It's officially spring and Sonoma County is as beautiful as ever. The hillsides are a luscious green, the skies are shining bright blue, the yellow mustard flowers are on display and the wineries are poised to welcome visitors. Springtime is by far one of the most beautiful seasons to go wine tasting.
There's something about the abundance of spring that beckons me to the vineyards. I love seeing the buds break on the vines, anticipating what their growing season will be like and how the finished wine will taste. I also enjoy the excitement of tasting new-release wines in spring, because it's the first opportunity to see how last season's grapes panned out. In addition to all of this beauty and abundance, wineries tend to freshen up their tasting menus and experiences just in time for the beautiful weather and eager visitors!
At Kokomo Winery in Dry Creek Valley, the release of their much-loved 2018 Rosé of Grenache and 2018 Timber Crest Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is enough to make any wine lover salivate. But there's more—a freshly curated list of artisan cheeses has been selected to pair alongside a selection of five wines. The exquisite Reserve Wine & Cheese Tasting is hosted in the stunning Cypress Room, and features some of my all-time favorite Kokomo wine offerings, such as the Grenache and Pauline's Vineyard Zinfandel.
The 2017 Grenache is showing beautifully. This has always been a very graceful and delicate wine, while simultaneously coming forward with expressive flavors and playful textures. Silky on the palate with flavors of dried cranberry, orange zest, a hint of vanilla, fresh herbs and minerals, this Grenache strikes the right balance between fruity and savory characteristics. Coupled with a classic, aged Manchego cheese—made from sheep's milk—this was by far my favorite pairing on the menu. This textured, nutty and salty cheese brings more body to the Grenache and really gives its already luscious mouthfeel an even silkier profile. Simultaneously, the flavor profile of the wine really brightens and lifts the tangy, salty flavors of the cheese—this is a wonderful pairing.
I really enjoyed the 2017 Pauline's Vineyard Zinfandel paired with a smoked gouda cheese. With blue and black fruit on the palate, this Zinfandel shows classic varietal characteristics without being overripe or too showy—this is one of the reasons I have always found Kokomo's Zinfandels to be so attractive. They are simply well-made and have achieved phenolic ripeness without being over-extracted or left to hang too long. Clove and cinnamon spices play with the fruit and smoke flavors on the palate, and the body is smooth and silky. The creamy, smoked gouda has a seamless synergy with the Zinfandel, and truly brings a cream-filled profile to the palate of the wine.
In addition to the above two pairings, you'll find the 2017 Timber Crest Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc paired with goat cheese, 2017 Peters Vineyard Chardonnay paired with triple cream Brie and 2016 Ruth's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon with 62% cacao dark chocolate from Sonoma Chocolatiers. Each pairing is artfully selected for their unique flavor combinations and the expertise behind this pairing menu really shows. This is a wonderfully delicious way to welcome spring at Kokomo Winery.
Be sure to check out Kokomo's new-release 2018 Rosé of Grenache—a fresh, lemon/lime and watermelon-fruited Rosé with great acidity, medium body and a smooth finish. This Rosé is a fan favorite and will surely not disappoint!
Also, stay tuned for a feature on New Spring Sauvignon Blanc Releases in Sonoma County, featuring Kokomo Winery's 2018 Timber Crest Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, on Wine Country Moms Blog in the coming months!
When looking for a lunch spot to visit during Sonoma County Restaurant Week, I decided my family couldn't pass up on the opportunity to dine at Gerard's Paella y Tapas. Although Gerard's Paella is a relatively new addition to the downtown Santa Rosa foodie scene, locals will recognize the name and delicious paella from food and wine events all across the county. Their brick and mortar location has surpassed all expectations and is absolutely worth visiting.
First, I love this place because it is so kid-friendly! My son is now 13 months and when we dine out, it can be tough to keep him in the high-chair the entire duration of a meal. At Gerard's, both patrons and staff were incredibly friendly with my son and overall, I felt that our family was very welcomed. In addition to the kid-friendly atmosphere, Gerard's is also an excellent choice for those with food sensitivities (like my son and I). Still not eating dairy, it was great to see the dairy-free and gluten-free options on the menu stated so clearly! Dining out with food sensitivities and intolerances can be hard and often risky, but that wasn't the case at Gerard's.
In addition to accommodating families with food sensitivities, the restrooms at Gerard's also feature a changing table! While this seems like a no-brainer, I am often shocked at how many dining establishments I visit that do not have a changing table. This simple item makes such a huge difference for families with babies and young toddlers, and is just another thing that makes Gerard's Paella such a great restaurant for families.
During Sonoma County Restaurant Week, Gerard's is offering a fantastic $10 lunch menu that features a tasty and fresh salad served with your choice of paella (Rosa or Verdura). The salad is sweet, savory and full of textures with its vinaigrette, crisp romaine, peppery arugula and briney olives. The Verdura is a vegetable-packed paella with tons of flavor—my son loved this! I really enjoyed the flavors of the sweet peppers and the texture of the crispy garbanzo beans. The Rosa paella dishes up tons of flavor with it peppery arugula, fennel, chorizo bilbao and chicken. Both of these paellas were fresh, flavorful and plentiful—truly a steal for $10!
Another thing I love about Gerard's Paella is that they have happy hour every day from 3-6pm. They've got tasty bites, sangria and beer on tap for very reasonable prices. A much-needed addition to the Santa Rosa happy hour scene!
It's been nearly two years since my husband and I vacationed in Italy. We left the day after Christmas in 2016 and spent ten full days wining and dining in Milan, Genoa and Alba. As a wine and food lover—as well as an Italian—spending that much time in Italy was a dream come true for me. Today, as I think back on our trip, one thing I miss most are the incredible red table wines offered at such affordable prices.
At any trattoria in Italy, you can order a full carafe (equivalent to a bottle of wine) of the house red for about $10, and the wine will be amazing. When I recently opened the Stella Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and paired it with a classic spaghetti and meatballs dinner at home, I was taken back to our trattoria experiences in Italy.
Like many of Italy's red table wines, this Montepulciano is clean, crisp, fresh and full of fruit. Dried cherry aromas give way to crisp red fruit on the palate: strawberry, cherry and cranberry. Orange zest and a touch of a touch of kirsch add some complexity. This light-bodied wine has bright acidity and great flavor. It's downright delicious and tastes great with tomatoes. Coupled up with spaghetti and meatballs, this food-friendly, easy-drinking wine brought me back to Italy for the evening.
Stewart Cellars, located in Napa Valley's posh yet quaint town of Yountville, offers a welcoming setting in which to taste wine. Multiple spaces provide different tasting experiences—from the rustic u-shaped tasting bar to the lodge-style private library space to the comfortable outdoor patio, there is a setting to suit all desires. On site as well, is the Southside Café, which offers rather affordable breakfast and lunch options in an informal, yet upscale space. Much like their "tasting home," as the Stewart family refers to their location, the Stewart Cellars wine collection offers approachable elegance.
As winter lingers on in Northern California wine country, I have found myself reaching for hardy reds. It just so happens that I had stashed away some Stewart Cellars fall releases, and their 2013 Merlot and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon were perfect to enjoy on a chilly February night by the fireside.
Merlot is a varietal that often gets pushed to the side when poured next to its Cabernet Sauvignon counterpart, but in the case of Stewart Cellars, you'd be remiss to not give their Merlot a chance. One of my favorite Napa Valley Merlots, the Stewart Cellars 2013 Merlot is a steal of a deal at $50. It’s a single vineyard bottling from Brokenrock Ranch (all Clone 181), whole-berry fermented in stainless steel and aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak—the latter of which lends itself well to the smooth body and voluptuous nature. This seductive Merlot exudes aromas of dried rose petals and cocoa, with plum and raspberry flavors at the forefront on the palate. Soft and silky, though with a solid backbone of acidity and complexity, this Merlot is ready to impress even the most Merlot-skeptical of wine lovers.
It's no secret that Stewart Cellars makes a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon (and not to mention their exclusive Bordeaux blends, which in my opinion rival some of the best in France). A combination of 85% Max Vineyard and 15% Crystal Springs Vineyard, the grapes for this 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon are whole-berry fermented in stainless steel (just like the Merlot) and then aged for 22 months in 65% new French oak. Although the case production is roughly double that of the Merlot, it's still very small at 1,436 cases. This 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon definitely has the complexity to age gracefully, but don't let that stop you from buying a few bottles and enjoying one now, because it's already palate-pleasing with classic aromas and flavors of cassis and blackberry fruit, with baking spice and subtle background notes of vanilla. Full in body but not over the top, it has a luscious texture, compelling mouthfeel and alluring complexity.
I thought for sure my baby boy was going to be born before his due date. My family has a history of birthing before 39 weeks, so I assumed I would, too. But alas, yesterday was my due date and this little guy is still tucked inside, as content as ever. With a super blue blood moon just a day away, and my husband's birthday the day after that, it feels inevitable that the baby will be here by the end of the week. But for the last week, I've done just about everything I can to try and coax him out. And, because I know my solo-time is limited, I've enjoyed a few days of pampering and relaxing—this has been one piece of advice I've heard time and time again from other moms, in addition to enjoying my sleep while I still can.
At 40 weeks pregnant, I feel like a rock-star foodie, because eating is one thing I can still do really well. Second to eating has been walking; it’s been really good for me to stay active and I'm proud to still be able to do it in such an uncomfortable state! Third is relaxing, in any way that feels right at this stage in the game—for me, that's mostly been mani/pedis, sleep and Netflix while laying on my left side (for ideal baby positioning prior to labor). So, I took it upon myself to get out of the house on different days and enjoy some lunches out, in addition to some girly pampering—that is, when I wasn't sleeping or watching Netflix.
Here are a few of my Sonoma County recommendations for ways to get in your eating, walking and pampering at the end of pregnancy!
Get outside and enjoy the trails of Ragle Park in Sebastopol. The trails are just the right length for pregnant women and very easygoing—and by that I mean no hills! Just be sure to pee before you arrive, because their portapotties are not friendly.
If you're looking for a full-body prenatal massage, Me Spa in Montgomery Village (Santa Rosa) is at the top of the list. This is a full-on spa experience, complete with a comfy robe, hot tea and a foot soak before going in for your treatment. They do an excellent job at accommodating pregnancy, propping you up on your side like a queen with a half dozen pillows to keep you comfortable during your prenatal massage. You'll walk away feeling totally rejuvenated!
And last but not least, when you are getting to the point where you can no longer take being pregnant—like once you pass your due date like me—you can always turn to natural ways to help activate labor. The Intimate Skin Spa on 4th Street in Santa Rosa offers a 30-minute Reflexology Foot Massage that women in the area swear by! Reflexology is said to help activate labor by working with pressure points in your feet that are connected to your uterus. I had this relaxing massage done this morning, so now it's time to wait and see what happens!
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