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Sonoma – Our First Wine Vacation in California by Scott Casper

This past October, my wife and I made our first wine country visit to California. We spent a week in Sonoma County visiting several wineries in the Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River Valleys. Zinfandel is king in Dry Creek, but surprisingly, we were most impressed by the Sauvignon Blanc there. Cabernet Sauvignon is king in Alexander Valley and after tastings at Silver Oak and some other wineries it can safely be said it will rule supreme for a VERY long time in that appellation.

But the appellation that really impressed us was the Russian River Valley. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were long considered to be royalty there…and they certainly did not disappoint, but the single vineyard Zinfandels at Hartford Family Winery in Forestville “hit the ball out of the park!” Cool climate terroir with great Pinots and Chardonnays is understandable but RRV Zinfandels from Hartford were spectacular. By the way, their multiple vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel clinched Number 10 of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2016. Back in September, I bought a bottle at the West Shore Plaza for $37.99. At that time, it was the best Zin I ever had…and the most expensive. That was until I went to their winery and had a flight of their single vineyard Zins…and bought their Highwire Vineyard Zin for a lot more.

Overall, we visited more outstanding wineries in the Russian River Valley than anywhere else in Sonoma County. In addition to Hartford, the outstanding list had to include Dutton Estate and Dutton-Goldfield (brothers in a friendly rivalry…most of the time), Emeritus, VML, MacRostie, Rochioli, Thomas George Estate, Matrix and Bacigalupi, who helped to make history when they sold fruit to Chateau Montelena for its 1973 Chardonnay (40% Bacigalupi Vineyard) that won the judgement of Paris in 1976. Their invoice for the sale is framed and hangs in their tasting room.

This year…NAPA!!

The Inn at Herr Ridge by David Williams III

900 Chambersburg Rd, Gettysburg, PA. 17325 717 334-4332 www.innatherrridge.com

Wine dinners are nothing new, however, superb food and wine dinners at reasonable prices in historic venues near Harrisburg are worthy of mention. I have to admit I was not familiar with the Inn at Herr Ridge but have driven past it innumerable times as it sits on Rt. 30 about 4 miles East of Gettysburg. My bet is you have too. I strongly suggest becoming familiar with this establishment.

Sommelier Brad Doerr and Chef Michael Andrews are pairing up to do themed wine dinners every Friday over the winter season. The themes change monthly. November 11, we attended a 4 course “Casa del Vino” Wine Dinner featuring wines and foods from Spain. Before I share the menu, I must tell you this location owned by Steve Wolf since 1977 has a 6000+ bottle wine cellar with domestic and international vintages dating back to 1970’s. It has also multiple Wine Spectator recognition awards. Brad has been given stewardship over the cellar and selects wine for the wine dinners not seen on the restaurant wine list. Trust me, after the tour of the cellar they have many surprises worthy of superlatives. Chef Andrews is certainly up to the challenge. Our menu is outlined below:

Manchego-Chorizo Pisto a la Macha served with Casa del Mar, Cava Brut NV
Valencia Seafood Paella paired with 2007 Martin Sancho, Verdejo, Rueda
Stella Cherry Braised Pork Belly with Smoked Bacon Gigante Beans, dancing on one’s tongue with a 2000 Segura Viduas Reserva from Penedès (Tempranillo)
Astorgia Chocolate Crema Catalana Raspberry Espuma wonderfully paired with a 2004 Dominio de Tares from Bierzo (Mencia)

I am a tough restaurant critic but was more than delighted with all 4 courses; in fact, I was impressed. The wines were expertly matched and highly complementary. One comment I have to make, a 9 year old Verdejo was the surprise of the evening, although the significant red with dessert made me momentarily pause before consuming both completely, ending with a wonderfully sated smile. Verdejo is typically youthful, light in color and tart with nice balance. However, this was truly golden showing a richness of age and deep elegant notes with a lingering finish. All of this for $70 per person plus tax and tip. Attending the wine dinner, should you wish to spend the evening and enjoy the B&B, you receive a 33% discount off your room. Look for me as I plan to return for the food as well as the wine. Check the web site under events for upcoming wine dinners. December will be Argentina. Yummmmmm !

Greystone Public House by Bill Beeson

The Greystone Public House has made a spectacular entrance, quickly ascending to the top of the Harrisburg dining scene. Chef Jason Viscount, formerly of Bricco, has a creative approach to “contemporary, rustic American” dishes. What I appreciate most is the consistent attention to detail that is (unfortunately) not often encountered locally. An example – salads are never overdressed, and the balance of spices and flavors is in perfect harmony. We’ve tried four of the five standard salads and wouldn’t change a thing about any of them.

I enjoyed black cod and clams in a clam broth so delightful, I took the leftover home for use in my cooking the next day. Portions, by the way are always generous—think of the next day’s lunch. Other dishes we and our friends and business associates have enjoyed, include the seared yellowfin tuna with baby turnips, lentils, kabocha squash and spiced pumpkin seed gremolata; blue catfish with fingerling potatoes, braised kale and endive; swordfish atop oyster mushroom risotto; a smoked elk sausage sandwich with chipotle apple butter, warm pepper onion and cabbage slaw; braised beef shortribs with smashed red bliss potatoes, brown butter brussels sprouts and red wine sauce; and yellowfin crostini with chili aioli and avocado – all of these and more completely wowed us!

The wine service is equally impressive, and unmatched in this area. Over 200 bottles are offered, many also available by the glass. And Greystone takes an innovative approach by offering “The Stack” of three 8 oz. carafes (stacked via unique bottle design). This enables individuals to pair a different wine with each course as the three wines chosen can be different. Wine and food prices are reasonable – which is refreshing!

The building’s original structure was built in the 18th century, and the newest renovations were reconstructed in a modern rustic style. We recommend dining upstairs if you like intimate conversation. The bar is large, open, with table seating on both sides and wonderful for socializing on a more casual conversation level. It can be however, quite noisy! Parking is plentiful and free!

Every wine selection we tried has been excellent, further demonstrating exceptional care and planning with the menu in mind. This is yet another feature that makes Greystone stand out in the local dining area. Reserve a table soon! You will find Greystone at 2120 Colonial Road, Harrisburg, PA 17112. Phone: 717.829.9952 Hours : M-Th: 11am – 11pm; Fri – Sat: 11am – 12am; Sunday: 10am – 10pm [Sunday Brunch 10am – 3pm].