As symbols of love, hope and passion, roses are said to have miraculous healing powers and legendary for soothing both heart and soul. "Rose is a rose is a rose," American writer Gertrude Stein so dismissively said, but clearly she had never toured the rose gardens of Sonoma County. This is the time of year to see Sonoma's flowery bounty at its best. This pastoral landscape is filled with rose-inspired escapades of varying colors, fragrances, and form.
In any gardener’s realm, the stunning and grand Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is a long-stemmed beauty. Like delicate rose petals, pink walls wrap themselves around manicured gardens and steamy hot springs pools. The comforting embrace of a romantic suite includes a two-person Jacuzzi tub and luxurious 4-poster king-sized bed. At the inn’s Willow Stream Spa, partake of the “bathing ritual” and the source waters of Boyes Hot Springs. Then enjoy a couples’ Wine, Roses & Romance Package. This opulent pleasure includes sparkling wine and chocolate covered strawberries, daily breakfast in bed (for two), rose petal turndown, and sparkling wine tasting for two at Gloria Ferrer.
Santa Rosa residents honored their patron, Saint Rose, when naming this rose-rich community. Roses are revered each May at the Luther Burbank Rose Parade & Festival. Celebrated for more than 120 years, the festival paid homage to the rose long before the distinguished horticulturalist settled in the region. Known for his work with fruits and vegetables, Luther Burbank’s early work included hybridizing a number of roses which also played a part in his future research. Spectacular in spring, Burbank’s handiwork is beautifully displayed at the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens. Docent-led tours, April through October, include his greenhouse and Greek Revival home.
In gardening vernacular, Hotel La Rose in downtown Santa Rosa is truly Old World. Built in 1907, its timeless granite architecture belies its warm and gracious interior. Historic rooms are named for illustrious founders of Santa Rosa’s Historic Railroad Square, where the hotel resides. The newer Carriage House surrounds a rose-draped courtyard and provides modern-day amenities. As a final compliment to this flourish of flowers, Hotel La Rose’s delightful Romance Rose Package – Sonoma County champagne, chocolates and a dozen red roses– sets the mood for love and romance.
At the Tudor Rose English Tea Room, enjoy the regal charms of high tea surrounded by hundreds to teacups and teapots. High Tea menus honor British royalty and celebrities, everyone from Prince George and Queen Victoria to Harry Potter and Mary Poppins. A variety of delicious repasts include assorted tea sandwiches, scones with house cream, sausage rolls, crumpets with lemon curd, and an endless pot of tea. An homage to Margaret Thatcher, the “Maggie” is pure vegan. Select from more than a dozen teas, including the wonderfully aromatic Tudor Rose.
With more than 425 wineries and 60,000 acres of Sonoma County vineyards, the notion of wine and roses goes far beyond any fantasy. Warm days of spring and summer are ideal for sipping a luscious pink drink of Sonoma County rosé. There are dozens of options, but what could be more fitting than Flowers Vineyard & Winery’s Rosé of Pinot Noir. With aromas of rose petals and subtle hints of strawberry and grapefruit, it’s elegant and distinct. Look for their new Healdsburg tasting room and visitor center in 2019.
See, Savor, and Smell Sonoma Roses
Luther Burbank Rose Parade & Festival – Santa Rosa
A time-honored tradition, the old-fashioned festival has boasted more than 3,500 participants in the parade and more than 20,000 spectators. Among the parade are local school marching bands, floats, equestrian teams, and units honoring local veterans. Don’t miss the Rose Bloom Competition, which may include as many as 300 entries.
Garden Valley Ranch – Petaluma
Indulge your senses! This historic ranch cuts 5,000 long-stemmed roses daily from more than 300 varieties May-October. Guided tours of the vintage garden where more than 100 hydrangeas and 35 varieties of magnolias, rose-draped pergolas, towering bay tree hedges, and California’s biggest Monterey Cypress astound amateur and professional gardeners alike. Spend the night in the beautifully-restored caretaker’s Victorian cottage on the garden grounds.
Korbel Champagne Cellars Rose Garden Tours – Guerneville
Accessible only by guided tours mid-April to mid-October, the gardens surrounding the splendid old Korbel farmhouse were redesigned several years ago by a master horticulturalist. With more than 100 varieties of antique roses – tree, climbers, Damascus, pillar – this tour is a real dazzler. A 130-year-old Lamarque rose was a housewarming gift from Luther Burbank to the Korbel family. Once you’re done ogling the garden, check-out the Korbel Champagne Cellars Tour which includes the world’s largest bottle of champagne…120 liters. Enjoy the tasting room and a little lunch on the patio at Korbel Deli & Market. Under the redwoods and with views of the vineyards – breathe deep.
Russian River Rose Company – Healdsburg
Jan and Michael Tolmasoff have made roses a way of life. With rose cuttings from a feral plant in Mendocino, old homesteads, rose aficionados and others purchased throughout the years their collection now numbers more than 650 varieties from shed-eating ramblers to tiny micro-miniatures from ancient and species roses and developed exclusive cultivars registered by the American Rose Society. Guided and self-guided tours of more than 20 display gardens and vineyards include, of course, a Wine & Rose Garden. Enjoy a fragrant demonstration of their historic Bulgarian perfume-making methods.
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