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Kathleen Hill: Vintners’ winter gathering, Salt and Stone and more

Vintners & Growers new Winter Gathering

Given the hardships many in Sonoma Valley have sustained, the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers will hold a “winter gathering” for members on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn instead of their usual holiday party.

SVVGA invites member winegrowers, winemakers, proprietors, chefs, hospitality teams, tasting room staff, restaurateurs, production and vineyard teams, and all of SVVGA’s members of any kind, to gather to enjoy holiday cheers as a community, something we all could use.

Thanks to sponsorship by the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa and Rabobank, a portion of members’ tickets will go to support the La Luz Center’s Fire Relief Fund. 6 to 9 p.m. 100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma.

Salt & Stone update

Last Friday I found Salt & Stone proprietor Diane LaMonica sanding a beautiful slice of reclaimed Mendocino black walnut tree trunk for her and husband David’s soon-to-open Salt and Stone restaurant, where Kenwood Restaurant was for years. She found the trunk slices at Anderson’s Alternatives in Mendocino. “Dressed up” in jeans, sweater and knit cap, she was obviously working hard, probably 18 hours a day.

And have they ever made improvements. The LaMonicas, who owned Café Beaujolais in Mendocino for 10 years, plan to offer what Diane calls “rustic California Mediterranean cuisine.” When asked what that would be, she said, “We will have an oyster bar, lots of seafood, pastas, steak tartare, duck, lamb, cheeses and charcuterie and beef Bourguignon.” I suggested they bring back Max’s liver and onions, and they seemed to be taking locals’ requests seriously.

A 30-year resident of Mendocino, Diane worked for Beaujolais founder Margaret Fox for several years, and bought the café after others owned it.

The LaMonicas left Mendocino for Rincon Valley four years ago because, as Diane put it, “I love to eat outside, and was tired of the rain.” Honest and understandable.

David LaMonica worked for many years at Scott’s Seafood in Sacramento. Arturo Guzman will serve as executive chef at Salt and Stone, having cooked at Meadowood for 20 years, starting at age 17. Krista McCracken came from Florida to Sonoma County to be near family and will serve as general manager.

But it’s the interior that is a real surprise. The LaMonica’s and a brother-in-law have opened up a second dining room, handsomely done with wood tables and black chairs, added a banquette and opened up walls, basically doubling the seating area. Will keep you posted. Full bar. 9900 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. 833-6326.

Aventine has reopened after fires

After a total spiff up and replenishing of food and alcohol spoiled during the fires and power outages, Aventine Glen Ellen looks better than ever, the food is fresher than ever, and drinks and wine are better than ever.

Co-owner Toni Veronese says that they have added two items to the menu: a butternut squash ravioli, and they brought back their butterscotch panna cotta.

Glen Ellen patisserie still simmering

Chauvet Hotel owner Christine Hansson is converting what has been known in Glen Ellen as “the yellow building” that has housed art galleries and more into a French patisserie and bakery. Many locals have watched with drooling anticipation, wondering what’s going on and when those divine baking smells will be wafting through Glen Ellen.

Hansson has all of her permits and is waiting for parking lot approval, while craftsmen, who are in great demand following the fires, try to work in finishing her remodel.

Hansson lured B.J. Blanchard and me out to see “something new,” which turned out to be a large Tagliavini electric steam oven, parked off site, to bake bread, making the crust crisp and the inside soft. Sean Perry will be the bread baker. Hansson already has Wi-Fi and charging capabilities.

Hansson admits she is “getting antsy,” while her architect lost his house in the fires, and she can “certainly understand” his hardship, a situation many workers and customers are learning to swallow. Can’t wait to hang out at Hansson’s patisserie.

Morgan Twain-Peterson awarded Master of Wine

Morgan Twain-Peterson recently was awarded the coveted Master of Wine by the London-based Institute of Masters of Wine. Congratulations! This is the ultimate. The rigorous program consists of three stages ranging from early papers to tastings to dissertation-like papers in the third stage.

Twain-Peterson’s third stage topic was a review of late 19th century planting practices in California vineyards and their relevance to today’s viticulture, a research paper based upon Bedrock Vineyard, planted in 1888. As many of us know here in Sonoma Valley, Twain-Peterson is known for finding ancient vineyards and making them even better. Father Joel Peterson of Ravenswood Zinfandel fame proudly attended the ceremony and is following up with well-spent time in Paris.

Beltane Ranch fundraiser earns $50,000

Lauren Benward Krause and the Beltane Family held their postponed Zinfandel Release Party and Barn Dance Saturday evening, honoring Glen Ellen and Kenwood firefighters, about 20 of whom attended the dinner. Lassoing lessons and appetizers preceded dinner, followed by French onion soup with Mezzo Secco potato crostini; grilled Porterhouse steak with warm kale and spinach salad with roasted wild mushrooms and seared scallops; chocolate Bundt cake with chocolate ganache and zinfandel-chocolate ice cream, and Tommy Thomsen keeping the barn rocking.

Hilarious auctioneers Taylor and John Serres sold the three auction lots, raising a total of $50,000 to help the Glen Ellen and Kenwood Fire Departments and locals who lost their homes in the October fires.

Krause told terrifying stories and showed me how they just had to quickly build new wooden fences around the horse barn where the annual party takes place because they had all burned, saying that they only got water back that Friday and phone service last weekend. It was easy to see how they were surrounded by fire, 360 degrees, and how miraculous was the saving of the Beltane house and inn.

Caterer Jacoby loses everything in fire

Isa Jacoby, a well-known caterer in Sonoma Valley, lost her house in our October fires. All the buildings on her land were completely consumed by the fire, and she had lived in her “cabin in the sky” on Cavedale Road for more than 26 years. Isa also lost all of her catering equipment and supplies, but somehow she cooked for a scheduled catering event four days after her house burned.

As some of you might remember, Isa has often created and donated huge cauldrons of soups and beans for special community events in Sonoma Plaza, at Sonoma Valley Grange, and at Westerbeke Ranch. And now she has nothing, like so many others displaced by the fires. According to two of her friends, “Isa unfortunately did not have fire insurance and she has sufficiently beaten herself up over that. So as it turns out Isa does have coverage, it is called Love Insurance!”

In the meantime she intends to purchase a small RV to park on the land and to travel about while the long re-building process plays out. Isa also will be restocking some equipment to help her continue her culinary artistry.