Aftermath of Wildfires

Photo credit: Sonoma Ecology Center

By Kristie Sheppard

Although it’s been just four months since the fires, Sonoma County is beginning to recover. Overall, the wildfire killed 24 people and destroyed more than 7,000 homes and businesses. The blaze wiped out entire neighborhoods such as Fountain Grove and Coffey Park as well as businesses such as Willi’s Wine Bar and Paradise Ridge Winery.

As devastating and dramatic as the initial effects on wine country, the long-term impacts are just beginning. The availability of housing and high rents has always been a problem in northern California, but now with even fewer homes available, competition for housing is severe. Rebuilding homes will not be a quick process. Once a property is cleared for demolition, property owners still need to wait for insurance and then figure out how to rebuild. It will be years before homes are rebuilt and inhabitable.

With so many areas in the county under evacuation orders, businesses closed for up to three weeks during October, usually the busiest time of year for tourism to wine country. Hotels and restaurants are traditionally at full capacity during autumn, but this year was very different. Tasting rooms were empty, the best tables were available at restaurants that were open and hotel rooms were filled with evacuees.

The entire effect on the wine industry will remain unknown for years. A few wineries lost structures, tasting rooms and vineyards such as Paradise Ridge Winery and Korbin Kameron. Vineyard owners throughout the county in American Viticulture Areas such as Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma Valley, Bennett Valley, Carneros, Fountain Grove and Moon Mountain, lost vines to the fires. Those vines that did not burn are susceptible to smoke taint. Long-term damage from smoke on the vines will not be seen for years until the vintners produce wine from those grapes. Winemakers and consumers will just have to wait and see.

Sonoma County has experienced devastation before, and as always, has come together to rebuild by helping those who have lost their homes, businesses and loved ones. Countless people have donated to short- and long-term relief funds, residents have opened their homes to evacuees and organizations have banded together to provide food, clothes, shelter and essentials to those who need it most. Although the wildfire’s impact remains, the positive outcome of this tragedy is knowing the community’s generosity and kindness continues as well.

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How’s a girl to choose, when in Sonoma?

By: Maria Dontas

Wedding planning may be stressful, but having a wine country wedding makes it all worth it. From idyllic landscapes to world-class chefs, your wedding will be nothing short of storybook thanks to all Sonoma offers. A summertime wedding can start later in the day when temperatures have dropped to comfortable levels, and this means you’ll probably get to enjoy a gorgeous sunset with your guests.

A wedding in September, October or November opens up harvest parties for your traveling guests, as the area typically brims with activities this time of year, not to mention the breathtaking foliage.

Now, if you’re the adventurous type, you might want to capitalize on better pricing and have your wedding in the winter, knowing that you might run into some interesting weather conditions. Nevertheless, there’s something special about a wedding in Sonoma no matter the season.

We’ve handpicked a few of our favorite venues, caterers and boutiques to help you get the planning process started.

Venues

Photo credit: Vintners Inn

Vintners Inn, 4350 Barnes Road, Santa Rosa, Phone: 1-800-421-2584

Nestled on 92 acres of vineyards, Vintners Inn embodies the meaning of wine country romance. From the 35-foot bell tower entrance complete with a flowing fountain, to terracotta walkways and luscious gardens, the Vintners Inn’s Event Center makes for a stunning wedding backdrop. The venue’s award-winning cuisine has brides raving and will have your guests reminiscing for years to come. Choose from several indoor and outdoor options for both the ceremony and reception, with room to host anywhere from 40 to 400 guests. Plus, some rooms even feature special amenities like black out blinds and motorized drop-down screens to satisfy a range of specific needs.

 

Flying Cloud Farm, 1200 Jacobsen Lane, Petaluma, Phone: 707-765-4433

First and foremost, Flying Cloud Farm is home to a first-class equestrian center. The farm

Photo credit: Flying Cloud Farm via Ken Viale Photography

boards horses year-round, and it’s not uncommon to see renowned horse trainers on the premises. Now take this horse farm tucked away on a country road and add a little wine country flair and you get one of the most enchanting places to get married in Sonoma.

The indoor reception hall is elegant and romantic, while the garden reception area will take your breath away with stunning views and enchanting landscaping. Enjoy a stress-free day from start to finish as all wedding packages come complete with a day-of coordinator.

Caterers

Photo credit: Amiee D’maris Events

Amiee D’maris Events, Saunders Drive, Sonoma, Phone: 415-678-9068

Amiee D’maris Events started back in 2013 with a vision to deliver authenticity, courtesy and customer satisfaction. Two passionate bay area chefs, who happen to be husband and wife, put their heads together to launch a new venture after closing the doors to their first business. Now, Amiee D’maris Events is a detail-oriented, full-service catering company infusing every event with creativity, intimacy and charm.

 

Preferred Sonoma Caterers, 416 East D Street, Petaluma California, (707) 769-7208

Located in mid-town Petaluma, Preferred Sonoma Caterers is another husband and wife duo well-known to the catering scene in Sonoma. Owner and chef Amber Balshaw and her husband, Jim, have been in business for over 25 years and have experience catering events from 30 to 1500 guests. Amber cooked for three U.S. presidents, numerous dignitaries and several celebrities before starting Preferred Sonoma Caterers, so you’re in good hands. Every effort is taken to work with local producers and farmers in crafting a menu completely unique to your event, so you’re getting the freshest and best available.

Boutiques

Bliss Bridal & Black Tie, 145 Petaluma Boulevard North, Petaluma, Phone: 707-769-8893

So you have the bride and groom, maybe the venue and perhaps even the caterer, but what about the dress and tux? Bliss Bridal & Black Tie, out of Petaluma, have made the formal wear part of the whole getting married experience as seamless as possible. Enjoy a knowledgeable and pleasant staff and a huge variety of tuxedos and gowns. Plus, the boutique features a full variety of accessories including veils, tiaras, shoes and jewelry. You don’t need a reservation, but it is recommended, and they’re even open on Sundays.

Starlet Bridal, 730 Village Court, Santa Rosa

Located in Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village shopping center, Starlet Bridal boasts over 4,000 square feet of everything bridal. From the gown to the veil, you’re sure to find your dream dress among the hundreds of styles available. Make sure to make an appointment and then prepare to be pampered with sparkling wine and sweet treats as the attentive staff helps you narrow in on your favorite styles. There’s a healthy selection of tuxedos, too, so complete your bridal party with fashion forward looks for the groom and groomsmen.

Determine your budget and consider the pros and cons of indoor vs. outdoor, warm weather vs. cooler weather, and casual vs. formal. No matter your decision, a wedding in Sonoma is sure to set itself apart!

Did you have a destination wedding in Sonoma? If you’ve got a favorite venue, caterer or boutique that wasn’t listed, comment below!

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The Thrill of it All: A Guide to Spectacular Adventure in Sonoma

Photo by @norcalskydiving

By: Cari Ashkin

Thrill-seekers, risk-takers, daredevils and adventurers. No matter your naming preference, it all means one thing — you enjoy the rush from taking part in extreme activities. Lucky for you, Sonoma offers plenty of opportunities for heart-pounding excitement.

Photo by @norcalskydiving

Skydive

A skydiving adventure awaits in the heart of wine country at NorCal Skydiving in Cloverdale. Take in the views of this beautiful region while experiencing the thrill of free falling from more than two miles up in the hands of an expert, certified instructor. If the rush leaves you wanting more, you’re in luck. You can get 50 percent off a second jump if you book within the next 24 hours after completing your first tandem jump. Visit NorCal Skydiving’s website to book your adventure.

 Zip Line

Soar through the redwoods at high speeds — day or night with Sonoma Canopy Tours. Choose from their three packages for an experience unlike any other.

  • Tree Tops Flight

Fitted in a securely designed harness, reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour on the fastest, highest and longest zips. Other elements of the course allow you to savor breathtaking views of the majestic redwood forest at a more leisurely pace.

Photo by @sonomacanopytours

  • Forest Flight

Experience seven zip lines, speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, hand braking, sky bridges and a rappel as you take in the views of the redwoods at 200 feet above the ground. Combine that with an enjoyable educational experience from a great guide, and you’ll be signing up for your next round sooner than you think.

  • Sunset/Night Flights

What possibly could make the Forest Flight Course more enjoyable? Taking it at sunset or night. Zip quietly through the forest and take in the view of the night sky, moon and stars from treetop platforms.

 

Hot Air Balloon Ride

While hot air ballooning may not seem as intense as the other adventures on this list, the faint of heart would disagree. Experience a bird’s-eye view of wine country’s idyllic landscape from the basket of a hot air balloon as it floats over the rolling hills, mountain peaks, vineyards and ocean views.

Check out these four Sonoma County balloon companies to find the experience right for you.

 

Biplane Flight

Photo by @VintageAircraftCompany

Strap on a flying helmet, climb up the wing and hop into the front seat of a 1942 open cockpit biplane. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing scenic flight or an aerobatic adventure, Vintage Aircraft Company has it all.

Take in the breathtaking views of Sonoma Valley during a 20-minute Scenic Flight tour or extend the trip to a 40-minute Explorer Flight in the direction of your choice — over wine country, above the rolling hills and pastures to the Pacific Ocean or towards San Francisco. Looking to up the ante? Add aerobatic maneuvers to your Scenic or Explorer flights to experience the thrill of being pulled up into loops, barrel rolls and beyond.

 

Tweet us at @somethingaboutsonoma with your experience participating in these activities, or share additional opportunities not included on our list.

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Fine Dining, Whale Watching and Wine Make Sonoma a Winter Wonderland

By Kelly Holmes

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. Whether you are interested in exploring the tastes or the sights, Sonoma offers something for everyone all year long – even in February.  

Sonoma quiets down a bit in winter after the busy harvest season. Fewer tourists mean more opportunities for behind-the-scenes winery tours and snagging those hard-to-score dinner reservations. With more free time in the winter months, you may discover your tasting room attendant is also the winemaker. Visit local favorites like MacLaren Wines, Mounts Family Winery or Winery Sixteen 600. Winter is the time of year to make reservations at the Michelin-rated restaurant you’ve always wanted to try and indulge in some seasonal comfort food. Savor the culinary expertise at restaurants like Single Thread Farms, Madrona Manor and Valette.

Although the temperature may be cool and a bit rainy, it’s still a great time to enjoy the outdoors. Hop in the car and head to one of the Bodega Bay overlooks to see the gray whales migrating from the Chukchi Sea between Siberia and Alaska to Baja by way of Sonoma’s coastline. Try the ocean overlook at Bodega Head for one of the best vantage points. If you enjoy hiking, get out and explore the more than 13,000 acres of parks and trails. Visit one of the many regional parks – Jack London State Park, Sonoma Valley Regional Park, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park or check out the pygmy forest in Salt Point State Park.

For some good family fun, visit the Cloverdale Citrus Fair from Feb. 16-19. With horses, tractors, floats, marching bands and the pageant queen contest, families have enjoyed the fair every winter since 1924. Follow the parade on Feb. 17 from the intersection of Third Street and Cloverdale Boulevard, down Cloverdale Boulevard to the Fairgrounds. 

If spending time outdoors in the winter isn’t your thing, visit Russian River Brewery’s taproom in downtown Santa Rosa for the release of Pliny the Younger. This highly sought-after beer is only available for two weeks in February and beer enthusiast’s eager to taste the 10.25 percent freshly tapped brew wait in line for up to 12 hours. Only available on draft and never in a bottle, enthusiasts can find this beer at Russian River Brewery’s taproom and a few other limited locations.

While the beer is available for a limited time, Sonoma always has fun activities on tap.

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The Sonoma Valley “must do” list for 2018

Photo credit: Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival

By: Shawn Nesaw

If one of your New Year’s goals is to visit Sonoma, then this list of “must do’s” is for you. Call your travel agent, book your flights and mark your calendars for these quintessential Sonoma events.

Barrel Tasting Weekend

March 2-4 and March 9-11, 2018

https://www.somethingaboutsonoma.com/events/2018-annual-barrel-tasting-two-weekends

Over 100 wineries gather around Wine Road in Northern Sonoma County the first two weekends in March for a straight-from-the-barrel tasting experience. Enjoy opportunities to not only taste wines “of the future” but to speak with the winemakers and explore the region.

Attendees can even purchase features of their favorite wines that day before returning 12-18 months later for the bottled product. Some wines are very limited, buying futures is a great way to ensure you have first pick.

“Participating wineries include SIMI Winery, Clos du Bois Winery and Alexander Valley Vineyards, among others. A full list of participants can be found in the above link. Registration information can be found at the above link, with more details added in the coming weeks.

 

Sonoma International Film Festival

March 21-25, 2018

https://www.somethingaboutsonoma.com/events/2018-sonoma-international-film-festival

The 21st annual event returns to Sonoma and promises fun for all ages. International cinemas, documentaries, features and short films aim to inspire the independent filmmaking community while providing academic and cultural enrichment for young students in Sonoma Valley. 

Over 90 different films were showcased during the 2017 event and this year’s rendition around the Sonoma Plaza also features food and wine.

Since 2002, the Sonoma International Film Festival has raised over $200,000 for youth education in Sonoma. Volunteers and donations are welcomed and encouraged.

 

Signature Sonoma Valley

April 6-8, 2018

https://www.somethingaboutsonoma.com/events/2018-signature-sonoma-valley

After featuring three-sold out events in 2017, the inaugural, and highly successful, Signature Sonoma Valley returns in early April. With a diverse community serving as the backdrop, the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance returns as the headlining sponsor.

Celebrate Sonoma Valley’s history, wine, scenery, cuisine and heritage as winemakers and vintners share in this rare wine experience. The three-day package reaches its peak Saturday night with a VIP reception and “Legends” dinner at Don and Nancy Sebastiani’s private residence, a sure treat for those versed in wine history.

Tickets are available as packages or by session, and suggested lodging and transportation are also available.

  

Passport to Dry Creek Valley

April 28-29, 2018

https://www.somethingaboutsonoma.com/events/2018-passport-to-dry-creek-valley

The 2018 Passport to Dry Creek Valley marks the nationally-acclaimed wine and food festival’s 29th year. With over 40 wineries already committed for the event, including West Wines, Lambert Bridge Winery and Comstock Wines, this two-day event is a can’t-miss for wine lovers.

Tickets go on sale beginning February 1.

 

Country Summer Music Festival

June 15-17, 2018

https://www.somethingaboutsonoma.com/events/2018-country-summer

Voted the best music festival in Sonoma County, Country Summer returns this summer with star-studded headlining acts including the legendary Toby Keith and Florida Georgia Line. The Sonoma County Fairgrounds set the perfect stage for the heavy-hitting event, which brought in over 30,000 fans last year.

With more artists set to be announced later in the year, you won’t miss out. Ticket packages start at $239.

 

Toyota/Save Mart 350

June 22-24, 2018

https://www.somethingaboutsonoma.com/events/2018-nascar-weekend-pass

Motorheads of the west enjoy the annual NASCAR event at Sonoma Raceway as star drivers Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano return to the 12-turn road course.

Approaching nearly 50 years of racing, the winner of the venue’s event gets to enjoy a bit of Sonoma flair in Sunoco Victory Lane by sipping from the famed Champion’s Goblet.

 

Sonoma Valley Crush

September 2018

https://www.somethingaboutsonoma.com/events/2018-sonoma-valley-crush

Experience harvest up close and personal with this behind-the-scenes event that features crush site tours, meetings with winemakers, grape sampling and learning about the fermentation process. This event is perfect for those looking for an affordable experience, with tickets ranging from $35-$55.

Specific dates in September have yet to be released.

 

Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival

September 28-30, 2018

https://www.somethingaboutsonoma.com/events/2018-valley-of-the-moon-vintage-festival

2017 marked the 120th annual Vintage Festival, making it the longest-running  festival in California’s history. Since 1897, community members have gathered and celebrated the cultural arts, gourmet cuisine, fine wine and history of Sonoma Valley.

The festival also features a longstanding tradition of philanthropy, donating up to 100 percent of the proceeds to local community organizations (around $25,000 annually).

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V2 Restaurants

By: Katie Bouloubassis

Vegans and vegetarians follow strict diets, which could make dining out hard — until now. A growing number of Sonoma restaurants cater to vegans, who consume no food from animals, and vegetarians, who do not eat meat. Whether you follow these diets or just want to try out a new cuisine, we cultivated a list of some great vegan- and vegetarian-friendly restaurants around Sonoma. As you travel to these wonderful establishments, remember to have an open mind and rumbling tummy.

Amy’s Drive Thru

Location: 58 Golf Course Drive West, Rohnert Park 

Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m., daily.

Shaking up the fast food industry, Amy’s Drive Thru offers many tasty vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free foods. Amy’s takes fast food seriously and has thousands of recipes that will please any taste. With an upbeat, food-loving staff, Amy’s has an awesome environment to dine in. Don’t forget to check out their super cute Instagram page.

 

Bravas Bar De Tapas

Location: 420 Center St., Healdsburg

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday.

Serving up some of the best tapas in town, Bravas! Traditional Spanish foods re-worked and presented to you in a modern fashion. They feature local and Spanish wines on the menu to give you the full experience. With huge portion sizes, you can share with your family, friends and even your four-legged companions. Bravas welcomes all pets to their establishment—they even have their own Instagram page.

 

Gaia’s Garden

Location: 1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (brunch and a la carte only on the weekends)

Priding themselves on producing delicious meals with only the highest-quality ingredients, Gaia’s has something for everyone. They pay close attention to their recipes to ensure the foods remain true to the vegan and vegetarian diets. The chefs will go the extra mile to create something specifically for you if you have an allergy or specific diet restriction. Becoming a home for local authors and musicians, Gaia’s wants to create memories with and for you.  

 

Glen Ellen Star

Location: 13648 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen

Hours: 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

With a unique way of cooking, Glen Ellen Star will certainly please your taste-buds with their wood-fire cooking technique. The wood-fire technique amplifies the flavors in their California inspired dishes. They have an ever-changing menu, so you will always have something new to try.

 

Slice of Life

Location: 6970 McKinley Ave., Sebastopol

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

Slice of Life showcases their culinary expertise by featuring a vast array of diverse dishes on their menu. Whatever you’re in the mood for, they have it! From Mexican- to Italian-inspired dishes, the chefs at Slice of Life know how to please any appetite. Visit their Instagram for photos of their yummy dishes.

Take a photo of your dish and tag us at @somethingaboutsonoma on Instagram. We would love to see what you choose.

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For couples, Sonoma makes for a sensual destination

By Kristie Sheppard 

Imagine a walk on beach the with the roar of crashing waves providing background music, an intimate dinner by candlelight or snuggling in bed by the fireside. What can be more romantic than winter, or any season for that matter, in Sonoma County? We gathered some of the most romantic spots in Sonoma County.

Bodega Bay

The charming fishing village of Bodega Bay offers romantic vistas and luxurious spas for couples. With windswept rocky crags overlooking Bodega Bay as well as the Pacific Ocean, the village boasts numerous galleries featuring the work of dramatic landscapes by local artists. The ocean also provides a bounty for seafood restaurants, such as the Inn at the Tides, with fish so fresh its carried from the boats into the kitchens.

Numerous hiking trails take visitors to incredible views from the hills above while a short distance north of Bodega Bay is Sonoma Coast State Park, where the Russian River flows into the Pacific, creating a habitat for an abundance of coastal wildlife from harbor seals to gray whales. The park is a popular destination for wildlife watching with sandy beaches, towering cliffs and crashing waves.

Armstrong Woods State Nature Reserve

For couples that love nature, few destinations can top the grandeur of the idyllic coast redwood grove at Armstrong Woods State Nature Reserve. Armstrong Woods include centuries-old trees towering over a fog-shrouded landscape like a fantasy setting. Trails range from the easy to the arduous, making it a perfect destination for couples looking for quiet strolls or athletic challenges.

After all the physical activity, retreat to the nearby luxurious Boon Hotel + Spa for a couple’s massage or soak in a private hot tub or cuddle up in bed. Rooms come with in-room turntables to listen to vintage vinyl albums. The hotel and spa cater to adults, making it an excellent escape for a couple in need of child-free time.

Sonoma Valley

Wine and romance always pair well together so take a tour of some of the more than 100 wineries of Sonoma Valley, located in castles and chateaus and modern-day lounges. Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards provides a mix of private tours and special dinner events in a setting that blends Spanish and California elegance.

Located in the heart of Valley of the Moon, the Kenwood Inn and Spa offers the height of luxury. Vineyards, orchards, ancient oak trees, meticulous flower gardens and peaceful courtyards surround the Mediterranean-style inn. The 29 guest rooms and suites include fireplaces and feather beds.

So, pop open the bubbly and enjoy the ambiance of one of Sonoma’s most romantic spots with your someone special.

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Enjoy these great Sonoma wines for the holidays

By T.J. Brightman

In a year with too many natural disasters to count, conflicts and crisis around the globe, political bickering in Washington and media chasing one another for the next “BREAKING NEWS STORY,” you don’t have to look far to find many Americans happy to see 2017 go out with a loud thud! That is precisely why you should kick back during the upcoming holiday season and enjoy friends, food and my personal favorite – MORE WINE!

As I’ve written in previous wine blogs there are no rules to follow when picking your holiday wine, only that you buy what you like regardless of price point or what the “shelf talker card” at your favorite wine merchant says.

“There are no rules… buy what you like

The holidays present the perfect opportunity to sample new wines considering the variety and abundance of food we will consume at parties and family dinners over the next few weeks. Don’t get stuck on what I like to call the “pairing game,” the need to bring or pour the perfect wine with each and every dish. Keep it simple, have fun and clang your glasses with friends as much as possible!

The Recommendations

Understanding plenty of wonderful choices and varietals from around the world exist, I’ve decided to narrow our focus to the “Golden State” of California, largely because the wines are so good, but as an additional act of support following the recent wildfires that plagued and destroyed many homes, businesses and wineries in both Northern and Southern California this fall. I encourage you to support the Sonoma community by purchasing California wines this holiday season. It feels good to give back and look like a wine expert at your next holiday gathering, all at the same time.

Cheers!

 

2015 Landmark Chardonnay Carneros Sangiacomo Vineyard

This winery located along Highway 12 in Sonoma Valley survived the recent wildfires and has consistently produced great wines. This bottle received 87 points from Wine Spectator and will leave you with flavors of white peach and fig with a toasty, smoky oak. WS 87 | $45

2015 Gary Farrell Chardonnay Russian River Valley Russian River Selection

The Russian River Valley delivers wonderful wines year after year and this one hits the mark! Enjoy spicy green apple, pear and melon with your New Year’s Eve lobster dinner. WS 88 | $35

2016 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris Russian River Valley

If you were a fan of the 60’s TV show, “My Three Sons,” then you might also find the wines of the late founder, Fred MacMurray even more interesting. Producing terrific reds and whites this bottle of Pinot Gris is an excellent choice with appetizers of all kinds and received 87 points from Wine Spectator. Lots of juicy fruit, a refreshing wine for any occasion. WS 87 |$20

2015 Kivelstadt Cellars Father’s Watch

A small family winery under the direction of Jordan Kivelstadt, this Sonoma red Rhone-style blend from the North Coast is not only a great choice but extremely approachable now and a real value for anyone on your holiday list. $25

Let us know if this list helped you pick the right wine as a gift or for a holiday meal.

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A Year of Peaks and Valleys: Discovering 2017’s Poetry

By Maria Dontas

Looking back, 2017 saw a myriad of triumphs, defeats, breakthroughs and setbacks. Luckily, magnificent poetry is born of both despair and hopefulness, beauty and ugliness. Sonoma specifically saw a number of fantastic poetry chapbooks and collections published this year, many influenced by the county’s magnificent landscape, others driven by themes of history and reflection. Whatever the source of inspiration, we celebrate our local poets and revel in the artfulness of their carefully crafted verse.

We dove into a few collections, but be sure to check out additional publications below.

  • “Strings of Shining Silence” by Raphael Block
    • Raphael Block resides in Sebastopol, but he didn’t always live there. He was born on a kibbutz in Israel, later moving to London with his family at nine years old. After meeting his wife, an American living in England, the two began their family, eventually moving to northern California with their daughter in 1993. Block credits British English with shaping his ear for sound which he explores, of course, in his writing but also his readings. He sometimes pairs his poems with music for an elevated auditory experience. “Strings of Shining Silence,” Block’s 2017 release, is a collection of reflective “earth-love poems.” Block explores in beautiful, vivid description such simple yet majestic moments like catching the moon reflected in a puddle. Strings of Shining Silence, not unlike all of Block’s work, revels in nature’s bounty and spirit.
    • Purchase: Poetics Matrix Press
  • “Land of My Father’s War” by Phyllis Meshulam
    • Phyllis Meshulam is a poet and teacher, not to mention she serves as a coordinator for both California Poets in the Schools, a statewide nonprofit organization to empower student creativity, and Poetry Out Loud, a national school poetry contest. “Land of My Father’s War,” released July 2017, journeys thoughtfully through the author’s history, navigating through physical and abstract lands uncovering roots and intensely revealing beautiful moments from her past wrapped in her parent’s experience with separation during WWII. Meshulam gracefully weaves together the poems, some structured, some experimental, peppering in vibrant snapshots of family members and textured descriptions of growing up and getting older.
    • Purchase: Amazon
  • “Voyeur” by Jodi Hottel
    • Jodi Hottel explores ekphrastic poetry in “Voyeur,” her latest collection of poems released on WordTech Communications. The poems are introspective, amplifying and expanding experiences with specific works of literature, art and music. Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Sonoma’s current poet laureate, says of the collection, “Each of the poems in Jodi Hottel’s stunning new collection, ‘Voyeur,’ offer glimpses into the other world that is created by a piece of art: a sculpture that becomes a sentinel, an urn made of salt that holds memory. Hottel not only describes what she sees, she pulls us in to feel it. Each poem is an adaptation, reminding us of the power and necessity of art in all its forms. All good art leaves footprints behind for us to follow and march on from.” 
    • PurchaseAmazon

Other 2017 published works:

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Crack open a can of – wine?

By: Shawn Nesaw

Wine comes in two main vessels, bottles and boxes. In recent years, however, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of wine you can buy in a can. Canned wine’s popularity in social, wine-drinking circles around the country has increased. In fact, canned wine generated over $16 million in 2016 alone and we’ve continued to see a rise in the number of canned wine brands coming to market, including some from Sonoma wineries.

Why the can?

It turns out cans make great wine containers to store and transport wine. Cans, as we know from drinking soda and beer, are lightweight, easy to pack in a backpack or cooler, fairly durable and easily compacted when empty. Not only that but they are easy to open and drink from – no need for a glass or a corkscrew. Many wines we drink these days do spend a small portion of their days fermenting in stainless steel tanks so cans really aren’t that different. Cans also make the wine cost-effective to produce, lowering the price for consumers.

Aside from all the pros mentioned, canned wine is slightly mysterious. When you see it on the shelf, it seems out of place, but in that same vein, it’s intriguing because it’s new and different and might be great.

A tasty option

Like all wines, canned wine varies in taste depending on the type of grape, the vineyard and winemaking style. Canned wine comes in many different varietals, almost as varied as bottled wines. Of the California wines we tasted, grapes came from several places including Sonoma. Go to your local wine shop or grocery store (depending on the state you live in) to pick up some wine in a can.

Notice I didn’t say they tasted great? Our team took time out of our busy schedule to taste test five different canned wines. We reached the overall consensus they tasted good, some better than others. We posted our review of the five below.

Presto – Sparkling Rosé – $4.99/can

Sweet, light and crisp, Presto’s Sparkling Rosé would make for a good wine for summer get-togethers with friends or a day at the beach.

Tangent – Sauvignon Blanc – $6.99/can

Farmed in the Edna Valley of California, Tangent’s Sauvignon Blanc is bright and crisp with flavors of grapefruit, lemon zest and green apple. This wine would pair well with seafood.

Nuclear red – Red blend – $6.99/can

Labeled as table wine, Nuclear’s red blend, produced with Sonoma County-grown grapes, is an easy-going, simple red wine would complement well summer cookouts with friends.

West Side Wine Co. – Cabernet Sauvignon – $2.49/can

By far our favorite of the five wines we tried, West Side Wine Co. has a pretty good Cabernet Sauvignon with notes of cranberry and blackberry. It was the closest to what you would expect from an inexpensive bottle of cab.  

Underwood – Pinot Gris – $6.99/can

Probably the most recognizable and one of the first canned wines, this Oregon-based wine is one you can most likely find at your local wine store. This wine was smooth, not too tart with some strawberry notes. It would pair well with spicy Asian food and would be great for a summer picnic.  

Final thoughts

Canned wine is certainly the underdog of the wine world but it’s worth a try. Just like good wine doesn’t have to be expensive, good wine doesn’t have to come in a bottle. Our recommendation is and has always been, drink what you like.

Cheers! 

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