Woman falls into wine vat; Afternoon Tea; Fire House pancakes Sunday; Community Olive Press days; Travels with Henri No. 5

October 19, 2014

Horrible wine story: a cautionary tale

According to mirror.co.uk, 25-year-old wine specialist Nerea Pérez fell into a wine vat after being overcome by fumes and lost her balance while watching the fermentation process. A leading Socialist political figure in her hometown of Ponferrada, El Bierzo, Spain, Pérez apparently drowned and paramedics could not revive her. They also treated her shocked and saddened family members.

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Afternoon Tea will be served Saturday, Oct. 18 at Burlingame Hall to benefit Sonoma Overnight Support, our community effort to give shelter to those who suddenly find themselves homeless. If you want to enter the teapot contest, bring one for the afternoon, whether it’s old, funny, beautiful or meaningful.

Scandia Bakery will donate three Princess Cakes, Sonoma Market will give fruit tarts and mini cupcakes, scones and tea sandwiches will be provided by Brown Baggers, and cookies will be made by Sonoma Valley Teen Center. Sponsors include Kay Heigel, Annette Lemont, Blythe and Bob Carver, Tami Cotter, Ellen Holden, Elizabeth Kemp, Katherine King, Georganne Papas, Katheryn and George Perry, Marge and Bill Thomas, and Cindy Vrooman.

A tour of Benziger Family Winery, High Tea at Lovejoy’s Tea Room in San Francisco, a tour of Lagunitas Brewing, and a five-course dinner at home of chef Virginia Bertelsen, former gourmet buyer for I. Magnin, Cost Plus and Gumps, will be auctioned. $25. 2 to 4 p.m. 252 W. Spain St., Sonoma. (415) 613-9064(415) 613-9064.

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Muscardini Cellars hosts a Harvest Party Saturday, Oct. 18 with lunch by Olive & Vine and music by Sean Carscadden. Free to wine club, $25 public. 9380 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood. 933-9305.

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Don’t miss Sonoma Valley Fire & Rescue’s Open House and Pancake Breakfast this Sunday, Oct. 19 at Firehouse #1 on Second Street West. Lots of pancakes, sausages, juice, milk and coffee for all, plus face painting, an under 12 kids’ Halloween Costume Contest at 11 a.m., fire engines, and a vehicle extraction demonstration. $6 adults, $4 ages 5 to 12, 4 and under free. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 630 Second St. W.,
Sonoma.

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Hanna Boys Center residents will sell their homegrown pumpkins this Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 18 and 19 to benefit Hanna’s Agricultural Program where they also raise animals and kids’ activities. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. 17000 Arnold Dr., Sonoma.

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Popular chef Michael Chiarello will host Dana Cowin, longtime editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine, at his Bottega Restaurant in Yountville on Wednesday, Oct. 22. Cowin has a new book, “Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen,” in which she reveals her culinary vulnerabilities. The price includes dinner at Bottega, wine by Trione Winery, tax, tip and a signed book. $140. 6:30 p.m. 6525 Washington St., Yountville. More info at Book Passage: (415) 927-0960(415) 927-0960 or bookpassage.com.

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Grammy Award winner Sheryl Crow and Chateau St. Jean and its winemaker, Margo Van Staaveren, are cooperating to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month by giving $1 from every Chateau St. Jean bottle of wine sold in the United States to “breast cancer charities.”

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Olive growers alert:

Backyard and other olive growers are picking olives again in the next few weeks. Even if you only have one tree, or glean olives hanging over your fence from next door, you can take your “crop” to Community Press Day at Nancy Cline’s Olive Press/Jacuzzi Family Vineyards on Nov. 9 and Dec. 7. Depending on what you bring to this festive agricultural process, you get olive oil back in proportion to the quantity you contributed. Cost is 75 cents per pound of olives. For more info call Amy Popplewell at 931-7580 or write to lsweeney@theolivepress.com.

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McEvoy Ranch, located west of Petaluma and near Marin French Cheese on your way to Pt. Reyes Station, will also hold Community Press Days on Nov. 9 and Nov. 16.

On a tour last Saturday that I organized in my role of events and program chair for Les Dames d’Escoffier, we learned their 18,000 olive trees can produce 179 tons of olives, which can lead to 28,000 liters of olive oil, just to get some perspective. McEvoy is actually spraying Surround on some trees to experiment with how it effects both the olive fruit fly and the tree and olive growth as well.

Deborah Rogers gave us on a tour of the milling plant, and Ananda Bagiackos led us on a hike and roll around the vast property, all of which culminated with a delightful light lunch in Nan McEvoy’s Asian pavilion, catered by Della Fattoria. Many people’s favorite sandwich was throw-back bologna made by Thistle Meats across Petaluma Avenue from “Della’s” café in Petaluma. Thistle uses only the best meats and organic vegetables from Nancy and Fred Cline’s Green String Farm on Frates and Adobe roads this side of Petaluma.

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Bennett Valley Cellars, Rumpus and Vic McWilliams’ Victor Hill winery have all opened tasting rooms on Napa Street recently. Incidentally, McWilliams’s has a relatively new day job as pharmacist at Sonoma Developmental Center and he loves it.

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Emma Cline has apparently landed a big three-book deal with Random House and movie option on her first novel, “The Girls,” about girls who got sucked into the Manson Family. Actually, many of them lived in a house in Monte Rio on the Russian River.

Having written for the Paris Review and seemingly on a superfast track to success with rumored $2 million deals at age 25, Cline is the daughter of Nancy and Fred Cline. The Clines live in classic historic houses in Sonoma and Italy, and own Cline Cellars, Jacuzzi Family Winery, The Olive Press, Green String Farm, Dillon Beach, and a hotel in Nevada.

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Sheana Davis hosted a successful educational conference called by the Specialty Food Association (Fancy Food Show) last week at Sonoma Valley Inn. So sorry I missed it due to deadline, but about 100 food entrepreneurs attended, according to Davis.

While learning about selling to distributors, specialty food retailers and supermarkets, guests enjoyed Epicurean Connection’s wild rice vegetable salad, green salad, fig bars and raspberry bars, Sonoma Syrups lemonade, Costeaux Bakery desserts, girl & the fig jams and chutneys, Jimtown tapenades and Epicurean Connection cheeses. Tomorrow, Saturday, Davis celebrates three years at 122 W. Napa St. with lots of specials, music, and raffle prizes every half hour.

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Sonoma’s losses:

In the last week we lost three significant Sonoma residents, all of whom were women. Actually, all life losses are significant.

One Wednesday a couple of months ago Ginnie Nichols danced on her chair at Rotary’s luncheon at Ramekins declaring she was cancer-free. Just a few weeks later she told me about excruciating pain that she hoped was scar tissue from her liver transplant and not cancer. Indeed, cancer took one of Sonoma’s best graphic artists and undisputed “Dancing Queen” at an early age. Nichols encouraged everyone and gave, gave and gave of her energy to causes she believed in.

Donna Lewis owned the Victoria Garden Inn, having purchased it from Garth Eliassen, whose late mother, Marge Eliassen was one of the great historic preservationists of both Sonoma and Monterey. Lewis was passionate about everything she believed in and spent a lot of time trying to convince people to agree with her. She has kept the Victorian Garden Inn lovingly and lovely and also had a home in Sonoma Sister City of Pátzcuaro, Mexico.

Carolyn Kizer was 89 when she passed away a week ago in a local care home, a long way from her illustrious career, the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and teaching around the world. Dementia and a body that gave out were the cause.

Jerry and I had many fabulous conversations with Carolyn and her husband, architect John Woodbridge, over dinner at their restored Victorian, usually in the company of their neighbors and dear friends, Mary and Adrian Martinez. John cooked, often a lamb or beef stew, with rice, salad and dessert. All of this he concocted in their kitchen lined with colorful and artful treasures from Mexico and many other world explorations.

A few years ago they sold their Paris apartment where they spent half of each year.  As Carolyn’s health declined, John was unable to care for her and found someone who could. He subsequently renewed a friendship in France and passed away last June while picking fruit in an orchard there.

Carolyn’s poetry was humorous and poignant at once, often looking for the attachment to her father she wished she had.

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Travels with Henri Episode No. 5

Monday morning of our week near Auty in southwestern France, Chateau Dumas Chef Charlotte Clement rode on the bus with us to the farmers’ market in Caussade, where we had visited our first flea market the day before. During our short journey, Charlotte taught us all about woad, an ancient herb from the mustard family that was grown commercially in Europe for blue dye, apparently prior to indigo being cultivated in Asia.

Woad is that light, slightly dusty blue color you see on shutters doors, and trim in France and elsewhere. For some reason pronouncing woad made us all giggle.

It was on this trip that the two lone men on the trip, Aldo Willis from southern California and Tony Eglin of Sonoma, decided to go hyper masculine and designate themselves as “wild boar (bore?) hunters,” eventually securing the URL of wildboarhunters.com. Throughout the trip, and forever, they will seek their ever elusive imaginary wild boar. When I served barbecued chicken to them and other fellow travelers this week, they immediately asked if it was wild board. Sure.

The truth is that they are two of the nicest guys on earth and probably have never picked up a gun or even a sling shot. They are also two of the funniest punsters on several continents and had us all laughing throughout the week.

It was in Caussade that Henri and I and friends saw both fleas and farmers together. Charlotte led us the back way into the animal area of the farmers market where only chefs and restaurant owners are allowed.

Everything was a flutter – chickens’ wings, rabbits’ ears, purchasers and a few of the vendors.

What we don’t see at our farmers’ markets: A woman chicken grower reach into a three by three cage to pick up a live chicken, almost magically tie its feet together upside down (rendering it immobile), hold it in one hand, reach in for a second bird, tie its feet together, ditto, and then a third. The woman buying these poor souls paid and walked off carrying three live chicks by their tied-together feet. And the vendor was very happy, with only one apparent runt of the litter remaining.

Across the way from her was possibly the most miserable couple any of us had ever seen. A man and a woman, both mostly toothless, sitting about four feet apart, staring intently at their for-sale chicken, and not speaking a word to each other or anyone else. She wore a white hat that didn’t even cover her pulled back hair, let alone her weathered, tanned and wrinkled face. These were clearly two country folks, both dressed in black, who spent most of their hard lives outdoors farming and hoping to sell their products. I wanted to improve their day, but couldn’t buy their chicken, and I left feeling sad that I couldn’t help them.

The breads and pastries at the rest of the farmers’ market were fabulous, as were the handmade charcuterie and paella. We bought a few croissants on our way to a café at the top of the hill where we all met, relaxed and sipped coffee and Perrier. When Charlotte caught up with us she insisted we visit her friend who sells vanilla, and oh my. His powdered vanilla is fabulous.

Back to Chateau Dumas for a light lunch of tuna and rice salad, and a class in making Chèvre cheese rolls and hors d’oeuvres, followed by cheese and wine pairing and tasting led by sommelier Laurent Zimmerman and a light dinner. Some of his wines included a Gaillac paired with a Camembert de Normandie, a Mouiis Cremier wedge, and tastes of Chateau Pineraie red from Cahors, and Reve D’Automne from Chaeau Laffitte Testin. The Roquefort was way beyond good and I still salivate thinking of it. A light green salad and sorbet finished off the day among friends and Henri.

Next week’s Travels with Henri Episode No. 6 takes us to the hilltop village of Cordes-sur-Ciel and more. Email chateausonoma@gmail.com for info on the next trip.

POTENTIAL SIDEBAR

Pulitzer Prize-winne poet Carolyn Kizer’s poem, “Mud Soup,” explains her husband, John Woodbridge, did most of the cooking.

Mud Soup

Sauté the pork and add the veggies.

Add the garlic, cook ten minutes,

Add to lentils, add to ham bone;

Add the bay leaf, cloves in cheesecloth,

Add the cayenne! Got no cayenne!

Got paprika, salt and pepper.

Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer.

Did I say that this is summer?

Simmer, summer, summer, simmer.

Mop the floor and suck the finger.

Mop the brow with old potholder…

Tastes like mud, the finished product.

Looks like mud, the finished product.

Consistency of mud the dinner.

(Was it lentils, Claiborne, me?)

Flush the dinner down disposal,

Say to hell with ham bone, lentils

New York Times recipe.

Purchase Campbell’s. Just add water.

Concentrate on poetry.

By the shores of Gitche Gumee

You can bet the banks were muddy,

Not like Isle of Innisfree.

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