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August 2014 Tastes

Sonoma Aperitif

Laura Hagar, owner and aperitif maker at Sonoma Aperitif, is bringing back “vin maison” style, officially called wine ratafia—a centuries-old winemaking tradition of infusing wine with fresh, seasonal fruits, herbs and flowers. Recognize Hagar’s name? Good job—she’s former managing editor of NorthBay biz. My, how things change.
“I was hanging out with my hipster friend in Berkeley and he was making them in his garage,” says Hagar. “When I tried the one with bergamot, I had one of those transcendental wine experiences. So I said to him, ‘You could totally sell this.’ He said, ‘No,’ so I thought, ‘I could totally sell this!’” And Sonoma Aperitif was born.
“I experimented with a bunch of different recipes until I found the ones I liked best,” says Hagar. “Aperitifs were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. There are a lot of recipes in 19th century cookbooks. Casanova even wrote about them.
“I visit farmers markets, friends’ backyards and other growers to find the ingredients,” she continues. “Then I add them to a finished wine, usually Sauvignon Blanc, in a big crock, then add some hard spirits [she won’t tell us which ones!], fruits and such and let it sit from anywhere between two days and nine months. It depends on what I’m using how long it takes.”
There are flavors like triple heirloom citrus, strawberry basil, hazelnut, raspberry/Meyer lemon, bergamot, pear, white nectarine and rose, and nocino (or vin de noix, similar in flavor to a tawny Port). Flavors range from bitter to sweet, and everything in between.
 “I’ll have four major seasonal releases, then will always have different ones to try in the tasting room for fun,” she says. Following the infusion process, Hagar keeps the macerated fruit and makes preserves, which are also available at the tasting room (111 Goodwin Ave., Penngrove).
Sonoma Aperitif will open its doors in late August or early September. Make an appointment and open your world.

Cheese, Please!

The food offerings at Outside Lands just keep getting better. Last year, Thalassa Skinner of Culture magazine, along with Chris Hall at Long Meadow Ranch and Winery, paired together to help make Outside Lands’ concept of “Cheese Lands” a reality. This year, the concept has expanded to include a dedicated area where cheese lovers can enjoy seating and a chance to meet and talk to local cheese makers (many from the North Bay, of course!).
“All the cheese we’ll be serving is local,” says Skinner. “We’ve partnered with the California Artisan Cheese Guild,an organization dedicated to the support the artisan, specialty and farmstead cheeses made in California. Everything we’ll be serving will be produced by guild members. We’ll be offering a different cheese plate each day with up to five local cheeses on it, plus accompaniments, as well as wedges of various cheeses and crackers.” Choices will include cheese made from a variety of milks (goat, sheep, cow and water buffalo) and textures (from soft and lush to extra-firm).
“Since we’re adjacent to Wine Lands [where close to 40 wineries will be pouring], we want to make sure there are plenty of options for pairings. People also can take a wedge or two of their favorites with them to hear the music—or to Beer Lands [30 breweries], because craft beer is also a great pairing with cheese,” she says.
Now in its seventh year, the Outside Lands music, food, wine, beer and art festival will be held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park August 8 to 10.

We All Scream

Pilar McGoldrick-Bernard likes to make people smile, and her tool is seasonal, fresh Michoacan-style ice cream. In partnership with her niece, Rachel McGoldrick, she purchased Mariposa Ice Creamery in Napa in February 2013—and the pair hasn’t looked back.
They’ve grown the venture by focusing on wholesale, partnering with restaurants, caterers and events. The ice creamery itself is “the factory” (Pilar's words) where everything’s made and you can get your fix right away. You can also find the ice cream at I Scream Café in downtown Cotati, which opened July 1 and exclusively sells 16 of Mariposa’s flavors.
“Our recipes are traditional Michoacan-style, which focus on local, seasonal fruits. We use 14 percent butterfat, which makes it creamy and dense,” she says. “We also do flavors for wider palates, like bacon, stout with pretzels and such.
“We’re having a blast. It’s really busy, which is great—and who doesn’t like ice cream?”



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