The Sonoma County that we love!

Tom Schmidt, Josh Silvers, Duskie Estes, John Franchetti, Sheana Davis

Sonoma County is truly an amazing place. I think it’s a “body double for heaven”. Not only do we have exceptional cuisine, wonderful vistas, an abundance of art and entertainment but the people are pretty awesome too! Leadership Santa Rosa is the longest running Chamber of Commerce leadership program in the U.S. at 28 years. I’m president of the alumni association so you can bet I believe in the program and the knowledge it provides the participants.

We added a new day this year, Hospitality & Tourism Day. I wanted to thank Jeremy Little of Carle Mackie Power & Ross LLP as well as Adam Peacocke of City Life Fellowship for being co-chairs on what is sure to be a day that goes down in history as a top notch LSR day! It wouldn’t have happened without you (and the committee).

See Flickr photo album of the day.

The mission of this day was to capture “A day in the life of a Sonoma County tourist” (see the Hospitality and Tourism Day Agenda). Normally LSR days are about Santa Rosa (hence the name) but because this location is so rich with treasures, we extended it out geographically.

The day started at Relish Culinary Adventures with breakfast sponsored by Relish, Costeaux Bakery, and Carle Mackie Power & Ross LLP. I got there as the first panel was just getting started. We were honored to have Karl Bruno of the Kenwood Inn & Spa, Brad Calkins of Santa Rosa Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and Tim Zahner of Sonoma County Tourism Bureau to talk about the micro to macro view of tourism in Sonoma County. The Kenwood Inn is known far and wide as one of the most amazing spa locations on the planet. No exaggeration. If you have the chance, go! It happens to be directly across Highway 12 in the Valley of the Moon from my favorite place in the world, no joke, see my video of my favorite view. Brad and his team work very hard to help tourists and residents get the most out of Santa Rosa and they do a fine job. Tim Zahner has to be one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and he will charm your face off.

Then we heard from some business owners/managers; Douglas Keane of Cyrus, Shimo, and Healdsburg Bar & Grill; Will Seppi of Costeaux Bakery; and Percy Brandon of Vintner’s Inn and John Ash & Co. We learned a lot about the challenges and joys of owning a business here. Doug was honest and shared with us lessons learned with the new Shimo, adjustments he had to make, as well as how passionate he is about his businesses and how they are run. Will talked about updating a business with a long life to meet the needs and tastes of the customers. Percy is a tremendous long-time supporter of LSR and it was enlightening to hear how you keep a location with such a famous name fresh to the locals. (Happy Hour at the Front Room at John Ash is wicked awesome, go!)

The next panel is where things got really fun. We were thoroughly pleased to have: Sheana Davis, Chef/Cheese Maker/Owner of Epicurean Connection Shop; Duskie Estes, Chef/Owner of Bovolo, Zazu, and Black Pig Meat Co. also of Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef; John Franchetti, Chef/Owner of Rosso’s Pizzeria & Wine Bar;  Tom Schmidt, Executive Chef at John Ash & Co.; and Josh Silvers, Chef/Owner of Petite Syrah and Jackson’s Bar and Oven. Whew! We learned a lot about the Farm to Table movement, keeping your sources for ingredients local, knowing the farmer and the land where the food comes from and what makes Sonoma County so special when it comes to cuisine. The energy in the air was electric and when the chefs went into the kitchen to put the final touches on the food they brought with them, the attendees were practically clapping with excitement. It’s not every day that you get a line up like this to bring you food from their own kitchens! (Video of the chefs in the kitchen) After we served ourselves, everyone sat down at a table with a chef so we could eat and talk. The food was absolutely amazing and you shoulda been there!

Anyone that’s ever sat through an all day seminar knows how important it is to get up and stretch after lunch so we sent them on a walking tour and treasure hunt in Healdsburg’s downtown. Then it was to Vintner’s Inn.

I moderated the Vine to Market: Wine and the Business Side panel featuring: Beth Costa, Wine Road; Gerry Forth of Forth Vineyards and board member of Sonoma County Vintners; and Hardy Wallace of The NPA and the winner of Murphy Goode’s “A Really Goode Job” (Ranked #5 of the World’s Best Jobs by Oddee). What I thought was going to be about wine, business, and tourism ended up being more about how social media has changed the way they market their product and reach their customers. Since I am a social media consultant, I was excited to hear how heavily it effected them (though I kept trying to steer them to other subjects) and I was stoked to finally meet Hardy after he’d become an ambassador for wine and social media marketing. We’d “run into” each other a lot digitally but we finally got the chance to shake hands.

And there’s more!!! The next panel was Sonoma County Happenings: Greg Fisher of Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge GranFondo, Bike Monkey, and Cycle City; Ty Jones of Regatta Arts/Handcar Regatta; Steve Page of Infineon Raceway; and Jennifer Sloan of ARTrails. They talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly of having a great idea or service, the challenges of delivering and the unexpected occurrences they encounter. Again and again, I was blown away by the sheer volume of quality events we enjoy here in Sonoma County on a daily basis.

We got some tastings of lovely vintages by the Vintner’s Inn’s sommelier and relaxed and enjoyed ourselves in the Front Room for happy hour.

This day was full of unbelievable people, information, ideas, conversation, food, wine and camaraderie. I personally want to thank everyone that spent time with us, shared with us, and left a little piece of themselves with those listening. I wouldn’t trade the experience of this day for anything. Leadership Santa Rosa, here’s to another 28 years!

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