Once known primarily as Napa Valley’s more laid back neighbor, Sonoma County has been coming into its own lately.
Fifteen distinct wine growing regions, 60 miles of coastline and a new generation of top-rated wines and restaurants recently prompted TripAdvisor to name it the number one wine destination in the United States. In quaint towns like Healdsburg, a new, more modern breed of luxury hotel, restaurant, and shop has quietly been springing up – somehow without disturbing the special blend of rustic and refined qualities for which the region is known.
Sonoma County has been upgrading so much, in fact, that Hermine Baker was inspired to create a luxury tour company to showcase all it has to offer these days – one based on her deep connections within the region and special knowledge of it.
“I’m privileged to know some of the most interesting and powerful winemakers and vineyard owners in Sonoma and I love giving my clients a backstage pass to their world,” says Baker. “I also love introducing travelers to the particular magic and soulfulness of this place,” she adds.
“Sonoma has so much to offer the luxury traveler: exquisite wineries, hotels, shops and spas, but there’s an authenticity here, too, and I think that’s directly connected to the land. The beauty of the landscape is a big part of what allows people to feel so relaxed and rejuvenated here. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Hermine gives her guests plenty of chances to access both worlds, too. One day, they might be on a helicopter tour culminating in a sumptuous private lunch on the grounds of an estate winery. The other, they might be ziplining through the pristine Armstrong Redwoods. Her overarching mission is to attend to every detail, so they don’t have to arrange a thing.
“Our guests tend to lead busy lives, so when they travel with us, we want to make sure every detail has been taken care of for them. I really enjoy giving them everything they need to relax, unwind and enjoy,” says Baker.
“This is an opportunity to experience the very best Sonoma County has to offer,” explains Jean-Charles Boisset of Boisset Family Estates. “Hermine knows some of the most interesting and powerful winemakers in the region, has impeccable attention to detail with an irresistible charm and style, as well as a deep understanding of the needs of the luxury traveler.”
Baker’s own refined sense of travel began at an early age. Born in Sweden, she was raised in one of the country’s most beautiful castles – Marsvinsholm Slott – and as a child traveled to resorts and hotels all over the world. When she was a teenager, her father – an oenophile – invited her to start tasting and appreciating wine with dinner and over the years, Baker developed a surpassing knowledge of different varietals and winemaking styles. In addition to a thorough knowledge of wine, winemaking and wine and food pairing, she’s also an expert skydiver with more than 1,500 jumps under her belt. “I love accompanying my guests on tandem jumps,” she says. “I can even film them if they want.”
In addition to its “Seven Perfect Days” package for small groups of people, Atmani Tours offers customized and à la carte travel services for business travelers, families, couples, singles and friends. Popular services include airport meet-and-greet, private wine tastings and winemaker dinners, as well as adventure-centric experiences such as bicycle, helicopter, and horseback riding tours as well as ziplining through redwoods.
Baker named the tour company “Atmani” after a Sanskrit word meaning “pure state of the soul” and believes Sonoma County offers travelers a uniquely powerful way to connect with that state.
“Sonoma County exudes a serenity and welcoming energy that touches all the senses,” says Baker. “Artists come from all over the world to paint here because of the exquisite light. The light alone would be enough to make this place special, but there are a thousand other things, too. I feel so lucky to be able to introduce travelers to this place.”