Rumor department: Strong, reliable rumors buzz through Napa Valley that former IndyCar driver cum NASCAR driver Danica Patrick has bought 80 acres of cabernet sauvignon vineyards in the Howell Mountain appellation near Angwin. Apparently she is dynamiting to construct an in-ground cave.
I am not surprised, as Patrick has told me, and several others, several times that she loves Napa cabs, even when she races at Sonoma. Apparently she has a collection of more than 1,000 bottles in her Arizona wine cellar.
Speaking of Sonoma, the raceway formerly known as Infineon, I have learned that I should not have called it Sonoma Raceway last Friday. My apologies.
The sign at the raceway says “Sonoma” and one might extrapolate that it implies “raceway,” but I was wrong to jump to that conclusion. The raceway’s naming deal with Infineon ended last Friday and racetrack officials are currently negotiating with others for naming rights.
“Sonoma, the raceway formerly known as Infineon” reminds me of “The artist formerly known as Prince.”
Lots of locals would love to see the words Sonoma or Sears Point restored or incorporated into the name.
Following the Memorial Day ceremonies at the cemetery behind the Vets’ Building, hundreds of attendees were treated to a free hamburger or veggie burger lunch cooked by Sonoma Rotary members, led by Sam Morphy of The Red Grape and cheese merchant Gary Edwards, and served by the Native Daughters of the Golden West Sonoma Parlor 209.
Santa Rosa Burger King donated both the beef and veggie burger patties. The beef patties started out at six inches in diameter and ended up 4 inches across after grilling, which may tell something about fat and water content.
Pearl’s Diner, Palm’s Grill, and John Berger, son of the late great community volunteer Evelyn Berger, donated all of the side salads and chips, while the Native Daughters made all the cookies.
Chateau St. Jean, Foppiano, Les Caves de Jacque Bertrand, Ravenswood, Viansa and Kenwood donated all of the wine, poured by Sylvia Bertrand.
Sonoma Home Winemakers will host David Darlington author of “An Ideal Wine” on June 14th at 7:00 pm at Vintage House in Sonoma. Food and wine pairing precede the event. SHW members & SVVGA members are free, guests and non-members $10 (refundable if you buy a copy of the book). Contact Philip Sales at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lewis Perdue of wineindustryinsight.com reports that Ascentia Wine Estates, which recently owned Buena Vista, has gone out of business. A Sonoma County endeavor, Ascentia had bought eight former Constellation brands including Geyser Peak, XYZin, Atlas Peak, Covey run and Columbia wineries along with Ste. Chapelle in Idaho and Gary Farrell in Healdsburg. E. & J. Gallo just purchased Columbia and Covey Run winery brands, with the wineries’ Washington employees given exit packets at the closing of the deal, according to Perdue. Jean-Charles Boisset now owns Buena Vista and is married to Gina Gallo.
Sunflower Caffé has opened its patio wine bar and grill for the summer, featuring juicy lamb burgers. The wine bar is open 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. except Fridays, when it opens at 9:30 a.m. for those in need early. The whole café still closes at 4 p.m.
Ram’s Gate Winery hosts Bi-Rite Market owner and author Sam Mogannam who will prepare a great lunch Saturday, June 9 at the winery. Enjoy pan-seared wild salmon, chickpea succotash, mixed green salad, olive oil sabayon, and blueberry buttermilk upside-down cake with Bi-Rite Creamery ice cream, all paired with Ram’s Gate wines. $75 includes Mogannam’s new book. Noon to 2:30 p.m. Reserve immediately at 721-8700 or 870-8700.
Sunday brings the 50th annual Bear Flag Celebration Chicken BBQ & Microbrew Tasting. Expect 60 beers from 25 brewers, lots of historic reenactments, and a great chicken barbecue or hot dog meal, plus music by favorite BackTrax, all sponsored by Native Sons of the Golden West Sonoma Parlor #111. Food served Noon to 4 p.m. Chix meal $12, hot dog meal $5. Unlimited beer tasting $25. Contact Dean Zellers at 996-5282 or sonomanativesons.org.
Jude and Philip Sales hosted a hilarious Diamond Jubilee Tea Party celebrating “sixty years of gloriously entertaining hats” worn by Queen Elizabeth, whose Diamond Jubilee the British Commonwealth and a whole lot of Americans celebrated this week.
Philip hales from Epsom, Surrey, where Queen Elizabeth launched her Jubilee celebration at the Epsom Derby where her horse did not win.
The Sales asked guests to dress as a member of the royal family, or at least with hats and gloves, which led Briton Elizabeth Kemp to dress as the Queen Herself, Jim Kemp to come as Prince Charles, Sharon Kuleto as the Queen Mother, Rosie McNichol as Mrs. Simpson, Disty Thompson’s English mother Madge to wear a 40-year-old pink outfit she made herself, and about 25 other attendees dressed to the nines. To go with Pimms cups, champagne and a little tea, they served open-faced sandwiches, scones with strawberries and clotted cream, and a princess cake, of course, from Scandia Bakery.
Guests got to take photos with cardboard cutouts of the Queen and Prince Philip on the balcony. Can’t wait for another 10 years to fly by. Let’s see, the Queen is 86, I believe. If that doesn’t work, maybe the Sales will host another tea sooner.
Financial advisor Byron Hancock invites everyone to a pitch-free “wine and wealth” wine tasting on Wednesday, June 13 at Eric K. James tasting room in the Mercado, which has been taken over by Robert O’Maoilriain and Andrew Jaeger. 6 p.m. 452 First St. E., Sonoma next to La Salette restaurant. Contact email@example.com.
Fourth of July:
Sonoma League for Historic Preservation will rent seat space on the porch and in the garden at Maysonnave House on First Street East for July 4th parade viewing, with lemonade and water provided. Bring a picnic. $30 per chair on porch, $15 per chair in garden, $125 per six-foot table that seats 10. Reserve by calling Anne Silverman at 938-0169 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Estate Restaurant is the first firecracker lit for great fireworks viewing with dinner from tables set up in their parking lot. Enjoy a sumptuous buffet with grilled shrimp skewers, summer vegetables from their farm, fried chicken, house-made sausage, panzanella salad, feta and sun-dried tomato salad, garlic bread, and Harvey’s Gourmet Donuts. $75 includes food, two drink tickets and non-alcoholic beverages. Reserve at 933-3663.
Fathers Day Weekend:
Larson Family Winery will host their fabulous barbecue Sunday June 17 cooked by John’s Traveling BBQ and including baby back ribs, chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, cole slaw, Portobello sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs for kids, make-your-own ice cream bar with toppings, wagon rides, music by Richard Bolmen, bocce, horseshoes and a jumpy house. $35 adults, $15 age 12 and under, $15 for wine club dads. Tasting fees waived for all dads. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Reservations required. Call Jennifer Russo at (800) 938-9463, Ext. 25 or Jennifer@larsonfamilywinery.com. 23355 Millerick Rd., Sonoma (really Schellville).
Gay Wine Weekend is Friday through Sunday of Fathers Day Weekend with its ultimate event the Twilight T-Dance to benefit Face-to-Face, Sonoma County’s AIDS Network on Saturday evening. Many dinner locations are sold out, but seats remain at host hotel El Dorado Kitchen with dinner paired with Penfolds wines. The T-Dance will feature food from Café 522 and The Epicurean Connection at the VIP reception along with CocoaPlanet Chocolates and Moustache Baked Good Cupcakes. Dancing from 7 to 11 p.m. with after party back at EDK on Saturday. Lots of vineyard tours, lunch, an “Apres-T” party at EDK. Sunday brings the Big Gay Wine Auction and Recovery Brunch at Ramekins with all proceeds going to Face-to-Face. EDK dinner $125. Tickets for all events sold separately. Contact email@example.com or 495-9732 or visit outinthevineyard.com.
B.R. Cohn Winery attracts its annual “Classic Car Cruise-In” featuring the Cobra Club members’ cars. Saturday and Sunday, June 16 and 17, adding an Artisan Faire near the winery’s gourmet shop. Vendors will donate 20 percent of proceeds to Redwood Empire Food Bank. Brcohn.com.
Amtrak food finally:
Bill O’Neal and I took Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train to Los Angeles a few weeks ago, me to visit our son Mack and he to visit his son and grandsons.
The train arrived at Martinez from Seattle more than an hour late, putting us onboard after breakfast service ended. Bill talked the dining car into serving us, and our steward said we could only have eggs and bacon and the server said we could only have cheese omelets. We got dried brownish scrambled eggs, soggy hash browns and cold croissants, but it all seemed good and we were so grateful.
While Amtrak boasts of having a huge new team of nationally known chefs consulting on their food service, I saw little difference in the menu, except for a shrimp soup at lunch that no one seemed to order. Instead we went for the reheated burgers with chips, now “kettle chips” instead of standard ones – big change.
That night, the specialty for dinner was meatloaf. I asked about it and the server shouted to the eight people at booths behind us if we should order it, and in unison they shouted “No!” I find the baked chicken to be the most reliable dinner entrée, but it’s important to ask which end of the trip it boarded to gage whether it is one-day or four-days old.
When we got to L.A. around 11:30 p.m., Amtrak had lost my suitcase. Mack and Bill looked with staff for an hour. The next morning we called on a lark and the person who answered said they had it there all the time. When Mack went to retrieve it, they couldn’t find it again, but eventually did. Thank heavens.
Coming north, the train leaves Los Angeles around 10:30 a.m. so the next meal is lunch. Same story. Then came dinner, when I sat with a librarian from the peninsula and a retired periodontist. The latter ordered, with some excitement, the expensive tilapia at $24.95 (usually around $5 a pound retail). Instead he got a dry piece of cod about the size and shape of his thumb, while the librarian ordered steak at around $25 that she said was okay. I stuck safely with the chicken again, gave away tastes, and felt quite wise at the end of the meal. The thawed cream puffs were actually good for dessert. I just heard a commercial for Pepto-Bismol. How appropriate.
Wines are available quite reasonably and span California’s wine regions, served either by the glass (airline bottle) or by the half bottle.
At the Southern California Culinary Historians event in the Mark Taber Auditorium at the Los Angeles Public Library, Nancy Zaslavsky expertly interviewed our own Paula Wolfert before a crowd of at least 250 enraptured guests.
Zaslavsky writes cookbooks about Mexican cuisine, leads culinary tours of East L.A., and takes groups on yummy tours to Mexico. Reserve now for her next one, a week in the famed historic colonial town of San Miguel de Allende for what she calls “a safe, affordable, fun Mexican vacation – one packed with world-class food and culture.” And I believe her. Enjoy architecture, cooking classes, demos, market tours, hot water spas, Talavera pottery, local wine and cheese, and fabulous food, to say nothing of lots of fun and adventure. Or you can also accompany her to Oaxaca for Day of the Dead Oct. 27 to Nov. 2. August 9 to 15, $2,500. Air-conditioned van. (310) 440-8877. Nancyzaslavsky.com
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