Category Archives: Wine, Food, Sonoma

Eat, Live, Run: How I Started My Blog

Back in 2009 when I worked for Matanzas Creek we were visited by a group of food bloggers. At that point in time I actually had no idea what a blog was and my curiosity was spiked. These gals seemed to be making a difference on the food front and I thought soon after meeting them that maybe I had a knack for writing about wine. Funny since English and writing were subjects I avoided at all costs in high school and college. I guess I just hadn’t found the right subject.

So, one of these bloggers was Jenna Weber of the blog Eat, Live, Run. This is the post from her visit that day. At one point my face was on the post, but as time goes on the blogs get purged of some pictures to save space. I didn’t even know about the blog and probably wouldn’t have checked except one of my friends happened to be an avid follower and saw me on the post the next morning.

These gals were telling me that some of them saw upwards of 1-2,000 people visiting their blog each day. WOW! I haven’t been anywhere near that, but I also don’t update as much as I want to. Anyway, I’m getting side tracked. A few months later my inspiration finally turned into reality with my first post. That was on Blogger, but I learned within the year that Word Press was much more suited to adding pictures and had an easier interface. I’m coming up on 3 years of blogging this January and I still love it. I wish I had more time to dedicate to it, but life is busy and I update when I can.

The reason I bring up Jenna Weber now is that I just finished reading her book White Jacket Required, a look into her life before, during and after culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu. The book was a dream of hers an I think she did an outstanding job. I’m thinking it won’t be her last book and I look forward to reading future projects – maybe one about her time in wine country? If you like food and more importantly good stories about people, I definitely recommend the read. The book is full of suspense, heartbreak and joy and even a trip to Sonoma’s wine country!

Don’t get any ideas readers, I won’t be writing a book anytime soon! Although you never know what the future will hold – I never thought I would be blogging either.

Cheers!

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Traveling Tuesdays: Adobe Road – Sonoma Tasting Room

Today I visited the Adobe Road tasting room on the historic Sonoma Plaza. My father-in-law had been wanting to visit for some time and we decided to head in. They open at 11 at we were the first customers of the day….

The quaint tasting room is located on the West side of the plaza right in the middle of the block. We were greeted by the very friendly tasting room manager and welcomed in to the room like we were family.

They taste 4 wines for $5 and also have a higher-end flight for $10. A real bargain given the quality of the wine.

I very much enjoyed their Mendocino Grenache which had an awesome retail price of $15.

All the wines were good to very good and are made just over the hill in Petaluma from vineyards throughout Sonoma County and beyond. I also found out that the owner is an avid race car driver and owner of a very successful racing teams in NASCAR and the Rolex Sportscar Series – good stuff!

And in true Sonoma fashion turns out my father-in-law sees the tasting room manager often on the ‘bike path’ walking her dogs. Ahh, small town living. Everyone knows everyone. Maybe not completely true, but it happens a lot.

I would definitely recommend a stop in to the Adobe Road tasting room on the plaza. The wine is great, the atmosphere is inviting and the staff is friendly, knowledgeable and fun. Not to mention the room is open until 7 and you can purchase a bottle and hang out on their back patio. It’s a fantastic Sonoma experience.

Cheers!

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Freixenet, Rockaway and some killer BBQ…

A couple of nights ago we hosted a dinner party. We love doing this. It’s a great chance to open some nice wine and kick back enjoying the evening. So, I fired up the BBQ at 9:30 in the morning to slow cook a brisket all day. More on that in a minute, but first the wine!

A lot of people need an excuse or special occasion to open a bottle of bubbly, but not us. And certainly at the price of $6.99. Thank you Trader Joe’s for having this wine on display!

This Cava (sparkling wine from Spain) was bright, crisp and refreshing. Maybe not the most exciting sparkling wine I’ve had recently, but quite a value.

The winner for the night though was this Rodney Strong Rockaway Vineyard Cabernet….

This 2005 Cabernet was quite spectacular. I even pulled out one of my favorite Cabernet’s to enjoy along with this one, but it paled in comparison. Maybe it was the bottle. Maybe it was the food. But I think it was just that this wine truly rocked. There’s all this info and data on the back of the label, but it doesn’t matter. What mattered was the wine that was inside. It was so smooth with tons of fruit and the perfect balance of oak and tannin. My only wish for the evening was that we had another bottle to dive into.

The food was pretty tasty too. My wife made some killer parmasan potatoes and I spent all day tending the BBQ for this….

My first ever slow smoked brisket. This was some of the most tender meat I’ve ever had and the smokey flavor worked perfectly with the Rockaway Cab. As if all this wasn’t enough, my lovely wife baked these chocolate espresso chocolate chip molten lava cakes….

Cheers!

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Prohibition and today’s wine consumption

It’s been nearly 80 years since prohibition was lifted in the United States. For some that’s four generations of family that have been ‘removed’ from that situation. With each generation that arrives, they drink alcohol more. Hopefully, more responsibly too.

It hit me yesterday (again) when I was sitting next to someone who said to me, “I don’t drink alcohol”. It wasn’t out of the blue, we were talking about the wine industry. There was some explanation about how they had too much (of everything) during the 60’s. Okay, I guess I get that. And there, of course, is a number of people who can’t handle drinking alcohol and struggle with that daily. I get that too. I believe that is a small portion of the general public.

There is a fair portion (about 32%) of the population that chooses not to drink for whatever reason. I would argue that some of that stems back to prohibition. Like it or not, to a certain extent we model out parent’s behavior. Later in life (college, early-career, etc…) we make more and more choices based on our experience, but our parent’s ideas and models are still in the back of our mind. If they didn’t drink, there’s a good chance that we won’t. So, generations later the parents that didn’t drink because it was illegal have kids and grand-kids that still aren’t drinking.

This continues to be bad for the wine industry. Unlike some other alcohols, wine takes years and years to produce. Prohibition was extremely detrimental to vineyards and wineries. It wasn’t until about 30 years after the 21st amendment that the wine industry in the United States started to revive itself. But by that point the public’s taste in alcohol skewed towards beer and hard liquor which were much easier to produce, not to mention bootleg during prohibition.

The good news is wine consumption is on the rise. And more and more of that is happening in relation to food consumption. Wine is an almost daily resident at our dinner table. My kids will grow up knowing that wine with food in moderation is a great thing. And can even lead to a healthier life. Likely, they will drink wine at their dinner tables someday too. It helps that I’m in the wine business.

But it’s not just that we drink wine. I hope we adopt the more European lifestyle in that wine and food are meant to be respected and together they make life more enjoyable. But everything in moderation – something that Americans have issues with. I also think that because it was taken away from us for over 13 years, we just don’t do moderation very well. We also learned as kids that something that was taken away from us was even more desirable. Maybe we’re afraid that our alcohol will be removed from society again.

In 2009, the United States reported 9 liters of wine consumption per capita, according to the Wine Institute. 9 liters is 12 bottles of wine. That’s one bottle of wine per month, per person. Not very much. That also means that those that drink wine on a regular basis are drinking way more than that to make up for the 32% of the public that doesn’t drink at all. I know we drink much more that 1 bottle per month. We will usually consume 2-4 bottles per week. But it’s also the main alcohol in our household. I don’t drink much beer, but I do enjoy a good whiskey – just not nearly as often as wine.

So, what does all this mean? Well, with each generation we will probably see wine consumption increase in the U.S. I think we’re seeing that already just based on the young(er) consumers that visit the tasting rooms I’ve been working in. I also think that the wine industry (post prohibition) is still young. That’s great news because we have nowhere to go but up, right? I’m a dreamer at heart and one of my dreams is seeing more bottles of wine on American’s dinner tables more often.

Cheers!

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Willi’s Wine Bar

Last night I had my first experience with Willi’s Wine Bar. I know, I know I’ve lived in wine country for almost five years – what took me so long? I guess I was just waiting for the right time.

Willi’s is a “small plates” restaurant with a good size wine list. It’s located just off 101 in Santa Rosa, in the eastern part of Russian River Valley. It’s almost located in the center of Sonoma County. Fitting since they offer wines from all over the area. But the wines aren’t just from the area, they also have wines represented from many countries.

I started with this Dr. Loosen dry Riesling from Germany.

This wine was lively, full of stone fruit and paired wonderfully with these truffle fries….

Next came these puppies….

Goat cheese fritters! And this black pepper, sliced peach and prosciutto flat bread….

And then a glass of Porter Bass Russian River estate Zinfandel. Somewhere in here there was curried crab tacos, but the savory plate that topped all of them….

Moroccan style lamb chops with lemon couscous. This was fall off the bone, perfectly prepared lamb. And I know, I did grow up next to a sheep farm.

But there’s more! Of course, there’s more. I can never leave without dessert. Warm Scharffen flourless chocolate cake and olive oil crepes with lavender roasted strawberries and housemade strawberry ice cream…

Everything was very well executed and had tons of flavor. Many times when we go out to dinner, we take wine with us, but with the way Willi’s is set up (you can order tastes, glasses, 1/2 bottles or whole bottles of everything on the list), I don’t think I’d ever see a reason to bring wine  – there are just too many options!

I’m already plotting my return….

Cheers!

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Wine and Culinary Smörgåsbord

The last 24 hours have been a wine a culinary smörgåsbord.

It all started late yesterday afternoon with the annual event The Hog in the Fog put on by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers. We were invited by my new employer and how could we turn that invitation down? There was fog (it’s Russian River after all). And there was a hog, several in fact, as well as chicken and beef. The event gets its name from being a pig roast and because it goes into the evening, when fog is usually present, they added the fog. Straightforward and to the point – just the way I like it.

The first 2 hours of this event is a huge wine tasting with over 40 wineries offering up outstanding wines from the cool climate Russian River Valley.This area is mostly known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but the reality is that there are many other varietals grown there including Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Zinfandel among others. We sampled to our hearts content. Luckily there were a few vendors with food, bread and chocolate to keep us from over-indulging.

Then at 6:00, we feasted on grilled chicken, sliced beef and the most amazing pulled pork in a freshly made tortilla. Do I need to mention there was more wine to go along with the food? We continued to enjoy one of our favorite varietals, Zinfandel. Then to top it all off, there was brick oven baked apple pie a la mode. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any dessert wine.

Then today we drove to Cloverdale and met up with our good friends that live up there. We took a short walk to Ruth McGowan’s pub. Out friends have been wanting to take us to this place since they moved up there. Mostly because they have a Dry Irish stout (think Guinness) that they have been raving about. So, we got a pitcher. And, wow, it did not disappoint.

Back in 2005, my wife’s family and I took a trip to Ireland for about two weeks. We really fell in love with Guinness over there. It’s different because they don’t put all the preservatives in it. This Dry Irish Stout was the closest thing I’ve tasted to a real, true Guinness since that trip. It was awesome.

But wait, this is a wine blog. Ok, we went back to their house and opened a bottle of this….


This is an imported French Champagne that’s sold at Family Wineries in Kenwood. I recently tasted there and picked up a bottle. And because all gatherings need a bottle of bubbly, I thought today would be a good occasion to open it. It contained some of my favorite Champagne qualities: creamy texture with tons of yeasty, bread-y aromas. I love that it has the word Dizy on it. It’s actually a town / region in France, but I like the irony.

Then we fired up the grill and shortly after dove in to these….

That’s no ordinary burger. It was assembled with extra special ingredients and lots of  love. Love in the form of bacon. Our friend cooked up an entire pound of bacon, chopped it up in a food processor and then incorporated it with about 3 lbs of hamburger meat. It was complete and total indulgence and worth every calorie.

To round out our day, we had homemade Maui vanilla bean and Callebaut dark chocolate chip ice cream….

I’m done. I don’t think I’ll ever need to eat (or drink) again. Well, until tomorrow anyway.

Cheers!

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Meritage (Martini, Oyster Bar & Grill)

Last night we celebrated my last day at my job by going to one of our favorite restaurants in Sonoma….

Meritage (Martini, Oyster Bar & Grill), located just steps off the Sonoma plaza has some of the best food in town. The produce used in the dishes is picked fresh that morning (often by chef Carlo Cavallo himself). We almost always end up eating three courses of food here and last night was no exception.

We started with Pan Fried Oysters….

You likely won’t believe it, but I’ve never had oysters before. I figured this was a good way (and a great place) to start. The appetizer did not disappoint. It was very flavorful and the acid from the lemon added a nice brightness to the dish. We also had parmesan truffle fries and bruschetta too. Both very tasty.

And, of course, I started with a martini (because when you go to a restaurant with the word martini in the name, it’s a requirement)….

This one was a Hendrick Gin martini with olives. My new favorite bar drink.

Wait, no wine? Yes, of course there was wine. Two bottles, in fact….

A 2009 Cuvaison Zinfandel from Bald Mountain Vineyard up on Mt. Veeder. These vines are about 45 years old and are producing some outstanding fruit. And a 2002 Arrowood Vineyards Reserve Cabernet. Reserve at Arrowood means a barrel select from all mountain fruit.

Wine tasting tip: Reserve does not have a legal meaning, so ask the source of the wine what it means for their winery.

For the main course, I chose a New York strip steak with mashed potatoes and vegetables….

I didn’t like it all….

If only I had thought about scraping up the sauce with one of the pieces of bread.

As if I wasn’t stuffed enough already there was then dessert! Starting with house made gelato…

And their version of creme brulee, chocolate torte and panna cotta….

Not to be out done by the refreshing sorbet….

The amount of flavor that Carlo packs into his cuisine is really quite amazing. The food and the friendly staff keeps us coming back again and again. Next time you’re in Sonoma go for a visit. You won’t be disappointed.

Cheers!

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