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Donna Scala of Don Giovanni leaves us; Victor Hill new tasting room; Ina Garten coming; Film Festival’s new foodie films; Tri-Trip Trolley

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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Donna Scala, dynamic chef and co-owner of Bistro Don Giovanni north of downtown Napa, passed away Tuesday from brain cancer.

Hailing from Roanoke, Va., Scala grew up in her father’s Greek eateries, opened a French-Italian food shop in Sausalito, met husband Giovanni Scala, spent lots of time with his family in Naples and learned culinary skills and recipes from his mother, Concetta.

Their recipes, Giovanni’s front of the house charm and management, and her before-the-crowd vegetable and herb garden combined for a winner, all day every day. We often stopped there for always reliable, good food and fun. So sorry.

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In case you needed another tasting room-wine bar on East Napa Street, fear not. One is coming.

Having waited tactfully (or tactically) until after the Sonoma City Council basically voted not to ban more tasting rooms around Sonoma Plaza, Vic McWilliams and Tom Hill (no relation) recently posted their Victor Hill ABC notice in the window of what had been an imported pottery shop, which will apparently re-open next door where Sox de Vine was before it moved to the Mercado. Dizzy yet?

Vic McWilliams, famed for his pinot noirs with his Castle Vineyards & Winery, and Hill, partnered after McWilliams sold Castle to Erin and John Sweazey, who created Anaba Wines, now located at Bonneau Road and Arnold Drive.

In the interim, McWilliams has been serving as a pharmacist (his first career) at Pharmaca. Recently, Victor Hill wines have been featured at Sonoma Enoteca and at Sonoma’s Best.

The addition of Victor Hill makes existing and developing tasting rooms the majority of businesses on the first block of East Napa Street, not counting restaurants.

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Ina Garten, the Food Network star known as “The Barefoot Contessa,” comes to Santa Rosa’s Wells Fargo Center for the Arts on Wednesday, April 2. While the 50 tickets for the VIP pre-session have long been sold out, Garten’s conversation with Tori Ritchie is bound to be interesting. Ritchie has hosted many television cooking shows, calls herself a home cook instead of a chef, and her latest books include “The Pressure Cooker Cookbook” (2012) and “The Art of Blending” (2013).

A former nuclear budget analyst in President Jimmy Carter’s White House, Garten left Washington, D.C., in 1978 and bought a 400-square-foot store called the Barefoot Contessa in the Hamptons. After the store prospered and grew to 3,000 square feet, she sold it to her chef and manager and started to write her easy, few-steps cookbooks, which quickly became bestsellers.

Garten has written for major magazines and seems to produce a book every year just in time for holiday gift giving.

Personal notes: I have always thought the “Barefoot Contessa” moniker was positioning Garten in contrast to her Connecticut neighbor, Martha Stewart. Their styles, shapes, attitudes and religions are very different. Do you think Ina Garten made up her name? I mean, In a Garden?

Get two free tickets by calling in to my “Kathleen Hill Show” on KSVY this morning at 10 a.m. 933-9133. Otherwise: $45 or $65. Wellsfargocenterarts.org.

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Enoteca Della Santina will host Matthew Clasen of Quintessential Wines, who will introduce Chilean wines from Matetic & Corralillo this evening, Friday, March 28. $10 tasting fee, refunded with $50 purchase. 5 to 6:30 p.m. 127 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 938-4200.

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This year’s Sonoma International Film Festival will show five food fan films for your vicarious dining pleasure. According to Claudia Carruth, many were shown at Cannes, Berlin and “other top-tier film festivals.” Here they are, in chronological order.

“The Chef (Comme un Chef),” from France, features Jacky, a self-trained cook with big culinary ambitions who gets canned from a series of low-level cooking jobs. Beatrice, Jacky’s pregnant girlfriend, tries to find him other menial jobs he might handle, but he is still called to the kitchen. Lots of fun twists and turns through several small and large restaurant kitchens, from basic to molecular gastronomy. Thursday, April 3, at 12:30 p.m., in Burlingame Hall.

“Jadoo,” from the U.K., tells the story of two great chef brothers who have such an argument that they tear up the family recipe book, one takes the starters and the other takes the main cources. They open rival restaurants across the street from each other and battle it out. Twenty years later, a daughter gets them back together by begging them to cook her wedding banquet. Thursday, April 3, at the Sebastiani Theatre at 3:30 p.m.

“The Golden Scallop” highlights a northeastern U.S. fish frying competition among three fried fish restaurants. This year’s contest (the 43rd) pits a food truck, an aging former fish fry champ, and a well-financed novelty fish house against each other. Hilarious chaos. Writer and co-producer Kevin Harrigan will attend the Thursday, April 3, screening at 8 p.m. in the Sonoma Community Center’s Andrews Hall.

From Spain comes “Tasting Menu,” in which a couple makes a reservation at the best restaurant in the world (probably El Bulli, which is now closed) a year ahead of time, they get separated, and the reservation turns out to be for the last night the restaurant will be open. Star Claudia Bassols will attend the Thursday, April 3, screening at Sebastiani Theatre (8:45 p.m.) Also shown Friday, April 4 at Murphy’s Irish Pub (4:30 p.m.)

The final foodie film, Sweden’s “Love and Lemons,” is a romantic comedy about love, friendship and courage to follow your dreams. The title has at least two meanings. Agnes is a chef and loves to cook. She gets fired from the high-end restaurant where she works and her boyfriend dumps her. Suddenly she is offered a partnership in a new restaurant, and “manages to fall in love with the one person who cannot know who she really is.” Hmmm … Catch this on Friday, April 4, at 9 a.m. at the Sebastiani Theatre.

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Esteban Luna and Martin Galvan have opened the elegant Bodega Shipping Co. in the same building as Crisp Bakeshop, on the north side of West Napa Street. Esteban managed Premier Wine Shipping for five years and jumped at the chance to open his own store. Bodega Shipping appears to be equipped to ship wine or anything else you might need, within limits. Then recuperate with a cup of coffee next door. I discovered it after meeting Lori and Peter Hohorst and Jim Lamb at Crisp for a croissant and coffee. 750 W. Napa St., Sonoma. 343-1656. Bodegashiippingco.com.

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Several of us gathered recently for a lawn picnic to celebrate the life of a great Southern lady, Martha Roddenberry Scott, a well-known designer, ham, usually redhead, high liver whom we lost recently. According to small town Georgia tradition, we all cooked southern specialties, such as tomato aspic, anchovy stuffed eggs, pecan pie, spice cake and sweet tea, with a few bottles of Sonoma Valley wine thrown in. Scott contributed tremendously to the improvements and décor of the League for Historic Preservation’s Maysonnave House, once the home of Henri Maysonnave. Thanks to organizers Ethel and Gene Daly and Barbara White-Perry, we also dedicated a new bench honoring Martha Scott on the Maysonnave House lawn. Martha’s son Anderson (Andy) Roddenberry Scott, his wife Stacey, and children Audrey and Nathan will be great additions to our community.

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Ram’s Gate Winery will serve a spectacular “Terroir to Table” five-course dinner, with their wines from five terroirs, on Sunday, April 6, with food prepared and paired by under-discovered executive chef Taylr Behnam. Expect ricotta and zucchini fritters, duck confit brioche and dungeness crab with avocado on a taro chip for appetizers.

Dinner starts with a salad of zucchini, fennel, English peas and mint with pineapple vinaigrette; Alaskan halibut with whipped cauliflower and Jerusalem artichokes; buckwheat pappardelle with braised pork cheeks; venison with potato cake; and a Napoleon with lime curd on housemade pastry. $195 plus tax and gratuity, $150 for club members. 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. 28700 Arnold Dr., Sonoma. Reserve at 721-8700 or concierge@ransgatewinery.com.

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Women for WineSense will host Sparkling Sips on Thursday, April 10, at Jayme Powers’ very hip Sigh, haven of champagne and sparkling wines in Wine Alley, off the Plaza on Napa Street. Guests will sip Gruet Sauvage from New Mexico, Juvé y Camps Gran Reserva Cava, Gerard Bertrand Crémant de Limoux, Taltarni Taché, Lelarge Pugeot Extra Brut Millesime, and 2006 Janisson & Fils, in a small space for 30 people. Truly a girls’ night out. WWS member $35, member’s guest $50. 30 percent discount on bottles of wines tasted. 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. For more info, contact chris@christinemueller.com.

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John Ash, whose new book “Culinary Birds: The Ultimate Poultry Cookbook,” was just announced as a finalist for a James Beard Award, will bring his book to one of Book Passage’s dinner events at the Left Bank Restaurant in Larkspur Sunday, March 30. Usually, the restaurant cooks recipes from authors’ books, so this should be interesting. $115 per person includes everything and a signed book, $175 per couple with one book. Reserve at (415) 927-0960.

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Popo the Clown (aka Penny Byrd) will hold a big party to celebrate the opening of “Popo’s Party Barn – A Place to Celebrate Kids,” tucked between The Granary and AJ Estate Sales. Promising “Good Ol’ Fashioned Fun,” Popo suggests you can bring your party to her place instead of her coming to your party, or both.

The opening celebration on Friday, May 2, will feature the just-approved Tri-Trip Trolley, face painting, magic shows, balloon surprises, carnival games. Raffle to win a party for your child. Free admission to party. 4 to 6 p.m. 19626 Eighth St. E., Sonoma. More info and book May parties at 933-1800.

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No Truth to the Rumor Department: Carlo Cavallo tells me there is no truth, i.e. “none at all,” to a rumor some have alluded to that he is closing his Sonoma Meritâge Martini Oyster Bar & Grill on West Napa Street. Perhaps some people assumed that, with his opening of Burgers & Vine.

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Tri-Tip Trolley, which just got approved to hang out at Sorento Imports in front of Safeway, will be run by Andrew and Susie Tryfogle, who already serve tender tri-tip at the Tuesday farmers market. Since it is now in the food truck business, alongside Café Scooteria, Sorento’s Nick Grimm is fitting the trolley with proper kitchen equipment. In the evenings it will pull in front of the former gas station with food to go, and then back to its current parking place during the day.

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Susan and Richard Idell recently hosted a large group of international entertainment lawyers, attending the American Bar Association Forum on Entertainment, for dinner at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, another dinner at Sondra Bernstein’s Suite D, and one at their home, where the visitors got to sample the fine Mexican food from the El Coyote taco truck, usually located on Broadway across from Sonoma Valley High School.

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California’s wine exports reached record highs in 2013, meaning a 16.4 percent increase to $1.55 billion or 48.4 million cases, according to the California Wine Institute. The biggest increases in sales went to the European Union’s 28 countries (as a whole), followed by Canada, China, Mexico and South Korea. Sales went down in Japan and Hong Kong.

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Sheana Davis of The Epicurean Connection has signed on as a consultant to develop a sheep’s milk cheese-making operation at the new Tolay Springs development on the former Roche family ranch north of Sonoma Raceway.

The property was purchased recently by a Chinese group, which has hired winemaker Darrin Low for its Bliss Canyon Winery.
Scott and Linda Yenni, who handled the real estate transaction for both the Roche property and CornerStone, will manage the development.

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Today is “National Something-on-a-Stick Day,” which I guess could range from marshmallows to veggies to chicken. Ouch.

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Bon appétit!