The Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance (PGWA) has announced that a petition has been submitted to the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) asking for official recognition of the unique character and high quality of the grapes being grown in the region known as the Petaluma Gap.
The proposed AVA (American Viticultural Area) would cover some 200,000 acres in southern Sonoma County and northern Marin County. The Sonoma County portion would be considered a sub-region of the current Sonoma Coast AVA. Grapes have been farmed in the Petaluma Gap area for over 150 years and there are presently 80+ vineyards comprising more than 4,000 acres of vines. Primary varietals grown in the proposed AVA are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
“We began this process two years ago” says Ana Keller, president of the Alliance. “We felt that the Sonoma Coast AVA was too broad and that a separate Petaluma Gap AVA would help consumers recognize the special character of this area. Over the past two years we began assembling information outlining why this area is so special. In addition to the cool climate and morning fog, the daily afternoon wind roaring into the area through the Petaluma Gap is really what defines us. We documented the data and have now sent our petition on to the TTB for consideration.”
Former Alliance president from 2010 to 2012, Paul Clary, of Clary Ranch Wines, adds “The years of groundwork that made this moment possible involved a great many hours of effort by our team of directors and community volunteers, with the overall goal of increasing awareness and respect for the region.”
The Petaluma Gap AVA petition was put together by the Alliance’s AVA Committee, chaired by Alliance vice president, Doug Cover. A longtime resident and vineyard owner in Petaluma, Doug said, “The petition addresses topography, geology, soils, watershed/groundwater, and climate. While all of these contribute to the distinctiveness of the Gap, topography is a key factor since that is what creates the "wind tunnel" effect. It is the regularity and intensity of the afternoon wind during the winegrape growing season that makes the Gap unique to surrounding areas from a viticultural perspective.”
The petition will be put under review and comments will be accepted by the TTB regarding the request. “We’re hoping for a quick and favorable answer from the TTB” says Ana. “We don’t overlap any other AVAs, our constituency is mainly growers, rather than wineries, and there’s really no reason for any opposition. Our Board of Directors and the general membership are of the same mind as to how important being granted this AVA designation will be to the area. To be able to see labels with “Petaluma Gap AVA” printed will be a great moment.
Paul Clary (top) and Evan Pontoriero (Fogline Vineyards), enlightened a packed-to-the-rafters Petaluma Woman's Club February 19th 'No Whining' dinner and multi-flight tasting event at its historic B Street clubhouse, with an in-depth presentation on the hot topic of what a government sanctioned American Viticultural Area will mean for our micro-region.
Though grapes have been grown on and off in and around Petaluma since General Vallejo planted his first vineyard in the 1830s (prohibition and the devastating Phylloxera grape pest later wiped out most all of the area's vines in the 1920s and 30s), a resurgence of new pioneers started reestablishing the area's viticultural heritage in the more recent 1990s.
Former President of the winegrowers alliance and high profile board director, Paul, talked about how long it has taken to change the mindset of people in the Petaluma area to acknowledge their region as a part of wine country. "It has taken a while to earn recognition for our vineyards," he said. A Petaluma Gap AVA will clarify the region even more so if the imminent $25,000 bid for permission to label wines made with fruit from area growers is successful.
2010 Saltonstall Estate Fizzy White Pinot Noir, a wonderful sparkling wine grown and produced on Spring Hill Road just outside of Petaluma, was introduced and poured by proprietor, Marina Saltonstall and paired with appetizers of fig and rosemary focaccia with Pecorino grapes, cheese, fruit and spiced nuts.
2013 Fogline Vineyards Sonoma Coast Chardonnay — Zephyr Block (Estate) and a 2011 Keller Estate La Cruz Chardonnay were poured by Evan Pontoriero and Sue Straight, respectively. These beautiful Petaluma Gap whites were paired with Valley Ford cheese, pasta, pizzettes and spicy lemon shrimp.
2007 Clary Ranch Pinot Noir and a 2012 Fogline Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (Sun Chase Vineyard) were poured by Paul and Evan and served with fingerling potato skins with sour cream and chives, caramelized bacon and chicken skewers.
Petaluma Gap 2008 Azari Vineyards Shiraz and a 2006 Clary Ranch Syrah were poured by a very charming Cyrus Azari and Paul, respectively and paired with polpette (meatballs from Nonna's recipe in the pages of Fog Valley Crush) in marinara sauce on polenta with mushroom and leek bread pudding.
Suzanne Bordner from Sonoma Portworks completed the pouring for the evening with a 2007 Aris Petite Sirah Port, paired with a scrumptious slice of flourless chocolate cake.
I was invited to attend and to talk a little bit about my book, Fog Valley Crush, in which I wrote about winemaking and the history of the region's farm to table culture, including its grape growing heritage.
This was the first time I have attended one of the Woman's Club events, though I have long since admired the clubhouse itself, designed by celebrated architect Brainerd Jones (1869-1945) and home to Petaluma's women movers and shakers since 1913.
I've long since been a big fan of Bovine Bakery, its original little quarter-century-established mothership an anchor in the heart of bustling Point Reyes Station — and, for the past five years, in its sister bakery and storefront at 23 Kentucky Street in historic downtown Petaluma.
After years of experience, Petaluma bakery manager Carolyn Williams is now readying to take the main sail and captain her own ship entirely, buying the Sonoma County shop from mentor, family member and Bovine's celebrated chief baker, Bridget Devlin (who will continue to own and operate the original Marin county outpost).
Carolyn has plans. Although she and her Petaluma-based team are committed to preserving the most popular, top quality artisan items, an expanded repertoire is in the works.
"We are in need of new tools to make our baking process more efficient, such as mixing equipment and additional refrigeration, as well as expanding our display case to include a refrigerated display for more cakes, pies and other desserts," says an enterprising Carolyn, who has launched a Barnraiser crowdfundraising page in order for bakery friends, family and supporters to boost the much-loved local business to the next level.
As with most crowdfunding efforts, there are all sorts of incentives of which to partake in signing up with various levels of support. In this case, all of them tasty ones. Pledge at a range from $5 to $1,000 for a simple cup of coffee, brunch or lunch to a pie baking class and pizza party for all your pals.
A little from a lot goes a long way. Though this is a fairly new concept for business fundraising, most people today are fully aware of how much hard work, dedication and vision it takes for a small business to succeed. Young business owners are not afraid to ask for help from their community. It's encouraging to see.
"With the proper funding we will be able to modernize our bakery," says Carolyn.
It's hard to believe that already this is the 9th annual California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, March 20-22, 2015. I've attended several seminars and joined in on various tours over the years and it is always so fantastic to meet so many people from all over the globe, here in our neck of the woods for a few days, to thoroughly immerse themselves in the wonders of our world class farmstead cheeses.
Learn from the experts – cheesemakers, cheesemongers, chefs, artisan food producers and industry pros – on farm tours, in seminars, at The Best Bite and sampling at the always sold-out, Marketplace.
Over two dozen cheesemakers participate.
Take a look at the schedule and design your weekend. And, check back often as the festival folk post frequent updates to events and activities. Tickets to most of highlights sell out fast. To sign up for events, click here.
Schedule of Events:
Friday March 20th —
8:30am – 3:30 pm
Farm and Creamery Tours + Lunch
|6:00 pm – 9:00 pm||Cheesemongers’ Duel — The Best Bite (Grand Tasting Tent, Sheraton – Sonoma County)
This year, we are giving you the opportunity to warm up your taste buds for the weekend’s events as you meet our rock star cheesemongers in a light hearted competition. More than two dozen cheesemongers will take center stage as they are provided with a block of cheese from one of our artisan cheesemakers and asked to create The Best Bite! Audience participation is a must! Chef Ryan Scott will join us as a judge and emcee. Artisan wines, beers and cider will also be available for sampling.
$50 per person
Saturday March 21st —
9:30am – 11:30 am
Seminars, Cooking and Pairing Demos
|11:00 am – 1:30 pm||
Book Sales and Author Signing (Sheraton – Sonoma County Lobby)
|12 noon – 1 pm||
|1:30 pm – 3:30 pm||
Seminars, Cooking and Pairing Demos
|3:30 pm – 5:00 pm||
Book Sales and Author Signing (Sheraton – Sonoma County Lobby)
|6:00 pm – 9:00 pm||Chefs vs Chefs — The Best Bite
This popular roaming feast showcases top local Bay Area chefs using artisan cheeses in a variety of dishes from sweet to savory. More than 20 top restaurants, caterers, wineries and breweries will vie for your affection, and your vote, at this lighthearted competition of all things cheese. From soufflés to sandwiches, guests can expect to experience artisan cheese in ways they’ve never had before at this gastronomic showdown.
$75 per person
Sunday, March 22nd —
9:30 am -12:00pm
Cooking Demo and Brunch
|12:00pm – 4:00 pm||
Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace (Grand Tasting Tent, Sheraton – Sonoma County)
I received a 'right royal' welcome when I stopped in at newly opened Two London Foodies Tea and Sandwich take-out shop in downtown Petaluma's American Alley this week. Look who was there to greet me!
Sisters Sue and Kate Grixti sport a suitably cheery British humor, evident in globe-trotting midwife Sue's realization of a long held dream to open her own tea and coffee spot, a bright, light, modern space in historic American Alley.
American born, British raised and world traveled before settling in Sonoma County, Sue considers her new spot behind the counter at Two London Foodies as the perfect place to launch her fledgling business, bringing a taste of the UK to Northern California without the frills and fancies of a formal tea room.
The ex-pat community in the North Bay will no doubt soon catch on to a range of favorites from the old country, including such pantry favorites as Polo Mints, PG Tips, HP Sauce, Marmite, Salad Cream, biscuits and sweet treats.
Sue makes her own to-go sausage rolls, scones, salads and a range of fresh sandwiches made daily, utilizing local breads, meats, eggs and produce.
As well as espresso drinks to-go, Mighty Leaf teas are on the roster, and Yorkshire Gold for the Anglophiles. I did suggest adding P.G. Tips too, seeings as Sue stocks boxes of 'builder's tea' for sale and it certainly is popular here in Petaluma.
One thing we won't be seeing in the shop is a lot of our favorite British choccies. This January, the New York Times reported: "As a result of a settlement with the Hershey’s Company, Let’s Buy British Imports, or L.B.B., agreed this week to stop importing all Cadbury’s chocolate made overseas".
The company also agreed to no longer import KitKat bars made in Britain; Toffee Crisps, (closely resembling) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups; Yorkie chocolate bars and Maltesers.
I expect a lot of duty free carry-ons in the future when British/Americans shop Heathrow at the gate for shopping lists of tasty treats from childhood.
Stop in and see which member of the royal family pops up next at Two London Foodies, 122 American Alley, Petaluma. Phone 707 774 6996. Find on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/2londonfoodies.
National Geographic reports that: "Aboriginals had the (Australian) continent to themselves for 50,000 years. Today they make up less than three percent of the population and their traditional lifestyle is disappearing. Almost. In the homelands the ancient ways live on".
There are around 500 different Australian Aboriginal groups, each with its own language and territory and typically made up of a large number of separate clans. They themselves trace their creation back to the Dreamtime, when the earth was first formed. Dreaming creatures, Aboriginals believe, are connected to places, tracks, roads, paths and sites where their spirits stayed.
Dreamtime is the oldest form of a sense of place and Australia's first people believe that we each belong to an area. If the area is destroyed, the people are destroyed.
"Aboriginals’ land was invaded from the end of the 18th century onwards, with catastrophic consequences for them," says Survival International.org. "Today more than half of all Aboriginals live in towns, often on the outskirts in terrible conditions. Many others work as labourers on cattle ranches that have taken over their land.
Many, particularly in the northern half of the continent, have managed to cling on to their land and still hunt and gather ‘bush tucker’".
According to Australian Aboriginal Art Gallery, Artlandish: "Australian Aboriginal art has seen an unprecedented increase in popularity over recent years and this is not restricted to its native country. Internationally recognized as a unique form of art, it is welcomed overseas and respected and admired by art critics everywhere".
Hailed as arguably the last great art movement, while Australian Aboriginal Art is inspired by ancient and mysterious culture and tradition, it is most often strikingly modern in design and use of color.
Santa Rosa's Chroma Gallery at 312 South A Street, offers California collectors a rare opportunity for purchasing paintings by Australian Aboriginal artists this Spring.
Numerous works from a private Australian collection (some of which are pictured in this post) will be included in the exhibit, with each fully documented painting available for sale with provenance of its authenticity and information about the artist.
Dreamings — Australian Aboriginal Art Exhibit March 11–April 4, 2015
Opening reception Saturday, March 14 noon to 4pm
The tradition and symbology of Australian paintings reaches back more than 40,000 years, when these patterns were first used for ritualistic body painting and sand mosaics. In the early 1970's, Aboriginal artists began using modern art materials and combining their traditional imagery of complex geometric patterns with lush acrylic colors.
Though seemingly abstract, the multilayered paintings reflect the Aboriginal experience of reading the veiled secrets of the desert environment, its plants, animals and pathways. According to Aboriginal mythology, the desert is marked by the movements of legendary ancestors – the wanderings known as Dreamings.
While Western art collectors may value the works according to how well they were executed, Aboriginal people tend to rank them by the importance of the Dreaming in them, thus infusing these pieces with a spiritual sense of mystery, danger and awe.
Photos: Della Fattoria Bakery and Cafe (Click Here to place Valentine's Day Orders)
"Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much, performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love, is done well,"
Vincent Van Gogh
Henry David Thoreau
"A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous,"
Wine maker Barry Singer of Petaluma-based Singer Cellars represented the region with a sweep of medals for his lovely, limited edition wines in the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, this January.
The 25-year-old annual competition, one of the wine industry’s most respected, and highly publicized in the country is known to provide an even playing field for both large scale and boutique wineries.
Barry, (also widely reputed internationally as a dealer in rare photography), donned his super winemaker's garb to score an impressive five-thronged fistful of one double gold, three gold and one silver medals in the newly announced winning line up from amongst 6,000 or so entrants.
A Philadelphia native, Barry started as a hobbyist making full-bodied wines in his West Petaluma cellar back in 2004. Over the past 11 years, Singer Cellars has developed into a highly sought-after limited edition producer of hundreds of cases of premium Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot from Napa Valley fruit, crafted at Corda Winery in Chileno Valley.
In scanning an enormous list of medal winners in this January's competition, Singer Cellars was a standout for the area and though wines are not made with Petaluma Gap's cool climate varietals, but neighboring, Bordeaux-style fruit, they are made here on the border of Sonoma County and West Marin, with integrity and passion and are to be celebrated for their success on such an intensely competitive platform.
For more information, sale prices and how to get your hands on these beautiful bottles, see singercellars.com. This Valentine's Offer expires Feb 15th, 2015. Prefer to speak to Singer Cellars in person? Call 707 781 3200.