Usually my email inbox fills up quickly with annoying emails that I don’t really care about. It feels like as soon as I unsubscribe, I get tons more. (I know that’s not really true, but it still feels like it!) I do have some lists that I appreciate, so when I got an email from one of our favorite wineries about the Food & Wine Affair in Sonoma County, I was intrigued. We decided to give it a try, so we headed up to Healdsburg for the weekend. It’s put on by Wine Road, which (according to their website) is “an association of wineries and lodgings in the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River valleys of Northern Sonoma County”. They seem to do several events a year, one of which is the barrel tasting in March (that I’ve done before and can be a lot of fun), and for the Food & Wine Affair, participating wineries would have some food available to pair with one of their wines. This combination definitely seemed like a winning event for us.
Our first stop was at Old World Winery where we picked up our bracelets and wine glasses for the weekend. As wine club members, we are quite familiar with the wines on offer. They do a more European style wine and several of them are aged for longer than the now current 2-4 years that seems to be the trend in most California wineries. They also had an amazing open faced empanada available to go with their wine. I was driving, so I tried to cut back a bit on the wine consumption (gotta be safe you know), but if you plan on not doing any imbibing, they offer a discounted price for drivers where you can enjoy the food without the wine. (I almost went this route, but then we decided to do driving in the morning and park in the afternoon, so it seemed like it would work out if I went for the full ticket).
Now, I’m not going to recount every location we went to because a) we went to quite a few and there are actually over a hundred wineries participating in this event and b) not every winery had amazing food and/or wine. As trying random wineries can be really hit or miss, we decided to check out the menu at each winery (as it was conveniently supplied in Google maps form on the website), and we would plan our route from there. Although sometimes the wineries did entice us with their menu, but the food sounded much better than it was prepared. One place was serving a risotto (which was a random one we went to right next to one serving a great wagyu beef chili from Mutt Lynch Winery) that was in a giant chafing dish so it basically became a mushy mess.
We did have some fantastic food though, and Wine Road is organized enough to supply all the recipes on their website, so there will definitely be a few of those that I will be looking into. Some of the better dishes (in case you want to check out the website and try them yourself) were the aforementioned wagyu beef chili, a meatball slider from Alexander Valley Winery, a fig and shallot tart from Lancaster Estate, blue cheeseburger sliders from Stuhlmuller Vineyards, and Diavola pork adobo from Locals Tasting Room. However, these wineries themselves weren’t that great, and in fact, Locals Tasting Room was serving corked wine! However, that pork was probably the absolute best dish of the weekend. It was from the restaurant next door (Diavola), so that is going on my list of places to eat a full meal!
Some places had some amazing wine, but did a poor job with the pairings. One of the more interesting wines was from Spicy Vines. Both the wines they had available to drink were really good, one of which was a spiced wine that had all those flavors of Christmas, but with a really great wine behind it as well. Sadly, they were pairing it with chocolate mousse, and when I get those spices, all I want is a nice mince pie (so we suggested it for next year).
Finally, there were a small number of places that managed to do a great job with the food and wine, including the empanadas from Old World Winery. We also had an amazing duck confit ravioli from Sanglier Cellars and some fantastic braised beef from GC Lurton Vineyard.
The weekend was a whole lot of fun, but be careful, the wine can get the better of you. There is a ton of food, and if you visit enough places, you will definitely be feeling full by the end of the day. I highly recommend it if you are food and wine lovers. For us, it was also a great way to explore Healdsburg, a city in Sonoma County we haven’t been to before. We’re definitely putting this event on the calendar for next year, and I’m sure we’ll try out a completely different area!