Kathleen Hill: Chesapeake Bay fundraising, vineyard tips and more

Food news from around the Valley|

So much to be thankful for these holidays

While our hearts still sink, sometimes deeply, for those who lost such big parts of their lives in our October fires, we have a lot to be thankful for, much of it coming from both far and near.

From afar on the East Coast: The Chesapeake Bay Wine Classic Foundation at Hampton Roads apparently raised about $1.1 million at its Nov. 9 auction in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and has generously donated $101,000 to our wine country relief efforts, dividing the funds between the Community Foundation of Sonoma County and the Napa Valley Community Foundation.

Hampton Roads is also known as Tidewater and includes Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Newport News and Hampton as well as Williamsburg. Vineyards in the area grow primarily cabernet franc, viognier and tramminette varietals.

The Chesapeake Bay Wine Classic Foundation works “to provide funds to organizations dedicated to the support and advanced education of our youth to promote viticulture and oenology in Hampton Roads to promote medical research,” according to its website. To give one-tenth of its auction profits to Sonoma and Napa counties is phenomenal. They even added auction items to specifically raise extra funds to give to our Sonoma and Napa county needs.

Let’s hope we will have their backs if needed as well. Truly amazing. Thank you!

Facebook food continues

And from near and nearer, Facebook and their caterers, Bon Appetit Management, are still providing meals to several nonprofits around Sonoma Valley, often distributed by Kiwanis of Sonoma Plaza via the No Pay Café, as demand for food appears to be consistent and even growing according to Friends in Sonoma Helping (FISH). As well, Amy’s Kitchens has given two pallets of canned food, and Patt’s Copy World and Sonoma Lions Club have been delivering pallets of food to local nonprofits.

Under the radar food providers

Barbara Hughes points out some “under the radar work in our community, much of it going on throughout the year, but with increased effort, attention and need right now and for some time to come. There are a few folks doing small, but important things.” And she is so right.

Barbie and Pat Hoffman (owner of Tae Kwon Do) and managers of Econo-Wash, immediately put up a resource board and a table with food for families and individuals who needed to wash their clothes.

Ceres Community Project of Sebastopol delivered 150 freshly made sandwich boxes to St. Leo’s daily. A small group of volunteers fanned out in the Springs delivering sandwiches wherever there is need. They delivered boxes at the Econo-Wash each day and found people were waiting a couple of hours there for volunteers to arrive. Ceres trains youth and other volunteers to prepare fresh, healthy meals for critically ill members of the community. They are increasing their output daily, with funding from Community Foundation Sonoma County.

Brown Baggers crank it up a notch

The Brown Baggers, part of Sonoma Overnight Support, and one of the late Elizabeth Kemp’s favorite projects to feed people in need, has made thousands of burritos and sandwiches, hundreds of pots of soup, and loads of other tummy warming foods over the years.

Currently they serve a hot meal every Friday late afternoon that consists of at least a hearty soup, green salad, and dessert at La Luz Center from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., a bit early to clear out Booker Hall for computer classes. According to leader Jude Sales, “We would be delighted to serve more folks and we do offer food ‘to go’ for people who ask. Several of our clients take food for neighbors who are homebound.”

As well, the Brown Baggers have resumed their free Wednesday lunches at Springs Community Hall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. All are welcome. Great news.

Christmas lunch or dinner? In or Out?

Yes we have food rituals we associate with certain holidays, like turkey for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, ham for Easter. Somehow if we serve lamb or beef or a vegetarian meal for any of these days some of us feel as if we are secretly beating the system.

If you don’t want to cook but prefer to stay home, you can skip the whole thing or order Whole Foods’ and Sonoma Market’s fully cooked or ready-to warm meals in the $100 range.

Remember to include someone who might be alone.

Palms Grill offers a special menu of 12-ounce herb-crusted prime rib at $24.95 or honey-glazed ham with sweet potato and green beans at $17.95. All day and evening to 10 p.m. 18999 Sonoma Highway. 939-8100.

Black Bear Diner will serve its usual hot turkey plate with red-skinned mashed potatoes, vegetables, gravy and cranberry sauce at $11.99 until 8 p.m. 201 W. Napa St. 935-6800.

Moving up the scale… Glen Ellen Star offers a pick-up dinner to be available Christmas Eve from 2 to 9 p.m. and includes beef Wellington, filet mignon cooked medium rare, mushrooms Duxelles, and sautéed spinach wrapped in puff pastry Bordelaise. $35 per person, minimum two people. Order at Pick up at 13648 Arnold Dr., Glen Ellen. 343-1384.

B&V Whiskey Bar & Grille co-owner Carlo Cavallo brings back his Meritage pop-up on Christmas Eve with lobster bisque, oysters, sea scallops, wild salmon, Maine lobster risotto, Venetian bouillabaisse with Dungeness crab, tiger rawns, Manila clams, sautéed jumbo prawns, and petrale sole roulade, all à la carte ($7 to$25). The Tasting menu includes Manilla clams, prawns and calamari; tiger prawn risotto with wild mushrooms, California rock bass sautéed in lobster black truffle sauce, and tiramisu at $60. Christmas Eve hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Reservations at or at 938-7110.

Sonoma Grille offers an à la carte menu on Christmas Eve with many of their regular menu items including lobster bisque and seared tuna salad, calamari, oysters on the half shell, shrimp cocktail, steamed mussels and clams, and a whole steamed live Dungeness crab. Entrées include homemade linguini, gnocchi, and pappardelle, lobster risotto, crab cioppino, swordfish, prime rib and rack of lamb. $7 to $33. Open 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Closed Christmas. 938-7542.

Saddles at MacArthur Place offers a prix fixe menu for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with an amuse bouche followed by coconut, corn and shrimp bisque; greens with pomegranate, pear and dried cranberries; entrée choices of marrow-crusted filet mignon, pan seared Liberty duck breast, seared Day Boat scallops with lobster risotto; roasted Portobello mushroom with winter vegetable ragout and quinoa, all served with almond-haricots verts with carrots. Three dessert choices finish the meal. $90 for adults each day, $45 for children 12 and under. Christmas Eve, 5 to 8 p.m. Christmas, 2 to 7 p.m. 29 E. MacArthur, Sonoma. or 933-3191.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn will feature its sumptuously elegant buffet of multiple appetizers, chilled seafood, salads, carving station of goose or prime rib, veal sweetbreads, and pork belly roulade, as well as several vegetable and side dishes, and more desserts than anyone can possibly eat, all on Christmas Day. $135 adults, $67.50 children 5 to 12, free to children four and under. 100 Boyes Blvd., Boyes Hot Springs. 939-2407.

Vineyard updates

Vineyard manager David Cook’s newsletter answers lots of questions for those of us who are backyard growers or simply curious who might enjoy and learn about what is going on around us. Here are some comments from him:

How many plants does it take to call it a vineyard?

We have always said, “If you put two vines side by side, you have a vineyard.” One acre of vineyard can produce 2,520 bottles of wine or 210 cases. Based on the calculation below, one vine produces 1.6 bottles of wine.

One acre of vines can produce 3.5 tons of fruit. One ton of fruit makes two barrels of wine. One barrel of wine can average 30 cases of wine (360 bottles of wine).

It’s easy to see why there are so many vineyards in Sonoma. Big or small, they grow among us. Uniting our landscape and culture in this place we call home in the wine country.

Here’s Cook on the fire and vineyards:

We have been asked a lot about the vineyards and the fires. Do vineyards burn?

The answer in layman’s terms is vineyards don’t burn, they melt. This isn’t absolutely true, but it takes a lot for a vineyard to get totally destroyed by a fire. Most of the damage was to the perimeter rows, some of the infrastructure of the vineyard like wood post and plastic drip tubing. Perimeter fences also got damaged.

So why weren’t the vineyards totally destroyed?

The answer is most vineyards are well-maintained, we mow or till them every year and they have very little burnable fuel on the ground (floor). The canopy (leaves) will only burn under very extreme temperatures and don’t flame up. Vineyards also have a natural set-back from the woodlands for maintenance.

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