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‘Bachelor Ben’ out of winery; Paula Wolfert decked and bounces back in Chicago; Zucchini Races tonight; Sonoma’s Best Pinot Envy

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill

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“Bachelor” Ben Flajnik has left Envolve Winery. He posted on Facebook Tuesday evening that, “It saddens me to say today that I am officially no longer a part of Envolve Winery. After many years of hard work, I say goodbye to the people who have made it great, you drinkers. Onward and upward to Gratci and Fernet Francisco,” another wine group he has helped form in San Francisco.

According to some reports, Flajnik, a former “Bachelor” television star, believed in promoting wines through reality television shows, whereas co-founders Danny Fay and Mike Benziger favor developing their wines for the wine’s sake, stressing organic and biodynamic growing and processing, and promoting the wines rather than personalities.

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Famed world cookbook author and Sonoma resident Paula Wolfert fell in a Chicago street Monday and broke her left wrist and lower arm. Ever the trooper, she is back in Sonoma, sending emails from her iPad, and says she will show up for our regular Tuesday lunch next week and be back in perfect form in six weeks.

Wolfert was in Chicago for a meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association, with 11 other well-known people who have been diagnosed with early cognitive impairment and who have been asked by the Alzheimer’s Association to appear around the country to spread the word on early diagnosis and what can be done. Fortunately Wolfert’s son, Nick, was with her on the trip.

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For some old-fashioned laugh-out-loud fun, don’t miss tonight’s zucchini races at Sebastiani Winery’s Arbor Park. These are Sonoma’s original zucchini races, founded by Hilda Schwartz when she ran both the Tuesday night and Friday morning farmers markets.

Rachel Ray even mentioned and recommended these zucchini races in her magazine, Every Day with Rachel Ray.

Bring friends, a picnic, and even a zucchini car to race or just to look beautiful. Pornographic designs usually don’t win. This is a family affair.4-H members and siblings Hanna, Sam and William Breall will eye the bottom of the racetrack for winners, and Eric and Sandy from Ortiz Family Farm will help with everything else. Scott Sherman and William Spencer will serve as judges.

Entries can be no wider than 10 inches. Wheels cannot be skateboards, skateboard wheels, roller skates or doll buggies. “Cars” will be categorized as small, medium and large and judged on speed or just plain creativity. Wine available for purchase at Sebastiani Winery. Sponsored by the Friday morning Sonoma Valley Certified Farmers’ Market. Free. Entries accepted 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. Races begin at 6:30 p.m. Fourth Street East at Lovall Valley Road. For more info call Ann Hollister at 933-9101 or aholly@vom.com.

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McDonald’s in China refused to cut ties with their Chinese beef and chicken supplier, OSI, which is accused of selling them out-of-date and contaminated beef and chicken for Chicken McNuggets that were processed by workers with their bare hands, according to ABC News. Burger King no longer buys from OSI, which had also been accused of selling out-of-date meat.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Russia’s consumer protection agency, Rospotrebnadzor, suddenly is trying to ban certain McDonald’s foods on a health basis. The San Francisco Chronicle suggested that a Russian government suit against McDonald’s might be the result of tensions between Russia and the United States over Ukraine and the downed Malaysian Airlines passenger plane.

The Russian agency is reportedly taking McDonald’s to court for “selling foods that contain more fats and carbohydrates than are allowed by national regulations,” which would include their cheeseburger, Royal Cheeseburgers (like quarter pounders), fish sandwiches and milkshakes. They might have a point, but our daughter sure had to eat a lot of potatoes over there. Interesting that apparently fries are not mentioned.

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Shiso Modern Asian Kitchen (new name) is again serving lunch Tuesday through Friday.

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Something is going on in the last former site of Sonoma Meritâge, but the exterminator would only tell me “I’m just the bug guy. I don’t know anything.” But that tells us something. More to come.

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Margie Brooke will serve an apricot ginger teriyaki chicken dinner Saturday, Aug. 2, at her Community Café, accompanied by Asian slaw and coconut rice, all for $10 with a drink purchase. Music will bring the Bee Rays on Friday and Sue Albano & Tsunami Saturday. 21 and over only. Starts at 6 p.m. Bottomless mimosas $14 every day. 875 W. Napa St., Sonoma. 938-7779.

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The American Cheese Society has been meeting and judging best cheeses in Sacramento this week. Jill Giacomini Basch of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., is co-chair of the ACS conference, which promotes “understanding, appreciation and promotion of artisan, farmstead and specialty cheeses produced in the Americas.” On Monday, Aug. 4, Sheana Davis and Waldemar Albrecht will host a tasting of “American Cheese Society Blue Ribbon Beauties” at her Epicurean Connection, followed by Ewetopia and Fiscalini Cheese Co. on Monday, Aug. 11, and Laura Chenel Cheese Co. on Tuesday, Aug. 19. Tastings free. Full menu available. 6 to 8 p.m. 122 W. Napa St., Sonoma. 935-7060.

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Sonoma’s Best invites everyone to three successive Thursday evenings of Pinot Envy, based on co-owner and jokester Tom Jenkins’ personal observation that pinot noir producers “harbor intense and deep-seated envy of other Pinot makers.”

Customers get to judge an assortment of pinots on a 1 to 10 rating scale, based on blind tastings each Thursday, Aug. 7, 14 and 21. Wineries, whose wines made from pinot grapes that will be tasted over the three weeks, will include Clarbec, La Crema, Horse & Plow, Elizabeth Spencer, Terlano, Balletto, Red Car, Stemmler, Babcock, Blue Farm, Canihan, David Bruce, David Noyes, Domaine Eden, Donum Estate, Ernest Bloom, Joseph Phelps, McManis, O’Connor, Pali, Ramsay, Sojourn, Trecini and Victor Hill. For only a $10 tasting fee, how can you miss? Bound to be fun. $10. 5 to 7 p.m. 1190 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 996-7600.

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Pets’ Lifeline’s Paws for a Cause fundraiser, one of the most fun in Sonoma Valley, will be Saturday, Aug. 16 at the Vintage Kennel Club Dog Ranch & Spa. Honoring the cats and dogs of Sonoma Valley, the event and dinner take place in an elegant barn, with straw in the horse stalls where you feast on dinner. Occasionally, the horses poke their noses in from outside to check out your salad.

All to save animals’ lives, attendees will mingle with goats, sheep, horses and a camel, and will feast on a vast buffet created by Grapevine Catering, augmented by tastes from Krave Jerky and Fat Pilgrim. Ten Foot Tone will play original music, followed by a silent auction and a brief fund-a-need. $95. 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. 22071 Bonness Rd., Sonoma. Reservations a must by contacting Nancy King at 996-4577, ext. 102, or nancyking@petslifeline.org.

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La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and Société Mondial du Vin, Napa-Sonoma chapter, invites guests to a James Bond dinner Affaire at Patz & Hall Tasting Salon on Saturday, Aug. 16. Bruce Riezenman, of Park 121, will cook dinner to be paired with Patz & Hall’s chardonnays and pinot noirs. Dress as your favorite Ian Fleming character or black tie. Menu to follow soon. $215. 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. dinner. 21200 Eighth St. E., Sonoma. Send checks to E.J. Heinzer, 341 Sailfish Isle, Foster City, CA 94404. The next day, La Chaîne will host a luncheon, croquet and Sonoma Cutrer wine tasting on Sunday, Aug. 17 at Sonoma Cutrer Winery and famous croquet lawns, with Riesenman catering lunch. $85. 11:30 tasting. 12:15 p.m. luncheon. Croquet 1:30 to 2:30. 4401 Slusser Road, Windsor. Send checks same as above.

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Sonoma said farewell to 20 Cuban sommeliers at a dinner cooked by Ramekins chef Doug McFarland at Wing & Barrel Ranch. Several winemakers, who happen also to belong to the hunt club, brought their wines to accompany a stacked heirloom tomato and watermelon salad, halibut, and thinly sliced duck with polenta, followed by a pear gallette. After dinner, the Cuban sommeliers opened bottles of Cuban rum, sprinkled a little on the floor ceremoniously to bless the building and the evening, and then poured rum that could have cured anything and possibly light a few cigars.

Congressman Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, chair of the Congressional wine caucus, helped many of the sommeliers get their visas and addressed the crowd, which included friends and associates of hosts Sarah and Darius Anderson, 20 Cuban sommeliers led by Fernando Fernandez and Leticia Cabrera, Roberta Sherman, Dick Ward, Linda Reiff, Kate and Jeff Brown, Matt Stamp, Vicki Liviackis, Randy Fry, Coleen Dominguez, Mark Danan, Dana Adams, Steve Burns, Holly Fraumeni, Linsey and Lon Gallagher, Jennifer Davis, Kirk Anderson, Christina Hunstock, Dimitra and Mike Sutsos, Paula Kornell, Jere Owen, Joane Palmi, Marty O’Hara, Alexandra and Art Berberian, Nancy and Dave Simpson, Jonathon Bavio, Mark Pople, Kevin and Julie Sloat, Gale Kaufman, Steve Murakami, David Kaufman, Eva Bertran and David Brown, Cyril and Gigi Rollins-Penn, Katie Canfield, Josh Heiser, Jonathan Goldman, Margot Barbottin, David Oliver, and Mark and Mona Couchman.

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Out of town tastes:

Charles Krug Winery hosts an event called “Heritage Fire” on Sunday, Aug. 3, with loads of Bay Area chefs, such as Adam Sobel, Andrew Zimmerman, Matthew Accarrino, Duskie Estes and John Stewart, Mark Liberman, Katie Hagan-Whelchel, Patrick Clark, David Katz, Dominic Orsini and Joey Elenterio, all to benefit the St. Helena Farmers Market and the American Institute of Wine & Food. Together they’ll cook 3,000 pounds of animals for your tasting pleasure. Watch for a locals butchers’ butcher shop, a Chef’s Pantry open-air market, seminars, tastes and lots of wine available. $100 to $200. 3 to 7 p.m. 2800 Main St., St. Helena. More info at cochon555.com.

Also Sunday, Aug. 3, The Shed in Healdsburg hosts Ellen Cavalli of Windsor’s Tilted Shed Ciderworks and Kay Michaels, cheesemonger at New York’s Eatly, presenting a cider and cheese pairing workshop. Local producers participating include Devoto Orchards Cider, Gypsy Cheese Co. and Weirauch Farm & Creamery. $50. 3 to 5 p.m. 25 North St., Healdsburg. 431-7433.

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Sondra Bernstein hosted an extremely informative Artisan Beef tasting at her Suite D, put on by Carrie Oliver of the Artisan Beef Institute and Kristine Beck of Twisted Horn Ranch, where she and her husband raise Longhorn cattle. The tastes of beef were extraordinary, with various levels of fat, tenderness and flavor.

Carrie Oliver has set out to establish “The Provenance of Beef,” hoping people will taste and respect beef as they do wine. Her “mission” is “to create a new language for beef, like wine has its own (sometimes overdone) descriptors, such as raspberry, cigar box and chocolate flavors for wine.

As a self-described “beef geek,” Oliver says the impact on marbling of the flavor of cooked beef is only 5 percent. Various speakers explained that what influences taste and tenderness are the breed of cattle, the feed it eats, such as native grasses, the rancher and the butcher. Stress effects beef just as it does grapes.

After tasting samples grilled by Suite D chefs from True Grass Farms, Open Space Meats, Sonoma Natural Beef, and Twisted Horn, we indulged in a family-style meal of grilled peach salad, wood-fire roasted chicken, Twisted Horn Longhorn beef, Butterball potatoes, skillet blistered Padron peppers, grilled garden veggies, sliced Heirloom tomatoes with Balsamic drizzle, mini desserts and gelato. To hear about such events, get on the girl & the fig’s “fig bits” newsletter email list. Thegirlandthefig.com.