Summer in California’s Wine Country can be hot. I mean really hot. It’s often 90-100F here in Napa and Sonoma Counties, so finding a nice place for a wine tasting or a light nibble where you will not melt from the heat or be stuck inside with freezing cold A/C, is not easy. In the summer, you’re supposed to be outside enjoying the sunshine! That’s why I’d like to introduce you to my new secret spot (well, not so secret anymore!) located at Rodney Strong Vineyards in Healdsburg. This, ladies and gentlemen, is The Terrace.
Being a European, I’m a huge fan of casual outdoor dining. Find a terrace, and that’s where you’ll find me relaxing and hanging out with friends all summer long. But here in the states, I’m learning it’s not as common of a practice…especially in large cities. But here in wine country, we do it right.
Rodney Strong Vineyards recently finished construction on their beautiful outdoor wine tasting space, soon to become your new favorite hangout in the shade on those the warm summer days. The Terrace is not the only cool part (sorry, couldn’t resist), they’ve just introduced the Food and Wine Pairing Experience On The Terrace [$55 per person] which includes five small bites flawlessly paired with five Rodney Strong wines.
Upon arrival, your wine guide will welcome you with a refreshing splash of Sauvignon Blanc on the shaded patio, located between the tasting room and the vineyards. The bubbling fountain creates a soothing background ambiance to help all your cares fade away. Once seated at a table, you’ll receive the tasting notes for the five wines you’re about to taste.
First, here’s a little background on the winery. The Rodney Strong story starts over 55 years ago when celebrated American dancer Rod Strong settled in Sonoma County to pursue a second lifelong passion: making wine. This visionary was among the first in the county to plant Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley. In 1989, Tom Klein, a 4th generation California farmer and now current owner, purchased the winery from Rod and initiated a commitment to modern artisan winemaking. Rodney Strong was honored Wine Enthusiast’s American Winery of the Year in 2013.
Now on to the tasting! This is presented in two courses, one cold and one hot, to highlight each wine and its flavor profiles. The first course is comprised of two light and fresh cold bites with two accompanying wines; and the second course features three substantial hot bites along with three red wines. This summer’s featured first course-wines are the 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) – a refreshing drop bursting with flavors of watermelon and rose petals, and the 2014 Blue Wing Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)–a crisp white laden with white floral aromas and tropical fruits on the palate.
Winery Chef Tara Wachtel creates all of the delicious pairings using local and sustainable ingredients, many of which are sourced less than 10 miles from the winery. Her menu changes seasonally, depending on what fresh produce is available. She and the wine team partner work closely in order to choose the perfect combinations, which will ensure not only an exceptional food experience, but a fun and educational one as well.
The current Rosé pairing expertly reinforces the flavors in the wine with a Watermelon Slice topped with Grilled Corn, Basil, Bacon, and Verjus drizzled with Estate Olive Oil. A perfect summer combination! The second bite is a Dungeness Crab Béarnaise in Egg with Shaved Radish, Chive Blossom, Chervil and Crispy Quinoa. The rich crab makes for a wonderful pairing with the Chardonnay.
The featured red wines for this tasting are: 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley)- a layered wine with wonderful aromas of dark cherry; 2012 Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley)- a deeply rich wine with complex dark fruits; and 2013 Symmetry Red Meritage (Alexander Valley)- their flagship wine, a rich, harmonious and elegant red blend.
The Pinot Noir is currently paired with a Chicken-fried Pioppini Mushroom, Pink Beet Slaw, Fava Tips and Sumac Remoulade. Their Cabernet sings with its pairing of Charred Short Rib Chimichurri and Potato Fondue. And an Asian-inspired trio of Buckwheat Soba with Ginger and Scallion, Akaushi Sirloin and Furikake (Japanese condiment) highlights the gorgeous Symmetry red blend.
Can this in-depth wine tasting be considered a full lunch? Well, not really. But when the summer temperatures soar, this educational offering of seasonal small bites, award-winning wines (chilled and ready to sip of course!), along with plenty of shade to keep you cool, is all you need and why Rodney Strong’s Terrace is first on my list of summer escapes.
$55/person | available Friday – Sunday | 11am to 4pm | Party Size: 1-8 pp.
Location: Healdsburg, Sonoma County, CA
Appointments highly recommended
In the mood for a less formal experience? Rodney Strong also offers cheese and/or charcuterie plates to share, along with wine flights (sans food) at very affordable prices. Not hungry? Enjoy a complimentary guided tour of the winery at 11am or 2pm [reservations recommended, call (707) 431-1533]. And don’t miss their famous Summer Concert series on the lawn. Check out the schedule here!
There you have it! The perfect summer hideaway featuring plenty of wine tasting options so you can truly experience the wine country life in style…and shade!
The VinoVisit Team