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Kathleen Hill: Sigh opens, Good Spirits fest, and more


Artisan distillers fest coming to Cornerstone

If you like sips of excellent artisan spirits, the upcoming Good Spirits 2017 artisan distillers festival at Cornerstone is for you. Even if you don’t drink, there is lots to learn and lots of non-alcoholic drinks and food nibbles to enjoy.

Organized by Gibson Thomas, publisher of Edible Marin & Wine Country, this will be the first real spirits festival in the wine country. Lots of local distillers will be present and pouring, and many will also be serving food from such locals as the Girl and the Fig.

Co-sponsors with Edible include Cornerstone, Ramekins, and the Edible Communities, which include all the regions of the U.S. where Edible magazines tell local healthy food stories.

The Saturday, Sept. 9 event will include a great list of artisan distillers’ finest products including those of Prohibition Spirits/HelloCello, Hanson of Sonoma, Charbay, St. George, Griffo, Sonoma County Distilling, Napa Valley Distillery, Spirit Works Distillery, Ca’Momi, Ginny’s Gin, and more are signing up daily. Sonoma Syrups and Spendrift squeezed-fruit sparkling waters will have tables as well.

Edible Communities launched its first Good Sprits event in 1999 with Edible Manhattan, bringing together distillers, cocktail makers, and local food producers. This year they have created what the call their National Good Spirits Tour with events in Manhattan, Reno/Tahoe, Aspen, Cincinnati, Chicago and Sonoma. $50 advance, $60 at door. 3 to 6 p.m. More info and tickets at ediblemarinandwinecountry.com/events.

Yoga and wine at Benziger Family Winery

Apparently wine plus yoga equals Vinyasa, a new yoga and wine drinking experience offered by Benziger. OK, the real truth: Vinyasa is the movement you make between poses. It just sounds like wine plus yoga.

Enjoy a Sunday Morning hour-long Vinyasa flow session followed by a walking tour of the Benziger insectary and a splash of Frank Johnson sauvignon blanc, then retreat to the cool tasting room for some more wine. Benziger will supply mats, blocks, straps and water, all on Sunday, July 9. Other dates will be Aug. 13 and Sept. 10. $35. 10 a.m. to noon. To best way to sign up is by reaching out to wineclub@benziger.com or calling the winery at 800-989-8890.

Sigh officially uncorks

Jayme Powers’ lush Sigh bubbles wine bar opened a week ago, and she did not get away with a “soft opening.” No such thing here. Sigh has been packed ever since Powers took the plastic off the windows and opened the door. Much more exciting and spacious than her original space for her innovative wine bar in Vine Alley, aka Sonoma Court Shops.

Even Monday afternoon groups of women were sitting and sipping on sofas around the edges, and lots of men surrounded the oval bar sipping flights of champagne, wine and even pints of beer.

The walls are lined with mirrors covered with painted quotes of famous French winemakers and philosophers, and the pièce de résistance (other than wine) is a wall back by the beautifully designed bathroom area. Restrooms are marked with male and female figures and all use the same modern marble basin.

But one wall is covered with mounted champagne bottle caps Powers saved since she opened at her first location, expertly arranged and encased in a plastic-like substance. When asked where she got that wall in the back, she said “I made it with my parents,” Jill and now-retired Jim Powers, formerly everyone’s favorite orthodontist. “You know they love you when they spend hours and hours glue gunning.” It’s worth the trip down the hall, even if you don’t need the rest of the facilities.

Yoko Ishihara and Mark Wilson of Sonoma’s Ishihara Wilson designed the interior, of course with the help of Powers and her dreams as a graphic arts and dance major at Chapman University. They tastefully left the original pressed metal on the south wall, which also remains next door at Tasca Tasca. The elegant hipster design is a long way from the antiques collective that occupied the storefront 35 years ago.

Flights of bubble wines range from $18 for three pours of California sparklers from Iron Horse, Domaine Carneros and Gloria Ferrer. At $20 Rosé flights include Roederer Estate, Champagne Chateau de Bligny and Taltarni Taché from Australia.

Another step up are the real Champagnes from France at $22 per flight of Montuys Charly-Sur-Marne, J. Lassalle, Cache D’or, and Taittinger from Reims. And then the very best at $85 with Pol Roger, Epernay, Louis Roederer Cristal, and Dom Perignon, Epernay.

There are lots more bubble wine choices, and several wines on tap such as Benziger, Chateau St. Jean, Malene Central Valley, Kenwood, Qupé, Simi, and Cline Cellars, as well as several excellent beer choices. 120 W. Napa St., Sonoma.

Hare & Hatter ready to open

According to their cool website, harehatter.com, Linda Welch and daughter Miranda Ives will open their Hare & Hatter Coffee Bar & Sausage Emporium on Wednesday, July 12 featuring “locally sourced sausages” with world flavors, craft beers and Sonoma County wines.

They will be open for breakfast, lunch and happy hour, tucked back in El Paseo off First Street East in the very shop that was Sonoma Sausage Company’s last retail space. Plus they will serve fair trade and organic artisan coffees they offered at their Friedman’s stand.

Linda Welch is a chef who helped open Viansa, was former chef and co-owner with Françoise Guerra Hodges’ of Café Pilou (now Murphy’s Irish Pub), and of Pascali’s Pasta Nostra once located where Edge is now.

Among her other endeavors, Miranda Ives runs a digital marketing and communications agency called marchharemarketing.com.

Glen Ellen foodie update

For several years Glen Ellen has been Sonoma Valley’s secret gourmet ghetto. Although we lost Catherine Venturini’s Olive & Vine to rent increases, we have Glen Ellen Star, Café, Glen Ellen Inn, Garden Court Café, the Fig Café, Jack London Saloon, Aventine, Wine Country Chocolates and Yeti.

Jack London Saloon was always reliable and don’t tell anyone how lovely the deck is. We truly felt as if we were at a country resort hanging over a creek, which, for some people, I guess we were.

It was a perfect evening on the deck, the hamburgers were superb, glasses of GunBun ample, vodka generous, and we discovered we could “upgrade” from fries to a chopped Caesar salad with the burgers. Good choice!

Umbria to open Aug. 1

Giulio Tempesta plans to recreate his closed Italian San Francisco restaurant, Ristorante Umbria in the former Wolf House next to Jack London Saloon starting Aug. 1. According to Saloon bartender Lee Ann, both the bar menu will be available on the dining room side, and the Umbria menu will be available in the bar.

Great improvements to the restrooms have also occurred, something customers are still awaiting at the new Breakaway in Sonoma.

Kids’ farm stand on Fifth Street East

Check out neighbors Tyge and Kate’s Thursday afternoon farm stand selling Fifth Street Farm and Kate’s backyard produce. Lots of veggie, spinach, kale, jams and, according to Kate, nectarines, with eggs to come. Fifth Street south of Napa Road. Watch for the yellow umbrella. 3 to 5 p.m. Thursdays.

Lobster in the Vineyards

Love lobster? Love dipping it in butter until it dribbles down your arms to your elbows?

Then Lobster in the Vineyards is for you.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley is hosting the event Saturday, July 22 at the peaceful, natural estate of Judy and Les Vadasz.

Besides the setting by a lake, the boiling pots cooked by Lombardi’s of Petaluma will bubble up with artichokes, potatoes, sausages, prawns and lobster in a traditional lobster boil. Lots of beer and wine are poured as the sun sets to the west on the vineyard and over the hills, with the mood set by live guitarists. $250. 5 p.m. Tickets available at 938-8544, ext. 122 or at bgcsonoma.org.