Following a welcome dinner of homemade pizza, fresh salad and vegetables the night before, the first full day of Sip, Bite & Blog wrapped up next to a pool as the culinary team presented us with four courses of food, including oysters, mushrooms, goat cheese, fresh produce and a variety of grape seed oils – not to mention the wine, of course.
The day started off hot but clear in Sonoma. We traveled to Alexander Valley to catch Harvest in action and were lucky enough to see grapes being delivered to the winery. After a tour of the facility, and a stop in the barrel room, the group headed up to Alexander Mountain Estate with Winemaster Randy Ullom, Vineyard Manager Tony Viramontes and winemakers Matt Smith and Mark Theis.
We saw grapes being harvested off the vines, which many people don’t often see. Tony and Randy provided the color commentary from the SUVs around the estate while Mark and Matt used a particularly scenic background to talk about the wines that are made on the mountain while we drank them.
After a boxed lunch on the Mountain it was off to Bennett Valley to for a wine education class. Director of Wine Education Gilian Handleman and the omnipresent winemaker Matt Smith broke down how wine works with ingredients. The duo talked about the experience of pairing wine with food, encouraging all of us to try a bite of, say, fig or granny smith apple with a sip of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc.
A tour of Jackson Park Ranch followed, with vineyard manager Brian Malone explaining the different microclimates in the one vineyard, which happened to coincide with a 15 degree drop in temperature. And viewing this property wouldn’t be complete with a look at the planned truffle forest planted on the property. Malone’s pet project – envisioned by Jess Jackson – involves hazelnut and oak trees with the hopes of truffles in the near future.
(OK, so those are grapes and not truffles or hazelnut trees, but we couldn’t help but use the photo because we like it so much. Can you blame us?)
Finally Sip, Bite & Blog slowed down for the evening, joining with local Sonoma County purveyors for an evening of great local food. Liberty Ducks, Gourmet Mushrooms, Drake’s Bay Oysters, Whole Vine and Redwood Hill Farm Cheese joined the Kendall-Jackson culinary team for a four-course meal not to be missed.
And just think: there’s a whole day planned for tomorrow that includes Ruth Reichl.