This Sonoma Food & Wine Report is courtesy of my dear friend Mark Johnson, who took is lovely wife, Kathie Johnson on a food and wine vacation through Sonoma and Lake Tahoe. Following is Mark’s review of the restaurants and wines they sampled on Day 2…
SATURDAY, JANUARY 30
The next morning we went back to Carneros Bistro www.thelodgeatsonoma.com for breakfast. Great coffee! They are really into the Locavore thing so most of the meats and produce are sourced locally. The house-made pico de gallo was great as was the thick cut bacon. The local sausage though was very blah. Fortified, we headed off to our first wine tasting appointment at Sojourn www.sojourncellars.com, just off the square in Sonoma. It’s a nice set up, you sit down at a table in a small living room and they poured 4 different 2008 Pinots and 3 Cabernets. 3 of the pinots were excellent, but we liked only one of the Cabs. Still, much better odds than most wineries. Definitely visit if you get the chance.
Our next appointment was with Kamen www.kamenwines.com, a very small producer of premium Cabernet and Syrah. This turned out to be a great tasting! At first he said we could open one wine and perhaps barrel taste one. However, after a bit of chatting while sipping their 2006 Cabernet ($75 and it will beat most Napa Cabs at twice the price) he also opened their very small production Syrah (80 cases, $70) and it was fantastic. We also tasted multiple barrel samples of future Cabs, Cab cuvees, and Syrah.
All other tastings were downhill from there:
Tin Barn www.tinbarnvineyards.com: boring
Anaba www.anabawines.com: OK, but simple and basic
Schug www.schugwinery.com: watery and just bad
Charles Creek www.charlescreek.com: forgettable
Roessler www.roesslercellars.com: surprisingly blah – and expensive
Eric James www.erickjames.com: yuuuuk!
So we stopped tasting and did a bit of shopping. Just off the Square I came across this tiny food shop, maybe 200 square feet, called La Bodega www.yelp.com/biz/la-bodega-cheese-shop-sonoma-2. It is an unusual little spot but the proprietor Rick Vargas is absolutely passionate about freshly foraged wild mushrooms and hand-made ravioli. We discussed for a while his different ravioli options, mail-order shipping, etc. As we were getting ready to leave he asked if we could stay a just moment and he would make us each a special ravioli. A few minutes later he presented us with a personally made wild mushroom (Black trumpet) ravioli drizzled with imported olive oil. It was sublime. I will definitely be contacting Rick in preparation for my next dinner party.
Finally we went back to our cozy cottage to relax, and I made Margaritas to “facilitate” the moment. Using blanco Tequila, fresh squeezed Meyer lemons (instead of lime juice), agave syrup, and a hint of Tuaca I made perhaps my best ever Margarita – perfecto!
We had reservations that night at Meritage Restaurant www.sonomameritage.com, in Sonoma, but over the cocktails we kept reminiscing about our great meal the night before, so we cancelled Meritage and booked a table back at Carneros Bistro — and once again we were not disappointed. First we opened a bottle of Ramey 2006 “Annum” Cabernet www.rameywine.com . This is their “best barrels” blend, and it is very good. Big, robust, and marvelous complexity. As for appetizers we succumbed to the siren call of the seductive crab dip again (YUM), and we tried something new: risotto fritters with a panko crust and truffle aioli. It was pretty good, but overall not that exciting.
Food service tonight from our friendly waitress was lightning speed compared to the previous evening and our entrees arrived quickly. Kathie had Sonoma duck confit & housemade duck sausage cassoulet. It was outstanding! Crispy skin duck, savory sausage, and tender beans all covered in a porcini and breadcrumb crust. I had the evenings special: a kobe/wagyu beef filet and a braised boneless short rib. The short rib was falling apart and had a red wine or port sauce (?), it was very good. The kobe was not as tender as I had expected, but it was quite flavorful, especially when dipped in the savory dark amber French onion “soup” mousse that came with the dish. We returned to our cottage quite sated.