Kathleen Hill: Larson Family Winery’s loss is our loss

The tastiest news in town from our longtime food and wine columnist.|

Many of us have felt a sense of loss in the last couple of weeks, from those aware of the enormous catastrophe going on in Ukraine to the local catastrophe of the Larson Family Winery’s devastating fire.

While we know who started the fight in Ukraine, we do not know at this writing who or how the fire started at Larson.

It wasn’t just a barn and tasting room. It was the Larson-Millerick family history, a big part of Sonoma history and that of Schellville and Wingo, historic photos, and the history of the once-famous Sonoma Rodeo.

According to Pam Millerick Hellen, her mother, Rose, and Sylvia Scarafoni were sisters. “Mom grew up at Green Acres, a stone’s through from the Millerick Ranch. She and my dad, Jim Millerick, rode the bus together to grammar school” and eventually married. Sylvia married August Sebastiani. My dad and Tom Larson’s mom, Helen Millerick Larson, were brother and sister and grew up on the ranch.” So you can see how both, or all three intertwined families, have had important roles in Sonoma Valley agriculture.

From Larson Family Winery website: “Five generations have lived and worked this land. What began as a dairy farm, transitioned into the home of the largest rodeo in Northern California from 1928 to 1950s.

“We planted our first vineyard in 1978 and when we made more wine than we could drink, we opened the winery about a decade later.

“Today we bottle 5,000 cases of wine that we sell exclusively through our tasting room and wine club and farm 150 acres of estate vineyards.”

They also have a vineyard management company and donate their time and crew for many projects around Sonoma Valley.

The family, led by Tom and Becky, daughter Erica and sons Will and Wyatt all give of their time and knowledge.

Becky has long led 4-H learning and pursuits for kids of all ages in Sonoma Valley, and hosted fundraisers galore for both 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) at their winery property.

Of Becky Larson, Pat Leveroni Stornetta said, “Becky has always been extremely supportive of youth and agriculture.” A farmer and vineyardists herself, Stornetta chairs the Agricultural Advisory Board at Sonoma Valley High School.

When we wanted a vineyard at Adele Harrison Middle School on Broadway, one call to Becky Larson and she told me “We’re in.”

Soon she and their vineyard management crew came and showed science students how to plant a vineyard and participate, and for years since then they have shown up again each season and taught students how to do each step.

And Becky always brings their three lab dogs along, knowing that there are always a few kids who feel more comfortable petting dogs than pruning vines.

And when the Cha Chas discovered gnarly old vines with weeds growing five feet high around them at the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home, again I called Becky and she said, “Tom and I will meet your there.”

For nearly two years, the Larson gang tried to revive those neglected vines and found it impossible. So they pulled out the vineyard and planted a new one, the latter under the guidance of daughter Erica for her Senior Project. And all for free.

Again, they came back and back, teaching the then-residents how vineyards, and even the outdoors, works.

Ironically, all of that vineyard burned in our fires two years ago.

But of course a few weeks ago Becky told me and the staff at VOMCH, which Sonoma County is now turning into a mental health residency program, that Larson will do anything they could to re-do the vineyard. That’s the kind of people they are.

Larson only sells wine through their wine club or at the winery, which is closed for the moment due to the fire. If you want to help, you might consider joining the club. Find out all about it at

Muscardini Cellars. (Jeremy Portje / For The Press Democrat)
Muscardini Cellars. (Jeremy Portje / For The Press Democrat)

Muscardini celebrates golds this weekend

Just back with wife Kate Eilertson from six months in Italy learning, drinking, and eating, Michael Muscardini celebrates his six gold medals and double gold from the 2022 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition this weekend.

While in Italy recently Muscardini thought a lot about his Italian heritage from when his grandfather who began to make wine in Italy before immigrating to America in 1909. Muscardini got an Italian passport on this trip, feeling even closer to his Italian heritage, and is inspired to lean more to Italian winemaking style and principles.

Muscardini says, “Great wine is made in the vineyard. Sure, everybody says that now, but if you want a good balance between fruit and acidity, you have to grow it.”

Muscardini Cellars won a double gold at the 2022 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition for his 2016 Merlot from Sangiacomo Vineyards – a vineyard typically known for producing outstanding pinot noir and chardonnay fruit.

As well, from a field of more than 5,000 entries, Muscardini Cellars took home gold for six additional wines.

Join Michael and Kate Eilertson this Saturday and Sunday, March 12 and 13, from noon to 4 p.m. For a tasting flight that features some of their recent award winners paired with empanadas from Vinoma Tapas Argentinas.

The event will feature a welcoming pour of either the 2020 rose of syrah or 2021 sauvignon blanc, followed by a flight of select award winning wines. $30 general public, $15 wine club members.

The tasting menu will include Muscardini’s 2018 Sangiovese, Alice Vineyards, Sonoma Valley with Caprese Empanada: arugula, pesto, tomatoes, and mixed cheeses; 2016 merlot, Sangiacomo Vineyards, Carneros with bacon and plum empanadas and mozzarella and fontina cheeses; and the 2018 cabernet sauvignon, Rancho Salina Vineyard Estate, Moon Mountain District with a blueberry cobbler empanada with lemon zest.

Muscardini studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts and has been a general contractor for 27 years.

In 2006, a year after selling his first vintage, he blended some sangiovese with syrah and cabernet to produce a Tesoro, his flagship wine that has won Best in Class in many competitions throughout the years. Event: $30 public, $15 wine club members. Reserve by calling Natalie Owdom at 933-9305 Reservations at or emailing

Sushimotos Ramen Night at Roche

Ed Metcalfe will offer a Ramen Night on Wednesday, March 16, at Roche Winery, right next door to the girl & the fig which brought Ramen Nights to Sonoma at their Suite D and then at the restaurant.

Metcalfe, who owned Shiso Sushi in Maxwell Village shopping center, now caters via his Sushimotos.

At Roche Winery he will offer Chashu Ramen of pork belly, green onions, corn, and a soft boiled egg, along with his own Japanese pickles, and two chicken yakitori. Wine purchases from Roche are separate, outdoor seating with heaters only. Designated seating times between 5:30 and 7:30. 122 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Tickets at

The back patio of the Sausage Emporium on Napa Street, Wednesday July 14, 2021. (Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)
The back patio of the Sausage Emporium on Napa Street, Wednesday July 14, 2021. (Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)

Sausage Emporium’s St. Patrick’s specials

While your favorite bar, brewery, and restaurant is bound to produce something Irish-ish for St. Patrick’s Day (Thursday, March 17), Miranda Ives’ Sausage Emporium on the south side of Napa Street and Sonoma Plaza, has come up with a special “St. Patrick’s Day Deal” to carry from March 17 through 19.

The food feature will be an “Irish Burger” Ives calls “The Dubliner,” meaning an “Irish sausage patty with bacon, Irish Cheddar, and the chef’s secret Emerald Sauce.”

The Dubliner, which is also a brand of cheese and the name of pubs worldwide, will be served with fries and a glass of Guinness, a craft beer, or house wine, all for $20.

During the weekend they will also run a “Dare or Discount” promotion, whereby you dip into a pot of gold to reveal whether you have won an instant prize or are challenged to a dare.

The back patio will be decorated to the hilt, dressing up is encouraged, and traditional Irish music will be playing for all guests and any visiting Leprechauns to enjoy. 31 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 235-8093.

Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley Executive Director Cary Snowden was named Sonoma County’s Woman of the Year by Sen. Bill Dodd at the Sweetheart Gala and Auction on Saturday, March, 5, 2022. (Photo: Melania Mahoney)
Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley Executive Director Cary Snowden was named Sonoma County’s Woman of the Year by Sen. Bill Dodd at the Sweetheart Gala and Auction on Saturday, March, 5, 2022. (Photo: Melania Mahoney)

Boys & Girls Club Sweetheart success

More than 200 guests at the Boys & Girls Clubs “Bohemian Rhapsody” fundraiser last weekend attended dressed up and ready to party and give for sure.

All told, more than $620,000 was raised, with the 2022 “Sweethearts” Mike and Mary Schuh chipping in another $100,000 along with $50,000 from Marcia and Gary Nelson, longtime Club supporters. More than $400,000 was donated during the Fund-A-Need alone.

State Sen. Bill Dodd surprised Executive Director Cary Dacy Snowden with his award naming her his Sonoma County Woman of the Year, just before National Women’s Day.

Transcendence Theatre members performed lots of Queen’s songs from Bohemian Rhapsody and the crowd went wild, roaring and clapping as the troupe sang “We Are the Champions.”

Ginny Krieger and Ramona Nicholson dressed in true Bohemian Rapsody attire, with green everywhere, standing out especially on Katie Holden, Connie Sangiacomo, Amanda Bevan, and Cyndi Frank.

Among the crowd were former Boys & Girls Club board president Marchelle Carleton and Curt (talented Marchelle is currently president of the Pets Lifeline board), Rosemary and Kevin McNeely, Ginny and Larry Krieger, Carolyn Stone with daughter Melissa and wife MaryElise Stone, Steve and Judy Page, Paul Arata and Scott Foster, Connie and Steve Sangiacomo, Lyn and Dub Hay, Dave Waldron and Nancy King, Valerie Marino, Laura Zimmerman and Jeff, Squire and Suzy Fridell and loads more of our generous community.

Gay Wine Weekend Winemaker Dinners

Gary Saperstein has added a fabulous plant-based dinner at the William-Sonoma flagship store here in Sonoma where Chuck Williams started it all.

All of these dinners take place on Friday, July 15, but reservations truly are going fast.

The evening will feature Miyoko of Miyoko’s Creamery herself with Chef Eric Tucker from Millennium Restaurant in Oakland cooking. Miyoko is the founder and CEO of her now world-famous plant-based “milk” cheese and butter company. The dinner will be paired with all-vegan wines from Knight’s Bridge, according to Saperstein.

Winemaker Dinners at Abbot’s Passage with Chef Kyle and at “the girl & the fig” with Lambert Bridge, and with Three Sticks Wines at Layla have already sold out.

There are limited tickets available for the El Dorado Kitchen dinner paired with the wines of Equality Vines which will be hosted by Jim Oberfefell, co-owner of Equality Vines. He was the lead plaintiff in the Marriage Equality case that won in the Supreme Court.

Saperstein said, “It is a thrill to have Jim be here for the weekend and share his wines paired with Chef Armando’s cuisine.”

Etude Winery in the Carneros Region is hosting a Winemaker dinner paired with the food of Gay Wine Weekend sponsor Chef Chad Carlstedt of Classic Culinaire. This is a stunning setting for a winemaker dinner, according to Saperstein. More details to come.

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