California's Best Kept Secret: The Middletown Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians' Twin Pine Casino & Hotel
“When the wineries are closed after 5 o’clock, we are open,” said JoAnn Schwartz, promotions marketing coordinator at the wine-themed casino hotel, which is owned and operated by the Middletown Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians.
It is not just the after office hours that make Twin Pine a place to visit. It can be one of your stops to Napa Valley wineries or the preferred one-stop destination to taste a variety of local wines and enjoy a game of Poker.
If you are looking for super-charged casino action like Las Vegas with over the top entertainment, this may not be for you. But if you want to play the slot machines and table games and temper it with some good wine swirling action, then this is for you.
Twin Casino offers 500 slots and live table games, including the popular Blackjack, Flop Poker and Three Card Poker, 60 plus hotel rooms and suites, weekend live entertainment and dining and wine options.
Accommodations are moderately priced. Deluxe rooms go for $109 to $129 per night, while Luxury suites, from $250 to $300 a night.
If wine tasting is not your style or you’ve had enough of the casino, outdoor activities are just a few miles away.
Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in California, is a popular spot for fishing, swimming, sailing, windsurfing and waterskiing. An 18-hole Hidden Valley Lake golf course is also in the vicinity.
“There are unique things. Where we sit geographically is one. We are right at the southern edge of Lake County wine region and just north of Napa Valley. The county line is just a couple of miles,” said Steve Denero, marketing director of Twin Pine.
And because it is a wine-themed property—it is said to be the only wine-themed hotel and casino in the U.S—guests are made to feel like they are in an old-world winery. Barrels and grape cluster décor and wine events planned year-round are in keeping with the ambience.
Larry Galupe, director of hotel operations, recalled the thinking that went into the rebirth of the casino hotel in 2009. “I was on the tribe council thinking of the future of our casino. We are so close to the Napa wine country. My brother-in-law is a wine maker.”
An estimated a million dollar a day was spent in the area for tourism, Galupe said. “The tribe had to get a piece of that pie.”
In 1994, when the casino first opened, it had 104 machines, eight modular site trailers and a few Blackjack tables, said Galupe. “It took us a long time to find out what we wanted. We had several marketing studies done.”
Today, with over 92,000 square feet of guest space, the property plays host to visitors coming from all over the world, as well as from the San Francisco Bay area.
“There are about 35 wineries in this area. They close at 5 p.m. We get a lot of guests that come after the wineries close,” said Schwartz, adding that wine tasting, at $5 per person, starts at 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. during weekdays and up to midnight during weekends.
Wines by the glass or bottle are featured in the hotel’s Manzanita Restaurant, the Grapevine Bar & Lounge and Off the Vine wine tasting room and gift shop.
The Winery of the Month is very successful for Twin Pine, said Galupe. The 3-course dinner and wine pairing are typically held on Friday and Saturday for $30 per person or $20 without wine flight at its restaurant.
If you are planning a trip this month, check out the wines from Mt. Konocti, the Winery of the Month. A 3-course dinner for the 21st of 22nd features, among others, Pear Galette, paired with Peak Sparkling Wine; Herb Marinated Flat Iron Steak, with 2009 Tempranillo and Almond Panna Cotta, with 2009 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc.
In October, wines from Acacia Vineyards, a winery situated two miles from San Francisco’s San Pablo Bay and known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, will be the month’s pick.
For a souvenir, you can purchase wine from Twin Pine’s private label. The collection includes Sauvignon Blanc, Meritage, Petite Sirah and Chardonnay. The wine is bottled and produced for the casino hotel by Langtry Estate & Vineyards.
Aside from wine-related events, Twin Pine welcomes the public for its special events. This September 15 is the Indian Day Celebration, a Tribal Council-sponsored event with Native cuisine, traditional dance group and homemade crafts.
In November, Twin Pine celebrates its 18th year anniversary, with a weekend celebration, (Nov. 17-18) featuring special food items, entertainment and cash promotions. A special wine tasting and toasting are definitely appropriate for the occasion.