By Sally Moe
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
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,
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
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The Honor Mansion
The upstairs buffet
at the Honor
Two stunning Victorians
spotted during our San
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-
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
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.
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-
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
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
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