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Charles Creek closing, Enkidu opening Plaza tasting rooms; Cookbook Club next Wednesday; Lots of food and wine events; Travels with Henri Episode No. 8

Charles Creek closing, Enkidu opening Plaza tasting rooms; Cookbook Club next Wednesday; Lots of food and wine events; Travels with Henri Episode No. 8

November 10, 2014

While their departure had been rumored for months, Charles Creek Vineyards will actually close their tasting room Nov. 26. Proprietors Gerry and Bill Brinton offer substantial discounts on their remaining wine stock. You must pick up your wine at the tasting room, 483 First St., W., Sonoma between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Gerry and Bill Brinton hope to move on and enjoy life even more. Charles Creek was named for Bill’s grandfather, Charles Deere Wiman, and for his and Gerry’s son, Charley. The Brintons have always made generous donations of their wine and treasure to non-profit organizations, especially Vintage House, and call their closing “a bittersweet farewell.”

Two other substantial vintners and growers, Peter Haywood and winemaker/grower Betsy Spann and her cellar master/marketer husband Peter Spann recently closed their Plaza tasting rooms as well.


Phil Staehle will soon open his Enkidu Wines tasting room in the former bicycle shop on “upper” Broadway, just south of the mural and next to the seemingly jinxed restaurant site previously occupied by Rudy’s, 522, and Meritâge, to name a few.

Excited at his new prospects, Staehle said “I foresee a big increase in foot traffic/customers with this move.  There are a few other synergistic aspects that will further enhance our business since our winery is close by on Eighth St. East.  Looking forward to a new start with this space.”

Who remembers Freiberg’s and their lunch counter there?


Speaking of bicycles, Hunt Bailie, former manager of Murphy’s Irish Pub, has bought Doug McKesson’s Goodtime Bicycle Company, which gives tours of our wine country and fixes the occasional bike. Bailie once had a Segway business located in the exact storefront where Enkidu is moving.


Petaluma’s “sommelier to the stars’ Christopher Sawyer will lead a fun interactive wine education tasting today, Nov. 7 at the new Bennett Valley Cellars tasting room on East Napa Street (former book stores). Sawyer will focus on the winery’s new releases and Stolzie stemware. His “classes” at The Lodge at Sonoma were always informative and entertaining. $15 advance, $20 at door. 4 to 8 p.m. 127 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 934-8173. Bennettvalleycellars.com.


Our Last Wednesday Food Group cookbook club will meet next Wednesday, Nov. 12 at Readers’ Books featuring cheese expert Janet Fletcher, former longtime cheese columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. It was supposed to be last week, but Fletcher suggested we postpone in deference to the World Series’ final game. Good idea, as it turned out.

Readers’ has Fletcher’s “Cheese & Beer,” “Cheese & Wine,” and “The Cheese Course” books in stock, at our usual 15 percent discount. See you there with lots of cheese. Free. 7 to 8:30 p.m. 130 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 939-1779.


Sonoma Sister Cities Association’s Tokaj, Hungary sister city will host a Hungarian wine tasting featuring the dry Furmint wines made around Tokaj on Saturday, Nov. 8 at Sonoma Community Center. Laszlo Balint, an international wine expert who is a wine judge for the Hungarian edition of Decanter magazine, will present wines by 12. Hors d’oeuvres will be donated by Whole Foods and Buena Vista Winery. $25. 3 to 5 p.m. 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Contact Sylvia Toth at 938-0224. szilvit@msn.com.


Nibs & Sips:

Lynn Mahon, son of Penny and Doug Mahon of Sonoma, has scored again with a large photo of his handmade pottery abalone bowl in Bon Appetit magazine. Mahon makes all of the dishes for Chef Christopher Kostow of the multi-starred Restaurant at Meadowood. Lynn and his family would love to find a home and Eighth Street East studio for his work.


Liam Watson, son of Mike and Anita Watson (she a baseball fan many of us know and love at Breakaway Café), is now a butcher at the newly famed Thistle Meats in Petaluma. Formerly with Marin Sun Farms, Liam is on his way in the food world.

After I raved about Thistle’s nostalgic bologna we enjoyed in della Fattoria white bread sandwiches at a Les Dames d’Escoffier event at McEvoy Ranch, friends told me the Fatted Calf at Oxbow in Napa also made this American lunch meat. Nancy Lang and I investigated last week and Fatted Calf does not make bologna.


Emily Nagan, who moved her family here from Minnesota to work with her brother Matthew Nagan at Schellville Grill, moved on to win multiple Harvest Fair medals and Best of Show with her Desserts by Emily, worked as a server at the girl & the fig, and has now taken over the Viola’s space at Montgomery Village between Chico’s and J. Jill.

Her new restaurant will be called Emily’s Kitchen, initially featuring light breakfasts, a full lunch menu and her delish desserts. All of this kick started with an ongoing Kickstarter campaign. For more info call Emily at 479-9532.


Cooking classes:

Ramekins Culinary School hosts a French cooking class this morning at 11 a.m. starring Chef Pierre Lagourgue, who will teach guests how to appreciate how the French people cook and eat by the seasons, craving heavier fare in chilly months. You will learn to make cider-braised duck with walnut vinaigrette, quenelle of halibut with saffron sauce, duck cassoulet, and crêpes with Cointreau. And you get to learn and dine on all of it. $95 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Call immediately to reserve at 933-0450 or ramekins.com.

Jill Silverman Hough will teach “Festive Holiday Desserts” beyond pumpkin pie such as mini upside-down pineapple cakes, brandied soufflés with honey and star anise syrup, chocolate decadence cake, sparkling wine floats with vanilla pear sauce, and chocolate orange Napoleons. Sunday, Nov. 9. $95.  3 to 6 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 933-0450. Ramkeins.com.


Santé at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn hosts a Raymond Vineyard & Cellars winemaker dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 12 where Chef Andrew Cain will create a great dinner to be paired with Jean-Charles Boisset’s Raymond wines.

After an elegant canapé reception, diners will enjoy Dungeness crab salad with poached Granny Smith apple; seared loin of Ahi tuna with hen egg emulsion and Niçoise olive Bordelaise sauce; poached loin of Masami Ranch Wagyu beef and forest mushroom tart; and a cabernet poached pear and almond tart. $150 inclusive. 6:30 p.m. Call 939-2415 for reservations.


Sonoma Valley’s Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts will soon distribute bags to residents and then will pick up your non-perishable foods on Saturday,, Nov. 15, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to give to FISH for its holiday food baskets. You can also take your foods to the Fiesta Center parking lot in Boyes Hot Springs that afternoon. Give what you can, if you can.


Sondra Bernstein will briefly close the fig café & wine bar in Glen Ellen on Dec. 1 for a remodel, which she hopes will only take about 10 days. Keyword: Hopes.

Brilliant as Bernstein is, she has cooked up a plan to feed us: She will offer PopUp dinners at her Suite D at Schellville Road and Eighth Street East, which look like lots of fun and good deals. Bring your own wine. No corkage fee, just like at the fig café.

The first set of prix fixe menus (all $32.50) are for Tuesday, Dec. 2 and 3, Dec. 7, 8 and 9. Menus next week right here. $32.50 includes tax and service. Staggered seating from 5:30 p.m.


St. Francis Winery has hired Jake Terrell, formerly of E. & J.Gallo and Justin Vineyards & Winery, as vineyard manager, Nicholas Sherman (formerly of EDK) as sous chef to Executive Chef Bryan Jones, and Patrick Widen as assistant tasting room manager, formerly at Chateau Montelena and Silver Oak.


The Kenwood recently hosted a dinner organized by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo beans and Marcy Smothers to honor the fabulous Georgeanne Brennan, an authority on may things food, including the foods of France. Sonoma Valley Unified School District food manager Cody Williams uses her latest book, “Who’s Cooking School Lunches,” as a guide for revamping our school lunch program.


Travels with Henri Episode No. 8: Cahors, Le Régalade restaurant, Le Tour de Belfort winery

Rising and trying to shine in time for breakfast at 7:30, we all piled into our bus again for another exciting day, this time beginning with the flea and farmers’ markets in Cahors. We found a great plaza with hundreds of dealers and we all giggled with delight.

Cahors is outlined on three sides by the river Lot and is the center of production of “black wine,” with original vines planted by the Romans after they beat out the Celts around 50 B.C. We all gravitated eventually to the 14th century Valentré Bridge, where historic vines lined the approaches. Pope John XXII was in Cahors in 1249, and a leg of the 2007 Tour de France started here. The cathedral of Saint-Etienne national monument was closed when we visited, but a block from it we found a super vibrant farmers market where most of us saw our first wine tasting and bottle sales, much like what the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers did at Sonoma’s Tuesday evening market this fall.

Chateau Dumas Chef Charlotte Clement excitedly insisted she take us to “a workingman’s restaurant,” to which we almost ran from the bridge after covering miles of flea and farmers market aisles. This restaurant is very hard to get in, and somehow Charlotte got us a long table near the windows, not that there was much to look out at in this light industrial neighborhood.

The entire décor and meal reminded me of the great little Basque restaurants in San Francisco’s North Beach that Jerry and I used to frequent with friend and client Cyril Magnin. We started with a thin soup we ladled for each other, lots of bread, and big bottles of wine. Probably the three men at the next table would reverse the order of that list. After we happily dunked bread chunks in the broth, we enjoyed a hearty tuna and rice salad with a slice of perfectly ripened and deep flavored cantaloupe, followed by a large pan of beans and sausages. I think there was dessert, but who remembers?

From there the bus took us to Le Tour de Belfort, the winery and historic estate of Slyvie and Eugène Lismonde. Lismonde sold his obviously successful business in England and fulfilled a lifelong dream of buying an entire run-down village in the Lot region of southwestern France. Only the 13th century tower was completely intact, and the Lismonde family, with Sylvie in the lead, restored the whole town, planted grapes on a plateau without water, and created a winery in historic buildings on the estate’s hilltop. The couple greeted us with enormous plates of local charcuterie, a grand tour of the estate and, of course, lots of very fine wine.

Some of our group’s most enduring laughs came from two incidents at Belfort, which may not seem funny to anyone else. Sylvie Lismonde countered her husband’s speech to us about accomplishing all this by saying, “Next time I would marry a woman and cheat on her with him.”

At one point Sylvie was taking Sarah Anderson, who organized this expedition, into the house and waved to me to follow. So I, too, waved to everyone else to come along, which they did. Where did we land? In the laundry bathroom with Sarah. Sorry.

Next week: Travels with Henri Episode No. 9 takes us to visit France’s top tea expert, cooking demonstrations with Charlotte Clement, and historic tour of St. Antonin, filming location for “The Hundred Foot Journey.” Next trip info at chateausonoma.com.

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