A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou. The saying is classic. And it’s good advice, since while wine is wonderful, all the time, it’s always good to add some food to the mix, and like mama always said, “don’t drink on an empty stomach” (if your mama didn’t say that, you didn’t grow up in Wine Country).
You can plan a meal before you visit the wine tasting rooms, or even better, eat-as-you-go. Here are some Sonoma wine and food pairing opportunities:
Ram’s Gate Winery & Estate Vineyards
This Sonoma/Carneros gen makes great Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and a rainbow selection of other wines, presented in a spectacular setting with 30 foot tall ceilings, walls made of reclaimed snow fence, and massive floor-to-ceiling glass walls that open to sweeping vineyard and bay views. But the food is equally fantastic. The winery does not have an actual restaurant, but it has a full time chef offering by-appointment chef’s tastings. Some ingredients come from an on-site culinary garden. For another tasty temptation, call ahead for a pond-side picnic tucked into a real wicker basket complete with a blanket.
28700 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, 707-721-8700,ramsgatewinery.com.
This is one of Healdsburg’s most spectacular wineries, spanning 1,477-acres and topped with a hilltop chateau tasting room offering stunning views over the natural amphitheater of mountains that is the eastern edge of the Russian River Valley. Sample Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and more, and indulge in extras as simple as an artisan cheese plate, or as elaborate as a full luncheon hosted by the estate’s executive chef Didier Ageorges, formerly of the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. Some tour choices include a stroll through the estate’s organic garden followed by a seated small-plates pairing, or a four-course feast overlooking the Olympic-caliber equestrian dressage pavilion.
10300 Chalk Hill Rd., Healdsburg, 707-657-4837, chalkhill.com.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery
As the first time in the chateau property’s four-decade history that the entire estate can be viewed by the public, the new Estate Tour & Tasting experience crisscrosses the nearly 1,200-acre property to enjoy a farm-to-table, wine-and-food-tasting excursion showcasing foods grown on the property. The guided tour hosts up to 12 guests for three hours of exploring by luxury vehicle and by foot, with three stops along the way featuring seasonal foods from Jordan’s gardens and ranch, paired with Jordan Chardonnay and Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon.
1474 Alexander Valley Rd., Healdsburg, 800-654-1213, jordanwinery.com.
Artesa Vineyards & Winery
It’s difficult to get past the gorgeous sparkling wines from this winemaking family originally from Spain. Or to pull your gaze from the sweeping views atop the Carneros mountainside straddling Sonoma, or from the art gallery inside, or the dancing fountains and manicured gardens and swooping architecture. But then you sit in the glass-enclosed private/by appointment only dining room, and all you see is the fantastic food before you. Artesa’s chef/caterer prepares custom dishes to be paired with Limited Release or small production Single Vineyard wines, with choices of mulltiple menus in casual to elegant: Californian, Italian, Mediterranean, surf and turf, or classic sandwiches and salads.
1345 Henry Road, Sonoma/Napa, 707-224-1668, artesawinery.com.
The Mayo Family Winery/Mayo Family Reserve Room
The Reserve Room is separate from the actual winery, located in the Village of Kenwood, and it operates as a mini café of sorts, complete with chairs and food from chef J. Clayton Lewis. Tastings are extensive adventures, featuring seven wines each paired with a separate dish, prepared specifically to match the wine. And unlike most food pairing experiences, reservations are not required (but recommended on weekends). Bites might include ceviche, lamb coronet, duck, and butternut cream puff.
9200 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood, 707-833-5504, mayofamilywinery.com.
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, Santa Rosa
You can see the elegant Mission style tower from Sonoma Hwy., and within awaits another treasure. The wine and food tasting offers a wonderful five-course meal (yes, a full meal, $50) from new chef Bryan Jones, bringing an assortment of dishes to pair with hand-selected artisan wines. The dishes change daily to reflect seasonal markets, but some temptations might include pan seared day boat scallops with bacon-onion-maitake mushroom marmalade, sunchoke purée, brussels sprouts and Asian pear alongside 2013 Estate Cuvée Blanc, Sonoma Valley; plus roasted Liberty Duck breast cassoulet with
fresh shelling bean ragout, duck confit, Antohi peppers, fennel, haricot verts and huckleberry gastrique alongside 2012 Zinfandel, Bacchi Vineyard, Russian River Valley. The presentation is fine dining, but the mood is relaxed and friendly, enjoyed at a communal table with stunning views of gardens and vineyards.
500 N. Pythian Road, Santa Rosa, 707-538-9463, stfranciswinery.com.
Tip: Explore even more in tasting and style, with Pure Luxury as your personal driver.