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Kathleen Hill: High School ag dinner, Corner 103 triumph, coastal cleanup and more

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FFA and high school agriculture dinner

Sonoma Valley High School attracts more and more students genuinely 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.

Thank heavens for 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. If you buy a $100 “Golden Ticket” which, if yours is drawn, gives you the right to choose whatever live auction item you want. Some of those prime auction lots include a smoker made in Ag Metal Shop by Oliver Cannard; Giants, Warriors and 49ers game tickets; and box seats at the Sonoma County Fair. And then there’s the weekend on the Mendocino Coast or a polenta dinner for 10, and lots more.

Always generous Broadway Market, our only remaining Sonoma-owned grocery store, will prepare dinner with marinated tri-tip, pesto pasta, Caesar salad, garlic bread and desserts made by ag and culinary student bakers. The evening will be further sweetened by music from 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. Denmark Street Vineyards, Sonoma. Tickets at https://sonomaffafundraiser.splashthat.com/

Corner 103 is 9th best Winery Tasting Room in U.S.

USA Today’s editors and “a panel of wine experts” chose 20 tasting room nominees from 8,000 wineries. Those experts included Jill Barth, a Provence wine master; Shana Clarke, wine editor for inside.com and contributor to Eat Sip Trip; Karen MacNeil, one of the foremost wine experts in the U.S.; and June Rodil, a master sommelier.

Tasting rooms ranked from one to 10 included Stoller Family Estate in Dayton, Oregon; Presqu’ile in Santa Maria; Bending Branch of Comfort, Texas; L’Ecole No. 41 of Lowden, Washington; Brennan Vineyards of Comanche, Texas; Spicewood of Spicewood, Texas; Fox Run in Penn Yan, New York; Van Duzer of Dallas, Oregon; then Corner 103 at No. 9; followed by Dr. Konstantin Frank of Hammondsport, New York.

Owner Lloyd Davis worked hard at rounding up votes via email and Facebook appeals. He thanked god, his mother and family, his supporters, and his team via email. Congratulations, Lloyd Davis.

Sondra Bernstein honored by KRON 4

The Girl & the Fig proprietor Sondra Bernstein was honored recently as a KRON4 Women Business Leader as the station saluted Women in Business. Bernstein was accompanied to the studio for filming by her “handler,” Gary Saperstein, who is also a dear friend who managed the Girl & the Fig for 10 years.

Bernstein says the segment will air periodically from Sept. 19 through Nov. 1.

Vintage Festival Gala Sept. 28

This year’s Vintage Festival kicks off with its annual Gala behind the Barracks on Spain Street with more than 20 excellent local wineries pouring and 12 food folks serving.

According to the festival’s website, Vintage Festival was “first held in 1897 at the Gundlach family’s Rhinefarm and celebrated the return of a healthy harvest after blight devastated California grape vines.”

The late Jerry Casson once told this writer about how there used to be dinners in the patio behind the Sonoma Community Center where local winemakers would bring their wines, drink too much of others’ and their own, and argue loudly that theirs was the best. All in fun and celebration.

In case you are worried about dinner or how to stay slightly sober at the Gala, here are the foods you might expect: Hare & Hatter sausage samples; spiced pork tenderloin, sweet potato salad and Japanese curry spiced chicken wasabi slaw from Delish Dish; appetizers from Palooza Brewery Gastropub; Popo’s bon-bon size Banana Dippers; coffee and lemonade from Java Wagon; lumpia, zucchini and mushrooms from Outta This World Concessions; the Swiss Hotel’s famous meatballs; pasta from Mary’s Pizza Shack; bagels from Homegrown Bagels, grilled cheese and tomato soup from Sonoma Cheese Factory, and not-yet-knowns from Palms Grill and Maya. $125. 7 to 10 p.m. Spain Street. Sonoma.

New local agriculture group forming

Seth Dolinsky, president of the Sonoma Springs Community Hall, formerly known as the Grange, has announced the formation of a new Sonoma Valley agricultural group with Janne Campbell of the Sonoma Valley Clean Grapes Initiative.

Dolinsky said in an email that, “As it is, the farms have no unified voice or representation. This group would work on promoting local farms and food products, particularly organic or similar, with a larger or longer term goal of maybe a local food co-op store?” Does anyone remember the several former Berkeley Co-op stores?

Campbell asks if we would “like to see Sonoma Valley become the world’s first organic winegrowing region?” (Note: Perhaps she should check out France in the Garonne, Dironde, and Dordogne waterway regions.)

According to Campbell, “Fewer than 3 percent of grapes grown in Sonoma County are certified organic or biodynamic. We believe the age of organic wine is here, but we need help in initiating this transition.”

The Springs Community Hall, she says, will be hosting a series of gatherings to discuss strategies that can move the Valley toward “truly sustainable land stewardship.” sonomaspringshall@gmail.com.

This all sounds a bit like the old Grange. Sonoma Valley’s Grange disassociated with the state and national organizations a few years ago.

We also need clear definitions of organic, biodynamic, natural and sustainable growing.

Picazo Café’s new menu items

Check out the “corny wrappers” at Picazo, basically almost anything you want such as pork, cauliflower or fried mahi mahi fish in a corn tortilla, and of course avocado toast. Several locals have reported liking their Impossible Burger, the Argentinian wrap with steak, a grilled chicken cheeseburger, and lots of innovative salads and burgers. On the weekends they feature bottomless mimosas for $12 with orange juice, and guava or mango. 19100 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. 931-4377.

Sonoma Mission Inn to clean up coast

Hundreds of employees of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, including the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa and their families and friends, will “volunteer to remove debris from the coast, creeks, rivers, lakes and shorelines protecting wildlife from harm while taking care of our environment” on Saturday, Sept. 15, according to Michelle Heston. Saturday is California Coastal Cleanup Day, 2018. 9 a.m. to noon. For more information, contact Michelle Heston a 939-2477.

Losing Kent Rosenblum

Those who follow wine probably have heard of what seemed like a wacko winemaking project in Alameda on government property.

It was the late Kent Rosenblum who actually had the brilliant idea and did just that. A veterinarian who was born in Iowa and grew up in Minnesota, Rosemblum and wife Kathy had never tasted wine before they moved to Alameda in 1971, where he worked full time at the Providence Veterinary Hospital.

Since their first favorite wines were riesling and gewurztraminer, that’s what they eventually planted in Healdsburg, along with merlot and zinfandel.

Rosenblum and other members of the Berkeley Ski Club originally bought some grapes, divided them up, and then compared the results. The Rosenblums decided they really liked wine.

After graduating from Fresno State in agriculture chemistry and enology, Jeff Cohn went to Rosenblum for an interview, which turned into a three-hour barrel tasting and long lunch, resulting in an internship.

Cohn told this writer by phone, “I never felt like he was my boss. He was my family. There were no employees at Rosenblum. We were all family.”

Fast forward to Jeff Cohn Cellars’ current website, where it is told that, eventually, “Jeff was responsible for making the first California zinfandel to hit the top 10 of the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list. The 2003 Rosenblum Rockpile Road Zinfandel was rated No. 3 on the 2005 list. This was not only a coup for Jeff Cohn and Rosenblum; it was an amazing accomplishment for the California wine industry.” In 2006, Cohn departed Rosenblum.

When asked if they knew Joel Peterson at Ravenswood, whom many Sonomans and others think of as the big daddy of zinfandel, Cohn said, “Oh, gosh yes. We had the 3R’s Blend: Ridge, Ravenswood and Rosenblum. We would get together for a great meal, taste each other’s wines, and decide on what would go into the blend. We could use grapes from Lytton Springs, Old Hill and Bedrock vineyards.

“We always did the best for (Rosenblum) because he cared about us. He lived every day to the fullest and was one of the most positive people and my neighbor in Alameda,” where Jeff and Alexandra Cohn live with their family.

“I was with him two weeks ago. We walked Maggie’s Vineyards and decided to make wine from there again. He gave me a contract and I didn’t sign it then, but I took it to him and we had a couple of glasses of wine together. Two days later he was gone.”

Kent Rosenblum died last Wednesday of an infection following knee surgery.

Jeff Cohn Cellars makes its wine in Santa Rosa. Their tasting room is at 535 First St. W., Sonoma, across the breezeway from the Red Grape. 938-8343.

Napa news

BonAppétit.com recently praised Napa’s 70-year-old Butter Cream Bakery & Diner as one of “America’s Favorite Neighborhood Restaurants.” The series features the reflections of celebrities on local restaurants that don’t get attention from restaurant critics and major media.

Many Sonomans have been over the border to the Butter Cream and know it by its pink and white striped exterior, bakery shop of mile-high goopy-doopy decorated cakes, and its diner with old fashioned counter and stools. Here is where the guys take their regular stool perches and hang out, as was once the case with Sonoma’s Big 3 before Fairmont took it over and L&N Donut Shop before it closed decades ago. We just don’t have those joints here anymore, partly due to high rents.

Butter Cream offers classic donuts, slices of pie or cake, just a morning cup of coffee, burgers, salads, the works. And nothing, nothing, costs even $10. The founding Closs family still owns it. Gerry Closs and his wife bowed to popular demand that they not redecorate when they took it over in 2002.

Manager for the family’s interests, Alexis Awai, granddaughter of founders Bobbi and David Closs, told the Napa Valley Register, “My grandparents’ mindset is my mindset. I’m here to carry on what they created. We’re here for the people who live and break and work here, the blue-collar Napans.”

What a concept. 2297 Jefferson St., Napa. 255-6700. Buttercreambakery.com.