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Kathleen Hill: Tootsie Roll woes, Tomatomania and more

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Getting rolled by Tootsie?

An Illinois woman named Paige Stemm has sued Tootsie Roll Industries saying their boxes of Junior Mints now contain too few Junior Mints.

How I remember that taste. As a competitive swimmer in Berkeley swimming during my school years, one of my favorite treats from the Berkeley City Club’s candy machine (gone) was a York peppermint patty. To me Junior Mints are reminiscent of that candy.

Tootsie Rolls were created in 1896 by Austrian immigrant Leo Hirshfield who worked in a New York candy shop and wanted to create a chocolate candy that didn’t melt in the heat, which led to Tootsie Rolls. Apparently the hard candy around the Tootsie pop helped to hinder the melting process. Hirshfield named his invention after his daughter’s nickname, Clara “Tootsie” Hirshfield.

Hirshfield’s candy company has grown to about a half billion dollar annual business and manufactures many brands including Junior Mints, Dots, Charms, Cell Cherries, Dubble Bubble, Sugar Babies, Tootsie Pop, Tootsie Rolls, Sugar Daddy, Blow Pop and Charleston Chew.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Stemm’s lawsuit, which she hopes to expand to a class action, claims that the oversized box sold in movie theatres (she bought hers at Walgreens for $1) is misleading, saying that it is only half full and the rest is air.

But the contents of all food packages have shrunk in a clever make-more-profit scheme by big food packagers, meaning less food in smaller packaging resembling the original while keeping the price the same as the original or even increasing it.

A quart of mayonnaise now contains only 30 fluid ounces, a half-gallon of ice cream has just 1.5 quarts, a 10-pound bag of charcoal now holds just 7.7 pounds, and even kids complain that a bag of chips is at least half air.

Get ready for Tomatomania

Lydia Constantini of Sonoma Mission Gardens warns that we should wait to plant tomatoes in the ground until after the freeze period between April 15 and May 1. We are all eager, and those with old Italian families here in Sonoma used to proclaim that we could plant tomatoes after tax day, meaning April 15. But times and climate have changed. Both Sonoma Mission Gardens and Wine Country Nursery have loads of tomatoes for sale. Sonomamissiongardens.com.

Scott Daigre brings his Tomatomania road show from Ojai to Sonoma next Saturday and Sunday, April 14 to 18. Check out hundreds of heirloom and hybrid tomato variety seedlings.

This year’s event will be in Sunset magazine’s Outdoor Test Kitchen at Cornerstone. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. 93570 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. Tomatomania.com.

Walt Wines’ ‘1,000 miles of pinot’

With their main Walt Wines tasting room on First Street West, Kathryn Walt Hall and winemaker Megan Gunderson Paredes will kick off Walt’s launch of its 2016 single vineyard pinot noirs from their Sonoma tasting room on Saturday, April 14, traveling eventually to the Kimpton Solamar Hotel in San Diego.

Guests at the tasting will sip Walt wines from fruit grown at Sangiacomo Vineyards, Anderson Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, Willamette Valley and the Santa Rita Hills.

Hall will be signing her book, “A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul and Business of a 21st Century Winery.” A product of Mendocino County, she served as President Bill Clinton’s U.S. Ambassador to Austria from 1997 to 2001. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 380 First St. W., Sonoma. Tickets at waltwines.com.pinot-party.

China’s wine, fruit and nut tariff moves

In response to President Donald Trump’s recent imposition of tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, China imposed its own punishing tariff responses this week on American products.

Top of the list of products China will charge at least 15 percent tariffs is wine, which could hit California and Sonoma Valley wineries hard. Also lumped into the Chinese tariff pile are dried, frozen and fresh fruits such as almonds and walnuts, apples, cherries, pineapple, guava, grapefruit, grapes, and raisins – all of which affect California farmers and growers, many from rural California areas that tend to vote conservatively.

By intentionally hitting the Midwest to get the attention of Trump supporters, China has imposed a 25 percent tariff on pork and pork products, which amount to a $1 billion a year export business for farmers. Then came the scrap aluminum industry, along with stainless steel and aluminum for all sorts of piping.

As of press time, the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance was unable to say what Sonoma Valley wineries export to China and might be affected by the new tariffs, as Alliance members are busy organizing this weekend’s big Signature Sonoma Valley wine and food event.

Nibs & Sips

Patti Britton, local artist and designer, just designed the lovely and historically accurate new labels for the Kohler & Frohling winery, which is not in Glen Ellen but is on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay.

According to its website, Kohler & Frohling had its “original winery in Los Angeles plus the Tokay winery in Sonoma, in what is now Jack London State Park (in 1884). They operated a 400,000-gallon facility at Second and Folsom streets in San Francisco and their company headquarters was located at 626 Montgomery, the current site of the Transamerica Building in San Francisco.”

Britton has designed posters and labels using historic photos from the late 1800s for the winery’s sauvignon blanc and rosé of pinot noir. According to Britton, Kohler & Frohling purchased the Sierra Vista Vineyards in the San Joaquin Valley in 1878 and built “a million gallon capacity winery.” It was identified in one of Britton’s labels as the “Fresno Winery” of 1891. Kohlerfrohlingwines.com.

Britton has also designed Sam Sebastiani’s historic La Chertosa labels as well as logos and graphics for the Girl & the Fig. brittondesign.com.

Sheana Davis, owner of the Epicurean Connection, will continue to give first Friday cheese making classes at David Cook’s Cook Management Store. Friday, April 6 she will teach how to make Chèvre, Fromage Blanc, and Crème Fraîche. $35. 1 to 3 p.m. 19626 Eighth St. E., Sonoma. Register at 935-8462. Theepicureanconnection.com.

Mark Tchelistcheff, grand-nephew of the great émigré and wine expert André Tchelistcheff, again presents his film, “André – The Voice of Wine,” on Saturday, April 7 at the Lincoln Theater on the Veterans Home property in Yountville. This will be a special screening of Festival Napa Valley that wine fans, wine growers, winemakers, and everyone in wine country should see if you missed it here at the Sonoma International Film Festival two weeks ago.

Following the screening Mark Tchelistcheff will lead a panel discussion, with a wine tasting following.

Tchelistcheff was considered the “Dean of American Winemakers,” partly because of his knowledge and instincts, and partly because of his generosity in sharing his knowledge. Wines will be poured by wineries he influenced including Grgich Hills (Mike Grgich appears in the film), Rodney Strong Vineyards, Jordan, Beaulieu (where he was winemaker), Alquimista, Staglin Family, Boisset, Aiken, and Schramsberg. $20 to $95. 3 to 6 p.m. 100 California Drive, Yountville. Lincolntheater.com.