A bit of wine, and a little nibble. Or a lot of wine, and an extravagant feast.
The annual Taste Alexander Valley weekend being held next month delivers just that, in a fresh approach emphasizing how important food can be for celebrating special wines.
In a brand new activity, Taste kicks off Friday, June 4, with a lavish supper gala at Alexander’s Crown Vineyard Estate in Healdsburg. Set in high style on a private, 66-acre vineyard hilltop overlooking Alexander Valley, the party showcases reserve and library wines from premium Northern California properties, and jumpin’ R&B music from Stompy Jones. To pair: gourmet food from Tim Vallery, chef-owner of Healdsburg’s Peloton Catering, in bites like braised Sonoma lamb and strozzapreti pasta, marscapone polenta with exotic mushroom sauté, and Liberty duck ravioli.
As fancy as the dinner will be, however, the next morning, festivities go to warp speed, with three dozen wineries rolling out the stops for the two, non-stop days of wine tasting and that delicious new focus on food. Because what’s a sip without a bit to sup?
Forget tired cheese and crackers. A sneak preview of the menus shows some serious cuisine in the works. Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, for example, is partnering with Santa Rosa’s acclaimed Rosso Pizzeria for traditional Neapolitan wood fired pizzas matched with barrel samplings.
Sausal Winery in Healdsburg will uncork their 2007 Private Reserve Zinfandel, to pour with pork cheek sliders and sour cherry mostarda from chef-owners Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu and Bovolo restaurants. The good people at Stuhlmuller Vineyards, meanwhile, have lured Healdsburg’s Bistro Ralph out for the weekend, serving up grilled lamb burgers and tuna sliders alongside 2008 Estate Zinfandel.
Another don’t-miss stop will be Geyserville Inn, where The Outlaw 7, a group of small artisan Anderson Valley producers, plans to tempt guests with chilled white and rosé wines alongside chilled sea bass and bay scallop ceviche, plus red wines paired with slow braised pork shoulder slathered in sweet chile-garlic barbecue sauce and a side of fresh mango-ginger salad.
Also in Geyserville, the new Mercury Wine has formed a delectable partnership with Diavola chef-owner Dino Bugica for Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon and ink-dark Cabernet Franc, all offered with wine-infused editions of Dino's handmade salumi and artisan cheeses.
Don’t make dinner plans. Some wineries are actually turning their gatherings into virtual full meals, such as Asti Winery, which is pairing 2007 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay with chilled corn and sundried tomato chowder; 2005 Wine Makers Reserve Merlot with braised veal over cremini mushrooms and celery root; 2007 Buchignani Vineyard Zinfandel with penne pasta, Italian sausage, porcini and Portobello mushroom and Zinfandel wine sauce; and 2006 dessert Syrah with chocolate and orange brownies.
You definitely won’t want to miss Stonestreet Winery, either. The chefs are putting in overtime, presenting Estate Chardonnay with a wild mushroom tart; Red Point Chardonnay with roasted shrimp with saffron aioli roasted fennel salad; Fifth Ridge Red Wine and Legacy Bordeaux Style Red Wine with short rib arancini; 2000 Black Cougar Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon with a Chocolate Coupe of bitter chocolate, coffee and molasses ganache topped with Scharffen Berger Cocoa nibs.
Here’s just a tiny taste of what other deliciousness the Taste weekend has in store for you:
Alexander Valley Vineyards - Cabernet Sauvignon with a Sangio Slider, a pulled pork sandwich made with Estate Sangiovese.
deLorimier Winery – Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled rib-eye steak and Sonoma-fresh picnic fare.
Field Stone Winery & Vineyard - Family Reserve Viognier with cool, sweet melon soup; Estate Merlot with a kabob of local cheeses, sausages, peppers and vegetables; and Petite Sirah with handmade chocolate truffles.
Garden Creek Ranch Vineyard Winery – The private winery opens its doors to the public just once a year, celebrating with a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a Sonoma County barbecue of herbed boar sausage tossed with grilled summer vegetables from the ranch, plus 2008 Chardonnay poured alongside local artisan cheeses and grilled prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. For dessert, it’s goat cheese and saba panna cotta.
Hanna Winery - A rainbow of wines paired with BLT brioche of local cherry tomatoes, smoked bacon, micro greens and aioli.
Hart's Desire Wines – The release of the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, punched up with French oak-smoked pork infused with Merlot and a dab of Mediterranean grilling sauce.
J. Rickards Winery - Sauvignon Blanc sparkles alongside grilled prawns with seasonal chutney and saffron aioli; Zinfandel adds a zap to grilled steak sauced in Gorgonzola or chimichurri; Petite Sirah sings with a Manchego canape dolloped in quince paste; and Cabernet Sauvignon complements dense chocolate cake rolled with pecan praline.
Medlock Ames - Estate grown Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon make merry with slices of fresh-from-the-oven pies brimming with the best from Medlock’s organic gardens.
Palmeri Wines and Terroirs Artisan Tasting Room - 2005 Palmeri Van Ness Syrah is sumptuous with slow roasted Kahlua pork wontons drizzled with guava-Syrah barbeque sauce and garnished with green onions, plus smoked gouda blinis, heirloom beet salad and toasted hazelnuts.
Silver Oak Cellars – A selection of 2005 Cabernet Sauvignons coupled with chef Dominic Orsini’s Sonoma County beef and shiitake mushroom skewers atop Thai coleslaw.
White Oak Vineyards & Winery - Chardonnay with gooey mac-n-cheese; velvety Merlot with blue cheese burgers; Syrah and barbecue baby back ribs.
Details: Taste Alexander Valley opening night gala, Friday, June 4 at 5 p.m. Gala tickets are $90 per person and must be purchased in advance. Winery passes (valid for both days – 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) are $65 per person in advance and $75 per person the day of event. Both Gala and winery passes are available at alexandervalley.org or by calling 1-888-463-0207.
Tip: Have more fun tasting, and play it safe as you tour the many wineries throughout the weekend! Leave the driving to Pure Luxury!