Northern California Meets Northern Italy at Pop-Up Dinner in Healdsburg

Sought-after local wines and delicious Italian dishes made from seasonal produce are some of the highlights at this upcoming event.

Now that the weather has finally decided to play nice in Sonoma County, we’re getting in the mood for wine-centric events, barbecues with friends, lots of rosé and picnics aplenty. And just in time to kickoff the warmer season, a new pop-up dinner is happening in Healdsburg.

On Friday, June 7, Idlewild Wines will host a dinner in collaboration with Ali & Alix, a Sebastopol-based food events company founded by New York transplants Ali LaRaia and Alix Brewster. The event will feature a five-course dinner with wine pairings, celebrating Northern California and the Piedmont region in northern Italy – or Piemonte. 

LaRaia and Brewster relocated from Brooklyn to Sonoma County last year; their move “sparked by a desire to connect with the land and reconnect with their passion for food, farming and hospitality.” LaRaia, who is a chef,  grew up in the restaurant industry and has cooked at the James Beard House, competed in the Barilla US World Pasta Competition and collaborated with culinary powerhouses, Gail Simmons, Alison Roman and Katie Parla. In 2011, she launched a fresh pasta concept in the NoLita neighborhood in Manhattan. Brewster has a background in branding, marketing and PR, working with some of the world’s top chefs and wineries. Together, the two are now getting ready to launch a new project called Nebbiandra, a local agriturismo (“farm stay”). The dinner at Idlewild Wines will serve as a preview of this project.

Idlewild Wines’ founder Sam Bilbro grew up in the wine industry in Sonoma County, tasting wine blends with his father. Later, as he worked in the restaurant industry, he was exposed to wines from all over the world and was “especially struck” by wines from Italy’s Piedmont region, famous for its Barolo and Barbaresco. Now a winemaker himself, Bilbro produces “Piedmontese-inspired wines from the rugged hills of Northern California.” Bilbro met LaRaia and Brewster at a local wine event and the three bonded over their shared love of Piedmontese food and wine. 

The pop-up dinner on June 7 will start off with a crostini topped with breakfast radishes and a salsa verde butter, paired with the 2018 Idlewild Flora & Fauna Rosé. The radishes, from Preston Winery & Farm in Healdsburg, were grown and harvested with the help of LaRaia and Brewster along with most of the produce for the dinner. The second course, a crudo, is an arctic char, fennel, and pink beauty radish with finger lime. The third course is a mix of peas, garlic scapes, homemade mozzarella, pea tendrils and preserved lemon, paired with the 2016 Idlewild Dolcetto, from Fox Hill Vineyard.

For entrée, dinner guests will have pasta made by LaRaia and Brewster, with spring pea caramelle, goat’s butter, and crispy prosciutto. The grand finale is C&G, aka cookie and gelato, paired with one of Idlewild Wines’ most popular bottles: the 2015 Idlewild Nebbiolo Fox Hill Vineyard. Nebbiolo is the predominant grape in Piedmont – Idlewild has sold out of this wine every year, including this year (the wine is only available at this pop-up dinner).

According to Bilbro, “there is no other grape that captures the grace and power in the way that Nebbiolo does. The first taste of Nebbiolo I had was the first moment I felt connected to wine and all the aspects of my childhood related to vineyards, gardens, and wine in general.”

Tickets to the Idlewild x Ali & Alix pop-up dinner are $50.00 per person and are available at