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Kathleen Hill: Watmaugh strawberries, Schug tasting room on the Plaza, and more


Watmaugh strawberries good news

In case you are worried about the earth moving work around the Watmaugh Road strawberry patch, here is the happy information.

Sam Sebastiani owns 80 or so acres along Arnold Drive, which include the Watmaugh Strawberry Patch’s 20-acre field that faces Watmaugh Road. He wants everyone to know that La Prenda Vineyard Management is starting to plant about 55 acres of that property in mostly pinot noir and a few acres of chardonnay grapes along with a 5-acre wetland in the middle of the vineyard.

Sebastiani says, “The plan is that the Strawberry Patch and vineyard will operate side by side,” which is great news for everyone who likes their strawberries and vegetables, none of which are actually organic, but sure taste good.

Sam Sebastiani also emailed that his La Chertosa 2016 Reserve Sangiovese won a Gold Medal at the 2017 Sonoma County Harvest Fair, and his 2010 Reserve Sangiovese garnered a Double Gold Medal. Attendees at the recent Red and White Ball got to experience the 2010 wine that Sam donated as their “table pouring wine.” He said, “It’s wonderful that we were able to share a great award winner for a great event!”

As well, La Prenda-owner Ned Hill’s 5th Hill brand wines, made from grapes “off of fields that we farm,” just got Best of Class at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair for its Pickberry Vineyard Red Blend and a gold medal for their Vineyard Station Merlot.

Footnote: Sonoma artist Patti Britton designs the historic La Chertosa wine labels.

Food news

Remember Kix and then Trix?

General Mills is bringing back artificial colors to its Trix cereal after a year of trying to market solely all-natural ingredients. Apparently moms and kids like the colors, regardless of whether they come from chemicals or nature, so both will be sold again starting in October, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Watch for Cheerios to come out in a chocolate peanut butter version. Which reminds me of local mothers who protested our school district removing chocolate milk from school menu selections several years ago. Those moms said that the addition of chocolate was the only way they could get milk into their kids.

Rumor Department:

Rumor has it MacArthur Place is well into escrow, but there’s no confirmation from any of its owners. Heard this from a variety of sources, but no one is talking for sure yet, just feeling very positive.

And far be it from me to jinx anything.

Four of us went to Saddles for Happy Hour on Monday to celebrate Christine Mueller’s birthday, and this just might be the best Happy Hour in town. Fabulous calamari and shrimp, Caesar salad, hamburgers and more. And great Manhattans and martinis. Let’s hope not much changes and that all staff gets to keep their jobs.

If the motif changes, who wouldn’t love a chance at some of those fabulous cowboy and cowgirl boots and saddles.

Don’t worry, we will still have Sonoma’s beloved Suzanne Brangham, who has given so very much to this community. And she took that property from one charming old building or two that needed a lot of work, added more buildings in her well-known style that fit inconspicuously into the neighborhood, a spa, a luxurious pool, Saddles Steakhouse, and beautiful décor in all of the rooms. No one’s reputation personally or in business could be better.

Robledo Family Winery Harvest Festival

The Robledo family invites everyone to celebrate their harvest with lots of live entertainment, authentic Mexican food, and Robledo wine on Saturday, Oct. 7. $95 public, $85 wine club includes food and one glass of wine. Noon to 4 p.m. Tickets at 939-6903.

Schug tasting room coming to Plaza

Schug Carneros Estate Winery is planning to open a new tasting room in the Mercado off First Street East, sharing space with Kat Romine’s studio and art gallery. Romine had advertised widely for a winery to share her space and rent.

The family plans to pour flights of their wines slightly different to those they serve at their winery, at about $15 for five or six tastes.

Schug’s founders, the late Walter and Gertrud Schug emigrated from Germany where both of their fathers managed wine estates in their native land. Walter managed vineyards in England and after the couple got together in New York they crossed the U.S. in their VW Beetle complete with skis and specially fit luggage. He joined E. & J. Gallo winery in 1966 and grew to manage Gallo’s quality control and grower relations in Northern California, living and working in St. Helena.

In 1972 Walter Schug joined Joseph Phelps, working with him to develop his winery and vineyards, and resulting in famous first syrah in the U.S. and Phelps’ also famous pinot noir. The Schugs eventually bought 50 acres in Carneros.

The Schugs’ twins, Andrea and Claudia, both help with the winery, and brother Axel now manages, and Axel’s wife Kristine serves as winery chef, and does a good job at that.

You can taste some of her German specialties at Schug’s Carneros Estate Winery Oktoberfest on Saturday, Oct. 30. Noon to 3:30 p.m. $50 public, $40 club members, $10 kids, under 12 free, which includes a pumpkin. Tickets at schugwinery.com.

Chef Bruno Tison leaves Fairmont

After 24 years with the Fairmont and Sonoma Mission Inn, Chef Bruno Tison has left Sonoma and the Fairmont group for a corporate job in New York.

After truly bringing a French flair to SMI, as we refer to it locally, he will leave a bit of a gap on the proverbial menu. Always a front and center star, Tison has helped bring Santé Chef Andrew Cain into his own bright light of stardom.

Rumor has it that he will work for a chain of homes, and is no stranger to New York, apparently having worked for several years for the Trumps as executive chef at the Plaza Hotel.

Ty Caton barrel tasting

Ty Caton will host a barrel tasting at his winery on Eighth Street East in Sonoma on Saturday, Oct.7.

Taste his futures of the 2016 vintage straight from the barrel, along with wife Sandy’s savory food. Of course, you will be able to buy future and current releases at a discounted price. The whole event is complimentary to wine club members and up to three guests. General public tickets $20 advance or $25 at door. 21684 Eighth St. E., Suite 460, Sonoma. RSVP to 938-3224, ext. 1 or angela@tycaton.com.

MFK Fisher’s Last House fundraiser

Audubon Canyon Ranch, which owns the former Bouverie Preserve where David Pleydell-Bouverie built MFK Fisher’s “last house,” will host a fundraiser to help preserve her home and decide what to do with the property at the General’s Daughter on Sunday, Oct. 8.

Guests will taste a dinner of Epicurean Connection cheeses, Stone Edge Farm salad, Cassoulet from the Depot Hotel and the Epicurean Connection, a Bouchon Bakery dessert bar, and Wild Thyme’s Hot Dots. The latter are really gingerbread cookies with a little perk to them that Wild Thyme’s Keith and Joanne Filipello used to make as Fisher’s favorite cookies. Bouchon Bakery and the Depot Hotel are customers of the Epicurean Connection.

Anyone who has gifts from Fisher that she had given them is encouraged to bring the item to the event if you want to return them to add to the authenticity of Last House. Proceeds from the event will go toward the renovation effort. Event $100 ACR members, $125 non-members. 5 to 7 p.m. 400 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Tickets at (415) 868-9244 or acr@egret.org. Tickets sold through Sunday, Oct. 1 or as available. You can donate directly to egret.org/mfk-fishers-last-house.

Ravenswood named one of Top 100 wineries

Wine & Spirits magazine just named its Top 100 Wineries of 2017 and Ravenswood Winery will be honored among others in the Wine & Spirits 14th Annual event on Tuesday, Oct. 10 at City View in the Metreon in San Francisco, all to benefit San Francisco Baykeeper.

Realize that out of 100 “top” wineries selected by sommeliers and retail store owners, that only one Sonoma Valley winery made the cut.

Joel Peterson, who founded Ravenswood, has always made it a classic in its field, particularly for zinfandels. Tickets to the tastings of all Top 100 wines and food pairings range from $125 general admission to $175 VIP, and $350 for the Sparkling Kickoff. 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets at wineandspiritsmagazine.com.