Sunday, August 19, 2012

The St. Francis Food & Wine Experience

This past July, I was invited to visit St. Francis Winery, which is located on the gorgeous Valley Of The Moon Highway just past Kenwood in Sonoma County. The drive to reach this place is one of my favorites of all time, very picturesque and in my opinion, one of the prettiest areas of the Sonoma Valley. The day before my visit, my life kind of fell apart due to technology and I almost had to cancel my visit! What did we do before cell phones ruled our lives? I did not let the lack of a working cell phone ruin my day there and I enjoyed every minute of my visit!

I did not know what the staff had planned for me that day so I drove up to their tasting room and introduced myself. A minute later, a gentleman came out and gave me directions to drive up the road aways to the winery's production facility and administrative office. I was really taken aback when I was offered a VIP tour of the production facility with their two winemakers, Katie Madigan (who makes their Sonoma County wines) and Heather Munden (who makes their artisan wines). I was able to taste out of their barrels and walk through their laboratory and see how a larger winery is operated. The two winemakers were so gracious to take time out of their busy schedules to do this for me. They explained what their lives are like during harvest and I was able to get a better understanding of what it is like day in and day out there.

I also met Dave Buerger, their DTC Marketing and Social Media Manager. Dave is awesome and in my opinion, the reason why their Facebook page and website are the most informative and exciting winery pages today! He seems very excited and enthusiastic and since he is on premises, he understands the public wants to know what is going on at the winery! I hope other wineries use their pages as examples on how to excel in social media!

Their photographer came out and photographed me on the lawn with the two winemakers, their Executive Chef David Bush and President and CEO, Christopher Silva with the stunning Sonoma Valley view behind us! My visit was posted on their Facebook page as well as mine! It was a nice surprise! After our photo session, I sat in their newly refurbished dining room with President and CEO, Christopher Silva and chatted about life and wine while enjoying a five course food and wine pairing that seemed endless!! I completely lost track of time as I immersed myself in the experience. It was very intimate and lovely. Pretty amazing and I highly recommend it for groups or just for two! Here's a video that shows you a little bit of what I experienced...

Chef David Bush, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, changes up the menu on a regular basis and I asked him how he decides what wines to pair with the dishes and he replied that he usually bases his dishes on the wine instead of the other way around. Our five course pairing was exceptional! I could eat like this every day!!

The first course was a White Corn Vichyssoise with citrus marinated rock shrimp, basil puree, sweet peppers and micro basil. It was paired with their 2010 Sonoma County Chardonnay ($14.95). I am a huge fan of this Chardonnay and try to keep a few bottles in my collection at all times. It is a tremendous value! Perfect balance of lively tropical fruit and oak. The acidity in it was perfect to offset the creaminess of the soup!

The next course was a Roasted Mushroom Salad with Hamhock Braised Collard Greens, Roasted Cippollini Onion, Truffled Cream and Chive Blossoms. It was paired with what will soon easily become one of my favorite wines from their Artisan Series, the 2009 "Trouble" Sonoma Valley Syrah ($35)! This is a full-bodied and somewhat rustic Syrah and it enhanced the earthiness of the mushroom salad. Just lovely!!

If I were to pick a favorite of all the five courses I tried, it would have been this next one. A Bánh Mi Sandwich which consisted of Grilled Sirloin of Beef, Duck Rillette, Aioli, Pickled Vegetables, Fresh Herbs and a Sweet Chili dipping sauce!!! It was paired with the 2009 Sonoma County Old Vines Zinfandel ($19.95). I would love love love to have the recipe for this sandwich. It was amazing! The vibrant flavors, crunch of the pickled vegetables paired so nicely with the Zinfandel. I never would've imagined pairing a red with this but it works so well!! All I can say is "YUM!!!"

Course number four was a Slow Roasted Spice Rubbed Shoulder of Local Lamb with Housemade Lamb Chorizo, Potatoes, Fava Beans, Wilted Arugula and Roasting Jus paired with 2008 Anthem Sonoma Valley Meritage ($60). The Meritage, a Bordeaux blend of 69% Petit Verdot (YEP! You saw it here first!! I don't think anyone else makes a blend quite like this! It is to die for!!!) with smaller quantities of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Smooth, silky and the perfect accompanyment for this dish which had a spicy melange of flavors. The aroma was quite tantalizing!

The cheese and dessert course were like two courses in one--both served on the same plate. Bellweather Farms San Andreas Cheese with Pickled Mission Figs and Toasted Walnut Bread on the left hand side of the plate, along with a "S'more" consisting of a Graham Cracker Crust, Red Wine Soaked Blueberries, Dark Chocolate Ganache and Marshmallow Fluff. This course was paired with another Artisan Series wine, 2009 Caro Santo Sonoma Valley Red Wine ($45) which is 85% Sangiovese with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the blend as well. Absolutely wonderful combination!!!

This seated food and wine pairing is available to the public for $38 (or $30 if you are a wine club member). This is an amazing price for the experience you will have. The winery does three seatings on Friday through Sunday, two seatings on Monday and Thursday. They do not offer seatings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. (My seating was a private offering done for me.)

I want to thank the winery staff and especially President and CEO of St. Francis Winery, Christopher Silva, Dave Buerger, Chef David Bush, and winemakers Katie Madigan and Heather Munden for their gracious hospitality and for taking an afternoon out of their busy schedules to surprise me with such a wonderful visit. You have made a fan for life out of me and I hope to be attending events at the winery very soon!!

For more information on St. Francis Winery and their wines, please visit their website, Follow them on Twitter @stfranciswinery and please like them on
Facebook. Their page rocks!!!

"You Saw It Here First!" This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk." Cellarmistress is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with a passion for wine and all it emcompasses..."

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