SANTA ROSA, Calif.
It’s a busy time in wine country as the annual crush begins at many wineries. In fact, the crush — the harvesting of grapes and crushing into juice to turn into wine — probably started last month for some and will continue for the next few weeks, depending on the region.
Last Saturday, I was invited by the St. Francis Winery to join a behind-the-scenes tour of its operations in the midst of crush season. I got to see all aspects of the winery operations, from the vineyards to the barrel room to the dining area where we got a sampling of the popular wine and food pairing.
The 40-year-old winery is an established label. I’ve tasted the wine and seen the brand at stores, but I’d never been to the actual vineyards and tasting room, partly because I have yet to fully explore the various Sonoma wineries, which often gets overlooked in favor of Napa.
But I found the winery an enjoyable spot to experience wine. It didn’t hurt that we had amazing weather last weekend, which makes the view from the patio just that more sparkling. The food from Chef Bryan Jones, who joined the winery about five months ago from the Fig Cafe and Wine Bar, is also sophisticated and perfectly paired with the wine. (The wine and food option cost $50 and is so popular they’re booked for the next two months.)
St. Francis is known for being the first winery to produce merlot as a variety on its own (as opposed to being a grape to blend with other varieties), but ironically we didn’t have any merlot during the tour. Maybe because of the warm weather, we stuck mostly with sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, which were all smooth and complex. Today, St. Francis is a certified sustainable vineyard.
Along with its wine and food pairing program, St. Francis also puts on monthly Taste of Sonoma events where a local artisan food maker showcases his or her product paired with St. Francis’ wine. So there’s always something happening to make the drive up north worth it.
The deets: St. Francis Winery and Vineyards, 100 Pythian Road, Santa Rosa. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. www.stfranciswinery.com
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