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Uacs.64 65.Sonoma Sf.Mj03
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Exploring Sonoma wine country and San Francisco.

Exploring Sonoma wine country and San Francisco.

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Uacs.64 65.Sonoma Sf.Mj03 Uacs.64 65.Sonoma Sf.Mj03 Document Transcript

  • Z By Sally Moe A in GARDEN OF RICHES B Y S A L LY M O E On the private deck of the Vineyard I suite, your very own Jacuzzi. There goes that last care.... The Honor Mansion he hushed quiet of early morning. A winery’s philosophy and winemaking T soft breeze wafts in through the history, which began in the basement of blinds, gently nudging the eyelet curtains, the nearby Camellia Inn, an Italianate Awaken carrying in the scent of freshly rained-on Victorian bed and breakfast. grass. I turn on the gas fireplace, looking We would tour four wineries in all, your inner forward to its blue warmth during my and sample still more local vintages at oenophile in Sonoma morning bath. But outside the front door, area restaurants, sometimes in unexpect- as if left by a ministering angel, I discover ed ways. At Lisa Hemenway’s Bistro in County’s sublime wine country. a wicker basket stocked with morning es- Santa Rosa, an inspired dessert paired her sentials: a pot of freshly brewed coffee, luscious chocolate-caramel truffles with some home-baked biscotti and the Santa chine stationed near the kitchen, quite Geyser Peak’s 1997 Syrah Vintage Port. Rosa paper. I snatch the basket greedily the novelty among our group.) Perhaps you’re meant only to sip the port and the front door nearly claims a toe in As for the nights...they start unofficial- while eating the truffles...but did I care? I my haste. The morning bath moves tem- ly around 5, with fresh-baked cookies, used it as a dipping sauce, and the con- porarily to the back burner; a time-hon- light hors d’oeuvres and complimentary trast of flavors was heaven. ored ritual awaits. Where’s my pen? wine in the dining room (local vintages of Interestingly, Trentadue Winery, a So begins a typical morning at the course; there are almost 200 wineries in short drive to the north in Geyserville, Honor Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn in Sonoma County alone, and one of makes a chocolate-infused merlot port. Healdsburg, Calif., deep in the heart of them—Seghesio Family Vineyards—is a Do I detect a trend? Sonoma wine country. And the luxury is short walk from the Inn). Some evenings The Honor System far from over. There’s still a gourmet an ambassador from one of these enter- breakfast on antique china to look for- Steve and Cathi Fowler, the Honor prises might stop in. During my stay, it ward to, promising such classic treats as Mansion’s proprietors, are mindful of was Bruce Snyder from Camellia Cellars, eggs Benedict, the Mansion’s sinfully rich every detail of ambiance and service at bearing cabernet, sangiovese and zinfan- French toast, and buttery scones and fruit their four-diamond property. (The slate del for sampling. Out on the shaded deck cobblers piping hot from the oven, all ac- and quartzite tile in my bathroom was by the koi pond—where the colorful lit- companied, of course, by a constant sup- installed by Steve; Cathi’s interior deco- tle buggers will eat right from your hands ply of fresh hot coffee. (That’s if you rating background is reflected in the Inn’s if you let them—we inhaled, swirled and choose not to get your morning jolt from many elegant appointments.) I was tasted some delicious reds while Bruce the 24-hour espresso/cappuccino ma- amazed that neither of them had set foot spoke informally about the boutique 64 | | AAA Going Places May/June 2003 aaa.com
  • The Honor Mansion The upstairs buffet at the Honor Mansion. Two stunning Victorians spotted during our San Sally Moe Francisco walking tour. in a B&B until they’d been in business for two years. Cathi said they approached their venture thinking of what they themselves would want from a B&B and proceeded accordingly. And they contin- ue in that direction to this day by devot- The Honor Mansion ed upkeep and continual enhancements that are responsive to customer feed- Yet another beautiful day...but you know The Honor Mansion back. The result? Feeling pampered, feel- you want to get back in there. Even the koi get special eats at the ing like family, but always enveloped in a Honor Mansion, and they’ll nibble it out “The Only Good Wine is the delicious cloak of privacy. While the co- of your hands with little encouragement. One You Like.” pious charms of wine country do beck- —Lois Stansberry on, it’s no small temptation to while is the soul and the backbone of this re- away the hours reading a good book in gion and its influence is inescapable, Like Zin, many local dining spots offer the shade by the koi pond, or soaking from the people you meet on the street “flights”: typically, three two-ounce por- away every last care in an outdoor garden who dabble in winemaking to towns tions of wines with similar characteristics spa, a glass of sherry within easy reach. with names like Asti and Chianti, all the served side by side, like a mini-tasting. But you will want to come up for air way to the plentiful tasting rooms and Nothing beats comparing different wines eventually...and the air is just plain nicer wine bars, and restaurants with wine lists to isolate and define the flavors you in these parts. as long as your arm. Every dining spot we like—and don’t like—about various vari- visited had a more ambitious wine selec- etals. And sometimes, the experience can Impressions of Local Color tion than the one before, and one popu- be positively enlightening, as when I dis- The beauty of the landscape will dog lar Healdsburg eatery was even named covered my favorite white wasn’t what your memory. Extinct volcanoes burrow after my favorite red: Zin. That name is I’d been drinking for the last 10 years, but in low-lying clouds. Sprawling California not mere decoration; almost 50 of the the light, elegant Viognier. (I never heard oaks and spearlike cypress punctuate wines on this restaurant and wine bar’s of Viognier before this trip...you learn, acres of rolling green hills, bathed in the wine list are Zinfandels. But don’t let you learn.) Furthermore, people often burnished gold of late-day sunlight. Par- that be the only reason you drop by. discover during tastings that their allel rows of vines stretch to the horizon Known for its “updated home cooking,” favorite wine is the least expensive of the in every direction, curving over the hills savvy diners flock to Zin for a seasonally bunch. You gotta love it when that and bumping right up against the road. changing menu that includes such fare as happens. This countryside is so ravishing, in fact, grilled shrimp swimming in a to-die-for Each winery we visited expressed a that people will get up before dawn—on mole sauce, and homemade ravioli stuffed different personality, offering a unique their vacation—so they can behold it with sweet corn and ricotta cheese in a tasting experience. Lancaster Estates’ from a hot-air balloon. basil butter sauce. But my favorite was, of contemporary Tuscan-style elegance and What continually struck me about course, a dessert—butterscotch crème quality-over-quantity philosophy pre- this area is how the passion for wine has brûlée—which was decadently rich, sweet sented two of the smoothest—and prici- infected every level of life. Winemaking and buttery. est—reds I’ve ever tasted, paired with 65 | | aaa.com May/June 2003 AAA Going Places
  • cream. The flowery, delicate flavor was like How about breakfast nothing we’d ever tasted; according to our on the back porch server, one of the ingredients is rosewater. this morning? Friday night was the perfect night to check out the innovative cuisine and up- beat atmosphere of First Crush. While waiting for our table, I thought, does “crush” refer to the restaurant’s celebration of wine, or to the crush of stylish twenty- somethings in the lobby? Whatever. Steve’s herbed chicken with goat cheese infusion and my duck confit in phyllo were top notch. “Flights” made an encore—so much the better to sample their all-Cali- fornian wine list—but this time, cheeses and desserts joined in the fun. I love this! Three great desserts with the guilt of one! Saturday’s launching-off point was Jay Gifford’s fascinating walking tour of the Victorians, which allowed us to see this fabulous city through the The Honor Mansion two splendid cheeses to perfectly bal- lens of its historic architec- Eating anced effect. The thoroughly Californ- ture. At the end of the tour, ian tone of Seghesio Family Vineyards after bidding a reluctant gave rise to a more party-like experi- farewell to the mansions of ence, with a broad selection of wines to Cow Hollow, we made a San Francisco savor and much animated discussion. beeline for Union Street and Lambert Bridge’s classic wine-country followed our noses into ex- in two days or less... atmosphere, and their selection of fresh otic Betelnut for lunch. Ex- whites, mellow reds, and palate-cleans- pect plenty of Asian beers, ing crusty breads and flavored dipping My husband and I couldn’t begin to do kitschy-Polynesian sounding cocktails, and oils (à la ginger-garlic and citrus- justice to San Francisco’s dizzying variety “pan-Asian” cuisine, hot with ginger vine- cilantro) were irresistible. The easygo- of restaurants in two short days—in fact, gar, cardamon and honey bee chilies. Our ing vibe at Pedroncelli leant itself to a no matter where I made reservations, I ex- Malaysian curry laksa noodles with livelier, more experimental tasting, and perienced immediate buyer’s remorse, and prawns, and “little dragon” dumplings of changed my mind about a few wines in sometimes on the drive over. (Oh...look at pork and shrimp with ginger vinegar, were the process. In particular, rosé—after a that place! We should have gone there!) marvelous. Be sure to sample one of their 20-year estrangement, Pedroncelli’s re- But we did manage to enjoy Persian, inno- martinis. I especially loved the Emerald freshing, “off-dry” 2001 Zinfandel Rosé vative Californian, pan-Asian and North- Limón Drop—curiously refreshing. melted away those years like they never ern Italian cuisines in less than 36 hours, We saved our final dinner for Scala’s happened. But this is not the same with a cocktail at the downtown Marriott’s Bistro, adjacent to the Sir Francis Drake Ho- rosé of my college days, mind you! 33rd-floor lounge thrown in for tel. This is the place for chic Parisian-style (I bought two bottles.) good measure. Not too shabby. glamor—from the dramatic floral arrange- Now when I browse the Steve met me at our room ment of snaking stems of cherry blossoms, aisles for a special wine, I see in the historic Hotel Majestic curly willow, lilies and gladioli to the labels from places I’ve actu- on Friday with a hunger as golden-mica, fan-shaped light fixtures, ally been to, places that are big as Long Island, so nearby abundant mirrors and oversized paintings. real to me now in a way they was important. We stopped in Not wanting to rush our final meal, we weren’t before. There’s a sense at Alborz, specializing in elegant- pushed the menu all the way from appe- of proprietorship—I want to support ly flavored Persian cuisine. Their com- tizer to dessert—starting with the roasted these wineries, and find new ones to bination platter, laden with such treats as beet salad with avocado and roquefort, and support as well. Dolma and Kashk Bademjan (roasted egg- carpaccio with capers and shaved parme- Though I understand more now about plant with garlic and mint, topped with san—but our favorite was the pesto and ri- the art of winemaking, I still don’t get yogurt sauce and caramelized onion), and cotta ravioli in lemon cream sauce with some of the comments I’ve seen in tast- the Koobideh sandwich (ground sirloin parmigiano reggiano. Scrumptious! ing notes. (‘Pongy’? ‘Fat’? ...Huh?) But with onion and spices), were delicious. But I still have the menus. They make the that can come with another visit. we fell in love on the spot with best late-night reading...particularly with a Hopefully, one of many. s glass of chilled Zinfandel Rosé. s our dessert: Bastani, a Persian ice 66 | AAA Going Places May/June 2003