Posts Tagged ‘Healdsburg’

Pigs n Pinot? Try Pork on The Plaza – This Weekend in Healdsburg. One Event you CAN Get Into.

Pinot Pinot Pinot!

This weekend is the 6th annual Pigs & Pinot, hosted by celebrated chef Charlie Palmer. March 18-19, 2011 at Hotel Healdsburg. The celebratory weekend offers a series of intimate dining and educational events.  Master Sommeliers and international celebrity chefs will showcase some of the world’s greatest Pinots with perfect pork pairings….you had me at Pinot…

(All proceeds from Pigs & Pinot benefit Share Our Strength and local Healdsburg Education (The Healdsburg Education Foundation, St. John school and The Healdsburg School).)

If you didn’t get a ticket to this  sold out, highly sought after event, don’t despair – there is a great alternate option below. But first here is what you will miss:

  • Friday evening’s kickoff event is the lively Taste of Pigs & Pinot where guests sample 60 highly-acclaimed Pinot Noir wines competing in the Pinot Cup competition, both from Sonoma County and around the world. (I was lucky enough to score one of these – will ‘broadcast’ live.
  • On Saturday afternoon, Pigs & Pinot participants can attend two seminars: “Tournament of The Pig” where Charlie Palmer and three guest chefs will divide into two teams to prepare the best pork-inspired dishes as determined by an expert judging panel, and “The Ultimate Pinot Smackdown” seminar led by Master Sommeliers, Keith Goldston, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks, and William Sherer

    Courtesy of Hotel Healdsburg

  • Saturday evening – Spoonbar’s Celebration of Pigs n Pinot:  An exclusive four-course dinner on Saturday evening at h2hotel’s Spoonbar. This special dinner will begin with a welcome artisan cocktail from h2’s master mixologist, Scott Beattie, followed by an intimate Celebration of Pigs & Pinot dinner created by Spoonbar’s Chef Rudy Mihal and Guest Chef Liza Shaw, formerly of San Francisco’s Southern Italian hot spot: A16. The menu will be paired with acclaimed Pinot Noir from Sonoma County Vintners’ Inman Family Wines and Thomas George Estates along with two top international producers.
  • Saturday evening’s Pigs & Pinot Gala features a sumptuous five-course dinner at Hotel Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Kitchen.  As a collaborative offering, each course features a signature creation from Palmer and his guest chefs including: “Top Chef” brothers Michael and Bryan Voltaggio, Nancy Oakes of Boulevard and Prospect, Marc Forgione of Marc Forgione and Season 3 winner of The Next Iron Chef and Philippe Rispoli of Boulangerie Bistro. Every course will be paired with two limited-production Pinot Noirs from highly acclaimed wineries Merry Edwards, Woodenhead, Rochioli, Bodega Chacra and Domaine Parent.
  • Pigs & Pinot Late Night is a post-gala celebration with after-dinner drinks and dessert in the Hotel Healdsburg lobby.  All Pigs & Pinot celebrants are welcome to attend.


Piggy and Pinot Noir for the Rest of Us: Vintage Wine Estates  – ‘Pork on the Plaza’

Saturday March 19th, 2011 from 5:30 to 7:00 Vintage Wine Estates will host  Chef Mark Stark and award-winning Sonoma Coast Vineyards Winemaker Anthony Austin  in their intimate downtown Healdsburg Tasting Room.

Mark will pair three pork creations with three  Sonoma Coast Vineyards Pinot Noirs and demonstrate how to prepare them.
– Serrano Ham & Manchego Cheese Matchsticks with Chives & White Truffle Honey
-Pork Belly Potstickers with Chinese Five Spice and Shiitake Mushrooms
-Orange Crush Carnitas Sliders with Salsa Verde & Piquillo Peppers

Anthony will introduce you to Sonoma Coast Vineyards and his winemaking philosophy. For tasting, be greeted with bubbles with their 2007 Sea Fog Cuvee Blanc de Noirs and then pair the small plates with: 2008 Petersen Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007 Balistreri Family Vineyard Pinot Noir (a 2011 Pinot Cup contender) 2008 Bodega Ridge Pinot Noir.

Although sold out of the 2006 Petersen Vineyard Pinot Noir, which won Charlie Palmer’s Pigs & Pinot 2008 Pinot Cup,  a few are set aside  to taste.

Cost: only  $60.00 general public, $50.00 Wine Club Members. Price includes 30% off all Sonoma Coast Vineyards wines and a complimentary tasting flight of VWE wines Limited seating, so early registration is recommended. To register for the event or for more information, please call Vintage Wine Estates at 707.921.2893.

About Mark Stark:

CIA trained, Sonoma County celebrity chef Mark Stark has an esteemed career wellbutrin buy from some of the country’s most respected restaurants. Since mov- ing to Sonoma County, Mark has become renown for his innovative and creative approach to food and has developed a legion of devoted fans. With his wife Terri, he opened Willi’s Wine Bar, Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar and Stark’s Steakhouse among others, all to rave reviews. Created in partnership with Relish Culinary Adventures.

As of today, there is some seating left – call 707.921.2893. And I don’t want to hear the usual ‘we procrastinated and its sold out’ comments later.

Cheers!generic overnight viagra

Artisan Wines, Traditions of Italy found in a new Sonoma Tasting Room – Portalupi 2008 Barbera

Winemaker Tim Borges greets guests daily

There’s a new tasting room off the Plaza in downtown Healdsburg, California: Portalupi Wine. Healdsburg lies at the convergence of 3 renowned Sonoma county wine-growing regions: Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, and Alexander Valley – also known as the Wine Road. The Plaza is host to a number of tasting rooms, dining and lodging establishments. Here Jane Portalupi and Tim Borges have created an engaging oasis where you can experience the full portfolio of Portalupi wines, learn about wine, and recharge. Tim has been making wine and building winery businesses in Napa and Russian River Valley since the 1980s. Over the years, he developed relationships with the vintners he now sources grapes from. Many are highly-sought-after grapes from proven vineyards. This allows Portalupi to craft their distinctive artisan wines.

Jane and Tim began Portalupi in 2002, with the name and wines inspired by their rich Italian heritage. Jane’s family came from the Piemonte region of Northern Italy, known as the birthplace of the Barbera grape. Jane’s grandmother Marina began making wine in the late 1800’s in Piemonte. She later became a successful entrepreneur retailing Italian food and wine in California.

A Focus on Learning about Wine

Tim is in the tasting room every day, pouring and sharing his wine knowledge with guests. He offers daily sensory seminars including basics such as “understanding wine varietals” and “how to read a label.” If you are new to wine, or just enjoy talking wine with winemakers, this is a great opportunity to immerse yourself right in the center of Healdsburg.

Recharging in the Portalupi Tasting Room

Tech-Savvy Tasting and a “Non-Club”

In addition to free high-speed Wi-Fi, Portalupi’s tasting room is equipped with charging and docking equipment for every variety of device. Apple iPads are used on the tasting bar and Portalupi will even loan you one to use while you are there! Also in the neuvo spirit, Portalupi’s wine club requires no advance purchase commitment. Dubbed Appassionato, “non-club” membership benefits include 10% wine discounts, complimentary tastings and wine classes, and free case shipping.

The Wines

Portalupi’s grapes come from vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, Monterey and Nevada counties and the Central California coast — including Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands. This access to fruit is reflected in a diverse portfolio of varietals and packages – from the new 1.89 Liter Red Wine packaged in a real milk jug (equivalent to 2-1/2 bottles of wine), to the petite 500 ml Dessert Wine made in the Porto style.  Portalupi also produces white wine and red wine blends, a Paso Robles Pinot Noir and 3 Zinfandels. In keeping with the food wine theme they also offer a selection of branded olive oils and balsamics.

We tasted through the list, from the white wine blend to the Port, savoring each stop and bottle shape along the way. With the family’s Italian heritage, it’s no surprise to find Barbera on the list.  Below we review the current vintage of Barbera — Nevada County 2008.

Jane Portalupi and Wine Family

“Sip and Fit” January Restorative Event

The Tasting Room is available for corporate parties, birthdays, and tours with customized wine education and fun, personalized wine gifts. To help wine country dwellers and visitors recover from holiday excesses, Portalupi is hosting “Sip and Fit,”  a wine country revival weekend with Live Fit  and Healdsburg’s Camillia Inn, January 21-23.  Contact the Camillia Inn for details — ask about special rates for locals to participate without lodging.

Portalupi Tasting Room is open daily, 10:30 am to 7:00 pm and online. Located 1 block off the plaza at 107 North Street, Healdsburg CA, 707.395.0690.


Wine: 2008 Portalupi Barbera — Penn Valley, Nevada County

Color:  Deep, inky purple

Aromas: Sea salt, pepper, wet slate.

In the Mouth: Layers of fig, plum, and licorice. Pleasant heat at the back of the mouth with a long finish. The wine doesn’t come across as high-alcohol despite it’s 15.3% content. Rustic and bold — a food wine.

Pairing: Taste with Fig Newtons. For fine dining, pair this Barbera with braised lamb shanks or wild boar carpaccio.

Price: $36

Portalupi 2008 Barbera

Wine Geek Details:

Alcohol: 15.3%

Harvest: 10/07/08, hand picked

Brix = 25.8

TA = 0.77

pH = 3.23

Vineyard: Pendagio Vineyard

Acreage:  3 acres Prunato clone

Cases Produced: 350

AVA: Nevada County, CA

Aging:  18 months in Slovakian medium plus toasted red oak barrels, 1/3 new; 1/3 1 year old; 1/3 2 year old

Winemaker: Tim Borges

Portalupi Website


New England meets Northern California: Lobster Boil at Merriam Vineyards in Healdsburg

This Saturday, East meets West in a New England Lobster Boil at Merriam Vineyards. Saturday, July 10 from 5 – 8 pm.

Merriam Vineyards, the new winery on 101 you drive by every day between Windsor and Healdsburg, think “I must stop one day”, aren’t sure where to exit, so keep going. Take the Arata Lane exit, it’s really easy, and worth it.

Go early for a wine tasting and enjoy their great patio, then migrate to the  crush pad to enjoy Maine lobster with all the trimmings; Pauline’s potato salad, Tierra Farms baby greens salad, farm fresh corn and Downtown Bakery’s Blueberry Pie a la Mode. All served with delicious Merriam Vineyards wines. $65 per person. Reservations required.

Merriam Vineyards, 11650 Los Amigos Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448


FaceBook RSVP (need to call as well)

May 21st – Sonoma Facebook Wine Meetup at Roadhouse Winery in Healdsburg

Friday May 21st is the next monthly meeting of the Sonoma Facebook Wine Meetup. If you haven’t attended or heard of, its a Wine Networking event started last December. It’s a social happy hour for networking of wine industry, marketing and social media, wine consumers, cellar rats, and people who love Sonoma. The underlying goal was to put the ‘social in social networking’ after I observed how many people in the county had been Facebook friends, but may have never met; and every event one can hear “so glad to finally meet you” as well as make new friends and have a great time.

We meet 1x a month and rotate the venue and the night. Most have been in North Sonoma, as I am traveling 4+ days a week now regularly for my ‘real’ job in the software industry, have limited time, and the best support/resource base has been up here, but I certainly intend to do Sonoma Valley again – sooner than later if a venue, or people step up to help. Napa Valley also just started their sister group and had their first event, with over 70 people attending. (The Monday night was a successful draw for industry, oddly no one here has requested that.) I hope to work with Andrew at some point this summer to combine one, if we can find a middle ground people will drive too. (Historically a challenge, given the distance.)

If you are interested in hosting one month, the suggested criteria for success, based on experience, is here. Contact me to discuss if interested. (June is tentatively selected at a winery, combined with a music event, but still in progress. For the busy summer, I am contemplating combining the meetups with other events.)

Anyway, I am pleased to announce this month’s venue and a new twist. We are at Roadhouse Winery, a new winery in North Sonoma, just a few blocks away from downtown Healdsburg. The event will run from 5-7 pm, $10 a the door gets you a glass of wine and nibbles ($5 for non drinkers.) As with previous events, we will have a raffle drawing for wine or merchandise, generously donated by local wineries (who get to present their offering.) drawn at 630.

Please RSVP by tonight, so we can have adequate food, staffing, glasses etc.

Wine Meetup: RSVP Here or email


(For those of you interested in the ‘Secret Dinner’ after by Chef Mateo, unfortunately he had to postpone (did we ruin the secret?). After the meetup, dine in one of Healdsburg’s many amazing restaurants.

The Sonoma Facebook Wine Meetup: Friday Feb. 19th in Healdsburg

Since a few of my wine friends on Twitter don’t have a Facebook account, I promised a blog article about this week’s next Sonoma Facebook Wine Meetup. There is also a Facebook FAN Page, also setup for this monthly event. I have not been promoting it to a wide audience, as its intended for locals, who wish to attend, and don’t mind email updates.

The Fan page is located here. I have not yet started a Simple Hedonisms Fan page yet, when I do THEN we can promote the heck out of it! :) The invite for the event is on the Events tab, or here.

If you haven’t attended one of these, I started them last fall, when I realized how many local people hadn’t met people they interact with daily on Facebook, and decided to put the Social, into Social Media. It’s taken off like wildfire, so much so many venues can’t take us, as we expect 60+ people again.

Who attends: wine consumers, winery owners, social media people, chefs, cheesemakers, restaurant owners.

We have had wineries such as Mounts, Acorn, Michel-Schlumberger, Ridge, Kokomo, Eric Ross (Kenwood), Ketchum, Trione, Amista, Kelley Young, White Oak, Windsor Vineyard, and more, attend.

I am experimenting with a new format this time, and hosting it at a winery. Longboard Vineyards, in Healdsburg has offered their tasting room, and to pour by the glass. (Soft drinks as well.) There is an at the door charge of $5 (please bring cash) to cover appetizers, provided by World Famous Hamburger Ranch and Pasta Farm , who has done events for Longboard before, with very positive feedback.

There had been some concern expressed before about holding it a winery, and not ‘neutral’ ground; I certainly hope, that in the events spirit of networking and friendship, that no-one would skip because of this.

RSVPs are already up to 47! I may have to cap it off around 60, I am headed over to Longboard for a second look, to see what the max will be.

There will be door prizes; restaurants or other venues that wish to donate physical items, can bring an item, and you will make the drawing, and present your item. The Drawing starts at 630, and you must be present to win, so don’t be too late!

What: Sonoma Facebook Wine Meetup – putting “Social” in Social Media

Where: 5 Fitch Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448  Phone: (707) 433 3473

When: This Friday night, Feb 19th, from 530-7pm. (feel free to start early.)

Cost: $5 cash for food, plus wine, soft drinks by the glass.

See you then!

Wine Review – 2008 Folk Machine Pinot Noir, Central Coast

I was fortunate enough to meet Kenny and Lynn this summer during my sabbatical, when I volunteered one morning to help them pick Cabernet grapes, early on a Sunday morning. (And another day Kenny let me spend the day helping with pressing.)

Courtesy of Muddy Roots

Kenny is a wine entrepreneur making wines under 3 labels, Hobo, Folk Machine, and Banyan. He sources fruit and manages vineyards from Rockpile, to Mendicino, down through Santa Cruz, and during harvest is a mad man. His wife Lynn does all the marketing and sales, in addition to their family of two girls. (Lynn just gave birth this week, congrats!)

You can taste Kenny’s wines in their tasting room in downtown Healdsburg,  Downtown Wine open 7 days a week.  You are in excellent hands with Aaron, tell him that William sent ya.

There was a great write-up on Kenny recently in Muddy Roots Magazine, rather than recant it all, check it out.

Color: light – medium ruby

Aroma:  strawberry, red fruit

In the Mouth: light bodied, cherry, berry. Young, but easy to drink.
It’s hard to find knock your socks off Pinot Noir under $20, this is a very good pinot for the price.
Wine Geek Details

The 2008 is 95% a blend of 3 Monterey County vineyards and 5% fruit from the Vecino Vineyard in Potter Valley. About 80% of the final wine is Pommard Clone. The remaining 20% is 777, 115, and 667. The wine was aged in primarily neutral oak to leave the fruit and freshness of the wine intact. This Pinot Noir is intented to be balanced and drinkable. It is not heavily extracted, largely structured, big oaked, alcoholic, or sweet.

Wine Review – Branham 2007 Russian River Valley Chardonnay (no oak or ML)

Is your mantra about white wine  ‘ABC’. (Anything but chardonnay.) Do you enjoy sauvignon blanc, or other white wines with crisp acidity, and bright fruit? If so hunt out the slowly growing category of chardonnays that are made without oak aging or malolactic (ML) fermentation.

There is nothing wrong with a chardonnay that is well made, and seen some oak and ML, but many have been turned off by the overly oaky, buttery chardonnays that have been being cranked out for years – we love to take a good thing to excess in the U.S. Its also a personal palette preference.

I discovered sauvignon blanc years ago, before the New Zealand craze caught on, and as a result of palette fatigue (kinda like wine ADHD) was hunting something else, and was pleased to discover this slowly emerging category of chardonnay in the US. (This is nothing new to Aussies.) I was inspired enough this was one of the two varietals I crushed this year, to also experiment with this style.

The Sonoma County Fair for the first time, amidst some controversy, had a category this year for unoaked Chardonnay, which I hope they repeat.  Like any wine, not all of these unoaked, no ML chardonnays are stellar, and a few poorly made entries seem to have portrayed the category negatively.

I generally try and/or buy any in Sonoma County I find, and have tasted quite a few. Sometime early next year, I am planning to taste through a number in comparison, so if you have suggestions, send them on.downtown wine

One that I discovered this year, and enjoy regularly is from Gary Branham, a local boutique wine maker. Gary shares a tasting room with Kenny and Lynn of Hobo Wines, (I am a big fan of Kenny’s wines.)  Both of their wines are poured and available for purchase in downtown Healdsburg, at Downtown Wine. More often than not, you will be attended to by Aaron – a very knowledgeable wine aficionado. Talk less than I do, and you may learn a few things. Downtown Wine is also part of the Wine Road, and will be taking part in the Winter Wineland next month.

Color: Pale yellow, light straw, good clarity

Aroma:  A wonderful nose – full of  green apple, citrus

In the Mouth: Left on the lees (wine sediment) for 4 months gives this chardonnay nice mouth feel.


A bounty of fruit in the mouth; pineapple, green apple, grapefruit. Needless to say, a mouth watering finish, that lingers nicely.

Only 325 cases made, get some before its gone, but save a case for me!

Around $22, You can find this wine at the Downtown Tasting room, or Vine Tastings in Windsor, by the glass or bottle. (Unfortunately like most restaurants its served over chilled, masking its nuances. Cup your hands around the glass for a minute.)

Wine Geek Info

  • Harvest: September 30, 2007
  • Average Chemistry at Harvest: 25 Brix 3.20 pH .68 TA
  • Whole Cluster Pressed
  • Fermented in Stainless Steel for 25 days @ 55 degrees F
  • No Malolactic fermentation ~ Left sur lie for 4 months
  • Bottling: January 2007
  • Chemistry at bottling: 14% alcohol 3.20 pH .68 TA
  • Varietal percentage; 100% Chardonnay
  • Vineyards: Foppoli Family Vineyard
  • Production: 325 Cases

Wine Country Events – Dec 10-13

Sorry no mid week article yet on last weeks events. I couldn’t cajole my co-editor Deb to write one, and for those of you who follow my adventures on Facebook, you know its been a wild week for my on business travel through the blizzards and winds of the MidWest, so writing was a bit of a challenge! truck

The number of weekend events is slowly starting to slow down. (I actually have nothing for Saturday Dec 19th yet!) I got quite a few requests last week for how to add events, and created a new Contact Info Tab.

This weekend though we still have a fair amount going on, and there are still quite a few winery Open Houses and misc. events throughout Napa, Sonoma Valleys. (I’d love to get more info out of Mendocino County.)

Thursday Dec 10th

Windsor Wine Walk

A little plug for my own town.

On Thursday December 10th join Old Downtown Windsor merchants on a Winter Wine Walk to benefit the Windsor Kiwanis & the Windsor Service Alliance’s Holiday Toy & Food Programs! 100% of ticket sales will go directly to the 2 charities! In addition to helping a great cause you will receive a commemorative wine glass to… enjoy wine pourings from 12 different wineries along with food pairings! At the end of the night turn your ticket in for a chance to win a gift basket full of goodies from Old Downtown Businesses! A limited number of tickets will be sold and available by pre-sale only! TICKETS: $25
E-mail Dennis at Rickshaw Rudy’s for ticket purchasing information:

Tickets are also available to purchase at: Atrellis Flower Shop – 707-837-8080, Images – 707-837-0160

Saturday Dec 12

Crab Feed at Fritz Winery, Cloverdale 12noon-4pm

fritzI LOVE dungeness crab, so couldn’t resist this.

One of the most perfect food/wine pairings is fresh Dungeness Crab from Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco Sourdough Bread and Fritz Russian River Chardonnay…okay, okay…a little drawn butter never hurt anyone! Come by Fritz and celebrate this annual bounty. Please RSVP to Julie at 707-894-3389 or

FREE for wine club members, $20 guest tasting fee includes wine, crab and all the fixin’s.

Holiday Party at the Moon! (Harvest Moon) 2-5pm

This will be my first visit to Harvest Moon – excited to check it out, as a wine friend raves about it.tastingroom002

Cost: $15 for non-members and free for wine club members.
Contact: Erin Stewart
Phone: (707) 573-8711

Details: Join us on Saturday, December 12th,for a afternoon of warm home-made food and great wines. We will also have a dessert bar of treats paired with our sweeties direct from the tank; the ’09 Late Harvest Zinfandel and Dessert “Ice-Style” Gewurztraminer! Come join us for a festive time in the wine country, while listening to live local musicians. Taste fresh ’09 vintages straight from the tank to see how this wonderful year turned out.

Sunday Dec 13th

Say Cheese: Pairing wine and cheese with Topel Winery 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Back by popular demand, Doralice Handal, owner of The Cheese Shop in Healdsburg, will repeat her “Say Cheese” class from last year, offering tips on how to successfully pair various types of cheese with different wines from Topel Winery. (I love their Birdsong white blend.)

Topel Winery Tasting Room, 125 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448 ph. 707-433-4116

Rutherford – Wines That Give Back

Man I wish I wasn’t flying to Portland Sunday night, hate to miss this.

The next stop in the Appellation Series from Small Lots, Big Wines is not an appellation at all. This tour celebrates wines that give back.  Each of the wineries who will be pouring at this event either give a portion or all of their profits back to charity.  In addition to supporting charities for kids, the homeless, and to promote literacy, some wineries will be pouring to support the Rutherford Grange. This is a great venue for you to go Christmas shopping.  What better gift is there to give then one that gives twice?

In addition to great wineries such as Clark-Claudon, Humanitas, Cleavage Creek, and Ehlers, we’ll also feature local Sonoma cheeses, art on sale, and  12 year old Isaac Tyner playing guitar to raise money for Camp Okizu, a camp for kids with cancer and their families. There will be raffles to raise additional funds for the Grange as well.

The cost is $15 per person.  $5 of every ticket sale goes back to the Grange.   To learn more about the Grange please go to Please RSVP or prepay ASAP so that we can ensure we have enough cheese and wine.

For more info or any questions call 707-254-5152 or email


That’s the wrap-up. If I get any missed events sent to me will add them back in. Enjoy your Festive weekend, and don’t forget as you shop for gifts to buy Local!


p.s. Next Friday I am hosting my next Facebook Wine Meetup, as we put the “social’ in Social Media. We expect at least 20-30 people ranging from avid consumers, to several small winery owners. Hope to see and meet many of you!

Thanksgiving Weekend Wine Country Events

Happy Black Friday from Wine Country

Apologies for not publishing this last night as planned, I was wore out after a great day of food and wine, and practicing what I preach: Simple Hedonisms. I also have had my Twitter account hacked 2x the last two days, wasting a lot of time trying to individually apologize. I will NEVER send out SPAM.

In addition to this weekly Post (targeted for Thursdays) the Calendar page of this blog, and my events Tab on FaceBook are resources as well. (Best to check both, as some items exist only on one.)

There is a plethora of events this weekend, with many wineries hosting open houses, special events. It will take to long to highlight them all here, some (by no means all) are listed on my calendar.

Other good resources for events: The Juice, and usually add items from these (and other sources) for my calendar, but with too many open houses for me to list, I’d scan these too. And of course just call your fave wineries and see what they are offering.

Buy Wine – Black Friday is Red (or White) Friday!

Wineries are offering incredible deals right now, this is a great chance to stock up, as well as support your local wineries. I have picked up 6 cases this last week of great wines at prices that just couldn’t be ignored. For Holiday gifts, take advantage of wineries offering free/inexpensive shipping – thats as much as $50 right there. I overflowed my two wine cellars (120 and 40 bottle) and further stimulated the economy with a new Vinotemp 160, which I am waiting for delivery as we speak. Scouring the Net, I found this on sale, with free shipping ($300+), this is a killer deal for a quality cellar, and gives me some much needed expansion space!

Heart of Sonoma Valley – 26th Annual Holiday Open Housesonoma holiday

Today and tomorrow,  November 27 & 28.  Join over twenty wineries throughout the heart of Sonoma Valley for this annual celebration and enjoy wine tastings, meet winemakers, mingle in the caves & cellars, stock up on your favorite wines for the holidays, pick up holiday gifts for your friends & family and relish in wine country holiday cheer!

I am excited about this event, as I wrote last week, I don’t get down to the ‘Valley’ that much. This passport event is a steal, only $30 for two days.

Participating Wineries: Adler Fels Winery, Audelssa Estate Winery, Benziger Family Winery, Chateau St. Jean, Deerfield Ranch Winery, Enkidu Wines, Eric Ross Winery, Family Wineries, Imagery Estate Winery, Kaz Vineyard & Winery, Kenwood Vineyards, Kunde Family Estate, Landmark Vineyards, Ledson Winery & Vineyards, Little Vineyards, Loxton Cellars, Mayo Family Winery, Muscardini Cellars/Ty Caton Vineyards, Paradise Ridge Winery, St. Francis Winery, VJB Vineyards & Cellars, Valley of the Moon Winery and Wellington Vineyards.

As I have encouraged, spend a few minutes on the website, map out a plan based on interest in varietals, producers, before you head out. And consider carrying around a spitcup, to maximize your tasting experience. (Unless a day of partying is more of what you are after, just bring your DD along!))

Other Interesting Events:

Downtown Healdsburg Holiday Party: Today, 5-9 p.m.

CarolersThe Christmas season in Healdsburg is a wonderful way to experience the joys of the holidays in a small town. Even though Healdsburg has become a chic visitor destination, there is still a small town charm here that always shows itself off best at this time of year.

There are so many ways to experience the Christmas season in Healdsburg and enjoy our hospitality. There are winery open houses, the Victorian Inns tour and four days of the Strolling Dine Around. The holiday events start on November 27 with Healdsburg’s Annual Downtown Holiday Party! This shopping celebration shows off an eclectic mix of shops with refreshments, holiday cheer, music and horse-drawn carriage rides.

For the children there is Santa Saturday, which starts with a ‘Toys for Tots’ drive (please bring unwrapped gifts) and continues with Santa visits, games and family fun.

The restaurants will show off their best holiday dishes,  and the wineries and shops sparkle with holiday lights. Full details, and a map and timetable are here.

Santa Rosa Railroad Square:


Friday November 27th – Check out both the Courthouse Square Merchant Open House from 12-5 pm today and the  Santa Rosa Downtown Tree Lighting from 5-730. Lots of great local shop specials, and fun for the whole family. Click on the links for full details.

Wine Sale and Holiday Open House at Acorn Winery – Saturday Nov 28th, 11-4GrapeGreenLeaf

Join  Betsy & Bill Nachbaur of Acorn Winery, for a special open house. This is a special treat, Acorn is a small family producer, with less than 3,000 cases a year, normally open by appointment. Great people, wine, hospitality. If that’s not enticement enough Zin Restaurant  is catering, and offering: Autumn Vegtable Hash Cake with Zin Sausage & Eastside Farm Pepper Jelly, AND Holiday Biscotti with Chocolate and Dried Cranberries. Also, Acorn will be pouring (and selling) some delicious 2001 Acorn wines.

Holiday Open House at Kendall Jackson:

Ring in the Holidays at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center with a Reception, Wine Tasting & Hors d’oeuvres. Details. 11-4 pm, Friday

Also note at the K-J Wine Center: Art Show & Sale: November 28th – 30th, 10 am – 5 pm

  • Taste limited release wines while shopping for holiday gifts, and view artwork by local artists
  • Details

Not wine country related – but next week for your Portland Dwellers, don’t miss the very fun Holiday Ale Festival, in Pioneer Square. This is a great event, that runs next Wednesday through Saturday, that I unfortunately have to miss it this year as I head out Tuesday for business in N.C.

With that, I am off to re-organize my collection, and head out to some open houses!

Artisano – Slow Food meets Wine Country

On Saturday, September 14th, I attended a new event in North Sonoma – the first Annual Artisano.  The event was hosted by Slow artisanoFood 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. IMG_0252The 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.

IMG_0253Skipstone: 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.IMG_0251

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.

IMG_0254Throughout 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.


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