Yesterday, we wrote about Napa Valley. Today, we’re sharing our favorite memories of 2011 from Sonoma County. There’s no way we tried everything possible there was to do/try/drink/taste/see in Sonoma County, but these were our most enjoyable attempts:
Best New Winery Discovery
Martorana Family Winery – We didn’t discover the wines here until 2011, although the winery was constructed in 2007 and Martorana Family Vineyards has been growing grapes in the Dry Creek Valley for over 25 years. The winemaker Gio Martorana also has an olive oil company (Olio di Gio) which makes a quality product as well. Wines here include Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are all well-made although our favorite is the Cabernet Sauvignon. Another great reason to visit here is the four-legged greeter, Sunny. 5956 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg (707) 433-1909
Best Established Winery
Merry Edwards Winery – Another stellar year of offerings from Merry Edwards in 2011, including a new Pinot Noir. We adore her Sauvignon Blanc, and appreciate the differences in her Pinot Noirs as she coaxes the flavor nuances from various terroirs and vineyards. We came, we tasted, we bought the usual suspects (Coopersmith, Flax, Klopp, Meredith, Olivet Lane, Russian River, and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs) and are excited about her new offering, the Georgeanne Pinot Noir. 2959 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol (707) 823-7466
Best Wine Club
Lynmar Estate – Between the great wine and friendly staff in the tasting room, the excellent Wine Club Gala (which had an African theme this year), and the dignified and relaxing tasting salon, this is a great wine club to join. In addition to their typically great Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, the Rose of Pinot Noir was especially tasty this year. 3909 Frei Road, Sebastopol (707) 829-3374
Best Food and Wine Event
A Wine and Food Affair – It seems as if the food, wine, and recipes all get better each year at this annual event, celebrating its 13th year in 2011. For food, the Pasta e Fagioli at Copain Wines, the Rigatoni Salsiccia at Hawley Winery, the Thyme-Braised Duck at Longboard Vineyards, and the Kurobuta Pork Belly at Malm Cellars were our favorite food offerings. Of the 105 wineries that participated, our favorite wines came from Copain Wines, Davis Family Vineyards, Kokomo Winery, Longboard Vineyards, Lynmar Estate, Mueller Winery, and Sonoma-Cutrer. Tickets for the 2012 event go on sale in September.
Best New Restaurant
El Molino Central – We’re suckers for excellent Mexican food and can heartily recommend either eating your food here or getting something to go. If you want to eat here, there is a small dining room in the back. Stone-ground tortillas are made fresh everyday and if you want great coffee, they serve Blue Bottle here. Chilaquiles in the morning and the Swiss Chard Enchiladas in the afternoon are worthwhile choices. 11 Central Avenue (corner of Highway 12), Boyes Hot Springs (707) 939-1010
Best Old Restaurant
Cyrus – It had been several years since our last trip to Cyrus and we were worried that it wouldn’t live up to our memory. Not a problem. We thoroughly enjoyed our return trip in 2011 with friends who were having their first dinner here. Incredible food, exquisitely prepared, and stellar service to match made it obvious why Michelin granted Cyrus two stars once again in 2011. 29 North Street, Healdsburg (707) 433-3311
Best Breakfast or Brunch
Hole In The Wall – This aptly-named restaurant is a challenge to find, hidden behind the Starbucks on 116 at the south end of Sebastopol, but the food is worth the search. Newly opened in 2011, you should definitely come here if you are a fan of Biscuits and Gravy (he also has a Mushroom Gravy for vegetarians). Just be prepared to wait for a table (this place is popular, especially on weekends) and/or to get your food after you order (the kitchen is pretty darn small). 972 Gravenstein Highway South (Highway 116), Suite 100, Sebastopol (707) 861-3777
Ozzie’s Grill – Talk about bad timing. We finally tried this local institution in early 2011 and liked it a lot, but then Blam! it closed in November. Time to try some other places people keep recommending that we haven’t been to yet (like Mike’s, Phyllis’, Julian’s, and Carmen’s).
Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar – Another restaurant where regardless of the other excellent choices, we almost always order the Margherita Pizza. Housemade tomato sauce, housemade mozzarella cheese, and basil on a delicious crust. What more do you need? Rosso has an impressive and reasonably priced wine list, including plenty of choices available by the glass. Something else we appreciate is that while the corkage is only $10, they donate part of that to a worthy cause. In this case, the money goes towards the Santa Rosa United Soccer C² Scholarship Fund – SRU is a non-profit organization focused on developing the health, soccer skills, and personal development of the boys and girls in Sonoma County. Creekside Center, 53 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa (707) 544-3221
Best Happy Hour
Stark’s Steak and Seafood – We did a progressive Happy Hour in 2011 in downtown Santa Rosa (quite walkable), and our favorite stop was at Stark’s. The hours are long (3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday), and the inexpensive food options are plentiful. Meatloaf Sliders and Truffle Fries are only $1.75 each, and Garlic Bread and Onion Rings are only $3.75 each. Although we didn’t order them, it seemed like everyone else at the bar had ordered the Crispy Calimari (also only $3.75). Drink specials tend to vary by the day, including the option of a $2 Beefeater Martini on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. 521 Adams Street, Santa Rosa (707) 546-5100
Those were our favorite memories of 2011 in Sonoma County. Looking forward to 2012.