Sonoma Grape Camp
Experience the process of making wine in Sonoma County, Calif.
Learn how to make wine — from grape to bottle — at a grape camp in Sonoma County, California.
The rite of sleepover camp is filled with great memories, friendships, and experiences often reserved for children, but camp can be for adults, too. And, while we are at it, camp for adults should focus on more mature adult pursuits, like wine and fine foods. That is precisely what Sonoma County’s annual Grape Camp, held each September during California’s grape "crush," is all about.
Click here to see the Sonoma Grape Camp (Slideshow)
Grape Camp isn’t quite the same thing as packing bug spray, sewing name tags in your underoos, and worrying about who is going to get the top bunk in your cabin. Grape Camp, under the auspices of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, is a two-and-a-half-day immersive experience into the world of winemaking, literally, from the ground up. But this camp is also for those who may merely enjoy the enchanting world of wine tasting, eating wine country cuisine, or are just learning about wines — or even those who may just have never been to camp before — all while paired with the magical setting of beautiful Sonoma County.
And, just like any other camp, you can hold fast those memories in a slideshow as a scrapbook to remind of the wines you swirled, smelled, and swallowed and foods you ate. Here’s a brief photo journey from Sonoma County’s Grape Camp 2013.
Sonoma County Grape Camp will not be held in 2018. As 2019 is a very important year for Sonoma County, when we will achieve our goal of 100% sustainability in the vineyard, we will be hosting a new Sonoma County Sustainable Winegrowing Camp in April 2019. This is the ultimate experience for wine lovers, earth lovers, foodies, supporters of sustainability and people who just want to have fun in beautiful Sonoma County while becoming fully immersed in the Sonoma County sustainable lifestyle. Taste and tour through a variety of our wineries while learning about sustainability beyond our vineyards and wines. This 3-day experience will include a deep dive into sustainable grape growing and wines as well as activities such as cheese-making, hiking, yoga in the vineyards, learning about bees and volunteering at one of our amazing 2,000+ local non-profits.
We thank you for your interest and look forward to seeing you there! For any questions, please contact Amy Landolt at [email protected]
Sonoma County Sustainable Winegrowing Camp is produced by the Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW). SCW represents the 1,800 grape growers and vineyard owners, producing grapes for Sonoma County premium wines.
The Ultimate Oenophile Experience: Grape Camp In Sonoma
It was the moment I had pictured in my mind’s eye. There I was, in the middle of a gorgeous vineyard in Sonoma on a misty morning. I had flown across the country to harvest wine grapes. In my fantasy, I would be carefully snipping grapes off the vine and then stomping on them, in hilarious I Love Lucy fashion.
But reality was a little different. As a New Yorker, I can barely drive—and I’ve never gardened in my life. So when a staffer at Cornerstone Certified Vineyard handed me a pair of puncture-resistant gloves, sheers and a plastic bin for my grapes during the first full day of Sonoma Grape Camp, I knew instantly that I was out of my depth. The empty bin was heavy and unwieldy, and as I plodded through mud and dirt, I regretted my poor footwear choice.
Settling on empty row, I got to work, snipping bunches of grapes at chest level and letting them drop into the bin below. As I moved down the row, I pushed the bin with my foot as instructed, in order to save time—and my back. The sun began to burn through the morning haze. Clip, plop, push. As the bin got heavier, I remembered my mother’s incredulous reaction when I told her I was going to harvest grapes on vacation: “We moved to this country and sent you to college…so you could pick grapes for fun?”
When our time was up, I struggled to carry my bin and dumped my harvest into the collection truck. I was dirty, I was tired, and I had an even bigger appreciation for all the hard work that goes into a bottle of wine.
And I couldn’t wait to do it all again the next day.
Each fall, the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission hosts a sold-out, three-day Sonoma Grape Camp, where a small group of visitors harvests grapes at certified sustainable vineyards, blends wine and eats amazing farm-to-table alfresco meals. Along the way, participants go behind-the-scenes of the process from harvest to crush to fermentation hone their palettes at expert-led tasting seminars meet growers, winemakers and chefs and enjoy Michelin-starred fare.
Unlike other wine camps, this one is accessible for novices and serious aficionados alike. In my group, the interest level ranged from newbies to self-identified beer drinkers all the way to wine geeks who quizzed winemakers about the type of yeast they used.
The dates for this year’s Grape Camp were recently announced it will be held from September 20-22. If you’re lucky, you may even get to stomp on some grapes.
Sonoma Grape Camp - Recipes
Sonoma Wine County is where the passion roams free with the Pacific Coast, Russian River, Redwoods, Valley’s and Vineyards. Be prepared to situate your palate and indulge in wine tasting by regions tour vineyards, barrel rooms, and wine caves and savor delicious food-and-wine pairings. Visiting Sonoma County during grape harvest in late summer and early fall is a perfect time to connect with the rolling hills and mountain plains that make up the California Wine County area (bigger than New Jersey), the fabulous food, the agricultural life, and the passionate professionalism of its grape farmers and winemakers.
To meet the people who make the wine that we oh-so-love to enjoy, Houston Style Magazine joined three journalists and about 35 people from around the United States and Canada at Sonoma County Grape Camp for three days of enthrallment in winery touring, grape harvesting, cooking, wine pairing and blending. And of course, tasting: We had the opportunity to sample around 75 sauvignon blancs, merlots, pinot noirs, zinfandels, chardonnays, cabernets and more.
During #SCGrapeCamp visitors can experience everything from harvesting in the fields, fermenting sessions in wineries to hands on experience with winemaking and first class dinners. To celebrate the 10th year anniversary of Sonoma County Grape Camp, this annual three-day event was extended an extra day offering unique chances to get up close and personal in Sonoma County at its most exciting time of year. Honestly, we do not think there is another “Adult Camp” that compares to the fun and excitement of Sonoma County Grape Camp!
About Sonoma County:
Located just 45 miles north of San Francisco, Sonoma County welcomes the adventurous, curious, and lovers for the best of Northern California. The largest producer of California's Wine Country region, Sonoma County has 17 approved American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) and over 425 wineries. Fresh foods, stunning natural beauty, and world-class wines are what you will experience, to say the least. Nearly half of all Sonoma County vineyards are smaller acres, and 85 percent of Sonoma wineries are family owned and operated. Besides the obvious: wine, Sonoma County is 3 hours from Lake Tahoe, 35 minutes from Napa Valley, 30 minutes from the Pacific Coast and offers a slew of Resorts and Spas.
Welcome To Grape Camp!
“I googled Adult Camps, came across this one, and I was set.” “We’ve been trying to come to Grape Camp since 2014, so once we got an open spot, we had to secure it ASAP!” “This is my third time at Grape Camp so I figured I’d bring my Kansas Group along!” During the Welcoming Reception at Vintners Inn Provence Terrace, campers started by introducing themselves and how they chose Sonoma County Grape Camp. Whether it was a surprise anniversary trip from a spouse, a best friend’s getaway, a first timers experience — wine connoisseurs and new coming came for many different reasons. Campers can easily find their passion for wines, teas, and nature while being centered in the action during harvest season. With everyone quickly taking interest in each other either over wine or just meeting new friends, camaraderie comes quickly.
Karin Fahry & Kelly Alsip of Kanas City, MO at Fort Ross Vineyard
Grape Farming and Harvest!
You walk down the aisle at a store, stand back, carefully review the options and make your selection of wine. You make it home, pour your glass, sit back and relax. During that time, how often have you asked yourself what is the process of creating this perfect blend? Sonoma County Grape Camp will leave you with all questions answered! Campers get a first-hand glimpse of what it is like to be a Grape Famer. With early morning call times, dress in layers (it tends to be chilly in the AM hours), grab your gloves and clippers and be prepared to harvest! Before you know it, you are walking down vineyard rows, with a bucket and rhythm – clipping away at the vines and grabbing your best cluster. We suggest having your favorite playlist playing while harvesting it makes for an energetic morning!
Fruits of Your Labor!
When was the last time you harvested your own wine? After harvesting comes sorting, destemming, crushing/pressing, fermentation, clarification, aging and bottling. While going through those steps, grab a glass and enjoy the fruits of your own labor by sipping on wine from the very same vines and vineyards you just picked from. It creates a well-rounded circle effect leaving the campers well educated and with a new outlook and respect for the farmers.
Every Year is a Different Year!
The great thing about Sonoma County Grape Camp is every year is different. With so many wineries and things to do, one campers experience may be completely different from last year’s campers. While Sonoma County is known around the world as a top wine, vineyard, and coastal destination, you are not required to only taste wines, tour vineyards, or explore more than 50 miles of Pacific Coastline (though, that does not sound too bad). One year, campers may Harvest Lunch and Hike, the next, they’re in cellars and traveling to the coast. Either way, each year the itinerary is secretly held until everyone arrives, making the reveal a thrill!
Just Back From: Sonoma County Grape Camp
Visiting Sonoma County during grape harvest in late summer and early fall is a prime time to connect with the beauty of this sprawling California Wine Country area (bigger than Rhode Island), the rhythms of agricultural life, the fabulous food, and the passionate professionalism of its grape farmers and winemakers. To go behind the scenes and meet the people who make the wine, I joined 24 people from around the country at Sonoma County Grape Camp for two and a half days of immersion in grape harvesting, winery touring, cooking and wine pairing, and blending.
And yes, tasting: I had the opportunity to sample around 65 pinot noirs, chardonnays, zinfandels, cabernets, sauvignon blancs, and more.
There’s a premium fee for this curated access to wine professionals and outstanding food: $1,850 per person includes accommodations, food, wine, and transportation during camp. Staff, like Nick Frey president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, fielded questions on everything from microclimates in Sonoma’s 15 viticultural areas to organic farming. As for my companions, all appreciated wine and some had cellars, but none was a wine snob. All were enthusiastic about learning&mdashand the opportunity for a unique experience. Indeed, I’ll never drink a glass of wine the same way.
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Day 1: Base Camp and Dinner in the Wine Cave
Home base: I drove 50 miles north from San Francisco to Sonoma Country Grape Camp’s base at the Applewood Inn and Restaurant, tucked off Highway 116 amid the redwoods outside Guerneville near the Russian River. The 1922 main house encouraged me to linger with its river-rock fireplace, cozy rooms, and pool and hot tub, but after an alfresco reception we boarded the camp bus.
Dinner: Thomas George Estates, a family-owned vineyard and winery producing small-lot wines, hosted dinner by chef Mark Stark in its tasting room and wine cave. Before dinner, we sampled pinot noirs from other small wineries including Arista, Gary Farrell, and Williams Selyem, and talked to staff and owners. Served by candlelight, the food was full of California flavors from ahi tuna tartare tacos to chocolate souffle with peanut butter mousse. As we headed back to the inn, we saw trucks and huge lamps setting up for night harvesting.
Day 2: Harvesting , Team Cooking, and Grape Stomp
Harvesting: Even an 8 am start couldn’t dampen enthusiasm for harvesting grapes (malbec) on a crisp, sunny morning at Windsor Oaks Vineyards & Winery. I pulled on a glove, learned how to use shears, and filled a bright yellow tub as I worked down a leafy row, cutting clusters of grapes and sampling sweet berries. Filling a 40-pound tub was satisfying, but I also appreciated the professionals who moved far more swiftly.
Team Cooking: In the pretty town of Healdsburg we cooked our lunch at the light-filled kitchen of Relish Culinary Adventures. We tackled piles of colorful local produce as cooks guided us to create tuna crudo with lemon aioli chicken with pomegranate glaze flatbread with figs, radicchio, and local cheese and more. Throughout, we sampled Sonoma wines from a rosé to a port&mdashand discussed how each worked with the food. Free time in Healdsburg (alas, too short!), with its charming shops and tasting rooms, completed our visit.
Grape Stomp: Described as a "winery resort," the Francis Ford Coppola Winery has a spectacular setting in the Alexander Valley. A contrast to more modest tasting setups, Coppola resembles a chateau and includes two restaurants, movie memorabilia, a popular swimming pool, and bocce courts. Our task was a little competitive grape stomping for fun: two people stood in individual barrels and crushed cabernet sauvignon grapes while people measured the juice that streamed out. Our reward? A leisurely dinner on a terrace overlooking vineyards and mountains: we watched the sun set (and the moon rise) as we talked, ate, and sipped.
Day 3: Harvesting, Tastings, and Blending
Harvesting: Back in the vineyard again, we cut plump cabernet sauvignon grapes at family-run Hanna Winery in the Alexander Valley with vineyardist Duff Bevill. After filling a half-ton bin with grapes, we were joined by Christine Hanna, who brought glasses to the vineyard so we could sample her cabernet sauvignon (delicious even at 9:30 am) and hear about her business and family.
Tastings: I found the settings of many smaller Sonoma wineries as appealing as their wines. At Quivira, we learned about sustainable and biodynamic farming practices, toured the garden, and tasted superb cheeses alongside their great sauvignon blancs and zinfandel. At nearby family-owned Lambert Bridge, the winemakers craft small lots of Bordeaux-style blends and varietals. We watched grape sorting and then savored the wines and wood-fired pizza during lunch in the garden.
Blending: A Pinot Noir blending competition in DeLoach Vineyards’ California-style outpost was our ultimate challenge. The charismatic Jean-Charles Boisset, president of a French family wine business and the owner of several California wineries, touched on terroir and sustainable farming. We learned about blending, and then teams of four tested their skill blending a French Burgundy and two of DeLoach’s pinot noirs. In a nod to marketing, teams also named their blends and created labels. For my team’s blend, called First Press, we sampled each wine, agreed to a test blend, and measured out a sample. Our first effort hit the spot, and we carefully filled our bottle and corked it. And yes, ahem, the judges named ours the best blend&mdashDeLoach Pinot was our prize.
How to Make the Most of Grape Camp
1. Sign up early. 25 is the maximum, and people were already booking for September 23-25, 2013. Around 300 wineries are open to the public in Sonoma, so each trip is different.
2. Opt in for the optional Celebration Dinner at the end of camp, for $125 or so. The Applewood Inn’s chefs designed a menu around Mauritson wines, and Mauritson family members provided commentary throughout.
3. Keep wine notes. The daily schedule is fast-paced, with no lingering. (Grape camp is not commercial so there’s no pressure to buy.) Write down your favorites some wineries had order forms, or you can order at home. The camp binder has detailed information about the wines, wineries, and winemakers.
4. Pace your sipping. During long days of tasting, use the dump and spit buckets, or let your glass sit full. Food offered at tastings helps you deal with the alcohol.
5. Ask questions. Friendliness and approachability were hallmarks of Sonoma winery staff, winemakers, and owners. No question was too simple or too wine-geeky.
6. Linger after camp and explore Sonoma. I walked in Armstrong Redwoods reserve and drove Highway 1 by the Pacific from Jenner toward Bodegea Bay. But you could visit nearby towns, go biking or ballooning, or… visit more wineries.
Happy Campers: Culinary Camps for Foodies
If you long for the carefree days of summer camp, minus the mess hall, your wait is over. Culinary camps are cropping up for food lovers looking for hands-on experiences that allow them to hone their skills during a weekend of fun. It's time to pack your bags for a camp experience that you'll surely remember.
When: October 11-14, 2013
What: Can't seem to master the perfect, flaky pie crust? Join creator of Art of the Pie, Kate McDermott, a.k.a. "The Pie Whisperer," for a hands-on weekend of making from-scratch pies using exquisite ingredients like just-picked Montana huckleberries. The backdrop for this fabulous weekend allows guests to explore various hiking trails, float down the Blackfoot River, or take in Montana's stunning "Big Sky" while riding horseback. "A totally unique experience for those who love to bake pie and for those who simply love to enjoy the taste of a freshly baked pie in one of the most beautiful places on earth," says McDermott.
Upper Crust Pie Camp The Resort at Paws Up, Greenough, MT October 11-14 Three-night all-inclusive package for two adults, $5,361
Join Kate for her Art of the Pie Aldermash Clinton, WA $975 per camper includes 3 nights shared accomodation, meals, and instruction
When: September 23-25, 2013
What: Have you dreamed of retiring and moving to wine country? Until that day comes, Sonoma Grape Camp can make you feel at home. This 3-day weekend takes oenophiles and wine enthusiasts behind the scenes for a hands-on experience. Campers get to pick grapes, prune vines, enjoy tasting workshops, sort the harvest, prepare the juice for the aging process, and a whole lot more. By the time the weekend's over, campers will have a deep understanding of how grapes go from vineyard to glass, and perhaps have the know-how to plan for their second career as a winemaker.
Sonoma Grape Camp Vintner's Inn, 4350 Barnes Rd., Santa Rosa, CA $2,000 per person, $3,700 per couple, includes hotel stay for three nights, all meals, tastings, and transportation
What: Do you want to become a barbecue pit master? Then head deep into the heart of Texas, where you will learn unique traditions, methods, and styles at Texas Foodways' annual Barbecue Camp. There you will join award-winning meat science professors from Texas A&M University, well-known pit masters, and regional barbecue authorities who will demonstrate cooking and butchery techniques as well as focus on the different types of meat, smoke, and spices used throughout the state and beyond. Outside of the classroom, attendees will tour legendary Martin&rsquos Place in Bryan, Texas, and get a dose of barbecue history.
Note: The 2013 summer session is sold out, but keep an eye out for 2014's Brisket Camp, which takes place in January and focuses on the quintessential smoked Texas meat.
Barbecue Summer Camp College Station, TX $550 per person includes all sessions, talks, and activities as well as lunch and dinner during the event
What: Join current and future food bloggers for this creative writers camp where campers sharpen their skills in writing, food photography, food styling, and recipe development, as well as learn valuable tips on how to make the most of their websites. Topics dicussed include: monetization, search engine optimization, working with corporations, marketing, public relations, product reviews, and hosting contests. You'll hear from those who have blazed the trail before you and get first-hand accounts of life in the wonderful world of food blogging!
Camp Blogaway Angelus Oaks, San Bernadino Mountains, CA $325 per person, includes 2 nights' lodging, all meals, workshops, materials, goodie bags, and valuable face-time with fellow bloggers and sponsors
What: Ladies who love their meat, listen up! If you're interested in learning more about the art of butchering and charcuterie, join Grrls Meat Camp® founder and teacher Kate Hill and Kari Underly for a 2-day master class for women only. There you will study beef and pork anatomy and refine your knife skills so you can develop a nose-to-tail butchery approach to your business. Some of the demos and sessions include: cutting sub-primals into modern cooking cuts and charcuterie cuts preparing confit or preserving in fat and understanding beef &mdash both grain and grass-fed.
A Grrls Meat Camp® Masterclass & Workshop for Women by Women Location TBA $875 includes 15 hours instruction, carcass costs, morning coffees, lunches and BBQ supper, copies of Kari Underly&rsquos The Art of Beef Cutting and Charcuterie-at-Camont workbook, a Wusthof boning knife, and apron, and all the charcuterie-to-go made in class.
What: Serious chefs can immerse themselves in a professional kitchen at one of the Culinary Institute of America's three campuses &mdash New York's bountiful Hudson Valley, California's stunning Napa Valley, or the Texan town of San Antonio. Students will be treated to an authentic culinary school experience and don a chef uniform complete with chef coat and pants, neckerchief, and paper hat. Experienced chef-instructors lead these short and intensive "boot camps," which run from 2 to 5 days. Campers can select from a range of sessions, including the Baking Bootcamp in St. Helena, CA, or the Flavors of the Hudson Valley, which focuses on the cornucopia of local foods that thrive in the region.
CIA Boot Camps Culinary Institute of America, various locations Costs range from class to class.
If you can't get your dough to rise, be on the lookout for The Institute of Domestic Technology's Bread Camp. This past spring they hosted the all-things-bread two-day workshop, during which campers explored wild yeast, hearth-baked loaves, whole-grain breads, pretzel making, cracker recipes, tortilla-making, and pizza dough. Breads were baked in an outdoor wood-fired bread oven and everyone received handouts and tips about where to source the best equipment, flour, and grains for baking after camp ended.
The institute also offers an array of workshops and events, including: Bacon Curing, Smoking and Infusing Krautfest Milk Crafting 101 and a Cheesemaking series.
Are you a professional barista looking to make friends and expand your coffee-making knowledge? Head to this industry gathering (formerly Camp Pull-a-Shot), where you can brush up on your barista skills while filling your brain with the history, fundamentals, art, and science of this classic beverage. Over the weekend you can sign up for hands-on classes and lectures that cover everything from cupping (a term for tasting coffees) to specialty equipment to how to become a pro at latte art. After you're sufficiently caffeinated, hit the road for the event's 5K run!
Barista Camp Lake Lawn Resort, 2400 E. Geneva St., Delavan, WI $759-$1,199 Registration includes lodging, meals, and access to all workshops and lectures
What: For the second year in a row, beer enthusiasts will gather for the Annual Black Fly Amateur Craft Beer Camp in Sagamore, New York. This 3-day extravaganza will kick off with a beer-pairing dinner aboard the W.W. Durant along the Adirondack's picturesque Raquette Lake. The weekend workshop will provide a history of beer led by Dr. Jonathan Post, owner, brewer, and Beer Diviner of the Bly Hollow Brewery in Cherry Plain, NY. Attendees will be joined by expert brewers who will discuss the rise of small-scale brewing, beer pairings, cooking with beer, and the world of beer flavors. Home brewers will have the opportunity to have their wares evaluated by experts in the industry. The weekend will culminate with an outdoor barbecue dinner and a classic summer camp tradition: a campfire.
Black Fly Craft Brewing Camp Great Camp Sagamore, Sagamore Rd., Raquette Lake, NY (315) 354-5311 $189 per person (Note: due to the nature of this event, participants must be at least 21 years old) includes a double-occupancy room for two nights, all meals and activities related to the weekend except for the Friday night Pairing Dinner cruise on Raquette Lake (additional $45)
Getting Your Hands Dirty in Sonoma
If you think immigration restrictions haven&rsquot tightened since 2001, you should ask the winegrowers of Sonoma &mdash finding workers has become so difficult that they&rsquore asking you to come pick the grape yourself!
Actually, that&rsquos not their motivation. It&rsquos education, with some entertainment to boot. At many wineries, the crush &mdash i.e. harvest time &mdash is so busy that tourists in the vineyards could become a nuisance after all, it&rsquos just a few weeks long, heavily dependent on the vagaries of the weather. The quality of the year&rsquos wines can hang on getting it all done as expeditiously as possible. However, it&rsquos also a picturesque and exciting time. Visit at other times and it can be about as thrilling as watching grass &mdash I mean grapes &mdash grow: the crusher&ndashdestemmer is dormant, the wines quietly aging in their barrels, the bottling line&hellipwell if you&rsquore lucky, maybe they&rsquoll be bottling something from a previous vintage.
However, Sonoma has the right balance of producers who are big enough to accommodate hands&ndashon visitors, but not so big that you&rsquoll feel like you&rsquove spent the day as a cog in the wheel of an assembly line. The Sonoma Grape Camp is designed to give you the experience of the harvest, and a feel for the work involved, without leaving you so exhausted that you can&rsquot enjoy some good food and some of the products of the vineyard in the evening.
Because it&rsquos organized by several different organizations, the Grape Camp can set its dates &mdash for 2007, it&rsquos taking place September 24&ndash26th &mdash and be confident that one of the participating growers is going to have some grapes ready for picking, so you can plan ahead I&rsquove been invited to a couple of harvests by small producers, and it&rsquos sometimes a matter of fly&ndashout&ndashearly&ndashand&ndashhang&ndasharound&ndashwaiting, or, &ldquoFly out this very minute or you&rsquoll miss it &mdash there are rains coming!&rdquo
Day one is really an arrival day, with a dinner to give you the energy for the harvest work the next morning. Days two and three have similar programs: a couple of hours of harvest work in the morning, followed by chances to experience the grapes as they are transformed throughout the winemaking process. For example, tasting the grapes themselves &mdash if you&rsquore used to traditional table grapes, tasting the winemaking varieties fresh off the vine can be revelatory, and makes it that much easier to see where all those complex flavors in a wine come from (I&rsquom particularly partial to Cabernet Sauvignon this way). You also taste juices from the various grapes and get a glimpse at later parts of the winemaking process by making your own red wine blend.
With all that work, there&rsquos plenty of good food to sustain you, contextualized by pairing seminars and a cheese&ndashmaking tour so you can see how wine&rsquos most famous accompaniment is made as well.
If you can&rsquot make it out to Sonoma in September, this year the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission is bringing some of the experience to New York City. The grapes, the juice, and the pairings will all make their way to the East Coast for events at Columbia University and the James Beard House in early October.
Sonoma County inspires great stories! Read on for some of the latest news on this unique wine region.
Agriculture’s First Climate Adaptation Pilot Program Completed By Sonoma County Winegrowers With Impressive Results
Results and Key Findings Will Be Focus of New Video Series Available to Public SANTA ROSA, Calif. (April 22, 2021) – Twenty growers from the [&hellip .
Earth Day Webinar
Apr 22, 2021 11:00 AM Pacific Time (Register Here) SANTA ROSA, California – April 8, 2021 – Whether you’re drinking red or white wine, we [&hellip .
Representative Mike Thompson Recognizes Karissa Kruse as 2020 Woman of the Year
Representative Mike Thompson (CA-05) announced Karissa Kruse as the 2020 Woman of the Year in Sonoma County. Each year, Thompson honors women from the Fifth [&hellip .
What’s Cooking in Sonoma (At Scribe Winery, a Lot, as It Turns Out)
In a rare quiet season at Scribe Winery, the Mariani family gathers to toast new babies, new wine, and new beginnings.
Blue sky peeks through the morning fog in Carneros and the kids are getting their hands dirty in the very best way. Una, age 4, and her cousin Oliver, age 2, pick radishes and strawberries from the culinary garden at Scribe, the Sonoma winery that has made a name for itself as the standard bearer of next-wave wine country vibes. Those vegetables plucked from the same soil that produces crisp Sylvaner and earthy Pinot Noir will play supporting roles in a languorous lunch in the vineyard—that is, if the kids don’t eat them first.
Over the years the children’s fathers, Andrew and Adam, the vintners, along with aunt Kelly, the chef, have transformed a neglected turkey farm into a thriving winery that’s now a must-stop for southern Sonoma daytrippers looking for a vinous respite from city. With its winding palm-lined drive, tumbling gardens designed by red-hot Los Angeles landscape design firm Terremoto, and a 1920s hacienda restored just so, Scribe is the sort of place begging to be socialized by young visitors. It also helps that the wine is exceedingly quaffable: that crisp Sylvaner, earthy Pinot Noir, and other single-vineyard bottlings draw folks to freewheeling tastings, inevitably capped off by a hang session on the lawn to watch the sun dip below the vines. It was the perfect spot to while away the day in wine country. Or at least it was before the pandemic.
Photo by Thomas J. Story floral design by Eugenia Ballvé
Not to be deterred, the Mariani family have taken advantage of the dormant days of the shifting lockdown to build new outdoor spaces and make new wines that embody the lawn parties put on hold: an effervescent pink pét-nat available in magnum, a white Pinot Noir, and a zippy and fresh rosé that has the nose of a Provençal classic. Today the family is making the most of their quarantine pod with a family lunch on a deck originally designed to accommodate Covid-safe outdoor dining. The latest lockdown prevented them from ever using it, so they removed the tent, and voilà, a perfect alfresco dining room for the family to gather on this late spring day and toast their blessings.
“We’ve spent the past year making wine and having babies,” says Andrew, the oldest of the siblings. He and his wife, singer-songwriter Lia Ices, welcomed a new baby in the pandemic, 4-month-old Alice, while Adam and his wife, Kezia, have 4-week-old Innes in tow as well as Oliver. The growing families are here to eat a feast prepared by Kelly, a former cook at Chez Panisse. On the menu today: trout poetically wrapped in pickled grape leaves, sesame flatbread, salad from the garden, eggs from their chickens, and lamb ribs roasted in the wood-burning oven. Or, as Kelly puts it: “So. Much. Food.”
The vegetables that show up across the dishes come from the on-site farm, overseen by Stephen Carter whose gorgeous chicories, tender greens, fresh strawberries, and more are the foundation for the garden snacks served to guests when lockdown isn’t in effect. Today music is on the menu, too. Lia has just released Family Album, her fourth record. It’s an exploration of motherhood, connecting with nature, and family bonds. They’ve dusted off the piano they use for events and rolled it out onto a deck up the hill should the mood strike.
The kids head into the chicken coop with their dads and gather eggs while Kelly gets to work in the winery’s new low-slung outdoor kitchen. It’s nestled into the hillside, all poured concrete, stacked stone, with an Argentine grill fueled by oak trees felled on the property. The same wood crackles and blazes in the outdoor pizza oven. Oliver drops an egg he pulled from the chicken coop and accidentally cracks it, but his quick-thinking dad pours it straight onto the oven’s hot stone floor and cooks it through, sprinkles it with flaky salt, and serves it to Oliver straight off the pizza peel. Kelly wraps the trout in grape leaves, stuffs them with herbs, and cooks them until they pick up the char of the leaves and the perfume of the herbs. In the wood oven, the lamb ribs sizzle and brown and the white beans simmer in cast-iron pans. Adam takes a tray of dough balls and cooks them one by one in the 800-degree oven.
And, of course, there’s wine. “We decided to put the pét-nat in magnums,” says Andrew. “It was our first time bottling in large format. Even if people can’t visit us they can bring the Scribe party home.” Until the guests can come back, the family keeps that party going, albeit in a more mellow fashion than in days past. “When we first started, we’d look at our guests and didn’t realize we were seeing ourselves,” says Andrew. “First it was young couples, then it was couples with dogs, and then it was couples with kids.”
Photo by Thomas J. Story floral design by Eugenia Ballvé
Lia plays and the Mariani family dances
As evening arrives, everybody heads up the hill to dance as the sun sets while Lia plays the title track from her new record, which pretty much sums up the day. “It’s immediate how immediate fades away,” the song goes. “Oh, there we are, wherever we are, family album.”
Exclusive: Thomas Rivers Brown Acquires Full Ownership of Sonoma Coast's Aston Estate
Thomas Rivers Brown, one of Napa's top winemakers, has finalized terms to become the sole owner of Aston Estate, a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir brand that he started in 2001 with vintner Fred Schrader, founder of Schrader Cellars, and Chuck Sweeney, co-founder of Vine Cliff. The acquisition price was not disclosed, but the sale includes the brand, inventory and 14 acres of prime coastal vineyard planted to Pinot Noir near Annapolis.
"I put 20 years into this brand and vineyard, and it seemed silly to lose it," Brown told Wine Spectator, admitting that the partners had been shopping the brand for a few months before he had an epiphany that he should be the one to carry on. "We lost the whole vintage in 2020 [due to smoke], but rather than having the brand disappear from customers' radar, I realized there was potential."
Brown was instrumental in establishing Aston, finding the coastal property in 2000, when few wineries were operating in the remote and rugged Annapolis region, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. He says both Schrader and Sweeney were keen to diversify their Napa-focused portfolios and pioneer a new area. But in the brand's 20-year existence, it was never properly promoted, Brown says.
Schrader parted ways with Aston after selling Schrader Cellars to Constellation in 2017. "That left a big hole, because they were our sales and marketing arm," said Brown. He adds that Sweeney was happy to slow down and sell his share to Brown.
Rather than incorporate the grapes into Brown's Rivers-Marie wines, something he says would increase volume by 67 percent, Brown wants to see what he can do with it as a standalone. "The brand has a lot of legs and potential, but it always seemed to be second fiddle to all of the partners’ other brands," he said.
The vineyard is planted exclusively to Dijon clones, which aren't Brown's preference, but he isn't planning to change anything right away. "If we were to re-plant, maybe I'd sprinkle in some Mt. Eden, Calera or Swan," he said. But he also believes that when Dijon clone vines get older, they tend to produce more exciting wines. He points to the Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard bottling as an example. "It's essentially the same make-up of Aston, but as it's gotten older, it's become more interesting due to vine age rather than clonal material."
The 1,500-case Aston brand wines will continue to be made in a contrasting style to that of Brown's Rivers-Marie wines, which he says is more a function of the terroir. "We talk about Annapolis as having a savage quality," he said. "Annapolis tends to yield a bigger, more structured style."
Despite a 3,000-person mailing list, Brown believes Aston has been underappreciated for too long. "It's essentially a 20-year-old brand no one has heard of," he said. He hopes a newly appointed national sales manager for Rivers-Marie will help spread awareness and position Aston where he believes it belongs: as one of the great California coastal Pinot Noirs.
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