Sonoma Williams-Sonoma update; Gay Wine Weekend is here; Artisan cheese in peril? Sonoma Lavender Festival coming; Hot Box hot rumor

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill


Williams-Sonoma’s CEO and president announced to shareholders recently that the Sonoma Williams-Sonoma store, cooking school and café will open Oct. 2, founder Chuck Williams’ 99th birthday. She is especially excited about the garden in back of the small complex. Much of the work and large equipment on First Street West these days is removing old building materials and moving dirt around for the parking lot and garden. Let us all welcome Chuck Williams and Williams-Sonoma back to Sonoma and the building where he started it all. I will keep you posted.


Gay Wine Weekend, organized by Gary Saperstein and Mark Vogler of Out In The Vineyard, begins this evening, June 13, with the La Crema VIP Reception in MacArthur Place’s Veranda Garden from 3 to 6 p.m. Wineries in Vine Alley just off Napa Street will stay open for a special stroll and wine samplings from 5 to 8 p.m., followed by winemaker dinners pairing La Crema and the girl & the fig, Sebastiani Winery with Saddles Steakhouse, Envolve with Glen Ellen Star, Muscardini Cellars with The General’s Daughter, and Lasseter Family Wines with Kenwood Inn & Spa.

Saturday, June 14, brings wine tours throughout the day and a Twilight T-Dance at a new location, Jean-Charles Boisset’s wildly decorated Raymond Vineyards in St. Helena. Don’t miss the Red Room for a throw-back Parisian boudoir experience. Then the group winds its way back, hopefully safely, to the After-Party starting at 11 p.m. at MacArthur Place.

Among the Saturday wine tours a few places remain for the Bubbles Tour, which starts from host hotel MacArthur Place and visits sparkling wine producers Gloria Ferrer, Domaine Carneros, and Sharon Cohn’s Breathless Wines, the latter to be served in Chateau Sonoma’s courtyard. All three bubbles producers are run by women. $99 includes a box lunch from the girl & the fig caters. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Guests are invited to recover at the Recovery Brunch Sunday at 10 a.m. at MacArthur Place, featuring wines by Wente Vineyards and sponsored by Bank of America. To recover further from the Recovery Brunch, stick around MacArthur Place for the afternoon Closing Pool Soiree with Danny Fay pouring Envolve wines (1 to 4 p.m.). The Press Democrat and Sonoma Index-Tribune are also weekend sponsors.

Quickly check out more info, ticket availability, and pricing at outinthevineyard.com.


The FDA now says it might stop the artisanal cheese making practice of aging cheeses on wooden boards, a practice used around the world and represented on the front page of Wednesday’s San Francisco Chronicle by Chickie Vella’s son, Gabe Luddy. Luddy said “It gives our cheese its flavor,” and absorbs moisture. The ruling would even force European cheese producers to not use wood in order to sell their cheeses in the U.S.

If the FDA says wood is dangerous, will they stop the sale of wooden cutting boards, spoons, and even tables? Come on, folks. How about actually doing something about chicken producers’ unsafe chickens. Oh yeah, they have lobbyists.

Actually the FDA backed up slightly Tuesday, saying they will now talk to cheese makers “to determine whether certain types of cheese can safely be made by aging them on wooden shelving.”


Paul Wirtz and Candi Edmonson open their Paul’s Produce roadside vegetable stand Saturday morning, June 14, across Arnold Drive from Brocco’s. Always great specials if you can’t make farmers markets.


The fabulous late super winemaker, Bob Sessions, will be honored Sunday, June 15, with a memorial celebration at Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building, with a wine reception following tributes. Sessions had worked at Mayacamas, Souverain and Stag’s Leap before arriving in 1973 at Hanzell, where he kept Hanzell’s best practices the old fashioned way and made great wines.

A quiet gentleman, Sessions always let his wines do the talking for him. He retired from Hanzell about 10 years ago due to health problems and remained winemaker emeritus until his recent passing.

If you can, bring a bottle to share on Sunday and join his widow, Jean Arnold Sessions and Sarah and Ben Sessions, Bob’s children with his late first wife, Molly, in celebrating Bob’s rich life. Even after Alzheimer’s set in, I always loved to see Ben taking his dad out for a glass of wine and a movie every week. 2 p.m. 126 First St. W., Sonoma.


Ironically, or maybe purposely, Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance members will hold their next “Vineyard Crawl” at Hanzell Vineyards on Friday, June 20, including a vineyard tour, a barbecue lunch, a talk on the “History and Vision of Wines at Hanzell Vineyards,” and a celebration on Hanzell’s 60 years of viticulture by Jean Arnold Sessions, president of Hanzell, and Michael McNeill, director of winemaking. $20 SVVGA members; 8:30 a.m. to noon. Call SVVGA at 935-1947 for reservations.


Last weekend, some friends who found themselves the only guests at Hot Box Grill in Boyes Hot Springs were told by their server that the restaurant was in the process of being sold. Owner Norman Owens’ brother, who had acted as sous chef, returned to the East Coast at least a year ago.

Rush in to enjoy the Cornish game hen (enough for two people) and duck fat-fried fries with Béarnaise sauce. Oh so good, and oh so bad!


If there were a prize for captions, the New York Times should win it with their Saturday edition’s front page photo of President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, François Hollande, Queen Margrethe, and President Vladimir Putin, labeled: “Poker Faces and a Pair of Queens.”


Beer, chicken and BackTrax music lovers check out the Bear Flag Celebration Chicken BBQ & Microbrew Tasting Saturday, June 14, at Sonoma Plaza, hosted by the Native Sons of the Golden West Sonoma Parlor #111.

Expect Rep. Mike Thompson and Gen. Anthony Jackson, director of California State Parks speaking at 11 a.m., followed by the chicken and hot dog barbecue ($5 to $15), 25 microbrewers’ beers, with the Bear Flag Re-Enactment at 1 p.m. at the Barracks. Noon to 4 p.m. For more info, call Dean Zellers at 996-5282 or sonomanativesons.org.


Sonoma Cinemas 9 had real problems Sunday afternoon amidst our 100-plus degree temperatures.

A few hundred of us showed up for late afternoon matinees. Just as the movie facts shorts ended and the commercials started, the power went out. One of the women in our theatre said she was there on a free pass because she had been there for a 1:30 p.m. screening and the power had gone out then.

We all crept out toward the light and got in a long, warm line of folks waiting for refunds. Some people even tried to get money back for their hardly touched popcorn, to no avail. That’s kind of a loss when the price of popcorn there has gone up to $4.75 for a small popcorn, considering that’s about a $4.70 profit for management.

Several people took off for Petaluma or Napa pursuing the movie they set out to watch.


Sonoma’s Brannon Fetzer, who cooks part time at Ramekins Culinary School, will show off his Q Craft BBQ at the Huichica Music Festival this weekend, using Paul’s Produce and Golden Gate Meats’ “natural meats” that he smokes on a Myron Mixon smoker and steamer.

Fetzer cooks St. Louis style ribs, brisket, chicken, salmon BLTs, lamb, “and really anything a client is looking for.” His special sauce is a Vietnamese caramel with everything from ginger and garlic to basil, mint, fish sauce and more, using all organic ingredients. Can’t wait to try these and his “Cracklin’ Mac, mac and cheese topped with crispy pork cracklings, and kale slaw made with Paul’s Red Russian Kale.

Fetzer is not just a line cook with ambition. He graduated from the New England Culinary School and has worked with the best, including at Café Boulud in New York, now closed El BizCocho in San Diego, La Toque and Angele in Napa, and has lived and cooked all over Asia. He also has a B.A. in political science from the University of Oregon, of course, and carts around a 23-foot meat-smoker trailer. Reach Fetzer at brannon@qcratfbbq.com or 307-3373.


French Laundry and other restaurants owner Thomas Keller captured five pages in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, including the front page and two full pages of the news section, and the front page and an inside full page of the Food & Wine section, each written by different staffers.

When I checked its website Tuesday (frenchlaundry.com), the current price for the Chef’s Tasting Menu was $295, with corkage at $150 per 750 ml. bottle. Yes, $150. The website also said “Kindly note that jackets are required for both lunch and dinner service.” I assume that’s for gentlemen, but why not try it, ladies.


Sonoma Lavender Festival wafts in on Saturday and Sunday, June 28 and 29, with all profits going to Worth Our Weight (WOW), a culinary apprentice program in Santa Rosa.

Gary and Cha Cha sister Rebecca Rosenberg, who own Sonoma Lavender, will give hourly seminars about growing and using lavender. Another Cha Cha, Chef Mary Bergin, will give lavender cooking demos and tastings, and Lavender Bee Farm will discuss beekeeping and honey production.

WOW will prepare lavender salmon, chicken, pulled pork, grilled veggies, and even lavender brownies. Chateau St. Jean, Idle Cellars, B.R. Cohn, Kenwood and Breathless sparkling wines will be poured along with Lagunitas beer. Enjoy all sorts of lavender body treatments and products, paint with lavender paint, face painting, crafts, pottery, Sonoma Lavender Marketplace, and free spa treatments, with performances by Transcendence Theater. $15, $20 at door. Children under 12 free. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. 8537 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. Tickets available through brownpapertickets.com, sonomalavender.com/festival.html, shelli@Sonomalavender.com, or at 523-4411, Ext. 2#.


With one of the most beautiful restaurant settings in town, the Depot Hotel Restaurant will host its annual Fireworks Party and Buffet Dinner on July 4 featuring an appetizer buffet of barbecued oysters and housemade focaccia on the pool’s terrace. $85 adults, $35 ages 12 to 20 years; free 11 and under. Price includes a bottle of wine per couple, tax and tip, as well as a donation to the Sonoma Valley Volunteer Fire Association for the great show. 7 p.m. to whenever fireworks end. Get tickets by calling Gia at 938-2980 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday through Sunday, or email her at gia@depotsonoma.com.


Bon appétit!

  • Sweetsinger

    Kathleen, if you’re going to reference other news articles, it’s customary to include a link to said article.

  • duboce

    Gay men prancing about town? I do hope they don’t frighten the horses. ……queen victoria