“Never have I been so graciously hosted,” is what I could have said at the end of each night during the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa last week. But it wasn’t just in Santa Rosa. I was feted in Healdsburg. I was wined and dined in Hopland Mendocino. I was well entertained in Fulton. I cannot say each meal was better than the last. They were all magnificent.
Our dinner the first night, hosted by Fetzer and Campovida was in Hopland in Mendocino County in a barn, a beautiful, well-lit barn at the Campovida Winery on a cool rainy night. We were entertained with a live band, Easy Leaves, and fed oysters and cheeses paired with a crisp, citrusy Fetzer Echo Ridge Sauvignon Blanc and a crisp, light Grenache rosé from Campovida before we all sat down to a family-style feast of chicken served with mozzarella, herbs, and tomatoes, which paired quite well with the Campovida Nebbiolo. The red fruit and tomato leaf character of the wine came alive with the herbs and tomatoes of the dish. The salmon with lemon capers was quite nice with Campovida’s Arneis, a medium-bodied and tart little white wine. The potato gnocchi paired well with Fetzer’s rich and round Sundial Chardonnay. Both dessert wines, the Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewurztraminer and the Campovida Innamorari Late Harvest Viognier paired nicely with the warm apple crumble.
On our second night of the Wine Bloggers Conference, we pulled up to the Kendall Jackson estate in the dark. Seeing the winery we glowing from the inside with warm lights may have turned our charter bus into a chariot, at least in my mind. We were greeted with hors-d’oeuvres and Kendall Jackson Chardonnay before we were escorted to the dining room. The long table was set with a beautiful herbal centerpiece from the sensory garden. At the end of the room on a sideboard was a chocolate sculpture that looked like, well, a sculpture. The dinner was as elegant as the table centerpiece, three beautiful courses beginning with gnocchi, persimmon squash and sage dish paired with the Jackson Estate Camelot Chardonnay, full-bodied and ripe, this wine stood up to the richness of the gnocchi. With the duck confit, we were served the Jackson Estate Outland Ridge Pinot Noir, whose pretty red fruit danced around the rich duck. Our dessert, which turned out not to be the chocolate sculpture on the sideboard, was a flourless chocolate cake served with the Jackson Estate Hawkeye Mt. Cabernet Sauvignon, deep and dark, I drank it all before I got to the sweets.
“This wine is from the vineyard over your head,” is something one only hears while eating in a cave. That was the fabulous situation in which I found myself at Thomas George Estates. It was an elegant cave set with a long table. As we entered the cave we were greeted with the lively and elegant Thomas George Blanc de Blanc and some lovely salamis and bruschetta. Dinner began with a warm brussel sprout salad paired with a crisp Thomas George Chardonnay that was fermented and aged without oak. The wine also saw no malolactic fermentation. This was a true, clean expression of the fruit. The entreé was star anise duck with pork belly, a dish bursting with flavor and texture and paired perfectly with the aforementioned “above our heads” Pinot Noir, elegant with ripe rich fruit, savory herbs, and a soft silky finish. It was sublime. The woman across from me took a sip and said, ‘I think I just had an orgasm.’ Yes, it was that good. Dessert was an apple tartin with bourbon gelato. What?! And served with an aged late harvest Viognier that was both aromatic and spicy just like the dessert.
Last week at the Wine Bloggers Conference both Sonoma and Mendocino counties far exceeded our expectations in their elegance and gracious hospitality. The meals have all been stunning and hedonistic.
After these past few days I can say with all confidence, not only are Mendocino and Sonoma Counties open for business, they are alive an well, they are top drawer elegant and they are thriving. Thank you, Mendocino and Sonoma for your overwhelming hospitality.