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Kathleen Hill: Taste of Sonoma, Trader Joe’s and high school ag dinner

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Taste of Sonoma this Saturday

Just three local chefs will cook for the big Taste of Sonoma gathering at the Green Music Center at Sonoma State on Saturday, Sept. 1. Adolfo Veronese and chefs from Glen Ellen Star and Yeti will cook, among many others, to entice and sober wine tasters.

Sonoma Valley wineries pouring will include Anaba, Arrowood, Benziger, Buena Vista, Cline, Imagery, Kenwood, Kunde, Landmark, Ledson, Muscardini, Ravenswood, Schug, Sebastiani, Sojourn, St. Francis, Three Sticks and Westwood wineries. $180 general, $255 Club admission. $40 for shuttle from Sonoma City Hall. Tickets at tasteofsonoma.com or at door if not sold out.

In-N-Out and Trader Joe’s rule

According to the recent Sonoma Index-Tribune poll of what fast food additions they might like to see in Sonoma, In-N-Out burgers and write-in candidate Trader Joe’s swept the sweepstakes.

Way back when I was food-and-wine editor at the Sonoma Sun, I did a poll on whether locals wanted Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods to go into the former Albertson’s site in the Marketplace shopping center.

The results were an astounding 15-1 in favor of Trader Joe’s over Whole Foods. I personally contacted Trader Joe’s executives, both in person and by phone and email. Their response was that they are happy with us traveling to Petaluma and Napa, based on their idea that not enough Sonoma residents shop at Trader Joe’s. Which, of course, doesn’t reflect how many people would shop at Trader Joe’s if there was one here in Sonoma.

On other survey comments, we used to have a Kentucky Fried Chicken and an A&W right where Carl’s Jr. is now. KFC closed for lack of business by discerning Sonomans, but it was preceded by really good fried chicken at Bunny’s Country Kitchen in Kenwood, and Aunt Bee’s on Broadway where Williams-Sonoma is today. With no air conditioning, Aunt Bee barely survived on hot days.

Those who answered the poll said “there was room for” a restaurant they and others might like to see here, but people who might like to start new restaurants have to deal with high rents, sometimes excruciating permitting processes and finding workers.

Avocados and more

Sunday’s Business section of the San Francisco Chronicle published a story by Christian Hetrick saying Whole Foods’ much ballyhooed lower prices when Amazon took over a year ago seem to have crept back up toward where they were before. Yes, avocados are cheap there, but it’s hard to tell where they come from and I recently had to return three which turned out to be rotten. (Whole Food’s staff were most gracious.)

And speaking of avocados, Li Yuan reports that China’s middle class is trading down as its economy falters. They are drinking tea instead of Starbucks lattes, cutting back on imported and increasingly more expensive avocados, drinking beer instead of cocktails (remember China’s tariffs on Kentucky bourbon?) and riding bikes instead of taxis.

Meadowcroft’s Dirty Hands Harvest experience

Tom Meadowcroft, whose tasting room is at Cornerstone, invites people to help pick pinot noir grapes in what they call “Meadowcroft Wine’s Cornerstone Vineyard,” which actually belongs to Darius Anderson, managing partner in Sonoma Media Investments, which owns the Index-Tribune. Meadowcroft makes as single vineyard pinot noir from Cornerstone Vineyard.

Guests will gather on Thursday morning, Sept. 13, at the Meadowcroft tasting room, walk over to the vineyard and get down and dirty (love doing this), and then enjoy a Les Pascales continental breakfast with pastries, quiche, and fresh fruit in the vineyard. $80; 20 percent less for wine club members. 9 to 11:30 a.m. Reserve your spot at 934-4090 or tastingroom@meadowcroftwines.com.

High school ag dinner

Sonoma Valley High School attracts more and more students interested in agriculture -- so the SVHS Foundation of Agriculture invites everyone to its 10th annual Sonoma Agriculture Dinner & Auction on Saturday, Sept. 15, right near town on Denmark Street.

The high school ag program is made possible through the support of generous residents and local farmers, all of whom are interested in students who want to become farmers, a vital profession in the world’s quest for healthy food in our climate of climate change.

All proceeds from the event will go toward the growing agriculture program, including the School Farm at Sonoma Valley High School.

Broadway Market will prepare dinner with marinated tri-tip, pesto pasta, Caesar salad, garlic bread, and desserts prepared by ag- and culinary-student bakers. The evening will be further sweetened by the music of Sonoma High alum Nick Kardum and Train Wreck Junction. $50 or a reserved whole table at $750. Dinner at 4 p.m. with auction. Live music at 8 p.m. Neles Denmark Street Vineyards, Sonoma. Tickets at https://sonomaffafundraiser.splashthat.com/

High school wine (don’t worry)

Last fall the SVHS Agri-Technology Viticulture class picked the first harvest of sauvignon blanc grapes from the high school’s vineyard.

Decades ago a Sonoma Valley Unified School District school board decided wine grapes could not be planted at the high school, alleging that the students would drink and get drunk. So they would only allow Thompson seedless grapes to be planted.

One problem with that belief is that at most only tiny birds get a little swagger from grapes on the vine. For humans, the grapes have to go through the winemaking process.

When we started the School Garden Project to create new gardens and shape up and improve those that existed, high school ag teachers Danny Aschwanden and Karling Skoglund, ag students, and Larson Family Winery crew members tried to graft wine grapes onto the Thompson Seedless vines to get a real vineyard started.

That didn’t work so a new vineyard showed up thanks to the Larsons, David Cook Vineyard Management and Phil Coturri, whose expert Ross Cannard now has nursed the students through the growing process.

So last fall the students got to pick the grapes with Cannard of Coturri’s Enterprise Vineyard Management, resulting in 17 cases of sauvignon blanc wine, a few bottles of which were presented (one each) to the highest bidder in each auction lot at last Saturday’s Red & White Ball.

Nibs & Sips

Chuck and Toni Gibran Casamento hosted their 10th annual barbecue in the hills of Kenwood, this time barbecuing for a cause last Saturday. Mary Catherine Cutcliffe brought Pets Lifeline’s new van with adoptable kitties to tempt guests, and Toni called on Pets Lifeline Executive Director Nancy King to explain the architectural renderings of the no-kill pet shelter, and turned it into a fundraiser for their capital fund. And to keep us all grounded, as well, several Casamento neighbors who lost their homes attended and donated as well.