Saturday, April 17, 2010

No Whining About Sonoma County Wines

Ah, Sonoma Valley, Napa's less glitzy, but in no way lesser neighbor.  Sonoma conjures fun, vibrant, but ultimately bittersweet memories for me.  It takes me back to my explorations of the backroads of Sonoma some 20 years ago.  Cruising along country lanes with my good friend Marty and his wife,  searching out vineyards like we were on a oenophile's Easter egg hunt.  Marty is no longer with us, but memories of those sun and wine filled afternoons live on.

A recent dinner at the James Beard House brought Sonoma Valley to the forefront of my thoughts.  Called "Sonoma in the City"  it celebrated the food and, of course, the wines of the region.  The evening of the dinner was unseasonable pleasant for mid-April.  The welcome weather allowed us to enjoy the appetizer hour outside.  Those of you who abide in less urban environs do not realize how much a nice outdoor space warms the hearts of us city dwellers.  We enjoyed three small bites, prepared by three Sonoma chefs.  All the dishes were good, but the smoked sturgeon and Tsar Nicoulai caviar push-ups were a stand out.  Imagine your favorite childhood ice cream truck treat, not filled with some sweet frozen delight, but filled with a smoky, creamy and salty one.  It was eaten the same way as those summer classics, pushing up a stick to access the wonders inside.

The reception set up the trend that was continued throughout the dinner, multiple wines served with each course.  The appetizers were paired with a Gloria Ferrer sparking wine and a Pride Mountain Vineyard Viognier.   These were both terrific wines and matched the dishes well.  The other courses, except for dessert, were also served with multiple wines,  allowing the diners to compare and contrast among them.  This was a welcome touch and sparked many conversations at the table.  Having the wine maker from Dutton-Goldfield at the table added another dimension to the discussion.

Each of the four courses were prepared by a different Sonoma County chef.  Many of the ingredients used to prepare these dishes were also from Sonoma County.  The wonderful duck, lamb, foie gras and other succulent edibles showcased the fact that Sonoma's bounty is not limited to grapes.  A standout course for me was the slow roasted Liberty duck leg cooked by Chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart.  The duck along with the chicories, almonds and sour cherry vinaigrette hit all my favorite tastes.

Sonoma will always have a special place in my heart.  The "Sonoma in the City" brought back some very good old memories and made some good new memories on its own.



Travel Eat Love said...

I love both Napa and Sonoma, but Sonoma's down to earthness gives it a slight edge for me. That and great Zinfandel! I also love Gloria Ferrer and can not wait to visit the winery again!

Trix said...

Isn't it wonderful when someone does it all for you and pairs the wines and food? I love that.