Alfred Hitchcock put Northern California’s coastal hamlet of Bodega Bay on the map with his classic film “The Birds.” That was in the early 1960s, long before the hotel with sweeping water views, The Inn at the Tides, began hosting its sell-out winemaker dinners. Hard to believe the inn is currently celebrating 25 years worth of sipping and sampling.
Winemaker dinners at The Inn at the Tides take place on select Friday evenings throughout the year. Each dinner features a particular winery, often one from the nearby Sonoma or Napa Valley. The winemaker, winery owner or manager joins you at dinner to chat about the wines being poured along with your gourmet dinner.
We recently enjoyed dinner with Jack Marx, district manager of Francis Ford Coppola Winery. As Marx put it, Coppola made movies first (“The Godfather”), with wine making as a hobby. Now the tables are turned, with wine making first, and movies a hobby. Either way, sampling the renowned movie maker’s wines seemed fitting in a town made famous by a Hitchcock film.
To carry out the movie theme, our first wine of the night was a 2009 Director’s Cut Chardonnay. The unique filmstrip labels on Director’s Cut wines were inspired by Coppola’s personal collection of antique zoetropes. A zoetrope, if you’ve never seen one, is a series of pictures drawn on a circle that, when spinning quickly, mimics animation.
We sipped our chardonnay with a tasty scallop seared, of course, in a reduction of chardonnay. Three more courses followed. The local Salmon Creek Ranch duck breast came perfectly paired with a silky Director’s Cut Pinot Noir. A main course of herb roasted rack of lamb was served with Director’s Cut Cinema, a spicy red wine. The apple strudel desert was accompanied by Coppola’s sweet Su Yuen Riesling.
It’s no coincidence the winemaker dinners unfold at The Inn at the Tides. Most guests arrive from around the San Francisco Bay area and make dinner a weekend getaway by spending the night. Who would want to drive home when you could relax at the coast? That, and it’s 68 miles back to the Golden Gate Bridge?
A room at the Inn
The inn’s 86 rooms are set on a hillside overlooking Bodega Bay. Many have a cozy wood-burning fireplace. All include a complimentary breakfast. It’s served across the highway at the Tides Wharf Restaurant where every seat has a waterfront view.
In Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” this was the site of the café and boat dock scenes. If you use your imagination, you’ll see not much has changed over the years. The birds are still gathering. This time they’re waiting together with the harbor seals for a handout of fresh fish scraps, a welcome gift from the fishery next door.