Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> Escape from Sonoma Part II

Escape from Sonoma Part II
The Escape....

Wednesday night’s dinner at Guiso, a Latin fusion restaurant in Healdsburg, was exquisite. The tiny, San Salvadorian family-owned and staffed restaurant had only 24 seats, with 4 extra seats at the bar and an open kitchen. Reservations are a good thing! The menu was very diverse, and we collectively shared a number of dishes, beginning with thin, very flavorful corn pupusas filled with pork and cheese…delicious. We then moved on to Paella Caribena, filled with tasty shrimp, chicken and linguica, a smoked Portuguese sausage.

We followed that with the Asado Argentino, a thinly sliced Wagu ribeye served with chimichurri sauce and tarragon roasted potatoes in a beautiful presentation.  It was some of the most interesting and best food we’ve eaten and would highly recommend it if you visit the area. The service was personable, and the chef even visited our table (of course we were only about 6’ from the kitchen and had waved our approval). They also had an excellent wine list' and we shared a bottle of rather obscure Sonoma-grown Barbera.
On Thursday, we walked the very interesting Healdsburg square, in spite of lacking smoke masks, and visited the Ferrari-Carano tasting room as suggested. We cannot say enough nice things about Christina, who conducted our tasting. And as I have always felt, Ferrari-Carano produces some of the most consistently good wines in Sonoma, especially their Cabernet and Chardonnay. After a delicious wood-fired pizza lunch on the patio of Campo Fina, we headed off to Dry Creek Vineyard Winery. 

For years, we have been Dry Creek’s biggest independent retail customer in Indiana because of their consistently excellent, Zinfandel, Cabernet, Chenin Blanc, Fume Blanc and Mariner Bordeaux blend, so it was a pleasure to visit. I love the fact that they have the most honest and informative labels in the industry.... explaining the blend of grapes, harvest date, vineyards harvested, oak regimen, aging dates and more other trivia than you need to know. 

Their concierge, Darren, gave us a great tour (despite running on generator since the power was cut), and we ignored the ominous smoke in the eastern sky over the vineyards. It was followed by a tasting in a beautiful barrel room with a hospitality area.

As expected, the wines were excellent, and Kim Stare Wallace, the president and successor to her father, David Stare, joined us and put a very personal face on a diminishing breed, a family-owned winery. In fact, there is a photo of her in the tasting room at 7 years old, with a shovel helping to break ground on the winery.  

We can also recommend our restaurant choice for that night, Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar. With an impressive menu and wine list, we all managed to keep it simple. Sitting outside on the patio was very comfortable in spite of the smoke, and we all enjoyed the food. We shared steamed mussels and a decadent Dungeness crab cake, while Cathy & Kurt opted for steamed clams and grilled salmon. All good. Another good choice if you visit.  

The next day we made our way to the town of Sonoma, stopping at Landmark Winery on the way. Unfortunately, their power was out, and while the wine and cheese pairing was very elegant in a sunny, private room with amazing views, it was somewhat abbreviated due to the circumstances. Still, a nice visit, and they have lovely grounds.

From there, we made our way to the town of Sonoma, where luckily, the power was still on. There we had lunch at one of our all-time favorite restaurants on the square, The Girl and the Fig. Determined not to gain much weight on the trip, we decided on pastis-scented steamed mussels, with a splurge of frites, served with wonderful aioli for the frites. The Meyer’s opted to share the seared tuna with Yukon potatoe gnocchi, local mushrooms, roasted shallots, and black pepper hollandaise. They declared it wonderful. And all was complemented by a wonderful bottle of Provencal Rose. Wine prices were a little steep, but an enjoyable lunch.  

After lunch, we spent an enjoyable hour exploring Sonoma Plaza, which is filled with very interesting shops, tasting rooms and even a magnificent classic theater owned by the Sebastiani family, complete with a ‘50s marquee.  We could have spent a lot more time exploring downtown Sonoma, especially the most extensive housewares/kitchen store we’ve ever been in. But unfortunately, we ran out of time….needed to get to the next appointment. 

We moved on to Gundlach Bundschu, typically called Gun Bun, the oldest winery in Sonoma, and still family-owned. And if you really want a good laugh, click on this link for the Wine Spectator award-winning, tongue in cheek video that the Bundschu brothers created in 2012.  "A Brief of History of Merlot " produced by the Gun Bun brothers is one of the funniest wine-inspired videos ever made, with the ever-popular Cabernet played by Jim, the president, and Merlot played by Jeff, the winemaker.

Our exploration and tour of the vineyard was led by Rob, the third brother, who handles marketing, and included a trip in their 12 passenger Pinzgauer, an old Swiss army transport vehicle. We bumped and lurched our way through the vineyards, managing not to spill our wine. We heard about the extensive and lengthy history of Gun Bun while learning about vineyard management and growing differences, while stopping to pour more wine at each stop. We finished the tour walking through their wine caves. I have to say, Gun Bun may be one of the hippest wineries in California, owing to its relatively young management. They have a concert venue, event place and a “tasting porch” where you can enjoy tasting outside.  

On Saturday, as we were escaping to the coast, we kept one last appointment at Martin Ray, located about 10 miles west of Healdsburg. The only people still there were the hospitality director and Estate Sommelier, who had waited for us while everyone else left. Gabe, the congenial Sommelier, began us with an extensive tasting of their single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinots from the coast. Unfortunately, not wine we can get here, but delicious.

About that time, the hospitality director came out and told us we were under evacuation orders, but Gabe said he’d stay and finish the tasting since he lived in Santa Rosa, while she had to get her family out.  And afterwards he graciously gave us the partial bottles to take to Bodega Bay since the winery would not reopen for 5 days.

And if you remember from last week, we were just starting to sip the Martin Ray Chardonnay while watching the sunset on the lawn at Bodega Bay when we were told to evacuate and headed to San Francisco.  We drank the rest in our hotel rooms that night!!

We still had fun, but remind me never to revisit Northern California again in October!

Part 1