There are a handful of “dude” moments in a Wine Country food writer’s annual list of must-attend events. As in, “Dude, you have to go to this.” WEST OF WEST WINE FESTIVAL, which takes place Friday August 1st through Sunday August 3rd, is one of them. It’s an all-star lineup of the Sonoma Coast’s top vintners (Charles Heintz, DuMOL, Failla, Flowers, Lioco, Littori, MacPhail, and many more) and there will be incredible food throughout the weekend, culminating with a grand banquet featuring chefs from SF’s State Bird Provisions, Rich Table, and Bar Tartine at The Barlow. Tickets to this whirlwind three days of hobnobbing with wine connoisseurs, chefs, sommeliers, and vintners range from $125 for the Grand Tasting to $475 for all-access weekend tickets. Details online.
CUCINA DI ROSA ITALIAN TRATTORIA opens Friday July 18th at St. Helena’s CHARLES KRUG winery, as part of the $9.5 million restoration of the winery’s Redwood Cellar Building. Inspired by the winery’s matriarch, Rosa Mondavi, the menu will feature rustic panini with pesto and tomatoes, a muffuletta, roasted tri-tip, and antipasti and salads that pair with Charles Krug wines. The menu was designed by Napa chef Richard Haake (Cakebread Cellars, Robert Mondavi Winery). Hours will be Fri-Sun 10:30am-4pm. 2800 Main St., St. Helena, 707-967-2200.
Another Napa heads-up: A Taste of Napa, part of the 10-day FESTIVAL DEL SOLE, takes place this Saturday July 12th, with nearly 70 restaurants, food artisans, breweries, and wineries participating. The event is 11am-2:30pm. Tickets are a steal at just $45 and available online. 500 First St., Napa.
A few weeks ago, Sonoma restaurateurs Mark and Terri Stark (of Monti’s, Bravas, etc.) announced that they would be opening a new restaurant at the former Italian Affair in Santa Rosa. More details about the space are emerging, including the fact that (no big surprise) the menu will have a strong focus on poultry. “We’re bringing chicken back,” said Terri Stark. “We’re moving on from all pig, all the time,” she added, which is a departure from the pig-centric bent of many a Wine Country chef over the last five years. Not that a little pork and beef won’t show up on the all-American comfort food menu, but expect crispy chicken skin instead of pork rinds and fried pork ears (featured at Willi’s Wine Bar). The decor will be “modern tavern style,” according to Stark, with a more homey and less minimalist feel. The good news for alfresco diners: the restaurant will feature 48 seats on the front deck for warm-weather dining. The Starks are aiming to open the new restaurant by the end of the year.
So what’s the difference between Neapolitan, Sicilian, New York, and California pizzas? Like barbecue, you’ll get a different answer depending on who you ask, but the forthcoming VIGNETTE (at The Barlow) will be serving Neapolitan pies, with their very thin crust and minimal toppings. Chef Mark Hopper’s menu will include pizzas like the Manhattan, with San Marzano tomatoes, chopped clams, buffalo mozzarella, and chile oil. Other dishes include ‘nduja flatbread with arugula, red onion, and Grana Padano cheese, and fire-roasted vegetables. GM Michael Zwicklbauer (formerly of The Restaurant at Meadowood and Farmshop Marin) will run a carefully curated beer, wine, and coffee list. The best news: Nothing on the menu will be more than $20. Look for a late July opening. 6750 McKinley St., Sebastopol.
If you’re getting a whiff of something smoky, meaty, and delicious in the general vicinity of Rohnert Park, follow your nose to the region’s biggest annual barbecue competition, the WINE COUNTRY BIG Q on Saturday July 12th. Pitmasters from 45 national teams compete this weekend for more than $8,300 in cash prizes. Want in on the grilling action (and maybe a few tips for your tri-tip)? Wine Country Big Q ticket holders feast on samples from the experts as well as contestants of the Winery Big Beef Challenge, The Bold Bean Challenge, the “Get Sauced” sauce competition, the amateurs “Tailgate” competition, and the “Bakin’ for Bacon” dessert competition. All in all, expect to stomach about a pound of meat, if you dare. The event will be from 1pm-5pm and tickets are $45. More info on the event here. Sonoma Mountain Village, 1300 Valley House Dr, Rohnert Park.
It isn’t summer without outdoor concert events featuring great acts, and more importantly great food and wine. We’re smitten with Glen Ellen’s BROADWAY UNDER THE STARS series, featuring favorite tunes from Broadway and beyond with actual Broadway actors. Get there early for noshes from Tips Tri-Tip, Ultra Crepes, Palooza Catering, Cookie Take a Bite (best chocolate chip cookies ever), Glen Ellen Star, and Fork Catering, as well as wine from dozens of local wineries. Tickets and details online. Meanwhile, the RODNEY STRONG SUMMER CONCERT SERIES hosts Chris Botti, Chris Isaak, and Mindi Abair at their outdoor green. Wine flows, picnics are welcome, and the winery serves up tasty bites before the show. Details online.
Get a sneak preview of OUTSIDE LANDS artists Woods and Sandy’s at LONG MEADOW RANCH WINERY AND FARMSTEAD in St. Helena on Sunday July 13th. This first “Summer Pairings” series is an afternoon of farm-to-table food and wine experiences on its outdoor stage. Long Meadow Ranch will also be a presence at Outside Lands’ Wine Lands and Cheeselands, with assorted cheese and charcuterie. Doors open at 2pm, with the concert starting at 3:30pm. Tickets include a wine tasting; $35 in advance and $45 at the door. Details online.
Still hungry? Check out Heather’s food and dining blog at BiteClubEats.com.