On Saturday, September 14th, I attended a new event in North Sonoma – the first Annual Artisano. The event was hosted by Slow Food Sonoma County, North; a chapter of Slow Food International. Slow Food Sonoma County engages the local community in supporting and promoting local, sustainable food and food traditions and advocating for good, clean, and fair food for all people.
Sonoma County and Slow Food fit hand in glove – we embrace food, and appreciate it as an embedded part our culture. I knew little about this event going into it, but after a very long week on the road, I was looking forward to what I hoped would be a relaxed day of food and wine, Sonoma style.
The event organizers came through, and Mother Nature assisted by providing us with a gorgeous, mid 70s sunny day. The event was hosted at Geyserville Inn. I was expecting it to be inside (and perhaps that was the plan in the event of inclement weather…?) but was pleased to find everything spread out across the well manicured lawn and garden areas. The layout was well done, and leisurely paced, as befits ‘Slow’ Food.
I have raved about the Signature Visa Annual Taste of Sonoma as one of the best events that I have attended. I would put Artisano right next to it, on a micro scale. In some ways I enjoyed it more – while it 1/20 of the scale of food and wine offerings, the more casual pace, smaller crowd, and very high quality food and wine providers, was exceptional. The event was a bit pricey at $75 in advance, $90 at the door. (Ten minutes after I bought mine online, I found an email with a promo code that would have saved me $20/each – the online agency was unable to help me after the fact though.) This may have contributed to keeping the event numbers lower – however, had many more attended I think the event wouldn’t have been as enjoyable.
The event organizers did a great job seeking out wine producers who rarely show, and/or were new. The majority of the wines being poured I had never seen before, or knew little about.
The intimate size and moderate crowd made it possible to linger at many stations and talk with the wine makers, and owners. After a long sleep deprived week, I was less in ‘investigative mode’ and more in ‘enjoy’ mode, but I did take the time to chat in depth with a few.
Skipstone: I spent a fair amount of time with Brook Drummond, head of Marketing and P.R. as well as Andrew Levi, the wine maker. Both were very friendly, and enthusiastic about their product. Skipstone only bottles two wines: a Viognier ($40), and Oliver’s Blend, a Bordeaux style blend. They offered an amazing food pairing with each, prepared by their own chef, the only station that had both wine and food in one spot. The Viognier was great expression of the varietal, that let the fruit come through, and not over manipulated, as seems to be the trend now with California Viognier’s. Oliver’s Blend was my favorite red of the day – a testament to the quality, as I have generally become burned out on Bordeaux blends. Turns out it’s a highly allocated, $100 wine – but I picked it as my favorite before I knew the price. I was also impressed by their marketing and PR material – this is a winery that ‘gets it’, and fortunately has the back to invest in itself – which only pays dividends later.
Duxoup I had never heard of Duxoup, and was amazed to learn they have been making wine in Healdsburg for over 25 years. Owner Andrew Cutter admitted he almost never attended these events, so it was a treat. Duxoup bottles varietals you don’t find commonly – charbono, gamay noir, dolcetto, and sangiovese. These are made old world style, moderate alcohol levels, and moderately priced. Their wines have a great following and procuring some requires some live interaction with them – there is no storefront, online or brick and mortar. I am in contact to procure a mixed case, should hear back shortly. I’ll be buying most blind – but willing to take a leap of faith after meeting Andrew, and sampling the dolcetto.
Forth Vineyards Its hard not to like Jann Forth with her bubbly, energetic, outlook. They have a cute quote on their literature (not on their website) that starts….” 2 crazy people, 5 baby-doll sheep, 3 dogs, 4 cats, 16 free range hens…” that continues and then ends “1 huge love,, enough to share.” The Forth’s love of the area, and what they do shines through in Jann. Their website and marketing is simple, their wines are well made, and embody the spirit of Sonoma family wine making.
Kelley and Young Newer entrants to the business, I enjoyed chatting with the very hospitable co-owner, Kathleen Kelley Young. They make a great Sauvignon Blanc. Kathleen was a joy to talk to,and I hope to be able to attend the fundraiser they are hosting in their home December 13th.
Since this was a Slow Food event, I guess I should also mention some of the amazing food offerings. There was an amazing variety of creative, delectable food offerings from wonderful venues like Zazu, Zin, Rosso, Dry Creek Kitchen, Bovolo and more. As well as great breads, cheeses, and chocolate morsels from Costeaux French Bakery, Cowgirl Creamery, Delice de la Vallee, Sonoma Chocolatiers and more.
It was hard to pick a favorite out of so many. Jeff and Susan of Zin never disappoint, and I’d like to have grazed on their lamb offering a few more times. Zazu had an especially yummy bite as well. Across the board, every thing offered was well prepared, creative, and delicious. My apologies that I didn’t take more detailed notes and pictures, as I admitted above, I was enjoying simply being a consumer, and rejuvenating myself with great food, wine, and people – what I love about Sonoma so much.
Throughout the day there was live music and chef demonstrations. Everything was very well laid out, planned, and spread out. I slowly drifted around the grounds a few times, and was amazed that my allotted three hours had flown by! Apparently time flies, when you enjoy Slow Food…..but that’s what its all about isn’t it….taking the time from our ridiculously busy lives to enjoy the bountiful gifts that surround us – we are truly blessed as Sonoma County residents.
Hats off to the event co-ordinators – I’ll be buying tickets next year the day they go on sale.