A Woman’s Palate Boot Camp explores Sonoma County Wine

BootcampA Woman’s Palate‘s Boot Camp is a three-day intensive program bringing small groups of women into Napa and Sonoma to be captivated by the wine business with the inspiring and fun women who live and breathe it every day.

Their first day was off to a roaring success as women Pittsburghers started their world-wind  tour of Sonoma County’s women in wine!   First, Heather Patz, co-founder of Patz & Hall Winery welcomed AWP’s Boot Campers with a tour, tasting, and lunch.  Patz & Hall is one of California’s most highly regarded wineries with a celebrated portfolio of single-vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.  In January 2014, Patz and Hall Winery kicked-off their 26th year by opening a new location in Sonoma.  The Sonoma House at Patz & Hall offers visitors a variety of wine tasting experiences to savor their acclaimed wines.  To book a tour at Patz & Hall call 707.265.7700.

IronHorseChampagneNext it was off to local hot spot for sparkling and still wines, Iron Horse Vineyards which now boasts three generations of women in the wine industry, begun when grand dame Audrey Sterling and her husband, Barry, purchased Iron Horse in 1976.  Audrey developed and ran Iron Horse while Barry, joining her on long weekends, continued his Southern California law practice for the next 10 years until he completely retired from the law.  Joy Sterling quietly took up the reins at Iron Horse at the start of 2006 and is currently serving as its CEO.  Barrie Sterling, Joy’s niece is learning the business at the hands of two very capable mentors.  She works part-time in the tasting room and travels extensively learning the market for Iron Horse wines.

HotelHealdsburgWhile Iron Horse Vineyards is probably best known for its vast array of sparkling wines, they actually began producing still wines and continue to produce a highly acclaimed assortment of estate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  As the AWP Boot Campers completed their tour and tasting at Iron Horse Vineyards they ventured to Healdsburg where they are saying at Hotel Healdsburg which encompasses Sonoma wine country’s simplicity and charm.  Beautifully guest rooms, country gardens, pool, and the luxurious spa provide a tranquil setting for guests to relax.  Hotel guests can savor Sonoma County’s bounty of extraordinary wines and fresh seasonal ingredients at acclaimed Chef Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen on the hotel grounds.

RelishAfter a brief rest, AWP’s Boot Campers walked to neighboring Relish Culinary which offers regular adventures in food and wine and I was lucky enough to join the excitement.  The evening’s festivities were hosted by Daisy Damskey, co-founder of Palmeri Wines, Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards,  Tuscan Chef Deborah Dal Fovo, and Relish owner, Donna del Rey in a celebration of the wines of Iron Horse Vineyards.

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Joy, Donna, Daisy, and A Woman’s Palate co-owners Susan Citron and Sharon Harris greeted guests with Iron Horse Vineyards 2009 Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs and 2012 UnOaked Chardonnay.  

Relish Culinary creates one-of-a-kind hands-on and demonstration cooking experiences, culinary tours and catering services with a variety of talented chefs.  This evening’s Chef Deborah Dal Fovo began with stuffed zucchini blossoms sourced locally at Foggy River Farm.  Deborah demonstrated her technique for making this delicate appetizer.  She used only male flowers, removing the stamen in the center of the flower and stuffing them with a small piece of mozzarella and anchovy before dipping them in a light batter and frying in a clear oil with a high smoke point.  

In the main course, Deborah illustrated the boning procedures for Pollo al Mattone (chicken grilled under a brick) and then we observed them being prepared by Relish’s sous chef on Relish’s outdoor grill.  The chicken was served with roasted rosemary potatoes and zucchini and accompanied by Iron Horse 2011 Deer Gate Pinot Noir and 2007 Iron Horse Brut Rose.  Joy Sterling mentioned that many of the  2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs have been receiving less than favorable press based largely on early rains received that year before actually seeing the results of the wine as released; therefore these wines often have a very good price point compared to the 2012 vintages which critics have been highly anticipating and the 2011 RRV Pinot Noirs are actually showing to be quite good.

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Joy was asked how she selected the order of the wines for meals and she said there are three basic criteria as follows: 1) young to old, 2) white to red, and 3) dry to sweet.  Joy indicated these are general guidelines and variations are always possible.

Everyone highly anticipated the apricot tart that had been creating incredibly tantalizing guests6aromas while baking and it was not a disappointment.  Deborah created a fresh apricot marmalade and baked it into a flaky tart crust which was served with one of my favorite sparkling wines from Iron Horse Vineyards, their 2009 Russian Cuvee.  It is always a good accompaniment to fruit desserts.

More tomorrow as the AWP Boot Camp continues its journey in Sonoma County for the next two days.


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