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Vine & dine

St. Francis Winery events captain Kelley Mingram pours wine at a winery food and wine paring.

Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 14, 2013 at 3:23 p.m.

Tasting wine in the North Bay will become even more delicious this year, thanks to a growing cadre of wineries adding substantial food programs.



Here are a few of the North Bay wineries that offer food-and-wine pairings, and their upcoming plans:
Charles Krug Winery, owned by the Peter Mondavi Family, broke ground in August for a new hospitality center located inside the historic 1873 Redwood Cellar. The $6 million center, expected to be completed by October, will include an open kitchen, casual eatery offering picnic fare inspired by the family's Italian heritage, and a picnic area with views of the vineyards. During construction, workers found charred timbers believed to be remnants of the original 1861 winery, which burned down. 2800 Main St., St. Helena.
Kendall-Jackson Wine Center in Santa Rosa: Starting in March, the center will open its new, 2,200-square-foot kitchen and expand its menu of food-and-wine pairings, adding a vegetable pairing to the Reserve Wine & Food Pairing, Wine & Cheese Pairing and Wine & Dessert Pairing. Also in March, the winery will open a new eatery/tasting room just off the Healdsburg Plaza that will offer small bites, formal food-and-wine pairings, chocolate truffles and dessert wines, plus espresso and a selection of WholeVine culinary products. 5007 Fulton Road in Santa Rosa and 241 Healdsburg Ave. in Healdsburg.
Lynmar Estate in Sebastopol: Estate chef David Frakes offers a cheese plate from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily ($20). Starting April 17, he will ramp up the food program with a new Afternoon Tapas pairing from 2-4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, with reservations recommended. Starting May 18, the chef will bring back the Picnic Pairing Lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. 3909 Frei Road.
Mayo Family Winery Reserve Room in Kenwood: The Reserve Room serves a seven-course pairing menu with seven wines from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Chef J. Clayton Lewis changes the menu seasonally. Reservations are recommended. 9200 Sonoma Highway.
Seghesio Family Vineyards in Healdsburg: At Family Tables, you can taste seasonal Seghesio Family recipes with limited release wines from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday. $50. Reservations required. 433-3579. 700 Grove St.
Simi Winery in Healdsburg: Executive chef Kolin Vazzoler will serve lunch and snack items at the Visitor Center from June through September, with guests welcome to dine at one of the winery's picnic areas or on the Tasting Room Terrace. 16275 Healdsburg Ave.
St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa: Executive chef David Bush offers a Charcuterie pairing daily. Guests may also reserve a seat at his five-course, Wine & Food Pairing at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday and Monday and 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday ($42). By appointment, parties of 8 to 16 people may reserve a seven-course “Wine Dining” tasting journey featuring larger plates paired with seven wines. ($135). 500 N. Pythian Road.
VJB Vineyards & Cellars in Kenwood: This complex reminiscent of a piazza in Italy includes a tasting room adjacent to a marketplace; a deli open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily serving cheeses and salumi, antipasti and panini; an outdoor pizza and demonstration kitchen; a gelateria and chocolate bar; plus a new, pasta-making facility extruding fresh, dried pasta, packaged onsite. Starting Jan. 25, the Red Rooster Kitchen will stay open until 7 p.m. on Friday nights, serving pizza, ribs, chicken and Italian sausage sandwiches. You can also can bring in your wine jug and fill it up with red table wine. 60 Shaw Ave.

Wineries from Sonoma to Napa are building or renovating kitchens, planting edible gardens and expanding food-and-wine pairings in an effort to keep guests happy.

“It's a natural way to experience Wine Country,” said Estate Manager Stephen Pirak of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates in Santa Rosa. “It's how most folks enjoy wine, with a bit of food, sitting down at a table. It's more immersive.”

An ever-expanding array of food-and-wine programs allows winery chefs not only to showcase their wines but also to tide guests over until their next meal.

“It enhances the whole experience of being outdoors and experiencing Sonoma County,” said Aniseya Fritz, owner of Lynmar Winery in Sebastopol. “In our neighborhood, there aren't a lot of eating establishments.”

Not quite restaurants and not quite tasting rooms, the pairing programs often cater to guests who may not sit down every night with a bottle of wine and are looking for education.

“People at Kendall-Jackson sit down and do the wine and food pairing, and they realize, 'Wow, it's really fun when you have the two together,'” said executive chef Justin Wangler. “We want people to join in and to join food and wine together.”

Starting last May, the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center in Santa Rosa started an extensive renovation and construction project, adding a new, state-of-the art kitchen and expanding its dining areas indoors and out. The kitchen, which is expected to open in March, boasts a large, swinging window so that people in the banquet room can watch the action.

“It's probably one of the nicest kitchens in Sonoma County,” Wangler said. “It's not huge, but the amount of sheer cooking equipment is unbelievable.”

Once the kitchen is open, Wangler and his culinary team will expand the tasting menu, adding a vegetable pairing to the regular food-and-wine pairing.

Also in March, Kendall-Jackson will open a new eatery/tasting room in the remodeled space formerly occupied by Shimo Restaurant, in downtown Healdsburg that will feature foods paired with wines.

“If you're in Healdsburg, and you have some time to kill before dinner, you can have a sip of wine,” Wangler said. “You can sit down, taste it with the food, and relax.”

The Healdsburg space will also boast an espresso machine, so you can stop by after dinner for a chocolate truffle, an espresso or a dessert wine.

At St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa, executive chef David Bush has been busy building up the wine-and-food pairings since he arrived five years ago.

“It went from four things on one plate to two different plates,” he said. “Now I'm up to seven courses.”

For the winery's Private Estate Dinners, parties of 8 to 16 can make an appointment for a seven-course culinary journey served in the winery's private dining room.

“It is a tasting menu, because that's what I'm trying to do,” Bush said. “I come from restaurants.”

On Friday through Monday, the winery also offers a series of five-course wine & food pairings that change seasonally, depending on what's growing in the winery's new garden.

“When things are really coming in from the garden, I have to use them,” he said. “It's a really great start for us, and it's further developing what I can offer as far as a food and Sonoma County experience.”

Just down the road at the newly opened VJB Vineyards & Cellars in Kenwood, the Belmonte family continues to expand its take on Wine Country cuisine. Along with a deli, marketplace, tasting room and gelateria, VJB will start making its own pasta next month, which will be packaged and sold onsite.

Meanwhile, the winery will launch a new Pizza and Jug Night from 4 to 7 p.m. Fridays starting Jan. 25.

“We invite people to come down and fill up their jug with our family blend,” said Lindsay Evans, VJB Cellars director of marketing. “Our Red Rooster Kitchen is staying open late, making pizza. You can enjoy it here, or take it home.”

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or

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