Wine Tool Museum opens; Film Festival food wrap; Jewish Winemakers’ Tasting & Nosh; Tarantula Tempura and Panko-battered scorpions

April 11, 2015

Jean-Charles Boisset’s Wine Tool Museum, on the third floor of Buena Vista Winery’s historic sparkling wine building, opened this week. Do go see it. I can assure you it is informative and spectacular.

Museum Tours are available by appointment daily at 11 AM, 1 PM and 3 PM. Walk-up visitors will be accommodated as availability allows; groups of eight or more require advance reservation.  Tour $25 with wine tasting, $10 without wine tasting. Daily tour without wine at 4 p.m. Children with a paying adult are free. Reserve ahead at buenavistawinery.com or 800.926.1266800.926.1266 FREE, or at the Buena Vista Winery Tasting Room.

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Following the success last year of “Stone Edge Farm Cookbook” by Sonoman John McReynolds, Meadowood’s Christopher Kostow won “Best Cookbook of the Year” this week from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).  The local tie-in is that Sonoma product Lynn Mahon’s plates and serving dishes, which he makes exclusively for Meadowood, are featured both in the new cookbook and in the winter issue of Napa Sonoma magazine where Kostow is referred to as Northern California’s Best Chef. Many of the outdoor photos were taken at Mahon’s Mount Veeder, according to his mother-in-law.

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Cheese authority Janet Fletcher, author of “Cheese & Beer” and several other cheese books, will lead a beer and cheese tasting of 10 California craft beers in a range of styles, each paired with its perfect cheese match on Saturday, April 4 at The Big Easy, the event space associated with Speakeasy off Putnam Plaza in Petaluma. This information-packed class will leave you with a greater understanding of some of the top beer styles and how to pair them with cheeses they love. Putnam Plaza, named for the grand member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Helen Putnam, runs between Petaluma Avenue and Kentucky Street. 3 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $50 and includes all beer and cheese tastes. and are available at bigeasypetaluma.com.

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The 18th edition of the Sonoma International Film Festival has shown its final reel, well, digital whatever. And it was quite the party, party, party. With some films. Lots of them.

After seeing several and introducing a few movies, I realize that SIFF actually offers many excellent films/movies that just will never make the big syndicated theatres. The two “food movies,” “Finding Gastón” and “Just Eat It” were both quite brilliant in presentation of their documentary messages.

Luna bars and tastes of Mr. Cheese-O’s kept film goers alive at most venues, and loads of people gave high praise to Mia Sebastiani Coakley’s Mia’s Kitchen pasta and salad at Vintage House.

The Opening Party in the Backlot Tent behind Sonoma City Hall offered some of the best food of the festival, and it was all prepared by local restaurants. Della Santina’s served lovely tortellini with a creamy tomato sauce in little Chinese food boxes and offered samples of their excellent Balsamic vinegar, Maya offered ample servings of both guacamole and pulled chicken on tortilla chips, Hank Marioni of the Swiss Hotel spooned out his famous slightly solid meatballs, and Jen Demarest of Harvest Moon prepared an elegant slice of Navel orange with herbed quinoa with asparagus and radish salad and black kelp on a crisp. The culinary part of the evening was topped off with Fiorello’s gelati.

Backlot Tent parties and their terrific and varied music were enjoyed by hundreds. Among those at the Opening Party were Harriet and Randy Derwingson,  Gary and Marcia Nelson, Keith Casale, Fred and Pam Gilbred, Stuart Teitlebaum, Lucy Weiger and Bob Crane, JaMel and Tom Perkins, Jennifer Gray and Doug Thompson, Nancy and Jim Bundschu, Susan Idell, Jeanne and Chip Allen, Kathy and Silvano Payne, Marchelle and Curt Carleton with Barbara Adams and her sister Gloria, Kevin and Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, Christopher Sawyer, Sam and Carol Morphy, Bill Blum, Ryan Lely, Ginny and Larry Krieger, Deborah and Dr. John Emery, Heather Patz pouring her own Patz & Hall wines, Katharine Kunst, Marilyn Kravig , Bill Jasper, Gary Saperstein, Noris and Tim Boeve, Suzanne Brangham and Jack Lundgren, and Cathy Gellepis and Jim Ledwith, along with a whole lot of directors and producers from several countries, and even the occasional sighting of David Arquette.

The Whiskey-A-Go-Go Party Thursday night delivered the promised “caged go-go dancers,” which appeared to include Sonoma’s own world champion belly dancer Nathalie Tedrick.

Friday Night brought the hilariously fun LGBT “Prom Night,” attended by all segments of our community expecting a great time, which it was, with some friends in their, or other people’s, prom dresses.

Saturday night’s Vamos al Cine Festival was a hit all around, with great music and excellent food served by Sonoma’s La Casa and Maya restaurants. La Casa gave everyone a loaded-with-chicken enchilada and a shredded pork tostada, while Maya served a mango and shrimp tostada with substantial servings of guacamole and chips. The music had record numbers of partygoers swaying throughout the evening.

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Sonoma Market will host Cheryl Forberg, RD, a chef, author and nutritionist for NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” to sign her new book, “A Small Guide to Losing Big,” on Thursday, April 9. Forberg has won a James Beard Award and has been on the New York Times best seller list. Her “secrets” include two weeks’ menus and 25 recipes. Free admission. Books $12.99 or two for $25. 5 to 7 p.m. 500 W. Napa St.., Sonoma.

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This week Envolve Winery owners Mike, Kate and Chris Benziger launched one of their “Get Envolved” campaigns to benefit Becoming Independent as this year’s effort to help local and national charities, in true Benziger family tradition. The campaign found its roots in Chris’ involvement with Becoming Independent, which helps people with disabilities live meaningful and productive lives. You often see Chris around town in his wheelchair with devoted caregiver, Tina Hinkley.

For the next six months, Envolve will donate 20 percent of its wine sales to Becoming Independent. If you are buying their wine online, enter the code WELOVEBI at checkout. You can also make your contribution and purchase wine at their tasting room off Napa Street in Vine Alley across from Sonoma Plaza.

Kate Benziger said tenderly, “Becoming Independent has supported my brother in every way possible and has helped him grow into an active, contributing member of society.”

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Patz & Hall hosts the opening on Saturday, April 11 of its Art Harvest No. 4 art exhibit of Hugh Leeman’s work at the winery’s Sonoma House, a large house and vineyard built a few years ago and converted to an elegant tasting room by Heather Patz.

The event includes a walk-around of the exhibit, bites by La Saison, and complimentary pours of Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The art show continues until July 5. The tasting bar is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Monday ($25 or $50).  Reception 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.  21200 Eighth St. E., Sonoma.

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Ready, set, go to the Jewish Winemakers’ Tasting & Nosh on Sunday, April 12. Nosh Committee co-chairs Mara Kahn and Alexandra Allen started to prepare food this week, such as matzo ball shooters, noodle kugel, bagels and lox, potato knishes, gefilte fish sushi (that should be interesting), grilled Rueben wraps (these are delish), latkes, Kosher hot dogs with all the fixings, and much more.

If you are going for the excellent wines, taste great ones from B.R. Cohn, Cline and Jacuzzi, Hagafen, Hobo, Idell, Longboard, Match, Orpheus, Paint Horse, Paradox, Shapiro, Stein, Tres Hijas, and Wake Robin wineries.

Stephanie Ozer will play Brazilian music along with keyboardist and composer Larry Ebert at the Veterans Building, since the event outgrew Burlingame Hall a couple of years ago. $50 advance, $60 at door. 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.  Tickets available at Readers’ Books, Tiddle E. Winks, or at shir-shalom.org/hewishwinecountry.html.  For more info contact Maddy Leader at maddy@maddyleader.com.

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April in Carneros rolls around again Saturday and Sunday, April 18 and 19, affording tasting visits to 16 wineries whose soil and climate near San Pablo Bay straddle the Sonoma-Napa border, producing fine chardonnays and pinot noirs. Adastra, Anaba, Bonneau, Ceja, Cline, Enkidu, Homewood, Jacuzzi, Keating, Larson, Meadowcroft, Poseidon, Obsidian Ridge, Robledo, Schug, Tin Barn and Ty Caton wineries will all pour some of their best. Many tasting rooms will offer small food tastes as well. Advance tickets $45, $10 for designated driver, day of event $50 and $15. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Tickets at carneroswineries.org.

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Russ and Pat Meier-Johnson just returned from their annual trek to New York for the Explorers Club of the American Museum of Natural History where they were treated to such delicacies as tarantula tempura, waxworm quesadillas, Ants on A Log, Cockroach Canapés, Panko-battered scorpions, grasshopper kabobs, mole crickets, and centipede bites on the appetizers “Exotics Table.” For real.

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The Olive Press just won six medals at the California Olive Oil Council Competition at the awards ceremony in Monterey. Nancy Cline’s Olive Press won gold medals for their Picual, Sevillano, Mission and Artisan Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oils as well as two silver medals for the Lunigiana Estate Organic and Arbequina Extra Virgin. This year they also won a Good Food Award. For more info call (800) 965-4839(800) 965-4839 FREE or visit the olivepress.com.

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The Golden Gate Salmon Association enjoyed a terrific beef dinner (they get enough salmon) at Ramekins recently to raise funds “to protect and restore California’s largest salmon producing habitat” in Central Valley rivers and in the Bay-Delta ecosystem. Local public relations firm owner Michael Coats emceed, while honoree Mike Benziger and congressmen Mike Thompson and Jared Huffman spoke about California’s crucial water shortage, its role in the lives of salmon, and the role of salmon in industry lives. Benziger, Thompson and Huffman all emphasized the prediction that California has one year’s worth of water left to use.

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Most of the 20 members of ChaChas, a nickname that stands for Children’s Home Auxiliary and our slightly jazzy goings on, went to Earth’s Bounty at the Skyhawk Village Shopping Center on Highway 12 for our Spring meeting. These are not just fun food, wine and frivol events. They are also actual meetings where we report on our areas of responsibility (mine is the vegetable garden).

But it helps that Alis Arrowood of Amapola Creek and Sharon Cohn of Breathless bring their best products for sipping.

Marcy Smothers is our current president and leads cooking classes for the kids, Nancy Ferrick leads poetry sessions, Julie Atwood leads a book club, Rebecca Rosenberg of Sonoma Lavender leads travel movie nights, etc. at what is now called the Valley of the Moon Children’s Center.

We were surprised to find that Chef Christopher Ludwick of Grapevine Catering leads the culinary team and owns the business, assisted by Brian Starkey and pastry chef Noreen Pitts. Many of you will remember Chris from Pets Lifeline events at Vintage Kennels.

If you are going to our coming from Santa Rosa, do stop at Earth’s Bounty for a full menu of excellent food, pizza from a wood-fired oven, and deli dishes, with plenty of room to sit or take home. Among the dinner entrées are a mac n cheese, risotto with asparagus and Sebastopol mushrooms, a Stemple Creek Ranch burger, meatball sando, great boneless beef short ribs, pork shoulder pot roast, Mt. Lassen Rainbow Trout, chicken and waffles, and a fried chicken salad ($12 to$23).

Even the sides look good such as Rancho Gordo beans, fries, roasted cauliflower, cheesy grits, and wood oven roasted broccolini ($5 to $6.50). Save room for the out-of-sight housemade Chocolate “Ding Dong” with vanilla Anglaise and chocolate sauce. 5755 Mountain Hawk Way, Santa Rosa. 827-9700. Earthsbountykitchen.com.

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Lizzie Hulme, proprietor of Chateau Dumas in France, and I attended a fun cooking class at Ramekins Culinary School a couple of weeks ago featuring Chef Pierre Lagourgue, who will lead the next Chateau Sonoma trip to Lizzie’s France home in late August. Lagourgue will take guests to his favorite farmers’ markets in the area, teach some cooking classes, and Lizzie will guide everyone to the best antiques and collectibles markets. One of Lagourgue’s secret ingredients is May Ploy sauce from Thailand, which I found easily on a bottom shelf at Sonoma Market. For more info on the trip contact chateausonoma.com.

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