By Lindy Baker and Judy Tischler
St. Francis Winery is located on the Highway 12 corridor in Sonoma Valley, just outside of Santa Rosa’s city limit. The winery boasts beautiful mountain and vineyard views; a patio surrounds the tasting room and while they do not allow picnicking per se, they do have charcuterie plates available for purchase that you can enjoy either on the patio overlooking the grounds, or inside by a warm cozy fireplace. Either would be a lovely way to spend an afternoon, but if you have the time, the food and wine experience is the best way to go.
Judy: “St. Francis Winery’s food and wine pairing experience was truly stellar! Besides the thoughtful pairings that were presented, I was very impressed with the staff and their service, from Sharon’s greeting to saying farewell to Brooke and Chef David Bush!”
Lindy: “I agree with you Judy. It was stellar. The staff was wonderful, but just driving onto the grounds and walking towards that beautiful entrance was spectacular. That huge bell tower fitted with a bell that was forged in the Molise area of Italy at the centuries old Marinelli Foundry, the same foundry that makes the bells for the Vatican, well, that’s impressive. And when it rang, it sent chills down my spine the tone is so beautiful.”
Judy: “It was brilliant of them to start us off before the seated tasting with a sip of their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, with its crisp acidity and fruity driven lively style. Aren’t the grounds stunning?”
Lindy: “The Sauv Blanc was the perfect sipping wine to take on our walk-around of the grounds, appreciating the views; the soothing fountain and statue of St. Francis of Assisi. I really enjoyed hearing Brooke tell of the annual blessing of the animals that they have there; and that a giraffe once showed up. Can you imagine the sight?”
After a brief history of the winery we were invited into the private dining room. The settings were very elegant, wine glasses lined up waiting for wine, silverware lined up ready for what was to come; looking out through the large picture windows to the grounds and surrounding mountains.
Judy: “Once seated in the lovely crescent shaped community style table configuration, I enjoyed the social atmosphere with the other guests. Brooke, our host, knows her stuff; she was really adept at answering everyone’s questions about the wines as well as the dishes we sampled. Now, about those pairings…”
We began with Poached Corvina Sea Bass with Housemade Yellow Curry & Spring Vegetable Succotash that was paired with a 2009 Chardonnay Wild Oak, Sonoma County. On the same plate was a Torta Cubana, Housemade Chirizo, Jambon de Paris, Fire Roasted Salsa, Shredded Butter Lettuce & Smoke Paprika Fromage Blanc, paired with a 2007 Zinfandel, Giovanetti, Russian River Valley.
Judy: “I loved the light touch that Chef Dave displayed with the curry and cream. The delicate late spring vegetable succotash complimented the poached fish and sauce, and it was so pretty on the plate. The ’09 Wild Oak Chardonnay paired so nicely with it. It was a beautiful pairing.”
Lindy: “This was a scrumptious pairing. The Chardonnay played so nicely with the creamy mild curry, the fish was done to perfection and I loved that all the veggies are what was being harvested from the on-property garden. You can’t get any fresher then that.”
Judy: “Alongside was that lovely petite brioche “torte” with a lightly seasoned housemade chorizo patty; roasted salsa, a bit of ham and that delicious hint of smoked paprika in the fresh cheese; perfectly paired with the ’07 Giovanetti Old Vine Zin. It was interesting to hear Brooke share the story of the Giovanetti vineyard; wild and free vines that were 130 years old.”
Lindy: “The Zin was divine as was the torte. I thought the chorizo was a bit on the mild side; but altogether the elements work well together.”
Our second plate included Roasted Maitake Mushroom in a Smoked bacon-Tamari Broth, with Braised Mustard Greens and Shaved Green Onions, paired with a 2008 Syrah, Wild Oak, Sonoma County. Set on the same plate was a Garlic and Thyme Roasted Sirloin of Beef with Potato, Cauliflower and Aged Cheddar Gratin, Creamed Spinach, Sweet Carrot Puree, Parsley Salt and Bordelaise Sauce which was paired with a 2008 Merlot, Wild Oak, Sonoma County.
Judy: “I loved the Maitake ‘Hen-of-the-Woods’ mushroom in the savory smoked bacon broth…perfect with the rich and bold 2008 Wild Oak Syrah. With 9% Viognier, this Syrah still displayed a lot of weight, but the briny broth was a smart stylistic pairing. Neither overpowered the other and I loved the umami-fusion in my mouth with this pairing.”
Lindy: “Well, as you know, I’m not a big fan of mushrooms… BUT I did enjoy the broth with the greens and thought the Syrah worked beautifully. And you are so right about the umami-fusion in the mouth. The broth had a wonderful depth to it.”
Judy: “Didn’t you love that accent of creamed spinach and carrot puree with the slice of sirloin on the gratin? So pretty with the 2008 Merlot.”
Lindy: “I did love it! It was like having a little bite of steakhouse on the plate. The parsley salt was a brilliant addition…and the ’08 Merlot was a perfect match to all the flavors in this bite. Only problem was, I wanted more!”
Finally, a nice surprise with the last pairing of a beautiful piece of Rouge River Blue Cheese, a housemade walnut bread and Port Reduction sitting along side a decadent chocolate cupcake with a fresh raspberry; served along with a taste of St. Francis’s signature Port. WOW! What a great ending to the tasting.
Judy: “I really enjoyed the visuals of it all, the plates, the open and airy dining room, and the best view of Hood Mountain in all of Sonoma Valley! When shall we return?”
Lindy: “I’m right there with you! I can hardly wait until they change their seasonal plates so we can experience it all again.”
Our Verdict? 2 Thumbs WAY up!
We loved our visit to St. Francis Winery and Vineyards. From the beginning to the end, this was an experience that will live on, for years to come. Elegant, inviting and delicious. Reservations required. ($35.00/$28.00 club members)