The bad: I haven’t written in a long time. The good: I’ve been too busy with random adventures (camel farm – check) and have tons of tips and pics if I ever catch up. I must have been subconsciously protesting SF’s foggy summers—however hauntingly beautiful they may be— by seeking heat everywhere from Las Vegas and Houston to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The flights for those last ones made me ecstatic to be back in the Bay Area for a bit, where I’ve found some new favorite spots to share in SF, Healdsburg and Tomales. And if heat was a theme in June and July, animals seem to be a theme from August, though wine and cheese are always how I end up there.
The last time the owners of Ramini checked, their cheese company in Tomales was the only place in the U.S. making mozzarella di bufala. In the States, we call a lot of cheese mozzarella. In Italy, it means the cheese was made from buffalo milk whereas cheese made from cow’s milk is called Fior di Latte. Lesson over and all you really need to know is that it’s delicious. And buffaloes, especially the babies, are super cute and affectionate. Plus, Ramini’s buffaloes are named after rock stars—where else can you pet Pink and Bob Dylan? Tours and tastings are by appointment only, usually Saturdays at 2 for $20 per person (cash or check). If you’re lucky, they’ll have some extra balls on hand to buy for $10 each.
Biondivino’s Bruschette Pop Up
Sorry, California. Though I appreciate many of your wines, Italian reds have my heart, which is why I’ve long loved Biondivino. This charming shop in Russian Hill specializes in Italian wines and is owned by Ceri Smith, a lovely woman who also happens to be one of Food & Wine’s 2014 Sommeliers of the Year for her work at Tosca Cafe. The new discovery here is her pop up with wines by the glass and bruschette made with Josey Baker Bread, which likely rings a bell for The Mill’s famous $4 toast. My favorite was the pesto, but they were all perfection. Don’t miss it, Wed-Sun from 5-11. And while originally meant to run only through August, rumor has it that popular demand will, thankfully, keep it going much longer.
Medlock Ames Concert Series
Like Biondivino, Medlock Ames in Healdsburg was already a favorite of mine for its minimalist-chic tasting room, dedication to sustainability and beautiful garden. That said, the real standout is their rustic Alexander Valley Bar with an elegant, saloon feel (photo booth and all), tucked behind the tasting room. It’s open 7 days a week from 5 on, serving up seasonal cocktails, wines by the glass and local microbrews. What I didn’t know about was the Summer Concert Series, Sundays from 5:30-8, adding live music and food trucks to the already fabulous mix. It’s technically over for the season, but a little birdie (the bartender) told me more dates might be added in the fall.
Some Sonoma Wineries
I’m guilty of going to my go-tos way too much, so I vowed to only visit new wineries on a recent trip to Healdsburg and Geyserville, and I’m so glad I did. Now I just need to resist going back to these too much.
- Lambert Bridge: Our friends are members and arranged for us to have a Signature Tasting in the stunning candlelit barrel room, but there are other tour and tasting options too.
- Kachina: I’m currently obsessed with Charbono, which is how I found this family-run winery that’s one of the only places around here making it. The goats and gorgeous views were a bonus.
- Unti: Barbera’s why I ended up at this appointment-only spot that has Italian varietals that are usually hard to find in CA, especially made this well.
- Hanna Winery: Soak up sunflowers and views of Alexander Valley during a tasting on their wrap-around porch. Adding the Bellwether Cheese Farms pairing is a must.
- Stryker: I was drawn to this appointment-only spot because of its eco-chic aesthetic and peaceful location. I’m still kicking myself for not bringing home more of their Sangiovese.
On a final note, I didn’t think it would be fair not to share pictures if the camel comment at the beginning caught your eye. Here’s a few from Abu Dhabi, courtesy of Miss Lily Burns, one of my faves and why I spent 20 hours on a plane.