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Monday, August 1, 2011

Wine Banter

Good Summer Sonoma Living 
Sonoma’s turbulent Spring was simply an extension of Winter. Fortunately, Summer arrived just as it was meant to, salvaging the vineyards from what could have been a more difficult year. When not attempting to avoid traffic on my way to Petaluma picking up extra provisions for Sophie's Cellars, Graton Road offers a picturesque chance at viewing several wine varietals. It is clear to see the sun strike through this narrow valley, each row planted by the grape-growers positioned from sunrise to sunset.
I’m hoping, in the near future, to spend a little time in the vineyards once again and also hoping this weather will extend itself though October giving the vines and the grape-growers and winemakers an opportunity to produce fine quality wines from 2011. The 2009's are turning out to be quite spectacular as are the early release 2010 whites from Sonoma (a notable example being Woodenhead's French Colombard 2010, ret $20) - something I enjoy selling to my European guests who are astounded that it isn’t a French wine due to its floral qualities and minerality, whilst being dry and crisp – excellent with seafood such as oysters or scallops.

A "Big Bottom" and a "Whitetail”
More ways to enjoy Sonoma food and wine: I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the new market “Big Bottom” (from the owners of Boon – and we know what great things they’ve done there!) and wine bar “White Tail” - two new businesses to the Russian River just steps from the fabulous new Gallery Row (including the must visit Blue Door Mosaics & Gallery that just opened in June and the Russian River Art Gallery). We're so fortunate to be surrounded by an abundance of local farms and wineries. I wish great success to these new businesses giving more reason to locals and visitors to stay in the heart of Sonoma Country. We really have it all - the ancient redwoods, the river, the ocean, the perfect climate - great food and wine!! I truly look forward to visiting both the new market "Big Bottom" and the wine bar “Whitetail" which join Guerneville’s Michelin-star rated Applewood Inn as more reasons to go no further than the Russian River.

Of course – travel just four miles west of Guerneville and you’ve got Sophie’s Cellars – the finest collection of wines and cheese – and two minutes across the bridge from Sophie’s Cellars, the Village Inn and the Highland Dell, with the very best river views, and more places to enjoy wine tasting and some Russian River hospitality and live music (at the Highland Dell). The new “Holy Cow” in Monte Rio is a new must for breakfast and a trip twenty-five minutes West (past the picturesque town of Duncans Mills) takes you to Jenner and the Pacific where excellent California cuisine, a finely picked wine menu and many a perfect sunset are on the menu at River’s End.

If all that’s not enough, head down the Bohemian Highway from Monte Rio to the charming town of Occidental. You’ll find Sonoma Fine Wine, another great tasting opportunity, and Bistro des Copains, where California meets France – a superb selection of wines from these two worlds and the finest authentic food from Provence I’ve had. If you need a little relaxation after all this fine food and wine, you’ll find one of Northern Callifornia’s finest spa’s, Osmosis, just at the end of the Bohemian highway in the tiny town of Freestone – which also houses a little winery – Freestone Vineyards – and, of course, Wildflour Bakery.

And in between all these little stops, a few miles North of Duncan’s Mills along the Cazadero Highway you will find Raymond’s Bakery where not only will you get the best hand-made pizza on a Friday and Saturday night, but a selection of Cazadero wines (including Wildhog Vineryards). If you have dogs with you (Sophie, our Cavalier King Charles insisted I mention this), you may not be interested in all these wine menus, but you may enjoy the Garden Grill in Guerneville for excellent bbq and where your well behaved dog is welcome in their beautiful outdoor patio – enjoy!

John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, The Sonoma Wine & Cheese Market in Monte Rio, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open 11am – 7pm, closed only on Wednesdays.