By Emma Krasov. Photography by Yuri Krasov
With the first signs of spring awakening, including the re-opening of wineries, outdoor- and partial indoor dining, and other formerly usual weekend activities for Northern California dwellers, many of us emit a sigh of relief and embark on road trips to the magnificent wine country, especially pretty this time of year.
The eye-popping bright-yellow mustard fields in full bloom lead to the town of Sonoma with its historic central square where picnickers may enjoy the fresh air and consume alcohol (in our case the many wonderful California wines).
Just steps away from the square there’s Sojourn Cellars Tasting Salon with a cozy front yard and just a couple of tables, properly distanced from each other. Here we can try an array of limited production wines from the founding winemaker Erich Bradley who credits specially selected vineyard sites of the Sonoma Coast, Napa Valley, and Russian River appellations for the popularity of Sojourn Cellars wines among sommeliers and consumers.
The boutique producer of highly praised Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon employs minimalist, Burgundian style winemaking. The wines, fermented and barrel-aged in small lots, are terroir-driven, with their own distinct characteristics, and Old World sophistication.
The winery’s motto, “Life is but a sojourn. Enjoy the best of it” adopted from Plato’s belief in the immortality of human soul before and after its earthly sojourn obviously makes an emphasis on the sojourn, and currently offers the spring releases from just a few weeks ago, enhanced by the handsome Riedel glasses, hand-made at a small world-famous glass factory in Kufstein, Austria.
Our tasting starts with the 2019 Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast—a vibrant and fruit-forward 100% Chardonnay with soft minerality. Pressed whole-cluster and fermented in French oak barrels, it was bottled in August 2020.
Next, we more to the Pinots. 2019 Pinot Noir Rodgers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast from a mountain ridge in Petaluma Gap, is a product of windy foggy air and volcanic ash soils, with long and slow maturation resulting in deep and concentrated taste and aromatic notes of earth and mushroom. 100% Pinot Noir had open-top fermentation in 50% new French oak, and was bottled in August 2020.
2019 Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast from the western base of Sonoma Mountain derives its complexity and structural nuances from cool ocean breezes and the 2019 mild season’s slow maturation. With gamey notes and sweeter aftertaste, this is 100% de-stemmed Pinot Noir, open-top fermentation, 50% new French oak, bottled in August 2020.
2019 Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast from an iconic Pinot vineyard, located on a hillside on the western slope of Sonoma Mountain, where it’s been properly cooled by the persistent wind and fog of the Petaluma Gap. The lack of major heat waves and no rain during harvest allowed for optimal ripeness of this richly flavored flagship wine of the Sojourn Cellars. 100% Pinot Noir with 10% whole cluster, it underwent open-top fermentation in 50% new French oak, and was bottled in August 2020.
During our visit, we were lucky to taste some additional wines of distinction—the even younger, bright and refreshing 2020 Rose of Pinot Noir and a rare, collectors’ edition 2018 Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
Sojourn Cellars small annual case production is sold almost exclusively from the Tasting Salon and to the winery’s mailing list. There are four wine tastings a day for parties of six max, with priority and exceptions given to the wine club members. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment only, but if you’re in Sonoma, it’s worth trying to call 707-938-7212 and make an impromptu booking. Find out more at https://www.sojourncellars.com/tasting-salon
While in our blossoming wine country, don’t miss the Cornerstone Sonoma, a multipurpose enclave with manicured Sunset Gardens, flower beds overflowing with daffodils, poppies and grape hyacinth, fun boutique shops, an art gallery with Salvador Dalí exhibition, wine tasting, and open-air eateries.
The latest addition to the gorgeous nine-acre outdoor marketplace is a fun new restaurant, Folktable, led by the celebrity Chef Casey Thompson, a former Top Chef star finalist. Her well-selected menu of comfort food favorites is made of fresh seasonal ingredients sourced from Cornerstone Sonoma’s own organic farms and from local purveyors.
The readily available outdoor seating on both sides of the elegantly appointed restaurant facility, and plenty of open space around create an atmosphere of carefree picnicking, only with food offerings far superior to anything we could’ve made ourselves at home.
You might want to start your delectable wine country lunch with a glass of the house-made fresh-squeezed lemonade.
Black truffle chicken hand pies are a definite must with their rich stuffing of tender chicken meat, cheese, peas and truffle butter, kind of like a pedigreed chicken pot pie. Crispy potato flake onion rings with smoked jalapeno ranch dressing are simply irresistible, but you better save some room for even more wonderful goodies.
Chef Casey’s traditional French croque-madame is a star of the menu, with gooey Comté cheese dripping down the thick hot grilled ham sandwich topped with a perfectly fried sunny side up egg.
And then there is a luxurious chicken fat ginger rice bowl with Dungeness crab meat, trout roe, and a translucent egg yolk, topped with scallions and nori seaweed shavings.
Folktable is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant observes strict hygiene and social distancing guidelines in conjunction with Sonoma County’s most current COVID-19 mandates. Cornerstone Sonoma is located at 23570 Arnold Drive in Sonoma. Call 707-933-3010 or visit https://www.cornerstonesonoma.com/