Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining a three-day a press trip sponsored by the Wine Road of Northern Sonoma County. I was in the middle of a book deadline so, I could not participate in the entire three days, but since the tour took place practically in my own backyard, I was able to I pop in and out and meet the group around the area.
First off, I have to say what a great group it was (see Stacie Tamaki's list of participants here). I’m used to hanging out with travel writers and wine bloggers, but food bloggers are completely delightful in the most amazing ways. I should have known this already as I have a great friend who is a hybrid food/travel blogger and photographer-- and she is one of the coolest people I know. Food bloggers talk about completely different things than wine bloggers, (go figure) and they seem to have much better industry gossip too! Plus they are very well read--especially esoteric food mags named after fortuitous fruits. One in our group, Anita Chu is launching her own food themed magazine called Sated and I can’t wait to read it. I learned all sorts of things from the other participants and I could not have enjoyed myself more than if I hand picked the group myself.
The first stop of day one was in Geyserville at Williamson Wines. I'd never tasted their wines before and the visit was off to a great start when we were greeted by Jeff Hall and Dawn Williamson and handed glasses of “Fizz” their North Coast Sparkling wine made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. I found the Fizz peachy and toasty with good acidity--a very easy sipper.
Dawn Williamson hosted us on their back patio for a light lunch along with a selection of their Bordeaux and Rhone style wines including Entice Cuvee a red blend, Elate Grange Cuvee and Enchant Trinity GSM that was my favorite.
After lunch we tried a few more wines in the tasting room including the Frolic Viognier with some curried cashews. The cashews, while interesting on their own, interfered with my enjoyment of the viognier, which was just great alone.
Williamson Wines firmly believes wines that are meant to be enjoyed with food and the tasting room offers food and wine pairings by appointment. Call and go.
On to Alexander Valley to the eponymous named Alexander Valley Vineyards-- At Alexander Valley Vineyards we took a tour of the caves with Scott Mansfield where we tasted some barrel samples and compared the wines in French oak and American barrels. I’m well acquainted with the wines from Alexander Valley Vineyards but I’d never been to the winery and it was fun to hear the opinions of the other bloggers, a few who had never tasted barrel samples before.
Next we drove over to White Oak another winery where I was familiar with their wines, but, you guessed it…I’ve never been there! The main building hosts the tasting room along with an upstairs room offering stunning views of the valley. When you visit, keep your eye out for a super weird but oddly adorable brontosaurus covered in dried beans, that looks like it just stepped straight off a Pasadena Rose parade float. Out on the patio we chatted with winemaker Bill Parker while White Oak owner Bill Myer prepared some fresh caught salmon for us. A hunter at heart, Bill Myer seems to be on the hunt for the best wine he can make as well as a few trophy fish.
Our last stop of day one was at Relish Culinary Adventures in Healdsburg. Of course I know of Relish and have been to many events they’ve catered, but I’d never been to their home base where they host private events and have a fully equipped demonstration kitchen.
Owner Donna del Rey greeted us with glasses of 2011 Michel-Schlumberger Pinot Blanc and gave us a brief overview of what Relish is all about and then turned us over to Chef Ciara Meaney who guided us through four courses, each paired with two wines for us to contrast and compare.
We began with a goat cheese and asparagus tartlet paired with a Sauvignon Blanc and a Dry Riesling. I really don’t understand all the wine-paring professionals out there that claim asparagus can’t be paired with wine--that's ridiculous. There are plenty of wines that go great with asparagus and Dutcher Crossing Sauvignon Blanc is one of them.
As the meal progressed our place settings got a bit crowded with all the wine glasses and I had to give my fellow writers some good natured ribbing when a few in the front row knocked their glasses off the narrow tables. I’m sure I could have done the same, especially when taking photos with my phone. It always looks like there is more room at the edge of the frame.
Anyway, all the smashing glass added to a jovial atmosphere-- Oopla! Well maybe not for the people cleaning it up.
Rock Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Lemon Aioli and Baby greens--Paired with Dashe Cellars Vin Gris, Grenache Rose and Cellars of Sonoma Joseph Jewel Pinot Rose. My preference in this pairing goes to the Dashe which I felt supported the lemony quality of the dish best.
Crispy Duck and Wild Mushroom Risotto paired with Philip Staley Vino Tinto and Amista Vineyards Syrah. --Hands down winner was the Syrah here which for me was perfect play with the savory and fatty aspects of the duck.
|Strawberry and Rhubarb Galette
For an excellent round up of the event and beautiful photos check out Stacie Tamaki’s blog The Flirty Guide here.
Part 2--Touring Sonoma Wine Road: There's No Place Like Home!
Alexander Valley Vineyards
White Oak Vineyards
Relish Culinary Adventures
The Wine Road