Sutter Creek Engagement Session | Morgan + Vittawat

Morgan and Vittawat met in high school.  Yes.  That still happens.  Flash forward ten years and they are both in advanced academia, living apart and engaged.  This summer, Morgan was working and studying in Sacramento while Vittawat was still in their hometown in Reno.  When we started talking about possibilities for portrait locations, I was quick to suggest a Sutter Creek engagement session.  I had been following them on instagram for awhile and knew that they both loved wine, the outdoors and exploring as much as I did.  It was also equal distance between all of us, which made it convenient for Vittawat to get to as a weekend getaway with Morgan. 

It was partially a selfish request – I LOVE Sutter Creek.  I had been eyeing it as a portrait location forever.  My best friend’s parents live in the nearby town of Plymouth and some of my favorite clients ever (ahem, Jack and Kyle, as well as, Kerri and David) were wed there.  It’s my home away from home and one of the places in the world I feel most comfortable.  Wine, country and golden light – what’s not to love?  

Sutter Creek Engagement Session

There are more of my favorite images from Morgan and Vittawat’s Sutter Creek engagement session after the jump.  Here are some travel suggestions if you would like to visit the area yourself.  

STAY:  While the area has no limit to the kitchy bed and breakfasts’ available for the traveler that loves doilies and gardens, there are quite a few adorable boutique hotels here now as well.  

  • The Hanford House Inn is my personal favorite for staying directly in the downtown of Sutter Creek.  Downtown is a relative term: there’s one adorably quaint and walkable mainstreet.  Don’t let the tiny town fool you though – what it lacks in size, it makes up for in friendliness and charm and it has everything you would need within your reach: wine tasting rooms, a gourmet cheese shop, and a provisional general store.  Hanford House delivers warm fresh scones to your front door every morning and offers free wine tasting in the lobby every evening.  
  • Is there anything more adorable than a boutique hotel named Rest?  The answer is no.  Obviously.  Rest is only 20 minutes away from Sutter Creek in Plymouth, CA and it happens to be located within walking distance to my favorite restaurant, Taste, in the area.  
  • The Union Pub and Inn in nearby Volcano only offers four rooms over an exceptional restaurant, which happens to be owned by the same owners as Taste.  It’s been a longtime dream of mine to get a crew of people together to rent out the entire lodge one weekend for a getaway.  

EAT: it’s a sad state of affairs when you think the food in the foothills is better than the food at home, but it’s true.  I would drive two hours to eat at any of these restaurants! 

  • Taste has been awarded up and down every list imaginable that involves food and wine and for good reason.  I jump at any chance to eat there.  I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve been served and more often than not the meals come with a surprise delightful twist.  I’m a huge fan of their Monday Night Supper menu, which offers a first, main, and dessert course at a pre-fixe price along with wine pairings.  
  • You can’t suggest the Union Pub and Inn without including them on the eat recommendation list as well.  Their inventive seasonal menu changes frequently and it’s incredibly charming to sit on the patio and wine and dine on a warm summer night. 
  • Element is housed in the lobby of the Hanford House Inn and it’s my go-to brunch spot in the area.  Their daily egg specials always make your menu decisions incredibly difficult.  

DRINK:

  • Yorba offers small lot, premium bold wines from the Amador area.  Their tasting room is directly next door to the Hanford House Inn and their Shake Ridge Red is not to be missed.
  • Terre Rouge and Easton offers a wide selection of variety of everything Plymouth has to offer.  Their tasting room is unpresumptuous and their selection outstanding.  I love everything they offer (which is why I’m a wine club member) but their barbaras and zins really stand out for me.  
  • Helwig Winery is worth a stop for a picnic lunch just for the incredible view of their beautiful grounds, as well as a bottle of their bubbly rose.  
  • I love C.G. Di Arie for their inventiveness and spunk.  I became enamored with them after meeting the owner, Chaim Gur-Arieh, a few years back.  It helps that they are NPR under-writers also.  Chaim was born in Istanbul, Turkey but immigrated to Israel as a teenager.  He has a PHD in food science and spent a number of years working to engineer the flavors and consistency behind some of America’s most beloved products (Hidden Valley Ranch!  Captain Crunch!).  His energy, enthusiasm and quirkiness won me over and this bleeds into his wines.  Their gallery collections offer something unique to the area: inventive heavy blends using grapes like the touriga.  

 

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Walking in a vineyard

Wineries of Fairplay | Cedarville Winery

Cedarville Vineyard is one of my favorite wineries of Fairplay.  Cedarville, owned by the amazing husband and wife duo of Jonathan Lachs and Susan Marks, is sustainably and organically farmed.  They have amazing underground caves they designed to store wine, feature owl boxes to assist with pest control, and use rotating grasses, weeds and other crops under the vines to help keep soil healthy and pests to a minimum.  Jonathan and Susan were looking for a slew of marketing photos to have at their disposal for the vineyard.  It didn’t take much convincing (or any at all) to get me and some of my favorite people to the vineyard for a tour, a wine tasting, a picnic spread and some wandering among the vines.

Cedarville Vineyard is located in Somerset, CA and welcomes visitors for tours, tasting, and sales by appointment only. You can either email or call 530-620-9463 to set up an appointment.  You won’t regret it and tell them I sent you!

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Las Posadas Ranch Wedding

Las Posadas Ranch Wedding | St Helena, CA | Carla + Paul

Oh my goodness – THIS VENUE.  I want to return to Las Posadas Ranch and Vineyards again and again and again.  Although Carla and Paul were wed in the St. Helena Catholic Church, their reception venue is the place my dreams are made of: cascading vineyards for views, a large lush lawn for farm tables and backyard games, a huge barn for dancing the night away.  It’s essentially everything you might want for a rousing raucous relaxed outdoor affair in the heart of California wine country.

Other things worth noting: Carla’s wedding dress is actually her mother’s own dress, remade and restyled in secret for her by Marie-Margot Couture.  It was an incredibly touching surprise for Carla’s mother, who had no idea!  They had a photo of her mother in the original dress on display at the reception as well.

Also, these people had some killer dance moves!

Ceremony: St Helena Catholic Church | Reception: Las Posadas Ranch and Vineyards | Officiant: Fr Patrick Stephenson | Invitations: Minted | Florist: Centerpiece Floral and Home | Bakery: Mise | Caterer: Fume Bistro | Musicians: Geoffrey, Genevieve and Clement Say | DJ: Wine Country Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: Redesigned Vintage by Maggie Burns of Marie-Margot Couture | Veil: Marie-Margot Couture | Bridesmaid Attire: BHLDN | Groom’s Attire: Men’s Warehouse | Groomsmen Attire: Calvin Klein | Hair and Makeup: Whirlwind Salon | Rentals: Bright Rentals

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Plymouth CA Same Sex Wedding

Plymouth Wine Country Wedding | Plymouth, CA | Jack + Kyle

Today is Kyle’s birthday, so it seems fitting that I gift him with a few more sneak peeks of he and Jack’s amazing Plymouth wine country wedding day.  Jack and Kyle not only live in Amador Country wine country, but they are fully immersed in it: their home is atop a 360 degree view of vineyards and Jack works for Scott Harvey Wines.  If you haven’t had a taste of what Scott Harvey has been producing lately, then you are missing out.  I recommend picking up a bottle of 2013 1869 Zinfandel today!

The boys wanted a completely relaxed backyard affair on their private estate, surrounded by friends and family.  Food, wine, family, and friends are important to this couple and the day completely focused on all of these things.  Scott Harvey wines were poured liberally and the team from Sacramento favorites Mother and Empress pulled out all the stops with a farro burrata salad, grilled oysters, roasted potatoes with beer soaked melted cheese, unbelievably tender meat and sturgeon.

In order to really focus on their relationships with loved ones, the day was completely and incredibly unstructured.  The plan was two-fold, completely unconventional and I, of course, loved it: folks would show up in the late afternoon for appetizers, wines and cocktails and lawn games and then, at my word (yes, mine!), we moved everyone under an incredibly ancient and gorgeous oak tree, overlooking the sunset and vineyards for the ceremony.  Post ceremony, we moved back to the lawn for an al fresco evening dining experience under the stars.  Their ceremony was officiated by two of their best friends and both myself and, I think it’s safe to say, almost all of their guests cried almost the entire time.  In between tears of poignant joy and love for these two boys, we were all laughing hysterically thanks to gems like a “name-that-romantic-comedy” game that was played in the middle.  It was an incredibly tender and moving ceremony that left me feeling in awe of the sheer amount of love that can be given, shared, and accepted in the world.

The events of the last few days have left me heartbroken and distraught.  You know it’s bad when I can’t listen to NPR.  These two incredible men and the beautiful people that surrounded them on their wedding day are remarkable examples of the possibility and far reaching effects of love: it envelopes you in warmth and joy, shares and forgives, laughs and cries, and is an enduring example of the goodness of humanity.  I have to believe that love, and in turn, empathy and kindness, will always prevail in our world.

Venue: Private Estate, Plymouth, CA | Catering: Mother/Empress | Grooms’ Attire: Kait MCKee | Day-Of Coordinator: Allison Caruso of Turley Wines

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Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding

Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | Plymouth, CA | Kerri + David

I have this small disclaimer on my wedding services page that states, “I will always work with budgets if I feel you and your wedding are a right fit.”  People either get it or they so clearly don’t.  The ones that get it send me amazing emails filled with personal details about why they are a good fit.  Kerri and David were some of those people.  She wrote in her email, “I’m trying to surround myself with people on my wedding day that have good/fun energy.”  Kerri talked about how important it was to her to include vendors who fit the bohemian intimate vibe they really wanted to recreate at their Rancho Cicada Retreat wedding.  They couldn’t have picked a better venue for what they were going for either: Rancho Cicada Retreat is a special place.  It’s a no-frills setting that you can rent for the entire week.  It’s lush, overgrown, and green with a brambling brook, hammocks and lawn games.  It’s a place where you can stay up late drinking whiskey by the campfire and no one comes to hush you.  It’s the kind of place where you can dance the night away and there is nary a neighbor to hear you.  It’s the kind of place where you can get married in an idyllic wonderland of green and golden hues, surrounded by as many of your friends and family as you want.  Although it is smack in the middle of one of California’s best wine regions, it feels like you are the only people in the world while you are there.

It’s the kind of venue that breeds a DIY affair and Kerri and David’s was certainly that.  Friends baked all the pies, officiated, and MC’d the night.  The party went on all weekend and their friends and family were so lovely and including that once again at this venue, I stayed and partied the night away in their company.  It seems to happen at this venue.  It’s clearly where the cool couples wed and I certainly can’t wait to return!  I’m feeling pretty grateful that Kerri found me and wrote to me so honestly and candidly and with such emotion.  It was clear from the get-go that these two are full of love and care and it was even more apparent on their wedding day.  Thanks Kerri and David for sharing your wedding retreat with me.  It was an honor!

Venue: Rancho Cicada Retreat | Florist: Matthew Armbruster | Catering: Chuck Collison | Bride’s Attire: Holly Stalder | Groom’s Attire: Thailand | Groomsmen Suspenders: Suspender Superstore | Make-Up: Hawley Lopes | Hair: Amanda Lyn Jones | Rentals: Partysmart Rentals | Videographer: DGL Studio | Succulents : The Succulent Source | Decor: BHLDN | Bridal Bouquet: Eucca Floral Studio | Signage: Marrygrams | Cornhole Boards: Back 40 Life | Cornhole Bags: Sky Pixie Cornhole | Koozies: The Drinking Buddy

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Napa Girls Weekend

Sonoma Girls’ Trip | Published at Love + Wander

Love + Wander

Love + Wander has given me so much internet love over the last year and I’m super appreciative.  It’s a super rad little blog that’s specifically geared towards celebrating photographers who celebrate life.   I’m so thrilled to see this Sonoma Girls’ Trip on their blog last week.  Every time some of my work gets published elsewhere, it’s as if I get to relive the day and this was one of my absolute favorite days of 2014.

You can visit the full post via this link.   Feel free to share some love and thank them for supporting me by leaving comments on their post, sharing it or retweeting us!

You can also follow Love + Wander on facebook and twitter.

Sonoma Wine Weekend

Amador Portrait Photographer

Amador Portrait Photographer Sneak Peek

After a whirlwind summer of weddings (34 y’all, 34!), I was desperately ready for some R&R around Thanksgiving.  With the first big Tahoe snowstorm still on it’s way after the holiday, I found respite in the Amador Wine Country, a favorite haunt of mine due to it’s proximity to the Tahoe area.  A short hour and a half drive, and I’m in wine lovers heaven.  Here’s a sneak peak of my Amador Portrait Session with Anne.  More to come – but now that ski season is under way – it may be a few days….

Until then, here’s Anne.

Amador Portrait Photographer

Napa Girls Weekend

Napa Vacation Photographer | Sonoma | Russian River | A Sonoma Girls Weekend

When five girls from Texas emailed me to find out if I’d be interested in following them around wine tasting for a day as their Napa Vacation Photographer, of course I said yes.  They were smart, bright, gorgeous, and hilarious women.  Let me tell you, these women know how to do vacation right and they put me to shame: they rented an amazing house with a cabana and a pool, overlooking vineyards in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County; they hired a driver; brought us picnics; hired ME to be their vacation photographer; and filled the air with laughter everywhere we went.  You want an amazing Girls’ Wine Weekend, hire these girls to plan it!

Want your own Napa Valley Girls Weekend?

STAY:

  • The girls rented this amazing 3 bedroom home in Glen Ellen, Sonoma, on Airbnb.  It has 5 beds, 3 bedrooms and an additional private cottage.  It’s on a quiet road, snuggled up next to surrounding wineries that you can walk to in the afternoon if you have extra time.
  • VRBO also offers a slew of wonderful properties for large group rentals in the area.  This secluded wine country retreat in Sonoma sleeps 7 and has a pool and hot tub.

PLAY:

  • The Vichy Springs are a little under a 2 hour drive from Sonoma and offer day use of their mineral baths and pools.  The Calistoga Hot Springs are just under an hour drive from Sonoma and a great way to spend the evening: after 7 p.m. the entrance fee is only $10 so bring a picnic dinner and some wine to enjoy poolside.
  • Local Osmosis Day Spa offers a Japanese influenced spa experience for 2.5 hours that starts in your own private tea garden and is followed up by a Cedar Enzyme Bath and a 75 minute Swedish-Esalen massage for $219!

EAT:

  • The Girl and the Fig offers “country food with a French passion.”  The menu changes daily depending on ingredient availability from local farms.
  • The Harvest Moon Cafe also features daily changing menus based on supply availability from local farms.

DRINK:

  • Stay Safe.  Denise with Da Vine Wine Tours will come to your house or hotel, pick you up, and drive you around every day.  She knows all the vineyards and wine makers.  She’ll set out an unbelievable picnic for you, complete with a table cloth, make appointments for you, and keep you on schedule, all with a smile.  She is awesome and I can’t imagine every doing a Napa, Sonoma or Russian River Vacation without her assistance!
  • Iron Horse Vineyards are rustic and elegant, with grand sweeping views of the Sonoma countryside, exceptional pinots, chardonnays and sparkling wines.  I purchased a bottle of the 2010 Rued Clone Chardonnay while there – it’s delightfully crisp, clean and refreshing.  In short, a porch wine.
  • Lynmar Estate offers great wines and an unbeatable garden.  Their patio is lush, colorful and filled with veggies.  The estate is breathtaking and intimate.  Here you trade vast expanses of rolling hills filled with grapevines for tight narrow pathways overgrown with exceptionally green plants.
  • William Selyem produces award winning knock out pinot noir and I had to buy one, but only one because that’s all I could afford.   The grounds are spectacular, the building awe inspiring and the tasting includes a tour.  Tastings and tours are by appointment only and for wine list members only.  You need at least two weeks head time to make a reservation.  Go here to join the mailing list and make a reservation.
Napa Girls Weekend

Napa Vacation Photographer Sneak Peek | Napa Girls Weekend | Sonoma

When a group of Texas girls emailed me and invited me to be their Napa vacation photographer for a day of wine tasting in the Sonoma, Napa and Russian River area, I did backflips.  They like wine; I like wine.  They’re from Texas; I’m from Texas.  They need a photographer; I am a photographer.  Match made in heaven?  I think so.

Here’s a sneak peek from our unbelievably awesome day visiting wineries.  I can’t wait to share more photos and stories from their Napa Girls’ Weekend: these girls know how to do vacation right.

Wine Tasting in Amador County

What’s better than a weekend wine getaway at friend’s ranch in the Amador County Wine Country for Easter weekend?

The answer: a weekend wine getaway at a friend’s ranch in Amador County Wine Country for Easter weekend where we have an adult Easter Egg Hung and roast a lamb.

Pleasantly warm temperatures, abundant sunshine, good friends and a lot of wine equal quite possibly the best weekend ever.  Add some charcuterie and cheese plates to the mix and the whole weekend becomes as delectable as burrata on toast.

Want your own Amador County wine weekend?

STAY:

PLAY:

  • The roads in Amador County are perfect for road biking so bring your bikes along and tour the wineries in the best way possible.  There is a limited amount of road routes available at this site, but from what I can tell, most of the roads we were on, including the main highways, would be amazing to ride on.

EAT:

  • Taste has a rotating menu of seasonal ingredients and you can get an appetizer and beverage pairing for $13 at Thirteen Dollar Thursdays at the Wine Bar.
  • Andrae’s Bakery is heaven from the tables of cookbooks outside the door to the breads, pastries and sweets that line the glass counter inside.  Make sure you pick up some of their specialty sea salts while you’re there.  The Mediterranean Blend is great to coat on grilled fish, chicken or veggies and the Durango Hickory Smoked Sea Salt can’t be beat for steaks and burgers.

DRINK:

  • Holly’s Hill is my most favorite winery of all time. It’s not on the fastest road to Amador, but you should totally take the long way to Plymouth and Sutter Creek vie El Dorado County and stop into Holly’s Hill. Their staff is unbeatable and their grounds are gorgeous.  Nearby Madroña Vineyards is also always a clear winner.  I love their zinfandel.
  • Helwig has beautiful grounds with an amazing outdoor amphitheater.  Large groups can reserve the private tasting room for a true tour of what Helwig has to offer.  Check out their summer concert series schedule – buy a bottle (or three) of wine and take a picnic to enjoy the summer nights.
  • Cooper Vineyards is a favorite.   The owner, the grounds and the atmosphere are relaxed and unpretentious.   Locals love to visit on the nights they host their “Old-Timers’ Music Jam.”
  • Turley is one of my most favorite wineries of all time.  I can still remember the first time I ever took a sip of their wine.   Their wine is hard to come by and a must order when I find it on restaurant wine lists.  The tasting room is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM.