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Food, Wine & Friends Page 157

 

AMY FITZPATRICK'S
WEEKEND BIRTHDAY BACCHANAL
January 2009

We made our way to the Napa Valley one Saturday morning to celebrate the birthday of Amy Fitzpatrick.



We headed to St. Helena for a celebratory lunch at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen.

1327 Railroad Avenue
St. Helena
707-963-1200


The Birthday Girl


The wood-fired oven off in the corner...



We were seated immediately and I ordered a bottle of bubbly...

Our server was even more bubbly than the Domaine Carneros Brut.

The food was wonderful!

Smoked trout with Salmon Tartare.


The "Backstreet Fry" featured calamari, red onions, fennel and okra.
The Trefethen Riesling was delightful with this...dry and crisp, mildly floral and with a classic petrol-like note on the nose.


Amy and Pierre

Several of us order the Duck Burger with frites...

And we plunged a bottle of Summers' Charbono into an ice bucket to pair with the burger...a great combination!


Aviva had Rigatoni pasta with wild mushrooms and Pecorino Sardo cheese.

It's remarkable how happy parents can be when they have a few moments away from their children.

Aviva ordered the Coconut Sorbet.



We had a terrific meal at Cindy's and would highly recommend it if you're looking for a casual California/Napa dining experience.
The wine list has many sensibly-priced offerings, too.

Back in the car, we drove south on the Saint Helena Highway.


This place sure has changed...


Tom Walsh poured some tastes of the 2004 Silver Oak Alexander Valley bottling of Cabernet.


John Gilliam showed us around...



Jesper and Aviva.


You can't make Silver Oak Cabernet without barrels...

They had a lot of "Silver Ware" on the wall...



We then motored south to the "Salon" of Patz & Hall.


It's tucked away, hidden in an industrial park...

They have a "tasting bar."

If you make a reservation, Patz & Hall offers a lovely formal tasting.


Winemaker James Hall told us about the various wines we tasted.

We enjoyed a flight of 2007 Chardonnays and a couple of 2007 Pinots along with their 2006 Pisoni Pinot Noir.

Pierre enjoyed comparing the various wines.

There's a photo gallery of the top grower's for the various Patz & Hall wines.

Winemaker & Eno-Philosopher James Hall.

Night was falling and so were stock prices, so we made our way to the town of Sonoma, spending the night at the Sonoma Valley Inn.

Moments after checking in, Jesper was immersed in a cauldron of fermenting Chardonnay.

He was soon joined by Pierre.

Amy and I ambled over to the town square to find a beer.



Amy was right at home...

Jesper, Aviva and Pierre soon followed...

Aviva, too, ordered a brewski.

We then ambled towards our dining spot for the evening, but not before the ladies did a bit of window shopping.

We were returning to a previous "crime scene", reserving a Saturday table at Sonoma's exceptional "The Girl and The Fig" restaurant.

110 West Spain Street
Sonoma
707-938-3634

We immediately ordered a bottle of Cremant de Limoux.

We ordered some Matchstick Frites to nibble on with the bubbly...

A bottle of Qupé's 2007 Marsanne was mildly fruity and rather buttery in character.
It was a nice match for my Salt Cod Croquettes.

Pierre began with Steak Tartare.


Amy's "Salad of the Season" featured watermelon radishes and pickled red onions.

I brought a bottle of Jean-Michel Gerin's 2004 Côte Rôtie from the La Landonne cru.  This was a spectacular wine by any measure.

Amy ordered the Butternut Squash Risotto Cake.

Aviva ordered a trout main course.

It's currently fashionable to smother the main course under a compost pile, apparently.


Roasted Sonoma County Chicken.
(Don't ask me what appellation in Sonoma...it may have been a Sonoma Coast bird or a Russian River hen...maybe it was from the Alexander Valley?)

Jesper ordered the Wild Boar Ragout with Polenta.


Jesper and Amy.


Happily, our hotel was within easy walking/stumbling distance of the restaurant.

This was a wonderful meal and the service was exceptional.

Back at the hotel we had a nice little birthday cake...


The Seppelt Port was nice, too.


I have no idea how I managed to take this picture!

The next morning we awoke bright and early...

We hoofed it over to the Basque Boulangerie Cafe...

 

We then drove up into the Sonoma Valley to Wellington Vineyards.

Owner and winemaker Peter Wellington showed us around the cellar.



We tasted a range of Wellington wines, including a very fine Roussanne and a teeth-staining Alicante Bouschet called "Noir de Noirs."


A "Best Case" Scenario...



Peter suggested we pay a visit to his next door neighbor, Loxton.


Mr. Loxton used to be a cellar rat at Wellington's winery.

We we warmly greeted by the Loxton Welcoming Committee...

And we tasted some lovely wines, particularly Loxton's Sonoma Valley Syrah.

A Team Loxton memb er was busy performing a battonage as well as topping the barrels of Chardonnay.

After our tasting, Jesper caught some rays...


Aviva was still evaluating Loxton's wine.

We jumped back into the chariot for our next tasting...

On Sundays, all sorts of folks go wine tasting...

Unlike the first two places we'd stopped, you'd be hard-pressed to figure out this was a "wine tasting" facility given all the stuff they try to sell.

Our friend Ron Washbag says:
When I go into a tasting room and it looks like a gift shop I automatically leave. If I want Spencer's Gifts I'll go to Spencer's Gifts. Darioush is the worst. They have all kinds of expensive jewelry. Hell, they ought to sell toupees. I love a good Persian rug.

We went over to their "other" tasting facility...the "Reserve" room.

It's ten bucks for a flight of wines in the regular St. Jean sales room.  It's $15 in the reserve room.

A personable young feller named Matt provided all sorts of educational information about wines in general and Chateau St. Jean in particular.

Especially good was the 2006 Fumé Blanc from their La Petite Etoile vineyard.

After tasting, Aviva and Jesper went to try their skills at Bocce ball.

Having built up an appetite we motored out to Highway 12 and just south of St. Jean.

9047 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood
707-833-2690

This is a place suggested many years ago by our dear friend Professor Doug Brown.

It's a busy little spot and rather informal.


The menu is scrawled on those numerous boards, so first-timers will find their visit to start a bit chaotically.
You actually go up to the counter and place your order with a staffer and then scramble to find an open table.

The place is slightly more formal than a deli, but the quality of the food that arrives is rather astounding.

Minestrone soup.

Their Caesar salad is perfect for garlic lovers!

Homemade raviolis met with rave reviews from both parties who ordered it.


Lasagna.

Jesper ordered a Pizza con Funghi.

In honor of Professor Brown, I ordered the Fusili "AOP" (Aglio, Olio e Pancetta).

The wine list is very limited and reaches the heights of a "deli," but our bottle of Villa Claudia Chianti from the 2007 vintage was served at the perfect 'cellar' temperature and in stemware ideal for such an informal Sunday lunch.
I was impressed by the balance of flavors in this simple pasta dish.  The pasta, by the way, was perfectly cooked. A dusting of peperoncino powder gave this a real 'kick'.

Several people ordered dessert.

Cannoli.


Happy Birthday Cheesecake.

We got in the car and motored back to the Bay Area,


The folks in the back seat were already dreaming of another weekend get-away!

 


And so we concluded a marvelous 31 hours of Amy's Birthday Celebration!

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