Geneva Anderson digs into art

Celebrating the harvest with Sonoma County vigneron Wayne Roden and his colleagues from the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

San Francisco Symphony Violist Wayne Roden in his Cotati vineyard. Photo: Geneva Anderson

San Francisco Symphony Violist Wayne Roden in his Cotati vineyard. Photo: Geneva Anderson

The morning after the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) gave its September 12 concertthe first in a four concert series at Green Music Center this seasona selection of orchestra members assembled for another kind of performance altogether, this one starting at 6:30 a.m. and involving pruners rather than tuners.  The venue was a small vineyard just West of Cotati, on the farm of long-time San Francisco Symphony violist Wayne Roden and his wife, novelist Barbara Quick.  Instead of the usual white tie and tails, the dress code for this performance was denim and sneakers.  The highly-educated and accomplished harvest crew—including relatives and friends, fiddle players from SFS and a dog named Sophie—all showed up at the crack of dawn to help harvest and crush a bumper crop of Pinot noir.

The idea for the harvest party came about two years ago when Barbara convinced Wayne to do what they do in France during the vendange, when friends and family who help harvest the grapes are rewarded with a lavish feast afterwards.  

Even though ARThound doesn’t play an instrument, I’d heard about the fun they had at the last harvest and was keen to hang out with these musicians, several of whom I’ve interviewed  in the past couple of years.  So, I too, was there—ready to lend a hand, to record the morning’s activities in a series of photos and, of course, to taste such delicacies as Barbara’s roasted heirloom tomato quiche, her heirloom tomato caprese, home-made pesto and amazingly sweet roasted cherry tomatoes, all of which came from her own garden harvest.

San Francisco Symphony Violist Wayne Roden and his wife, novelist Barbara Quick backstage at San Francisco Symphony.   Photo: Geneva Anderson

San Francisco Symphony Violist Wayne Roden and his wife, novelist Barbara Quick backstage at San Francisco Symphony. Photo: Geneva Anderson

When Wayne first decided to move from San Francisco to Sonoma County, he was thinking about horses rather than grapevines. But the favorable meso-climate of the little farm he bought 25 years ago, as well as his appreciation for Sonoma County’s wonderful wines, inspired him to join the growing league of hobby wine-makers. With the help of his grown son, film-maker Sam Roden, he planted a tenth of an acre in Pinot noir and Pinot gris. Seven years later, he is now in the process of vinifying the sixth vintage of his wonderfully delicious, Burgundian style Pinot Noir. (A glass of the 2012 frankly blew me away with its uniquely spicy, subtle dark-chocolate aromas.)

It’s been a great year for grapes and this was Wayne’s biggest harvest yet—782 pounds of Pinot noir and 168 of Pinot gris. This year’s musician-powered harvest should yield 325 bottles of the red stuff and 50 of the white.

Just as some of the finest houses of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or grow their grapes on miniscule but devoutly tended plots of land, Wayne nurtures his 275-or-so vines with the same diligence and artistry he devotes to playing the viola.  He says it’s hard for him to imagine not being a member of the Symphony after 40 years of playing and touring around the globe with SFS.  But if and when he does retire, he thinks he might like to turn his hobby into a small-scale, boutique wine-making operation.

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Sam and Barbara recently collaborated on designing a new label for Roden Wines, featuring an image of a fine old violin. Once a musician, always a musician!

October 8, 2013 Posted by | Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Matanzas Creek Winery’s 16th Annual Days of Wine and Lavender is this Saturday, June 30, 2012

Matanzas Creek Winery’s 16th Annual Days of Wine and Lavender is this Saturday, June 30, 2012. The winery’s Lavender Garden features some 5,000 plants. The cultivars “Grosso” and “Provence” line the entrance to the winery and are the basis of its Estate Grown Lavender product line. Photo: courtesy Matanzas Creek Winery.

 “lavender, sweet lavender;

come and buy my lavender,

hide it in your trousseau, lady fair.

Let its flovely fragrance flow

Over your from head to toe,

lightening on your eyes, your cheek, your hair.”

Cumberkand Clark Flower Song Book 1929


Ask any California gardener and you’ll find that lavender is an herb that is easy to fall in love with—it grows like a dream, has a calming fragrance, and its deep purple hues are treasured by almost everyone.  And luscious culinary lavender has endured long past its trending phase to become a gourmet staple.  This Saturday, at Matanzas Creek Winery’s 16th Annual Days of Wine and Lavender, you can put your problems aside and escape to a lush lavender oasis in Bennett Valley’s rolling hills.  The winery’s breathtaking lavender garden will be in full fragrant bloom and the day is geared towards tasting exquisite wines and sampling all things lavender—from artisan breads dusted with lavender flour to lavender lemonade 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.  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.  If you’ve never been up to Matanzas Creek, the event this Saturday is just about the best introduction you could have to the sprawling estate and its rich offerings.

There will be ample opportunity to taste the wines of Matanzas Creek, featuring Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, and the unique Dénouement ® (day-nu-ma), a fabulous dessert wine made from Sauvignon Blanc that experiences botrytis, or ‘noble rot,’ which is prized in France for its ability to produce stylishly luscious fruit characteristics.  Velvety and sophisticated on the palate, this wine is led by aromas of baked peach and honeysuckle which transition elegantly into flavors of baked apricot with hints of brioche and hazelnut.   Delicacies featuring edible lavender and that pair well with the wines will be prepared by Matanzas Creek’s estate chefs Justin Wangler and Eric Frischkorn and their culinary team.  Last year, Chef Eric Frischkorn prepared out-of-this-world homemade artisan breads featuring lavender.  Some of these breads were created from a unique wild yeast starter dough from yeast Frischkorn collected on the vineyard’s grapes.  This year, be sure to try his special foccacia with Chardonnay Grapeseed Oil and lavender and his Kalamata Olive Sourdough with herbs de Provence which  is made from Frischkorn’s grape sourdough starter.

Chef Eric Frischkorn will be baking and serving his fabulous artisan breads this Saturday at Matanzas Creek Winery’s 16th Annual “Days of Wine and Lavender.” Photo: Geneva Anderson.

This year’s menu:

Assorted Local Artisan Cheeses & Charcuterie 

Paired with Sauvignon Blanc: Drakes Bay Oyster Shooter with Cucumber Consomme

Paired with Chardonnay: Lavender Honey Glazed Scallops, Sardinian Couscous Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Paired with Merlot: Lavender Roasted Leg of Lamb with Confit Fingerling Potatoes, Green Beans & Salsa Verde

Paired with Sauvignon Blanc: Lemon Grass Chicken Lettuce Cups with Toasted Almonds & Pickled Vegetables

White Chocolate Lavender Mousse with Caramelized White Chocolate Cremeux, Lime Streusel & Vanilla Bean Meringue

Justin Wangler assured 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.

This Year’s Highlights Include:

  • Learn first hand from winemaker Marcia Monahan, what sets Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc apart from the rest.  Featuring a sensory experience by tasting fruits, herbs and spices to discover exotic tasting notes.
  • Visit the Journey Tasting Room for an elevated experience and taste amazing wines.
  • Indulge in a chair or hand massage while surrounded by our gorgeous estate.
  • See a live demonstration how a dish is prepared and why it pairs beautifully with Matanzas Creek wines.
  • Take an immerging walk through lavender gardens in high bloom.
  • Groove to live music and just have a great time exploring our estate gardens, grounds and vineyards.
  • 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.
  • Tantalize your taste buds by indulging in unique desserts, local cheeses served by local vendors.  Try Marshall’s Farm estate lavender-infused honey which utilizes Matanzas Creek’s estate lavender.

Details: Saturday June 30th, 2012, noon to 4 p.m. Tickets: $85 General Public and $70 Wine Club 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 29, 2012 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment