appellation is a much larger area than the RRV, and larger than the “true coast.” It’s shaped a bit like a Sphinx, except tilted to the Northwest, and maybe wearing a cast on its foot, reminding me of “Paw Paw” in the independent 2011 movie, The Future. Poor Paw Paw. I know it was preciously ironic and all, but I’m going to be sad now.

What was I talking about? Let’s just open this bottle of Pinot.

The La Crema 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($25) is my favorite of recent efforts. 2011 was supposed to be a difficult vintage, but you don’t hear many Pinot winemakers complaining, and the results are turning up quite well.

The 2011 leads with sandalwood and fresh-crushed, dried herbs, taking on Mexican baking chocolate spiciness after a little breather. Fruit aromas are candied, but alluring, like La Vie raspberry candies, and the tingly-sweet finish slinks off just slowly enough, you start to miss it before it’s gone. It cools in fruit character, while the spice deepens, after being open a day or so.

Recipe pairing follows; romantic fools take note, La Crema also suggests a “floral pairing” of chocolate cosmos or amaranths.


Pan Seared Duck Breast with Wild Rice, Glazed Onions and Spiced Roasted Plums

This mouth-watering recipe owes its success to the timeless pairing of red fruit and wild winged game. The acidity in the wine serves to not only foil the richness of the duck but also enhances the spiced roasted plums.

The La Crema Pinot Noir from Monterey, with its subtle notes of earth and minerality, pairs perfectly with the anise in the Chinese five-spice and leads to a long elegant finish.


  •     3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  •     1 strip bacon, finely chopped
  •     1 cup wild rice
  •     2 bay leaves
  •     ½ onion, diced
  •     6 cups chicken stock, at a simmer
  •     6 firm plums, quartered
  •     2 Tbsp Chinese five-spice powder
  •     1 bag white pearl onions, peeled
  •     2 Tbsp honey
  •     2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  •     3 Tbsp butter
  •     3 Tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  •     2 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  •     4 duck breasts, cleaned and trimmed
  •     Freshly ground black pepper
  •     Butter to taste
  •     Salt to taste


Preheat oven to 350° F. Place a 4-quart pot over low-medium heat and add 2 Tbsp. oil and bacon. Sauté until bacon begins to brown, approximately 3 minutes. Add the rice, bay leaves, onion and slowly pour in the simmering chicken stock. Simmer for approximately 50 minutes or until most of the rice begins to split open. Drain rice and reserve liquid.

In a small mixing bowl, add the plums, five-spice and 1 Tbsp. oil. Toss well to distribute seasoning. Pour the plums onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove and keep warm.

Place onions in a 2-quart pot and cover with water. Add honey, 1 Tbsp. butter and vinegar. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove lid and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Once onions have cooled slightly, add 1 Tbsp. butter. Reserve onions and keep warm.

In a skillet over medium heat, roast duck (skin side down) until golden and skin has rendered its fat. Flip the duck breast over and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to rest. In a medium sized pan, over high heat, add 1 Tbsp. of butter (or more, if desired). Once the butter has melted, sauté the rice. Keep cooking liquid on hand to moisten the rice. Add sage and season to taste.

To serve: spoon rice onto plate and top with roasted plums. Place duck breast on the side and spoon onions on top. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.


It’s About Personality: Bjornstad Cellars

By Heather Cassell

Greg Bjornstad, owner and winemaker of Bjornstad Cellars. Photo courtesy of Bjornstad Cellars.

Coaxing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir’s natural beauty and personal charm out into the open is Greg Bjornstad’s talent.

“Single vineyard wines are very much personality driven,” said Bjornstad, owner and winemaker of Bjornstad Cellars, an artesian winery located in Sebastopol in Sonoma County.

Wine connoisseurs interested in tasting Bjornstad Cellars’s Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, can make an appointment at his cellar, or look for him at events, such as upcoming Out in the Vineyard’s Big Gay Wine Train (where he is regularly featured) in March; Sonoma Pride, and other LGBT events.

Pensively and carefully selecting his words, he described the process as “character” the “thing that goes a little deeper is the variation that we see going from vintage to vintage” reflecting nature.

“Nature expresses itself in a wine,” Bjornstad said.

Every year is different, yet the “personality of the wine are essentially the same,” noted Bjornstad, discussing the vintages terroir, the French concept for how vineyards capture a moment in time like a snapshot through the climate, geology and geography that is reflected in the fruit.

In another sense, Bjornstad compared the process to how people age.

“It’s not unlike individuals,” Bjornstad said. “As we age a year older we go through different stuff and we kind of become like different people and yet are the same person deep down inside the whole time.

“That is the part that is interesting to me,” he continued, admiring the journey and the memories created. “When [I taste] wine, I remember back to the vintage and what kind of conditions we are going through. It really shows, it really varies from year to year and that for me is really the captivating part of the winemaking.”

The Bordeaux style leads to “more personality than pretty,” Bjornstad believes.

A Rocky Mountain man, Bjornstad, a 52-year old gay man, was more familiar with Coors than Cabernet. His mother worked for the iconic American beer company.

His world wasn’t absent of wine, growing up he was exposed to Andre Cold Duck, Lancers, and Mateus wines, but it wasn’t until he began working in restaurants that his interest in wine took hold.

“It was a whole new world for me to see the difference between Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. I became intrigued by it,” explained Bjornstad, who began taking wine selling workshops and eventually enrolled at the University of California, Davis’s viticulture and enology graduate program.

It was a natural fit for Bjornstad, who held a degree in agronomy, the study of field management and production. He completed his wine studies as the first intern to study at Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Bordeaux and another internship in Montpellier, France.

“It was very exciting. What a great way to get started and it was very instrumental in my professional development,” said Bjornstad, who carries on his French training through the cultivation of his own wines and consulting for other vineyards through his consulting agency.

“I learned that people in Europe were making great wines because they were growing great grapes from great vineyards,” explained Bjornstad, who traveled around Europe visiting friends he made while studying at U.C. Davis.

Beyond his professional life, Bjornstad was also seduced into the wine lifestyle, discussing varietals of grapes from planting to harvesting and tasting wines from dawn to sunset during his time in France.

Enraptured, living in France changed his life, he noted.

“It left a strong impression on me,” said Bjornstad, who is always sampling wines made by friends when he isn’t drinking his own wines.

One of the key things he looks for when tasting wine is the personality of the wine, ultimately the vineyard to the winemaker, to find the story.

“If you are paying attention and looking at their wines you know it’s a story,” said Bjornstad, who savors the social aspects that comes naturally to wine.

“I enjoy wine these days always over food. That’s a great social thing for me to do to have people over and if they are in the wine industry they will bring a bunch of bottles of wines. We will pop corks and we will try them over dishes, so we’ve got more stories, flavors and combinations to experience … eating simply, drinking well and enjoying each other’s company.”

Bjornstad has worked with some of Napa and Sonoma counties most respected wineries. He immediately went to work for Joseph Phelps Vineyards after his return from France. He then moved onto work for Newton Vineyard, Flowers Vineyard and Winery, where he fell in love with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

After nearly a decade in the wine industry, in 1999 Bjornstad struck out on his own. He launched a vineyard consultancy agency where he guided grape growers and winemakers through the process from seed to bottle. In 2001, he had a crush facility and launched independent wine label, Tandem, with a partner. In 2005, he left that venture to fully venture out with his own wine label, Bjornstad Cellars, in conjunction with his consultancy agency. He hasn’t looked back since.

In his first year he produced 400 cases. Today, Bjornstad produces an estimated 800 cases of about seven or eight different labels a year, he says.

“My bias is toward the vineyard and toward its personality and its characteristics, so the hope is to let that vineyard’s personality shine through into the wine,” said Bjornstad, who works with vineyards located on the Sonoma coast and in the Russian River Valley.

Bjornstad also doesn’t filter or refine his wines or use too much oak during the fermentation process, he simply lets them allows them to be what they are, he says about the Bordeaux style he learned in France.

It appears that people appreciate the Bordeaux style.

“People are very kind appreciative of the style,” said Bjornstad, who works closely with sommeliers in restaurants looking to pair wines with foods.

“My wines will never over power the meal, but will be a good complement,” he noted.

His wines are also on select restaurants wine lists, wine merchant shops and wine bars around the Bay Area and wine country, he said.

Get a taste of Bjornstad Cellars at

cloverdale citrus fair poster-featured

121st annual Cloverdale Citrus Fair slated

Come celebrate citrus at one of California’s longest-lived annual festivals.

The Cloverdale Citrus Fair is in its 121st year in 2013. Each year the event offers new surprises and a great time for the whole family by combining modern fun with old-fashioned charm.

This year’s Fair will be held over Presidents’ Day Weekend (Feb. 15-18) at – where else? – the Cloverdale Citrus Fairgrounds.

The 2013 Fair theme, “Polynesian A’Fair,” promises to bring a touch of the South Seas to Sonoma County with, for example, Sunday afternoon shows that feature Polynesian dancers.

The Fair’s many events include the always-popular opening-night queen pageant on Friday (Feb. 15) at 7:30 p.m. Participants are Cloverdale Township schoolgirls, 16-19, who maintain a minimum 3.0 grade average. The Pageant awards a $1,200 scholarship to the winner; $750 to the first runner-up; $250 to the remaining contestants; and an additional $100 to Miss Congeniality.

A big parade starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday (Feb. 16), with horses, tractors, floats, marching bands, the Pageant Queen, a kiddie and pet contingent, and a bevy of local characters and color. You can download a parade route map here.

More than a dozen rides – in some cases extremely thrilling rides – will be on hand in 2013:

  • Super Shot Drop Tower loads 12 passengers into a circular station and secures them with shoulder harnesses. Their station ascends to a 90-foot tower, where it is released in an accelerated free fall, allowing riders to experience G-Forces 3.5 times above normal.
  • 1001 Nachts is a platform ride that, according to the publicity, “goes completely up and over in a circular fashion as riders leave their stomach behind.”
  • Eagle 16 is a good ol’ 16-seat ferris wheel offering great views with your stomach left intact.
  • The Gravitron spins at 24 RPM to “sweep you off your feet.”
  • The Wacky Worm is intended for an entire family; it’s a two-level roller coaster that resembles a bright-colored worm.

Other events include two performances of “Polynesian A’Fair” by the Cabaret Players, a talent show with four age categories, a baby derby, animal competitions, 4-H exhibits, a juried art show, a photography exhibit and a great deal more.

And of course citrus comes in for major attention, particularly in the various citrus-centric competitions: citrus exhibits, citrus cooking contests (Orange Surprise and Lemon Delight desserts), citrus sculptures …

Those delightfully eccentric, three-dimensional citrus exhibits turn out to be one of the Fair’s smash hits every year. Volunteer groups – churches, schools, community groups – come up with a design, build its framework, and then cover it completely with citrus fruit wired to the frame.

Rules stipulate that an exhibit requires a minimum of 90 dozen citrus fruits, of which half must be oranges. No empty space is allowed; in non-citrus spaces the exhibit must be completely covered with something that’s edible (but mostly by citrus).

And here’s the icing on the citrus: lots of food, craft and other concessions arranged in a walkable outdoor arcade format.

See you there!

What you need to know:

  • What: Cloverdale Citrus Fair
  • Where: Cloverdale Citrus Fairgrounds, 1 Citrus Fair Drive, Cloverdale
  • When: Feb. 15-18; Friday: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday/Sunday: 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Monday: 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Tickets: general (13 and over)/$7, seniors (62+)/$5, juniors (6-12)/$5, kids 5 and under enter free. Season pass and other rate information available here.
fish bank facebook

Think Outside the Neighborhood for Wedding Shower

One of the nicest traditions of weddings is when a relative or close friend of the bride throws a shower.

Even if gifts aren’t part of the event (many modern showers are simply about a joyful gathering) it’s a magical time for everyone to celebrate a milestone in an important life.

Which often leads to the question of “where?” Restaurants, wineries, clubs and private homes are always popular. But here’s a thought: make a day of it, in an out-of-the-way locale that is a destination waiting to be explored. That can mean a shower packs in even more fun than simply sipping wine, eating, and chatting.

Valley Ford is often thought of as drive-through town, stretching just 2.6 miles in a tiny burg east of Bodega Bay and northwest of Petaluma. But it’s packed with secrets for a savvy party planner.

Notably, the former Dairymen’s Bank of 1893 has been renovated and revived into a lovely, one-of-a-kind venue for private parties.

Adding to the convenience, the Bank’s owners Brandon and Shona Guenther also own the Valley Ford Hotel and Rocker Oysterfeller’s Kitchen + Saloon next door.

For a long while, the red brick building on Highway 1 sat empty, silent with historic stories of when it operated just as its name suggested – as a bank for area dairymen, ranchers, fishermen and other pioneering spirits.

Then, in 2008, the Guenthers purchased the property, intending to use it as an additional venue for their Firefly Fine Catering. But the U.S. economy made catering events scarce, and so they operated the space as a retail fish market.

Yet in the past few months, catering and private dining inquiries have picked back up enough that the Guenthers closed the fish market and re-debuted as private event space for wedding showers, birthdays, wine dinners and such.

The space brims with charm, still featuring its original bank vaults, chandeliers, skylights and towering ceilings. Thanks to the proximity of the seven-room hotel and award-winning restaurant, it also offers extra draws.

“It is also a great option for wedding parties that take over the property as a perfect spot for a rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding,” said Brandon Guenther. “We can arrange for day trips to wine country, the Sonoma Coast or spa days for accompanying spouses.”

Imagine a guest’s delight when opening that shower invitation, and discovering that the party includes some fascinating west Sonoma County discovery, too.

Details: Dairyman’s Bank/Firefly Catering, 14415 Hwy 1,
Valley Ford, 707-876-1942,


Music happenings around Sonoma County – 1/25 – 1/27

Things are beginning to pick up in Sonoma County this weekend, music-wise anyways, with something for just about everyone. One of the most famous classical musicians of out time comes to town along with some fine dance bands and some eclectic Americana as well.


Friday, Jan. 25 – Pride & Joy
During its 25 years of playing the Bay Area, Pride & Joy has remained one of the most popular bands on the local music scene. The act plays the timeless pop and soul music hits from the ’60s to the ’90s in a show that pulls the audience directly into the heart of their performance.

“It’s always been natural for us to reach out and draw in the audience. We make the people feel they’re part of the performance because they are,” says Pride & Joy founder and bandleader Coleman Burke. Be prepared to dance all night.

Venue: Mystic Theatre, Petaluma, 707-765-2121


Friday, Jan. 25 – Kingsborough
Determined to help revive authentic, soulful rock music, Kingsborough has become one of the North Bay’s most entertaining and fastest rising acts. The band’s influences range from The Allman Brothers and Bill Withers to Rage Against the Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, resulting in a beautiful hurricane of widely diverse original material.

Armed with heart-pounding rhythms, dazzling guitar solos and powerful vocal harmonies, this powerhouse five-piece is living proof that rock n’ roll is still alive and well.

Venue: HopMonk Tavern, Sebastopol, 707- 829-7300



Friday, Jan. 25 – Twang Ditty
If you miss the era of great traditional country music, Twang Ditty will take you back with pure vocals and sparkling guitar licks. The band has been entertaining the Bay Area at numerous venues since winning the Colgate Country Showdown in 2007.

Twang Ditty plays country music of the ’50s through the ’70s, delivering hits by legends like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, along with favorites from country queens such as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. Their broad repertoire covers musical territory from Nashville to Bakersfield.
Venue: Last Day Saloon, Santa Rosa, 707-545-5876


Friday, Jan. 25 – David Scott and Collaboration
Originally from Australia via Tahiti, David Scott now calls Sonoma County home. He grew up listening to and appreciating the compelling sounds of Louis Armstrong and other New Orleans jazz greats and has the chops show it, playing tenor sax and flute in multiple musical styles, including jazz, zydeco, rock and even big band.

For the past 20 years, Scott has been a lead instrumentalist and vocalist for Sonoma County’s zydeco dance band, Gator Beat. Expect to be wowed by Scott’s command of the saxophone.

Venue: A’Roma Roasters, Santa Rosa, 707- 576-7765


Saturday, Jan. 26 – Yo-Yo Ma with Kathryn Stott
Yo-Yo Ma has recorded more than 75 albums, received more than 15 Grammy Awards, and remains one of the best-selling classical recording artists. Celebrated both as a soloist and chamber musician for his flawless technique and rich tone, he has collaborated with artists across diverse genres, serving to reinvigorate the world of music.

Venue: The Donald and Maureen Green Music Center, Rohnert Park, 866-955-6040




Saturday, Jan. 26 – Dead Set
Dead Set, acoustic duo John Wilson and David Fields, is unlike a Grateful Dead cover act. Well, they do play some Dead songs, but their music is more inspired by the Dead than a cover act. Playing the area since 2003, the act has many original tunes under their belts to keep you entertained. This is an afternoon show starting at 3 p.m.

Venue: Lagunitas Beer Sanctuary and Taproom, Petaluma, 707- 778-8776


Saturday, Jan. 26 – Crossfire
Crossfire is a big dance band in the classic format, and plays rhythm and blues, classic soul, Motown, classic rock, ’70s disco and more. The band can lay down a range of grooves from smooth jazz for the cocktail-dinner set to the full blown house rockin’ show band with choreography and special effect lighting. Expect to be dancing long before the show ends.

Venue: Flamingo Hotel, Santa Rosa, 707-545-8530


Twice as Nice with Couples’ Massage

It’s amazing how something involving hot stones, mud, salt, oil, and poking deeply into muscles can be so marvelous.

We’re talking massages, of course, and how absurdly joyful and relaxing the treatments are, even when we’re being pounded by Vichy jets, sort of like being in a car wash.

Doing this with our significant other or a close friend can make the experience even more lovely, as we share the fun of body exfoliation and mummy wraps, and melt in the steam room and sauna.

But massages for two are an art – they require a special setting and some extras that make them more special than simply two beds side-by-side. Here are some of our favorite destinations with extra flair:

Osmosis, Freestone
Renowned as a healing sanctuary in Sonoma County’s coastal hills, this is the only day spa in the U.S. that offers the Cedar Enzyme Bath, a rejuvenating heat treatment from Japan.

Tucked on five secluded acres in a scenic valley, the retreat brims with beautiful bonsai and bamboo gardens, centered by a Japanese tea garden, for a ceremony where tea is mixed with enzymes made from more than 25 different, organically grown plants.

Slip into the soothing cocoon of cozy wooden tubs filled with a fragrant blend of finely ground cedar, rice bran, and plant enzymes imported from Japan, then surrender to stillness. To complete the experience, many guests choose a massage, and again, the experience is out of the ordinary.

Treatments range from 75, 90 or 120 minutes for deep relaxation, and include Reiki and reflexology for holistic wellness. For the couples massage, the cost is simply an additional $5 per person in a shared room.

Details: 209 Bohemian Highway, Freestone, 707-823-8231,

Fairmont Sonoma Mission, Sonoma
This famous inn centers around natural mineral hot springs, and the Willow Stream, a 40,000-square-foot spa set with fireplace, private mineral baths and a Watsu pool.

Signature treatments include the Bathing Ritual, featuring exfoliating shower, two mineral water soaking pools, herbal steam, dry sauna, and cool down showers followed by relaxation in the bathhouse lounge and the outdoor spa loggia.

For couples, one of the most sumptuous experiences is the 90-minute Organic Lavender Kur, offering a luxurious lavender bubble bath with petitgrain and seaweed extracts to soften the skin, a botanical body wrap to improve circulation, and a full-body massage infused with lavender essential oil.

And if you’re ready for some introspection, indulge in the 60-minute Relationship Reading that brings new perspective with your significant other through a private, educational awareness analysis.

Details: 100 Boyes Blvd., Boyes Hot Springs, 707-938-9000,

The Kenwood Inn and Spa
This elegant and intimate country inn is nearly hidden on the edge of a lovely hillside, yet it contains a full service spa facility featuring a variety of massage styles including aromatherapy and Ayurvedic.

Drawing from its surrounding vineyards, spa treatments showcase grapes, including oils extracted from grape seeds, and vinotherapy such as red wine extracts, Chardonnay and Riesling oils.

The Ti Amo package is designed exclusively for couples, bringing a romantic, 80-minute treatment of a candlelit, side-by-side Swedish massage in the privacy of your guest or spa terrace, finished with a bottle of sparkling wine.

Details: 10400 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-833-1293,

Boon Hotel + Spa, Guerneville
This boutique spa on the edge of Armstrong Woods State Park is known for its local organic products and Reiki –complimentary with any massage – for channeling healing energy to unblock, activate and recharge.

There isn’t technically a couples’ massage since the treatment rooms are small, but the tiny property offers such an intimate setting that feels like the two of you are in your very own private spa.

Details: 14711 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville, 707-869-2721,