Sunday July 7, 2013
2660 Fremont Dr
Sonoma, CA 95476
It was our last day of the trip and time for a our long awaited breakfast at Fremont Diner. A rather recent opening in 2009, but its popularity among locals and tourists alike is just as quickly turning into a must visit restaurant in the area. We read about several trips people took to the area and everyone inevitable finds themselves at Fremont Diner. It was without question making its way onto our agenda. Fremont began offering only breakfast and lunch, but due to demand now serves dinner most nights. Rumor has it that Thomas Keller has breakfast there very often and when he does, they leave a spot for his rusty beaten pick-up truck out front. He was there when we had breakfast, although we never saw in the dining room.
Before our trip, we found it difficult to choose between the breakfast and lunch offering. On the lunch menu, we wanted to try the deviled eggs, the Reuben and the hush puppies. Unfortunately, we had to choose one and it proved too challenging to trump the biscuit & gravy, ricotta pancakes and sausage biscuit. It’s comfort food made from scratch with quality ingredients supporting local purveyors. Everything was prepared well and proved to be a satisfying visit. A milkshake to finish off the meal was the sole disappointment.
To avoid the lines, we arrived just after opening time at 8AM. The down side was most of the desserts were still being baked, a goof on our parts. Fremont Diner is must visit when in Sonoma and we’ll definitely return for a lunch and a later breakfast.
18596 Lomita Ave
Sonoma, CA 95476
After a substantial breakfast, we needed some fresh air and to walk off the meal. And what better place to do so than at Hanzell Estate in Sonoma, a local winery well respected for its Chardonnays. Guests are received by appointment only and they offer two levels of visits for individuals and small groups.
The first option is $45 per person and last about 90 minutes. Your guided by one of the Estate Educators through the original Ambassador’s 1953 Vineyard, the 1976 de Brye Vineyard and the 2001 Ramos Vineyard. Then you head to their newly renovated winery and barrel-aging cave. The tour concludes with a tasting of their current release including the Hanzell “Sebella” Chardonnay, Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay and Hanzell Vineyards Pinot Noir. The second level was too high for us to reach, $150 per person with a minimum of four people. This tasting includes rare vintages and lasts two and a half hours.
Our tour guide was Ben Sessions, son of winemaker Bob Sessions. Bob was the winemaker and general manager of Hanzell Vineyards from 1973 to 2001 and has since retired. To help burn the morning’s calories, Ben suggested rather than walk we tour the various vineyards in his Range Rover. As not to break a sweat he encouraged us to roll down the windows and enjoy the blissful breeze.
For the next 30 minutes or so, Ben discussed how the terroir in each vineyard differs based on the valley, the breeze, sunlight, farming practices, age and how that affects the resulting wine. At the tasting portion of the visit, we enjoyed the 2012 Hanzell Vineyards “Sebella” Chardonnay and the 2010 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay. The 2012 “Sebella” is grown, produced and bottled at the winery. It just had gorgeous floral aromas of jasmine, honeysuckle and citrus blossoms that gave way to scents of apple skin, lemon verbena, tangerine and cake batter. The flavors of green apple, Meyer lemon and wet stone minerality were long and true to the nose.
The 2010 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay was a man’s Chardonnay with masculine aromas of lemon oil, nectarine, lime zest, chamomile and wet stone combined with the estate’s signature floral scent reminiscent of honeysuckle and jasmine. Green apple, pear and nectarine expanded throughout my rich, viscous mid-palate. The vibrant structure of this wine suggests an extremely good vintage for aging our cellar. We picked up a bottle of each with the 2012 Hanzell Vineyards “Sebella” Chardonnay costing $36 and the 2010 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay coming in at $75.
We enjoyed our time with Ben in the vineyards, seeing the winery and sampling some quality Chardonnays. We would definitely recommend paying Hanzell a visit. They were very professional and welcoming from the moment we reserved our tasting to following up with a nice email after our visit and attaching the tasting notes from one of the wines we bought.
(Driving though Hanzell Vineyards)
Siduri Wines & Novy Family Winery
981 Airway Ct, Ste E
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Siduri is the innovation of husband and wife Texas winemakers Adam & Dianna Lee. Within their family they produce wines under the Siduri and Novy labels. Novy is Dianna maiden name. Siduri produces single vineyard Pinot Noir from 20 different vineyards stretching from Santa Barbara to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. It’s a “warehouse winery”, so it lacks the charm that most visitors gravitate to. But if you just care about quality, taste and want to experiments with a wide selection of Pinots, then Siduri distinctly hits the spot. I took to the laid back approach and access to tasting about 15 wines with both labels being available to taste. Jen on the other hand couldn’t have hightailed out of there fast enough. She kept complaining that there was nowhere to place her Anthracite Python Judith Leiber satchel. After a few drinks, she told the host their establishment was quote, unquote ghetto. I bought a few bottle to make up for her behavior. We left with a bottle of the 2011 Siduri Soberanes Vineyard Pinot Noir, the 2009 Novy Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah and the 2010 Oley Late Harvest Viognier for $20, $48 and $12, respectively.
the girl & the fig
110 W Spain St
Sonoma, CA 95476
If the food network had a restaurant, I think it would bea lot like the girl & the fig. Generic, flat on flavor, reminiscent of a chain, forgettable. For being one of the most visited restaurants in the area, we expected a lot more. Unfortunately, it is or has became the prototypical tourist trap.
In 1997, Sondra Bernstein opened the girl & the fig originally in Glen Ellen, California. In 2000, she relocated the restaurant to its current location right in the heart of downtown Sonoma.
We ordered a salad, steak tartare, quiche, croque madame and dessert. Nothing was bad per se, yet most was reminiscent of a Denny’s. It incorporated enough calories to fill you up, but the preparation lacked refinement. The salad was too simple, the flavor of the beef was flat and the weight of the croque madame is the only memory I have. We were both pleased with the quiche. In short, skip this place and don’t be fooled by the volume of business it does.
Sadly, the last thing we put in our mouths on this trip was the dismal chocolate covered figs. But that bite is far from the impact the region had on us. The food in the area is casual and comforting. It gives a great opportunity to delve into Pinots for a full weekend and try a few others. Then there is the cheese, we must have tried 100, all from northern California and just fabulous. It’s also very scenic and the drive alone can be rewarding. So gas up the car for Wine Country and don’t hesitate to veer at the last moment away from Napa.