Many Sonoma County wineries are doing double duty these days, serving food alongside their fine wines. It’s a delicious trend that allows visitors to more fully savor the wines’ versatility with everything from potato chips to salmon en croûte dotted with fresh basil butter.
While wineries can’t serve full meals or let guests choose which dishes to eat (due to regulations), some pull out all the stops, offering an experience that is pretty close to the real restaurant deal — when you’re feasting on food this good, it’s hard to tell the difference. Here are a five wineries that go all-out with great dishes to accompany their wines.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery
For much of Jordan’s history, dining has been a members-only affair at the winery’s posh Healdsburg chateau. But with the arrival of new Executive Chef Daniel Beal, everyone can now enjoy a sumptuous meal. It remains an exclusive experience — a recent preview dinner was limited to 18 guests and priced at a whopping $395 per person.
But then, Beal is a big deal; a former sous chef of Chicago’s renowned Alinea and San Francisco’s three-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn. And his recent five-course French-modernist menu at Jordan was theatrical, paired with wines that included library selections like a 1976 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon (the inaugural vintage).
The winery is now in the process of planning upcoming dining experiences, starting with special dinners such as a Starlight Supper on July 22, and a series of Parisian Pop-Up Dinners throughout August.
The menu changes with each theme (check the website for details). But the preview dinner offered an idea of what to expect with elaborate dishes like grilled Wagyu with black lentils and smoked aubergine, and golden mushroom risotto with beurre noisette, pine nuts and fresh shaved white truffle. French onion soup was a performance, really, poured tableside in a pottery bowl set with fluttering onion skin leaves.
1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-5250, jordanwinery.com
Gary Farrell Winery
If you’re lucky enough to score a seat at one of this luxury property’s special dinners, you’re in for a memorable experience. (The next one is Jan. 27, and be sure to sign up on the email list for more notifications.)
A newly redesigned dining room captures spectacular vineyard views, and the wines from director of winemaking Theresa Heredia are top-notch (Russian River Valley Pinot Noir in all its finery, from legendary vineyards such as Rochioli, Rochioli-Allen, Bacigalupi, Hallberg, and Olivet Lane).
A recent menu featured fancy dishes, including Maine lobster with fennel; San Francisco halibut in brown butter with red kuri squash; and comfy-cozy boeuf bourguignon.
10701 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-473-2918, garyfarrellwinery.com
Kivelstadt Cellars Wine Garden & Eatery
This beautiful, garden-centric destination on Highway 12/121 is the stuff of Sonoma County dreams: a hip roadhouse setting, good wines on tap, craft cocktails and a creative, expertly crafted menu. Plus, it is so dog-friendly that canines get their own food choices, too, of basmati rice with seasonal veggies and optional toppings like Skuna Bay salmon or Petaluma chicken.
Humans can dig into pleasing, full-flavored plates like smoked and glazed pork belly with grilled Hen of the Woods mushrooms, pistachio pesto, burrata, radicchio salsa verde and pretty nasturtium flowers; or a delightful fried hand pie stuffed with sweet potato, cremini mushrooms, carrots, potato and butternut squash in house made pâte brisée (butter pastry).
22900 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-938-7001, kivelstadtcellars.com
The 1842 Vallejo-Castenada Adobe, a breathtakingly beautiful hacienda-turned-tasting salon, has been painstakingly renovated. It glows with tile floors, hand-painted murals, a display of 1800s stirrups, and antique porcelain pieces found on site.
A new food and wine tasting experience, launched last fall, is equally impressive. Chefs James Nobel and Abri Chavira create a lavish platter to go with fine wines; a recent feast included tomato plum gazpacho of green tomato, green plum, cucumber and pickled peppers, followed by a salad of Liberty Duck prosciutto, creamy La Tur cheese, figs, pomegranate and Marcona almonds. Then it was on to a tart of pâte brisée topped in leek custard and foraged wild mushrooms, and a scoop of kibbeh nayeh (Lebanese nayah) of grass fed chateaubriand, endive, black garlic aioli and pine nuts.
Note that this is a strictly by-appointment experience ($110), and it helps to call at least a week in advance.
143 West Spain St., Sonoma, 707-996-3328, threestickswines.com.
The 100-acre Sebastopol property is gorgeous, lavish with gardens and quaint barns and Russian River Valley/Laguna de Santa Rosa views. Reserve the Lynmar Estate’s Collectors Lunch Pairing ($200) and feast on estate-grown ingredients like fruits, vegetables, herbs and eggs, to complement the cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Bites from Chef David Frakes feature seasonal signatures such as warm popcorn drizzled in estate olive oil and a flurry of bliss raspberry-viola salt; followed by sandia con tajin or chile-Persian lime dusted watermelon with blistered stone fruit slaw, wonton crisp, shiso vinaigrette and coriander oil. The next course might be grilled garden toast of Nightingale seeded sourdough, herbed chevre, fresh-plucked vegetables and black garlic-date vinaigrette.
To finish: An exquisite chocolate cake garnished with bright magenta, sweet-nutty flavored amaranth plant; or a slab of warm mountain honey tea cake decorated with olive oil ice cream, pistachio dukkah, and candied nagano lumquat.
3909 Frei Road, Sebastopol, 707-829-3374, lynmarestate.com.