Part Two – Wine and Dine

June 19

Jaxon Keys, Mendocino

A small boutique winery that makes roughly 200 cases of each wine and that is all. The owner, Ken Wilson, was born and raised in Ontario. He  bought the property as it reminded him of the farms of his grandfathers’ here in Canada. The winery is named after them, Jack Wilson and Cecil Keys.

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The lovely lady who was working gave me a free tasting of four wines.

  • A rosé made from a blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes – wonderfully balanced. Acidity levels were high enough to cleanse the palate, but yet a sweetness from the overripe grapes came through with notes of strawberries, and orange zest on the tongue.
  • Chardonnay aged in French oak, with all the characteristics of a Californian Chardonnay. Ripe sweet fruit, butter as well as butterscotch flavours from the oak – very enjoyable.
  • A Grenache – similar to a Grenache from Spain, dry with notes of strawberries and subtle raspberry. Yet it had flavours of clay and vanilla from aging in the oak barrels.
  • A Petit Syrah – bold and full of dark berry flavours including black berries and a jammy texture from the cooked berries.

I left this winery with a bottle of the rose and the Petit Syrah and wonderful memories of the beauty of this small lot vineyard.

Boyes Hot Springs

I drove to the inn I had booked in Boyes Hot Springs in the Sonoma Valley AVA of Sonoma. This was the heart of wine country – every intersection was the end of one winery’s property and the start of the next – with entrances every 3 miles or less. I planned my winery visits for the next day.

The inn, Sonoma Creek Inn, was a lovely little place. A five-minute walk up the road was the Fairmont hotel and a fine dining restaurant inside called Sante. I brought my notebook to the restaurant and when I asked for a table for one, notebook in hand, I believe they thought I was a food critic. I was treated very well!

I started the dining experience with a cocktail – the  salted punch, a tequila-based cocktail with agave nectar, papaya juice and guava nectar, garnished with a lime and cucumber wheel. It was salty but the fruit flavours balanced that with sweetness. The tequila added another layer of complexity.

I debated trying the tasting menu,  a 12-course meal with wine pairings for each but common sense prevailed. I decided on a filet mignon and asked for the sommelier to assist me in picking a glass of wine. He recommended a glass of Stone Edge Farm 2012 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon. Every sip brought new flavours. The wine was balanced, velvety smooth with amazing cherry notes and slight vanilla hints from old French oak.

The server offered me a free dish as an appetizer – a simple but elegant small shot glass of a chilled cucumber soup, topped with fresh olive oil with a cucumber cup next to it stuffed with a crab and lobster filling.

Next, a selection of five different types of fresh bread and a butter platter (unsalted butter made in Sonoma, fleur de sel and a French imported salted butter). Another free surprise, a sweet pea risotto served on a mushroom foam and two thinly sliced black truffles on top. Every bite made me melt inside….

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Finally, the entrée. The meat was topped with a berry compote and served with fresh seasonal vegetables and pureed garlic mashed potato with onion crisps on top. The wine accented the berry flavours on the meat, and added flavour to the mouthfuls of potato and vegetables.

One cannot pass on dessert after a meal like this… so I ordered a dessert that had a variety on the plate, which was called strawberries three ways.

On the bottom of the plate was a strawberry dust. The three offerings were 1) a homemade strawberry cheesecake where the cake itself was pink and tasted of strawberry with a deconstructed strawberry on top, 2) a Neapolitan style wafer cookie with local Sonoma strawberries in the layers and 3) a homemade strawberry ice cream with a hard candy underneath it.

Thus concluded the third day of my trip.

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