Shaken, not stirred our 6.0 earthquake; ‘Chef’ at Sebastiani; Stanley Cup at Ram’s Gate Winery; Williams-Sonoma update

Late breaking: Peter Spann just announced that he and his wife, winemaker Betsy Spann, will close their tasting room “this Sunday to move to an as yet unknown future location, at an as yet unknown re-opening date. Our sub-lease (at Saret Gallery) expires on Aug. 31.” Adds Spann, “In observance of Labor Day we’ve chosen to lessen our labor by having a Moving Sale,” starting today, Friday, through Sunday, Aug. 31. “All wines in our tasting room will be on sale with 15 percent off on six-bottle mixed purchases and 20 percent off on 12-bottle mixes purchases, including our 2001 OMG Meritâge blend that was just rated 90 points by the International Wine Review.” Run, don’t walk for the juice of the gods from one of our winemaking goddesses. Noon to 6 p.m. 111 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 996-1330. Spannvineyards.com.


Sonoma was quiet last Sunday, between the media cautions about traffic for Sonoma Raceway’s IndyCar weekend and a little ole 6.0 earthquake.

Like many earthquakes, this one was weird, seeming to shake up different parts of Sonoma and Napa Valleys, and even different sections of buildings and homes. I clung to the bed and, strangely, yelled “Help,” as if that would do any good, but the shaking, rumbling and trauma began to stop.

We spent Sunday morning sweeping and mopping up old glass treasures and newer bottles of vermouth and vodka, but many Wine Country residents had a lot worse damage to their home structures, businesses and nerves.

Our neighbors to the east, on the other side of the border in Napa, are suffering much more than we are. Everyone has a story to tell, but they actually watched their homes crumble, as I thought ours was about to.

Most of our winemakers and restaurateurs expressed thanks for all the caring messages they have received from around the world.

While you hear the occasional laugh when people fret over spilled wine, to some people it is their livelihood, their investment, their art, their business and their passion.

Some wineries lost lots of their stock, but most said, basically, “We’re all cleaned up and please come visit” and buy wine. I can see new labels sprouting – “I survived the 2014 earthquake.” I wonder whether wine that has been through a trauma will be better or worse than if it lived a tranquil existence amid classical music.

Jeff Mayo of Mayo Family Winery said their several thousand cases stored on Eighth Street East in Sonoma are fine. Sam Sebastiani lost about 40 barrels of his new La Chertosa wines.

Jeff Bundschu, of Gundlach Bundschu, stated that their wine loss and winery damage were fairly minimal. “We have a few broken bottles and leaning towers of stacked cases at our warehouse,” but everything else seemed “pretty much intact.”

Bundschu showed a little sadness about damage to what he knew as “Grandma’s house,” that of the late Mary Bundschu, which they now use as offices. The big historic stone house lost part of a chimney, while the front porch “shifted mightily” and acquired some big cracks. They lost some antique bottles and family heirlooms “that flew from their shelves and shattered.” Several of us had that happen as well.

Jeff added with humor that everything got cleaned up Sunday by family and extended family, “except for the vanilla-sweet smell of a mid-century bottle of Madeira … We are all glad that it broke instead of the equally-aged, collector’s edition, worm-filled bottle of Tequila that was nearby.”

Sebastiani Winery had several tanks lift off their moorings and move substantially sideways, spewing leaking streams of wine in the process.

Many of our restaurants reported little damage except for fallen wine. Sondra Bernstein lost some glasses and wine and a broken window at the girl & the fig, some wine in their catering warehouse, decorative objects at Suite D, and nothing at the fig cafe in Glen Ellen.

Bernstein was much more concerned about some employees who live in Napa who had no power and little water, and whom she had not been able to reach.

Windee Smith lost lots of wine at her Valley Wine Shack, but go see her because she has plenty more.

Bill Blum of MacArthur Place and Saddles Steakhouse said the inn lost some wine and a few small items, but that they were very proud of their team that had everything cleaned up and breakfast buffet ready to go by 7 a.m., by candlelight and minus coffee, which would have required electricity.

Adolfo Veronese in Glen Ellen reported that “the bar at Aventine got rocked. We lost about 60 wine glasses, 25 bottles of liquor and a printer. But not a big deal. No one got hurt.”

Sheana Davis lost 100 jars of goodies and bottles of wine at her Epicurean Connection, but friends helped her clean up and she is back open and serving with joy.

Bob Rice of Breakaway Cafe said, “The Breakaway was miraculously spared any damage at all. No breakage, nothing. And our power was on by 8 a.m. so we fed hordes of hungry folk all day. Counting my blessings!”

Sonoma Market had the aisles cleared and shelves restocked by 6 a.m. and dozens of people swarmed in for breakfast, water and other items.

But there were few pastries because the Basque Boulangerie’s ovens cooled off when the power went out. They tried to deliver what they had already baked to Safeway, Whole Foods and Vargas Market in Napa and found them all closed.

And Saul Gropman, of Cafe LaHaye, commented, “I felt so fortunate! Only two broken wine stems and a half bottle of Cassis! Quite shaken but not stirred.”


In case you missed seeing Jon Favreau’s delicious “Chef” movie, it will be at Sonoma’s Sebastiani Theatre tonight, Aug. 29, through Thursday Sept. 4. Don’t miss it again.


Thanks to a longtime member of their wine club, Ram’s Gate Winery will host the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup on its tour. Guests will enjoy wine, food pairings, and photo ops with the cup on Sunday, Aug. 31. This year, the Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers to win the cup. Ram’s Gate is charging $50 for the experience, with all profits going to the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. There will be two reception times at 2 to 3:15 p.m. and 3:45 to 4:30 p.m., each open to the first 50 guests to RSVP. Call 721-8700 to reserve your spot.


Ramekins Culinary School has a few openings in classes on the Flavors of Calabria with Lisa Lavagetto, Intro to Korean Cooking with Mingkwan, and a tribute to the late Judy Rodgers and her Zuni Cafe by Linda Carucci, all coming up Sept. 3 through Sept. 7. I would love to attend all of these. They will be excellent. Lisa Lavagetto and Linda Carucci are both good friends and excellent cooks and teachers. Korean food fascinates me as well. Register immediately at ramekins.com.


Wild Thyme’s “next Rive Gauche for a while” will be Wednesday, Sept. 10 at FAHA under the old oak tree featuring an Italian Harvest Menu and The Hot Frittatas with Gus Garlick, Don Coffin and Gail Sharpsteen playing tarantellas, polkas, mazurkas and tangos. Beyond the wild time, you will enjoy Chef Keith Filipello’s first course of melon, figs and prosciutto, followed by lasagna alla Napolitano, roast chicken, salad and apple cake. $40 or 35 euro. BYOW, no corkage. 7 p.m. 197 W. Verano Ave., Sonoma. Reserve at 996-0900 or wildthyme@vom.com. Last day to cancel Sept. 6.


The Sonoma Valley Education Foundation’s Red & White Ball dinner on Saturday, Sept. 6, is sold out, but you can still get tickets to the ball itself, always a hot and swinging affair. $30. 5 to 10 p.m. Svgreatschools.org.


Sonoma Plein Air brings its nearly weeklong Sonoma Plein Air Festival to us again Sept. 15 through 19, all to raise funds to keep art in our schools, a noble and proven cause with excellent results.

The festival’s elegant fundraiser gala will be Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, featuring a lively auction, music and dinner. Executive Chef Bruno Tison and staff will create Ahi tuna salad on crispy wontons, Dungeness crab and corn fritters, caramelized onion and Gruyere tarts, and risotto cakes for appetizers. Dinner will be a salad of Marin French Cheese Truffled Brie, sauteed brioche croutons, and local organic greens with sherry shallot vinaigrette; cabernet braised short ribs with Bloomsdale spinach with fried cherry tomatoes, or a vegetarian substitute; followed by a raspberry tian, almond paid de genes, lemon confit and aged port sabayon. $200 to $5,000 welcomed. 5:30 p.m. Reserve at sonomapleinair.com. See ads and other stories for full festival schedule.


This year’s B.R. Cohn Fall Festival will be dedicated to the memory of lots of people’s friend, Lise Sonnen, known to nonprofits in Sonoma Valley as a true angel. In fact, the festival’s Olive Grove Stage will be renamed the Lise Sonnen Memorial Stage.

The Charity Auction and Dinner will be Friday, Sept. 19, in the winery’s 140-year-old olive grove, with Chef Mark Stark cooking a five-course meal for the always-lively crowd. Mark Stark has been a James Beard Award nominee and owns Bravas, Monti’s, Stark’s Steakhouse, Willi’s Seafood and Willi’s Wine Bar.

The live auction often includes signed guitars, trips, private dinners and big format wines, all to benefit charities Bruce Cohn supports. Tickets $175. 6 p.m. Tickets sell fast, at the tasting room or brcohnfallfestival.org.