There isn't much that goes on in Baltimore that doesn't include Tom Noonan. The president and CEO of Visit Baltimore is responsible for promoting the region and all of its venues as a destination for conventions, meetings, leisure travelers, day-trippers, and even family reunions.
But being Charm City-centric doesn't mean that Noonan doesn't ever get out of town — quite the opposite. As a leader in the tourism industry, he also works with national organizations that teach travel marketing, a role that takes him to destinations far from Baltimore.
So what does our local authority on all-things-travel do on his time off? Would you believe us if we told you he travels?
- Tom Noonan's California vacation [Pictures]
- Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail
- Winemakers are optimistic about this year's early Sonoma harvest
- Photos: Food and wine in Sonoma County's Healdsburg
- Celebrity travelers: How I spent my summer vacation [Pictures]
- John Astin visits the Aran Islands [Pictures]
See more photos »
Where is your favorite travel destination?
I just returned from a trip to Sonoma and Healdsburg, California.
Did you go alone?
[I took] my wife Mindy and my 4-year-old son. We were there for about four days. This year it was for a family wedding. We usually try to get out there at least once a year. We used to live in Dallas, and then we would go three or four times a year because it was such an easy 21/2- or three-hour flight, and we were there, versus going all the way across the country.
So now that you live 3,000 miles away, what makes you want to return each year?
I describe it as my wife's happy place. We love the setting, the vineyards, the feeling of Sonoma. We go to buy wine. We like Sonoma so much better than Napa because it's much quieter, with great wineries.
Where do you go in Sonoma?
We love the town of Healdsburg. It's got a great little town square, with nice small shops, restaurants and hotels.
You attended a family wedding?
Yes, my brother got married at the B.R. Cohn Winery in Sonoma. I have this big family; I'm one of 10 kids, and it was great that everyone was out there.
Which wineries did you visit?
Dutcher Crossing [in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County]. It's one of our favorites. We had a picnic there. We're members of that wine club and another called Lynmar [Estate] Winery, so we always stop in. Lynmar is known for their chardonnays and they have a couple of pinots. We [also] went to Papapietro Perry Winery, known for its pinot [noir] and zins [zinfandel]. Before [our son] came along, we would go out there and hit a dozen or so wineries in a day and buy a few bottles to bring back. You know, before you could ship to Maryland, you could check it in as baggage, but now that Maryland ships, beginning a few years ago, we signed up for the wine clubs … and they ship [it home to us].
Are you a collector of wines?
We're not necessarily collectors, we're wine lovers. We probably have 100,150 bottles of wine in the house. We're constantly rotating them until they hit maturity in about five years. You know, if you buy wine from off the shelf of a winery that's a 2012, you probably don't want to drink that for five years. ... The ones we bought in 2008 or 2009 are the ones we're having today.
I'd guess that 150 bottles is at least the beginning of a collection.
Yeah, but there are people with thousands of bottles. We're not doing this as an investment. We do it because we like to open a bottle of wine with friends or family when they are in town.
What else did you do on your trip?