No one is more bummed than me that the swinging days of summer are winding down to make way for the harvest grapes to roar, but not before replaying some of my favorite scenes of the season.
I’ll start with the bemouths. BottleRock was back and bigger than ever with nearly 120,000 people over the three-day event, remarkable given this was only the fifth year for the festival. Despite the massive showing, the 10 p.m. curfew remained in force, likely to the delight of residents and annoyance of rockers. The Foo Fighters were shut down during their final song Everlong—a fitting title considering the band and its groupies rocked on despite the absence of amped sound. The silent disco drew 4,500 festival-goers, the largest of its kind to date. The comedy acts that headlined at the first ever BottleRock have long since been sidelined, but a new ingredient was added to the successful mix of music and culinary biz, with the Sutter Health and Wellness Spa, which allowed attendees to unwind in the Wine Country way, with massages, manis and more.
Speaking of switching things up, this year’s Auction Napa Valley in June, rang in some changes in its 37th year. In years past, the Barrel Auction featured a dizzying array of food vendors and wines outside the barrel room floor, but things took a different and educational turn at Francis Ford Coppola’s Inglenook winery. There were only six restaurants flaunting their stuff with Morimoto, Brasswood Kitchen, Ciccio, Cindy’s Backstreet, Angèle and Galpao Gaucho as the “chosen ones.” Wines were grouped by varietal and alongside complementary food pairs and aroma stations were set up logically throughout the grounds. Chef Morimoto was spinning up sushi concoctions at one point, which felt fitting, especially when a taiko drum jam temporarily pulled focus. That was until folks spotted the Godfather himself, Francis Ford Coppola, with wife Eleanor, who looked on from the sidelines—the hosts for auction weekend. Following the show, I gorged on one too many Woodhouse chocolates, only to learn that the famous chocolatier has gotten in to the BBQ biz this summer. Woodhouse rubs and chocolate caramel brownies with sea salt on top? Yes please. Noticeably missing from this year’s Barrel Auction were the ostentatious auction lot displays that I look forward to ogling each year. While I missed this ego showdown, the absence did nothing to stop the bids from storming in, with a total of $15.7 million raised for community health and education.
Sip, pour, get me some more
Another big score of the summer was the discovery of Sans Wine, which is sans additives, chemicals and pretense, according to their website. You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted wine out of a can. Seriously. I’m always the first to slam alternatively packaged products, in part because they often don’t measure up and because I hail from a house where the best wine that money could buy was pink and came from a box—or so said my parents. But one sip of the San’s Zinfandel, first from the can and then from a glass, erased my bias with its red licorice and ripe cherry and strawberry flavors. A perfect shop and pop swig that hit all the right notes in terms of taste, portability and price at $10 a can (375mls). Founder Jake Stover on the brand: “We didn’t totally know what to expect at first. We had a notion with the Zinfandel, that if we could ferment it and then age it in stainless steel prior to bottling, it could be more expressive. It has no manipulation and no oak makeup.” The 2016 vintage marks the first release of Sans Zinfandel, Sauvignon, and Rosé of Carignan—1,100 cases total.
The step sister
I stepped out all over the place this season, which included a trip over the hump to Jordan Winery for the Belle Époque Spring fling. The event celebrated the release of the Chef’s Reserve Caviar by Tsar Nicoulaiit and the new Jordan Cuvée by Champagne AR Lenoble. This would mark yet another time that my own preconceived notions were obliterated. Wine in a can and
now this. I’ll admit that I hate caviar almost as much as I hate Pinots. But on this sparkling spring day I realized that in the right hands caviar can be, as the rest of the world already knows, divine. The cuvee, a non-vintage brut, was equally engaging, crisp and creamy with a blend of 30 percent grand cru Chardonnay from Chouilly, 35 percent premier cru Pinot Noir from Bisseuil and 35 percent Pinot Meunier from Damery.
Summer takeaway: change and being wrong doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
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