Geneva Anderson digs into art

Matanzas Creek Winery’s 15th Annual Days of Wine and Lavender kicks off this Saturday, June 25, 2011

Matanzas Creek Winery’s 15th Annual “Days of Wine and Lavender" is this Saturday, June 25, 2011. Photo: Matanzas Creek Winery

Ask any gardener around Sonoma County and you’ll find that lavender is an herb that is universally praised—its fragrance evokes a Zen-like calm and its deep purple hues are treasured in the garden and home.  And that luscious scent has spilled over into flavoring as well–culinary lavender has rapidly become a staple for Northern California gourmets.  This Saturday, at Matanzas Creek Winery’s 15th Annual Days of Wine and Lavender, you’ll get to stroll the winery’s breathtaking lavender garden in full fragrant bloom and sample all things lavender– from artisan breads dusted with lavender flour to lavender teas to Matanzas’ rejuvenating Estate Lavender  line.  This popular event always sells out early and draws a crowd of 400 from all over California for a leisurely and relaxing summer afternoon in the Bennett Valley hills.  Designed in 1991 by landscaper extraordinaire Robert Kourik, with 5,000 impeccably cultivated plants; this is the largest planting of lavender in northern, CA.  It’s surrounded by a border of exotic trees, shrubs and tall grasses and the overall impact is reminiscent of the enclosed secret gardens of classical Europe. 

There will be ample opportunity to taste delicacies featuring edible lavender prepared by Matanzas Creek chefs Justin Wanglerand Eric Frischkorn and their culinary team.  Justin Wangler assures me that there is a “subtle difference” between various culinary cultivars that fine palates can distinguish.  “Lavandula x Intermedia,” commonly named “Grosso,” is a strong and vigorous hybrid, grown on the Matanzas grounds that was developed in France in the early 18oo’s for its heightened oil content.  It yields a robust purple violet bloom and produces one of the highest quality culinary grade lavenders to be found and is favored by the culinary team.  

Delicacies on Saturday’s menu will be prepared with lavender salt rubs, highly concentrated lavender oil and dried lavender.   The menu (subject to change) includes: Lavender Coconut Ceviche, Lavender Poached Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce Crab Claws, Whole Roasted Lavender Chicken, Israeli Couscous with Oranges, Green Olives, Lavender and Mint, Kobe Beef Sandwiches with Lavender Red Wine Dijonaise, Sweet Potato Tots with Lavender Salt, Lavender

Chef Eric Frischkorn will be baking and serving his fabulous artisan breads this Saturday at Matanzas Creek Winery’s 15th Annual “Days of Wine and Lavender.” Photo: Geneva Anderson.

Cheesecake with Blueberries.  These dishes will also be served with complementary Matanzas Creek wines including Matanzas Creek 2010 Helena Bench Sauvignon Blanc from Knights Valley, 2010 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc and several library wines (well-aged older vintages).

Chef Eric Frischkorn will also be serving his popular homemade artisan breads featuring lavender.  Frischkorn has created a unique wild yeast starter dough from yeast collected on the vineyard’s grapes and Saturday’s sourdough bread will come from this starter.   

 Event Highlights Include:

  • The Tim Hockenberry Blues Band: They will get you movin’ and groovin’ under the oaks.
  • Photographer Marlene Smith:  a professional photographer who will take a portrait of you against the spectacular backdrop of the lavender fields to remember your day at Matanzas Creek Winery.
  • Marin French Cheese: Enjoy hand-crafted Artisan soft-ripened cheese paired with Matanzas Creek wines.
  • Desserts:  gourmet sweets paired with Matanzas’ new release of their dessert wine, Dénouement.
  • Bocce Ball Courts: Guests can try their hand at “Lavender Ball” in the Bocce Ball Courts by the Lavender Barn.
  • Open Air Jeep Tours:  tours to the neighboring Jackson Park Vineyards featuring a spectacular view of the lower winery, vineyards and gardens.
  • Local Artists: Sonoma County Artists who specialize in photographing or painting lavender fields and vineyards in Bennett Valley will have works on display. Chalk artist Robin Burgert will create a colored chalk artwork on the parking lot blacktop.
  • short complimentary hand and shoulder massages utilizing Estate Lavender products 
  • The Lavender Barn will be open with Estate Lavender culinary items, lotions, soaps, massage oils and much more available for purchase. And this is not your ordinary lavender spa line–of course, there’s a pure lavender scent from the finest essential oil.  Several lavender products have also been blended with ingredients like tangerine, neroli and rose to create modern invigorating scents.   There’s also a men’s line that features a handmade soap with a spicy earthy lavender-infused scent that’s worth stocking up on.  

On-going Lavender Education Series:  Matanzas Creek hopes to inspire wine and garden lovers with a series of quarterly educational seminars on growing and using lavender.  All classes are held at 9 a.m. and include a wine-tasting and lunch.  Cost is $75 per person, or $55 for 55 for Custom Crush wine club members.  Upcoming seminars:

Matanzas Creek Winery's Lavender Garden features some 5,000 plants. Terraced rows of the lavender cultivars "Grosso" and "Provence" line the entrance to the winery. Photo: courtesy Matanzas Creek Winery.

July 19, 2011 “Explore the Wonders of Honeybees”:  This seminar will delve into the busy life of the honeybee. Local natural honey purveyor Marshall’s Farm will join us for an in-depth look at beekeeping and a demonstration of how to make lavender-infused honey.   This is a hands-on course.

Sept. 20, 2011 “Cooking with Culinary Lavender”:   Matanzas Creek’s culinary team will teach attendees how to incorporate culinary lavender into every-day cooking.  This is a hands-on course.

Nov. 8, 2011 “Making Lavender Gifts for the Holiday”:  This workshop will show participants how to make a lavender sachet, holiday potpourri and a lavender rock salt warmer.  This is a hands-on course.

 Details: Saturday June 25th, noon to 4 p.m. Tickets: $75 General Public and $60 Custom Crush members.  Matanzas Creek Winery is located at 6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, CA  95404.  Phone: 800 590-6464

 The winery is known for its crisp sauvignon blancs, luxurious chardonnays and fruity, earthy merlots.  To learn more, visit .

June 22, 2011 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

last call: this weekend’s 5th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival is sold-out except for Sunday’s all day marketplace

For a growing number of fine cheese lovers who are traveling to cheese gatherings across the country, this weekend’s 5th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival (March 25-28, 2011), in Petaluma, holds the promise of glorious immersion in cheese.  From new small-batch cheeses to those that have already garnered international recognition, the spotlight is on the vibrant hues, bold aromas, and surprising flavors that make our region’s cheeses so unique, the local farmers who produce them and the industry that has emerged to promote them.  But unless you’ve already registered, this 3 day extravaganza Friday through Sunday (March 25-28, 2011) at Petaluma’s Sheraton Hotel is completely sold out, except for the Sunday’s big tent Artisan Cheese Marketplace from 11 AM to 4 PM. 

This year’s festival is going to be both enlightening and entertaining. (Full Schedule)  Friday’s day-long farm tours to Strauss Family Creamery, Toluma Farms, The Fork at Point Reyes, and Bellweather Farms sold out almost as soon as they were posted.  The opportunity to get the low-down on what makes our area’s cheese so special right from the farmers who produce it was too good to pass up, even at $145.  A number of Saturday’s 14 seminars covering all topics cheese by leading experts in the field sold out well over a month ago too.   Subjects range from making cheese (what does it actually take to become a cheese maker? a primer on essential molds, a lesson in curd stretching) to the politics of cheese (the transhumance movement, proposed legislation that seeks to regulate raw milk cheeses) to the nuances of evaluating cheese.  There are fabulous opportunities to eat some revamped classics too, like mac and cheese, and to try some new “hidden cheeses of California.”   You’ll learn that most of California’s elite cheeses don’t venture far from home and we in Petaluma are smack dab in cheese paradise for both producing and consuming.  

Capricious–its name evokes play and its taste sweet perfection. A very ungoaty goat cheese, Capricious is aged and then hand-rolled in old European style and its memorable sweetness is attributed to the very high quality goat’s milk that our region is known for. Jim and Donna Pacheco, Pacheco Family Dairy, Petaluma. Best in Show, American Cheese Society 2002 and named one of Saveur magazine’s 50 favorite cheeses in the U.S. 2005. Photo: Geneva Anderson

On Sunday, you can still meet over 73 artisan producers and try the finest local cheese, gourmet accompaniments, and wine and beer.  Throughout the day, acclaimed chefs Mary Karlin, Kristine Kidd, Boris Portnoy and Jacquelyn Buchanan will each be demonstrating an original recipe with artisan cheese and Clark Wolf will be both mc’ing and signing his own best-seller American Cheeses.  

$45 ticket includes Sunday admission, all sampling, access to chef demos and author book signings, a festival wine glass and an insulated cheese tote bag to hold your precious purchases. Tickets will be sold online through Friday evening and then 100 will be made available on a first come-first served basis at the door on Sunday, starting at 11AM.  There is no wait list for any of the sold-out events.  All events on Friday and Saturday are already sold out.

Book Signings on Sunday:

11:30 a.m. Gordon Edgar & Sasha Davies : Gordon Edgar Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge (2010) Sasha Davies West Coast Cheeses (2010)

12:30 p.m. Laura Werlin  (launching her fifth book at the festival Grilled Cheese, Please! 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes (2011) , and author of The New American Cheese Profiles of America’s Great Cheesemakers and Recipes for Cooking with Cheese, The All American Cheese and Wine Book: Pairings, Profiles and Recipe, Great Grilled Cheese 50 Recipes for Stovetop, Grill, and Sandwich Maker, Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials An Insider’s Guide to Buying and Serving Cheese

Point Reyes Cheese Company’s TOMA is an all-natural, semi hard, farmstead cheese made from pasteurized cows’ milk produced by the Giacomini family on their 3rd generation West Marin dairy farm. Introduced in 2010 as an alternative to their rockstar, Point Reyes Original Blue, TOMA became an instant hit too. Once you try a slice of TOMA, with its creamy texture, buttery flavor and unforgettable grassy-tangy finish, there’s no turning back…it’s a staple you won’t want to do without. Photo: Geneva Anderson

1:00 p.m. Maggie Foard   Goat Cheese (2008)

1:30 p.m. Mary Karlin Artisan Cheese Making at Home: Techniques & Recipes for Mastering World-Class Cheeses (2011), Wood-Fired Cooking: Techniques and Recipes for the Grill, Backyard Oven, Fireplace, and Campfire (2009)

2:00 p.m. Lenny Rice & Clark Wolf  Lenny Rice: Fondue (2007),  Clark Wolf: American Cheeses: The Best Regional, Artisan, and Farmhouse Cheeses, Who Makes Them, and Where to Find Them (2008)

2:30 p.m. Kristine Kidd, Weeknight Fresh + Fast (2011) Kristine Kidd has written a number of books for Williams Sonoma Kitchen Library.

3:00 p.m. Andrea Mugnaini The Art of Wood-Fired Cooking(2010)  Anna Mugnaini and the Mugnaini crew will be baking wood fired pizzas in a portable pizza oven on working the Pizza Patio on Sunday too. Enjoy artisan cheese and fresh wood fired pizza?

Cheese Wiz: in researching the various symposiums associated with the conference, I learned

  • The first cheese was made over 4000 years ago by nomadic peoples. It is believed that someone tried to store or transport fresh milk in a water bag made from an animal stomach. Later, when the milk was needed, the first cheese was discovered (the rennet in the lining of the bag would have caused the milk to separate into curds and whey).
  • Asian travelers likely brought cheese production to Europe where cheesemaking flourished among monks during the Middle Ages.
  • In 1620, cheese was on the Mayflower when the Pilgrims journeyed to America.
  • Spanish priests first made cheese from the milk of mission livestock in the early 1800s.  Later, during the Gold Rush, European immigrants built dairies on the Point Reyes peninsula to supply butter and cheese to gold miners in San Francisco.
  • Sonoma and Marin counties—the Normandy of Northern California—are home to the largest concentration of artisan cheesemakers in California, if not the country.  Our unique foggy, grassy terrain has roughly 22,000 acres of land dedicated to making cheese and fermented milk products. To celebrate this and educate, the Marin Economic Forum (MEF) just introduced the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail map [PDF], the first-ever map to local artisan cheesemakers.

 21 Artisan Cheese Producers will participate Sunday:

Achadinha Cheese Co.
Beehive Cheese Co.
Bellwether Farms
Bohemian Creamery
Central Coast Creamery
Cowgirl Creamery
Cypress Grove Chevre
Epicurean Connection
Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese
Laura Chenel’s Chevre
Mt. Townsend Creamery

Marin French Cheese
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.
Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery
Nicasio Valley Cheese Co.
Shamrock Artisan Cheese
Sierra Nevada Cheese Co.
Tumalo Farms, Bend, OR
Valley Ford Cheese Co.
Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese
Winchester Cheese

March 24, 2011 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment