Kathleen Hill: Avocados are safe, Ravenswood is sold and more

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Avocado crisis averted

So there were lots of predictions last week about a potential avocado shortage if President Trump carried through with his threat to close the U.S-Mexico border this week, which he did not. Instead he decided to stretch this one-week threat to one year, so avocados will continue to flow freely across the border.

We do have lots of California growers as well. Check out avocados from Visalia available at the Friday Farmers Market, sold by the pound. Meanwhile, several companies are making cutlery and straws from avocado seeds that biodegrade in 240 days.

Chocolate and wine tasting today

Cook Mercantile hosts a chocolate and wine pairing this afternoon, Friday, April 12. Look forward to tasting Arrowhead Mountain Vineyards and Bar None’s Canyon wines along with Philip Marks’ chocolates.

Bob and Ruth Elster of Arrowhead Mountain Vineyard will pour their estate red blend, while Kimberly Hughes of Bar None’s Canyon will pour her zinfandel. Kevin Turnbeaugh, chocolatier, will pair Philip Marks chocolates with the wines. Marks creates interesting chocolate combinations in his San Francisco plant. I met him and sampled his excellent chocolates when we were both exhibiting at what used to be Marin French Cheese’s annual cheese festival. Free. 1 to 3 p.m.

On Saturday, John Arends and David Cook will present a class in “All Grain Brewing” from 1 to 5 p.m. Free. 19626 Eighth St. E., Sonoma. Call 948-7917 or 948-7917 to sign up.

Altimira Plant Sale & Flea Market

Sonoma’s fabulous Altimira school garden presents a plant sale and flea market put on by middle school students this Saturday, April 13, in the middle school’s front parking lot. This will be a good one and helps the garden and other student projects at Altimira. Free admission. 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 17805 Arnold Drive.

Margie Brooke drops in and out of Sonoma

Margie Brooke, former owner and chef of her Community Café, breezed into town to ready her Fryer Creek Farm for sale.

Community Café was a delightfully healthy and informal place to dine on West Napa Street, along with her Annex Wine Bar; current owners hope to open a marijuana dispensary on the former restaurant property.

Sonoma Valley Rotary enjoyed an al fresco luncheon at Brooke’s Fryer Creek Farm just before she moved to Panama that included huge platters of colorful grilled vegetables and salads grown right there on the farm.

In a recent email Brooke commented, “I know it’s likely someone is just going to buy it and plunk a McMansion on it, but I still hold out hope for someone who will work the garden. It is so special, as is the 2-acre property with the creek running through it and the ancient oaks. You probably didn’t see it but at the back of the property on the other side of the creek we have the largest cork Oak in the valley, planted by General Vallejo.”

Ravenswood sold again

A onetime medical researcher and bacteriologist at Sonoma Valley Hospital, Joel Peterson started Ravenswood Winery with friend Reed Foster in 1976, eventually earning the dubbings of “Godfather of Zin” and “the Raven Maven,” all inspired by a raven. We remember his little winery on “Deadman’s Curve” on Broadway below Watmaugh Road — and a few wild parties there — and at “the new place” on Gehricke Road, where the tasting room was designed by Sonoma architect Adrian Martinez.

Fast forward to the sale of revered Ravenswood to giant Constellation Brands for “approximately $148 million” in 2001, according to a Constellation press release.

Almost exactly 18 years later, Constellation has sold the winery to E. & J. Gallo of Modesto along with 33 other wine and spirits companies.

The list included in the $1.7 billion price were wine brands: Clos du Bois, Black Box, Ravenswood, Estancia, Mark West, Franciscan, Toasted Head, Hogue Cellars, Wild Horse, Blackstone, Vendange, Rex Goliath, Diseno, Hidden Crush, Taylor Country Cellars, Blufeld, Manischewitz, Wild Irish Rose, Arbor Mist, Milestone, La Terre, Taylor Dessert, Paul Masson Dessert, Capri, Cribari Dessert, Primal Roots, Taylor NY Table, Paul Masson Table, Simply Naked, Cribari Table, and V.NO.

Following the news, sommelier Morgan Twain-Peterson, son of Joel Peterson and Kate Twain, expressed his feelings openly: “Hard not to feel quite nostalgic this week after the sale of Ravenswood to Gallo. It’s a funny thing to say as many would assume, in some ways correctly, that Constellation Brands had sucked much of the soul from the operation.

“However, visiting today and seeing people I’ve known there for over two decades who are now facing potential unemployment, I can’t help but feel a little heartbroken. I have some faith in Gallo based on the great job they have done with Monte Rosso (and not publicly owned) and I hope they respect and build the thing my father started while essentially broke and working multiple jobs in 1976. Sending my love to all the Ravenswood employees and growers. And @sittongary these wines are delicious, you are a great winemaker.”

Joel Peterson, a socially conscious leader and donor, posted a photo of the staff, with whom he served and became a vice president of Constellation Brands, and said, “I salute all the people who made Ravenswood great! Long live ‘No Vinos Sin Huevos.’”

Peterson emailed this writer and commented further that he did not profit from the re-sale, saying, “The entire company is owned by Constellation. I feel for all the people affected by this sale. There was an esprit de corps among them that is rarely found in any business. People genuinely liked working for Ravenswood.

“Gallo is still family owned. I can only hope that they took Ravenswood because they saw it as a fit for their organization. If that is the case the future for Ravenswood will be more positive. They have great sources for zinfandel, i.e. Monte Rosso. With any luck, they will use some of those sources and keep the brand upscale.

“For me personally it is very sad to see what I and others have dedicated a life time of energy and love to become a corporate football. But I knew that was a possibility in 2001 when we sold the winery to Constellation.”

Find Joel and his new project, Once & Future wines at onceandfuturewine.com. Morgan, a graduate of Vassar College and one of the few official Master Sommeliers in the United States, oversees ancient vines and wines. Find him and Bedrock wines at bedrockwineco.com.

Nibs & Sips

Many local restaurants have been in a sort of hibernation, as have been their customers. Now it is time to expand operating hours for spring and summer.

Cochon Volant smokehouse is now open Thursday through Monday.

Tips Roadside is now open Monday and Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to closing, Saturday 10 a.m. to closing, and Sunday 10 a.m. to closing with brunch and blues noon to 2 p.m.

Red Grape is looking for a head chef. Here is the posting on Craigslist: “We are a fast paced top restaurant in downtown Sonoma seeking the right candidate to take over control of our well-staffed kitchen. We seek a passionate, talented and creative chef. This is a full time position offering competitive wages, health insurance, sick pay and bonus options.”

Larson Family Winery will host an Adult Easter Egg Hunt Monday, April 15 through Friday, April 19. Each day five eggs with prizes inside will be hidden in the tasting room. One egg per person, and prizes include discounts and gifts. On Easter, April 21, the Easter Bunny will visit the Larson Tasting Room. 23355 Millerick Road, Sonoma.

Passaggio Wines hosts happy hours for locals every Thursday through June 27 with half-priced wines by the glass at Cynthia Cosco’s Vine Alley tasting room. 3 to 6 p.m. 25 E. Napa St., Suite C, Sonoma. Also open Sunday through Thursday from noon to 6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 934-8941.

CIA at Copia just announced its Spring Bud Break Festival for Sunday, April 14 loaded with kids’ activities such as Jelly Belly tastings, rock painting, story time, arts and crafts, “How to Be a Citizen Scientist” on pollination and food stations. 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mostly free. Ciaatcopia.com.

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