Saturday July 6, 2013
We always have an ample supply of lunch and dinner options when we travel. Unique or must visit breakfast offerings are typically harder to find. Oddly enough, the smaller cities hold their own very well in the morning. We found two bakeries and and a breakfast in the Sonoma area that peeked our interest. Before getting lost in the Pinots of the Russian River Valley, we filled up in nearby Freestone at Wild Flour Bread.
Wild Flour Bread
140 Bohemian Hwy
Freestone, CA 95472
Wild Flour Bread is the brainchild of Jed Wallach. He bakes all the bread in a wood fried oven. The oven is heated every afternoon with eucalyptus wood. When the morning approaches, the wood has been turned to ash at cool 550 degrees. We must have arrived at peak time because the baked goods were overflowing on the counter. They had about 10 different breads, two variations of sticky buns, five scones and two biscotti. A lot of which was out for sample. We were really taken back at how good everything looked and tasted. It was very hard to pass on anything, we must of ordered one of everything, except for a few breads. We basically ordered until we ran out cash. If you go, the must orders are the Bohemia, one of the heartier scones, the Green Goat and the ginger almond biscotti. Of course if you can stomach more, there is plenty to satisfy. Because we overate, we walked off the calories in the garden behind the bakery.
788 Gold Ridge Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Littorai Winery is a small wine operation producing some well regarded Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It’s family owned and at the helm is Ted and Heidi Lemon. Ted received his Enology degree from Université de Dijon in France and worked at several estates before settling in at Sonoma. Heidi’s road to wine started in Germany and crossed through Napa Valley, the Southwest U.S. and onto Sonoma.
It may be small production, but by no means is it modest. Littorai has a wonderful facility and sprawling, lush farm land. Littoria offers two tasting experiences, a single vineyard tasting for $25 and an estate tour and tasting for $40 per person. Once your visit is confirmed, you’ll receive an email with directions and the gate code, both are equally important. On our visit we were joined by four other people and one of the winery’s Estate Educators. She led us through the grounds and vineyards for about 30 minutes then we headed in the tasting room for a sampling of five wines. The first drink of the morning and it was about time, one can only take in so much flora and fauna. On our visit, we were able to taste the 2011 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, the 2011 Pivot Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, the 2011 Mays Canyon Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, the 2011 Hirsch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and, a special treat, the 2009 Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. The 2009 was presented to give a feel for how their wines age. I think it had already been aged for 15 years, if I’m not mistaken. All in all, we enjoyed the Pinots at Littorai and took home a bottle of the Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir and plan to age it for a few years. We chose the Hirsch Vineyard because of its masculine tannins, aromas of blackberry and herbes de Provence: sage, savory, thyme. Plus we wanted a wine that goes well with game dishes, hearty foods and stormy nights. Their wines are prices from $65.
Matos Cheese Factory
3669 Llano Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95407
Joe and Mary Matos continue five generations of cheesemaking in the Portuguese tradition. They make one cheese, St. George, which is well-regarded throughout the area. They have a herd of about 50 Holstein and Jersey cows onsite that welcomed us we approached the property.They are not interior decorators and they don’t have a hospitality background. It’s not a tourist attraction per se. They don’t clean up for guests. There was trash scattered in one garage. There’s no tour, they don’t provide insight into cheese philosophy or family history. They pulled out the cheese and we asked if we wanted half a pound or a full pound. After a couple requests, the clerk indicated roughly how much half a pound was. It was wrapped and we were on our way. St. George is a subtle twist on cheddar or Monterey and would be a welcomed addition to a cheese plate. It’s an odd stop in Sonoma, but unique enough to recommend for 30 minutes of your time.
Joe Swan founded the winery in the 1980’s. He modeled his wine making ways after French tradition. He visited often and took with him an appreciation for low production vineyards. It was his belief that low production translated to high quality wines. His last vintage was in 1987 and he passed away in 1989. The winery continues the foundation that Mr. Swan had built.
We had read several recommendations on Chowhound and managed to fit it into the agenda. It’s a meager operation and doesn’t offer a sexy tasting room. All could be forgotten if the wines delivered. We were pour two Chardonnays and two Pinots. Unfortunately it was not the case as we didn’t care for much of the wine we tried on this day.
We had originally planned to stop for lunch at Willie’s Wine Bar, but we were well behind schedule, so we just hung out in the area and found a winery that was open for a tasting.
Limerick Lane Cellars
1023 Limerick Ln
Healdsburg, CA 95448
We called Limerick and said we were more than welcomed to stop by to sample their current vintage. The grounds are quite pleasant with the vineyards visible from the tasting room windows. There were three other groups wrapping up as we started our tasting. On our visit, we were able to try two Syrahs, two Zinfandels, a Pinot and their signature blend 1023. The tasting is $10 per person, refundable with purchase. We didn’t fall in love with any of the wines, but it’s worthwhile for a quick stop in Russian River. To the left of the tasting counter is a make-shift museum of wine openers, all unique in their own way.
7800 Eastside Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Copain Winery is a relatively newcomer to wine scene, founded in 1999. It was one of our favorite wineries we visited. What’s not to love. It’s scenic, charming, the wines are great and affordable, the staff is extremely informative and approachable. Be sure to schedule some time to enjoy a glass on the patio overlooking the vineyards and the Russian River Valley.
The tastings are by appointment only for an hour of education, history of the vineyards and four wines. All for only $20 per person. The tasting was accompanied with cheese, crackers, Marcona almonds and glazed figs. I’m always envious of restaurants and wineries. The experience is just better than when we try to replicate it at home. The wines taste better. The pairings, even when simple, seem to complement the wines so subtle. What to do? Buy a wine fridge? Decant the wine? Invest in expensive glassware? Or just give up and drive to Wine Country when we’re thirsty?
One wine that our host was really promoting was the 2011 Anderson Valley P2. Named for the combination of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, it really delivered. It’s nicknamed the Patio Pounder and aptly so, we could see ourselves just enjoying this on a relaxing weekend or with roasted chestnuts around our fire pit.
We’ll see how their wines taste in time. We bought a bottle of the P2 and finished it within a week, so good. And we’ll age a 2010 Baker Ranch Anderson Valley Syrah and a 2010 “Les Voisins” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir for a few years. The Pinot Noir is part of their Les Voisin line and is a little more distinctive, unique, and provocative. We plan to save this one for a romantic tête-à-tête or a special dinner party.
Williams Selyem Winery
7227 Westside Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448
What began as a casual winemaking hobby between friends, Ed Selyem and Burt Williams, producing wine in their garage, they eventually made their first commercial vintage in 1981. In the coming years, they produced some of the most acclaimed Pinot Noirs in Sonoma. In 1998,
John and Kathe Dyson purchased the winery from Burt and Ed. Williams Seylem winery recently underwent a muti-million dollar renovation to their tasting room. This was the last tasting of the day and was a fortuitous five minute drive from Copain. We made our appointment a few weeks before our trip. For their tasting, we received four wines and were guided through the facilities for about 20 minutes. Jen and I were mixed on Williams Seylem. She wasn’t as impressed with the wines and was probably turned off by the grand commercial feel of the experience.
Nonetheless, we picked up a bottle of 2007 Weir Vineyard Pinot Noir for $68. Jen took a liking to the Pinot for its aromas of ripe Bing cherries, sweet herbs, rose water, earth and minerals that dominated the bouquet. Naturally we gravitated to the 2007 vintage as it produced wines of extremely high quality, wines that are each brilliant expressions of their sites. The growing season was distinguished by its evenness with a cool finish of the site. We also grabbed a 2011 Vista Verde Chenin Blanc. 2011 was the perfect growing season for this austere styled mineral driven wine, so we had to add it to our cellar. And what a steal at $30. During our tasting, we also sampled the 2002 Mistral Vineyard Port. I’m a sucker for late harvest wines withovertones of chocolate and smoky molasses. Add a finish of freshly ground coffee and the deal was done, put it in the bag.
The Cheese Shop of Healdsburg
423 Center St
Healdsburg, CA 95448
In addition to Saturday’s cheese tour, we thought a trip to a local cheese store was imperative to round out our selection for our 1st annual wine & cheese party the following weekend. The shop is helmed by the owner’s daughter, Doralice. She can come off as an abrasive lady with a lukewarm personality, but it only took a couple purchases to find her lighter side. The store has a wonderful selection of local cheese, some international counterparts available and a wide array of very good condiments to match. We settled on five cheeses ( Bianchina, Bodacious, Ewe Crazy, Pt. Reyes Blue and San Joaquin Gold), mostly on the pungent end of the spectrum. And we threw in some King Caramels from Seattle for good measure. Doralice was kind enough to email us with a description of each of the cheeses we bought.
As for the 1st annual wine and cheese party, it was a hit. Everyone had a different favorite cheese and we have a new found appreciation and respect for Northern California cheesemakers. In the end, there were 25 cheeses, various condiments that we liked along the way, bread, fruit, nuts and a couple composed cheese dishes. Of all the cheeses, there was only one that I heard negatives comments about and that was the Bodacious. It was just too pungent and runny for most of our family. Oddly, it was one of my favorites.
Powell’s Sweet Shoppe
151 Petaluma Blvd S, Ste 113
Petaluma, CA 94952
We weren’t planning on stopping by Powell’s, but it happened to be across the street from Oakville Grocer so we decided to check it out. It’s a family owned chain of candy stores. The first store opened in Windsor in 2003 and now has 15 franchises across California, Oregon and Idaho. The Petaluma location has a candy shop, gelato bar, chocolatier and even a portion of the store is dedicated to fabricated antiques. The candy selection is nostalgic, yet generic. Older candy is more commonplace nowadays in every city and the larger stores tend to carry stale inventory. Personally I would pass if you’re visiting. The best part was the “antiques” for sale.
109 Plaza St, Ste A
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Ari and Dawnelise Rosen opened Scopa in 2008 with his father Norm Rosen making the desserts, and since then it has been an immediate success for the local city of Healdsburg and has made waves over in San Francisco. It was awarded three star by the San Francisco Chronicle review in November 2009, they also placed it on the Top 100 San Francisco restaurants every year from 2010 and Michelin garnered it with a Bib Gourmand in 2013.
We always enjoy having Italian food, but being in wine country, we tend to gravitate to French or traditional American restaurants. Always in search of that perfect braised short rib to pair with a robust Cabernet. No longer will our ignorance restrict our restaurant decisions. One, the variety of the regions wines pair well with most cuisines. Two, we wine taste all day, by the time we get to dinner we sometimes don’t even drink during the meal. Scopa is a busy restaurant so book early. When we arrived they were a little overbooked and we ended up waiting 30 minutes. We were offered a glass of Prosecco while we waited, but to be quite honest we were already stuffed and wanted to save what little room we had in our stomachs for the food. We started off with a special of fried Sicilian olives that was pretty good. Then the meal just went into overdrive, with the meatballs, Nona’s chicken and the two spectacular rustic pastas. It was our clear favorite of the trip and a definite must when you are near Sonoma. We couldn’t fit another bite and we took the leftovers with us back to hotel. Jen went to sleep and I watched ESPN for a few minutes. Jen awoke and walked in and must of thought I was masturbating because I looked up like a deer stuck in headlights, but to her surprise and my embarrassment I was finishing off the last bit of the polpette calabrese.