Travel, Etc. --> A Weekend in Sonoma Part I
A Weekend in Sonoma Part I
By, Mark Gapinski, CSW
Wine Guy Mark Gapinski is the first of us who has been able to travel to wine country in the last year.... here is his account.
At last! It had been over a year since I had done anything spontaneously, especially travel. But three weeks after my second vaccination, my wife and I felt comfortable enough to get on an airplane. Off we went to visit our daughter, Aliya, and her boyfriend, Jordan, in San Francisco. Of course, this meant a visit to the wine country! I’ll describe our experiences in two articles which hopefully will serve as a resource for planning your own visit to the wine country.
The Sonoma Plaza is about a fifty-minute drive our daughter’s apartment in North Beach. We began our weekend of tasting at Walt Winery just off the Square. Like all of our tastings, this one was outdoors with lots of social distance. We all felt very comfortable. Many of you have enjoyed the great Walt Sonoma Coast Chardonnay we’ve offered over the last several vintages. We began our tasting with the Walt Bob’s Ranch Chardonnay. A lovely example of classic North Coast Chardonnay. We then moved into an interesting selection of Walt’s Pinot Noir-based wines from sites all along the West Coast beginning in Willamette Valley, Oregon (Shea vineyard) and ending with Santa Barbara (Clos Pepe vineyard) with stops in the Sonoma Coast (Brown Ranch vineyard) and Santa Lucia Highlands (Sierra Mar vineyard) in between.
This was a rare opportunity to assess the similarities and differences in Pinot Noir from these four important growing areas, from the light and elegant Shea vineyard to the more robust and delicious Sierra Mar vineyard. Since Walt Winery and the Napa-based Hall winery are owned by the same family, we were fortunate enough get a bonus pour of the sensational Hall Jack’s Masterpiece Cabernet Sauvignon to conclude our tasting. Walt should definitely be on your Sonoma Valley agenda.
Sonoma Plaza is a target-rich environment for dining. We wandered upon The Sonoma Cheese Factory where we were able to grab sandwiches and some cut-to-order charcuterie for later in the weekend. We also took a short walk to the Vella Cheese Company. Vella has been producing cheese in Sonoma for 90 years. They primarily produce Jack cheese in many different forms. The Mezzo Seco Jack is terrifi,c as is the softer consistency Toma. We secured some of each to pair up with our charcuterie.
Our next tasting was at Patz and Hall’s Sonoma House. We were seated on a beautiful terrace overlooking gardens with vineyards in the background. Patz and Hall is largely a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir house and has a long history of producing exquisite examples of both. Our tasting focused primarily on single-vineyard examples of these two varietals.
The Durrell Vineyard and Hyde Vineyard Chardonnays were sensational. Balanced and deftly oaked, these wines showcased the beautiful fruit flavors of Los Carneros Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir tasting was a hit parade of great Sonoma County vineyards. My favorite was the Gap’s Crown Vineyard. This vineyard is situated in the Petaluma Gap. The hills on the western edge of the gap are low enough that the cool ocean winds pour over them and penetrate much farther inland than areas to the north and south. This results in a cooler and windier mesoclimate in this area. The Pinot Noir from the Petaluma Gap has thicker skins, hence deeper color, and also preserve great acidity due to the cooler temperatures. Patz and Hall deliver great hospitality, a beautiful location, and exceptional wines. I highly recommend this tasting.
We ended up in Healdsburg for dinner at Guiso. Doug has written about Guiso before. It’s a tiny Latin-fusion restaurant located on the Square. Guiso is the name of a red sauce that the owner’s grandmother perfected. She agreed to let him use the recipe only if he named his restaurant Guiso. And, so he did. The owner’s mother still comes in each morning to makes the pork and cheese pupusas with the Guiso sauce, which is a great starter. I can heartily recommend the delicious Churassco Chimicurri as an entrée.
May 12, 2021