25 September 2011

Wine Country – Part Deux

Heirloom tomatoes from Cakebread

Saturday was our unplanned day.  While at the Sunshine Foods market yesterday, we got some provisions for light breakfasts at the double-wide, so we enjoyed Greek yogurt, Costeaux granola, fresh figs and heirloom tomatoes.  The tomatoes get a shout-out here…  At Cakebread Cellars, they have a kitchen from which they cater special events and offer cooking classes.  To supply their kitchen, they grow vegetables and herbs in their organic garden.  Whatever produce they do not use in the kitchen is offered for sale to winery guests in their “honor shed” – a tiny wooden structure with a couple of shelves of veggies and a money basket.  You bag your selections and leave cash in the basket.  For $2.50 we got a basket of 7 perfect heirloom tomatoes.  (Note that only 5 are pictured; 2 were consumed before I could arrange the plate and snap the photo.)

For our free day, Julie and Chris had lunch with some local friends, and Tom and I made a lunch date with the CIA – the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.  Greystone is a huge structure in St. Helena that once housed Christian Brothers Winery.  The CIA bought the facility, converted it into their western campus and opened a “teaching” restaurant.  The kitchen and wait staff are all CIA students, except for a couple of seasoned pros who I guess would be considered faculty.  The restaurant’s patio was shady, breezy and cool, but we opted for a table in the dining room next to the open kitchen so we could watch “the kids” at work.  The restaurant is not-for-profit, so we enjoyed the most generous portions at the most favorable prices of any meal on the trip.  We had a very nice bottle of their namesake chardonnay for $30, which is unheard-of in this part of the world.  After lunch, it was back to the double-wide to link  up with the Richeys for some bocce and zinfandel.

Chris and Tom taste and pose
Mazzocco Winery (home of the double-wide) is owned by the Wilson family (think sporting goods), so we received an invitation to a hoe-down (I don’t make this stuff up.) at their namesake winery for the introduction of their 2011 releases.  Wilson Winery is a couple of miles down the highway.

Tom, Chris and Julie with the pony
In addition to the requisite wine sampling, festivities included games, line dance lessons, hors d’eouvres (which were awfully gourmet for a hoe-down) and a pitiful little petting pony trapped in a pen that was too small for him to even turn around in.  They also served a full dinner, with a pig on the spit, all the trimmings and a huge dessert buffet, all paired with Wilson’s just-released reserve wines.  I would guess there were 100-150 guests, and everything was complimentary.  So I’ll have to amend my previous comment about prices at The Greystone.  But wait!  There’s more!

One of the games was a bean-bag toss, only modified appropriately to be a cork toss.  You toss a cork in one of the various size holes to win a prize commensurate with the size of the hole.  Three of the four of us each won a bottle of Wilson’s 2009 zinfandel.  (Sorry, Chris.  I know the pressure was on.)  More trivia:  Remember the soccer ball from “Castaway” with Tom Hanks?  It was displayed behind the bar in their tasting room.

Picnic lunch at deLormier Winery
Sunday was our escorted tour of several other Wilson family wineries, covering Sonoma and Mendocino counties and highlighted by a picnic lunch at DeLormier Winery.  The four of us were joined by Julie’s friend from Santa Rosa, a fellow mosaicist, and her husband.  The tour lasted about 7 hours, and was capped with a full tasting at Mazzocco.  For dinner, we drove into Healdsburg and had a very low-key meal at a local hamburger hang-out.

The final tasting at Mazzocco Winery
Monday was going-home day, but our festivities were not over, yet.  We were invited to the Richmond home and studio of friend and artist, John Wehrle (www.troutinhand.com).  So on our return trip to SFO, we detoured through Richmond for art, conversation and Thai food.  Final trivia:  There are very few gas stations along the 101 anywhere close to SFO.  We had to back-track to gas up the Jeep before surrendering it there.

Back in the reality of Dallas, I now anticipate the next big event – the South Cobb High School class of ’81 thirty-year reunion.  Yikes.  Stay tuned...

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