Biting into the soft, yet finely textured sea bass, poached perfectly to retain all the delicate flavor of the sea, I savored the luscious morsel. The curry sauce was deceptively mild and fragrant so as to not overwhelm the fish, pairing beautifully with the citrusy flavors of the 2009 Wild Oak Chardonnay at a recent wine and food pairing at St. Francis Winery and Vineyards in the heart of Sonoma Valley.
Chef David Bush, hailing from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and stints at several restaurants there, has found his calling at St. Francis, developing a multitude of tasty dishes to pair with the fine wines produced at the Sonoma Valley winery. He crafts rotating menus and many of the recipes are posted on the winery website so they can be recreated at home.
Wines have been produced at St. Francis Winery and Vineyards for 35 years in the shadow of Hood Mountain on an expansive property encompassing vineyards, tasting room, patio, large dining facility and spacious lawn. The Mission-style facility, completed in 2001, offers panoramic views of Sonoma Valley from the tasting room and patio. Its namesake saint is honored with a life sized sculpture of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the natural world, born in Assisi, Umbria, Italy in 1181 AD. The bell that rings in every hour in the bell tower was cast by Marinelli Foundry, the same foundry that supplies bells to the Vatican, and was blessed in Assisi in 2000.
Four wine makers support wine production at St. Francis, headed up by Thomas Makey, who, since 1983, established varietals that thrive in the Sonoma terroir, such as Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Merlot. Dennis Borrell, focuses on Sonoma County wines, while Heather Munden specializes in small, artisanal lots, and Katie Matigan brings her skills to white wine production, rounding out the team.
Wine and Food Pairing
Complementing the fine wines are wine and food pairings, including a charcuterie and cheese paring on the patio or by the fire, depending on the season, or the more formal pairing held at a communal table in the dining room.
At a hosted wine and food pairing recently, the flight began with the poached sea bass, served on a rectangular plate with the second course, a savory, spicy slider constructed of housemade chorizo, ham, piquant salsa, butter lettuce and fromage blanc, served on a small bun. Paired with the 2008 Tres Viejos Zinfandel, the peppery wine brought out the spice and balanced nicely with the rich sausage.
For the third course, the 2008 Wild Oak Syrah countered the earthy tones of the roasted Maitake mushrooms and braised mustard greens with rich blackberry and smoked bacon flavors, silky on the palate. Rounding out the savory menu, rich roasted sirloin of beef, potato gratin and sweet carrot puree was accompanied by a smooth 2008 Wild Oak Merlot. A sweet conclusion was provided by blue cheese topped with cherry sauce, and a chocolate cupcake topped with a ripe raspberry, paired with a rich, tawny 2008 Port.
The portions were larger than many other food and wine pairings, and by the end of the dessert course, we felt sated by the numerous succulent bites. Brook, our server, was knowledgeable about the wines, describing production anecdotes while interspersing information about the history of the winery.
St. Francis Winery and Vineyards offers a delectable food and wine pairing at a reasonable price of $35 per person in a beautiful setting.
St. Francis Winery and Vineyards
100 Pythian Road at Highway 12
Santa Rosa, CA 95409
Food and wine pairings
Held two or three times per day
$20-35, depending on the specific offering
To reach St. Francis Winery and Vineyards, located on the edge of Santa Rosa near Kenwood, from San Francisco by car (approximately 1.5 hours, depending on traffic):
- Take U.S. 101 North
- Take Exit 460 A to Hwy 37
- Bear left on CA-121 (Arnold Dr) toward Sonoma/Napa and stay on Arnold Dr
- Turn right on Madrone Rd
- Turn left on CA-12 (Sonoma Hwy)
- Arrive at 100 Pythian Road