In 2016, Carlo Mondavi — yes, grandson of Robert Mondavi — created the Monarch Challenge to bring attention to the plight of the beautiful Monarch butterfly, whose population has been devastated since the advent of Roundup.
Every year since then, he and his brother Dante have produced a limited rosé through their RAEN Winery in Sebastopol to bring attention to this environmental calamity befalling this invaluablepollinator, and to inspire other like-minded vintners to do the same.
I had a chance to try a sample of this year’s 2021 Monarch Challenge North Coast Rosé ($30), sales of which will benefit the conservation organization, the Xerces Society, and Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating sick or orphaned wildlife.
Produced from RAEN Pinot Noir grapes and old-vine Grenache, all farmed organically, this pale salmon wine is an exuberant expression of strawberries and raspberries, with a hint of guava. It is crisp, tangy, and laced with minerality. It’s pure deliciousness.
Ronda Brittian of Petaluma is a trauma nurse. Raised in a family of accomplished home cooks, she’s also a food entrepreneur who has joined forces with her life partner, Steve Davis, a food brand manager, to create a line of jarred romesco, the classic Spanish sauce of almonds, tomato, garlic, red wine vinegar, red peppers, and olive oil.
I make my own romesco from scratch now and then, but having it ready-made in a jar sure makes it extra convenient.
I had a chance to try samples of Ronda’s Romesco, which come in two varieties: regular and spicy.
Chef-Owner Howard Bulka had plans pre-pandemic to expand the compact kitchen ever so much to accommodate a pasta-making station. Of course, those plans got pushed back with the advent of Covid. But now, his plans have come to fruition.
Not only can you enjoy the new pastas served in the dining room, but also on the pergola-covered outdoor dining area just in front of the restaurant. What’s more, you can even buy fresh pasta ($9), sauces ($9.50 per pint), and even frozen baked ziti ($22), manicotti ($13.95), and lasagna bolognese ($23) to take home.
My husband and I chose to enjoy our meal outside on a breezy evening, starting with the chopped salad ($15.25), a crunchy mix of romaine tossed with cubes of salami, Swiss cheese, cucumber, chopped egg, and green onion. With the ranch dressing on the side, you can add as little or as much as you want, controlling just how super-leaded you want your chopped salad to be.
When it comes to wine, one of my most painful regrets happened decades ago at Napa’s Shafer Vineyards.
I was enrolled in a multi-day wine course at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone Campus in St. Helena. On the last day of class, we took a field trip to Shafer. Arranged in front of each of us was an array of nearly half a dozen glasses of some of the most impeccable Cabernet Sauvignons I’d ever had. I sipped, savored, enjoyed each mouthful blissfully, and then — I spit it all out.
Because right after class, I had to drive home in traffic, hours away. Ouch, the pitfalls of being your own designated driver.
All that glorious wine down the spittoon. It still haunts me. So, when a sample bottle of the 2019 Shafer One Point Five landed on my porch, I nearly leapt for joy.
The name “One Point Five” takes its name from “a generation and a half,” which is how John and Doug Shafer described their father-and-son wine-making partnership. This wine is 83 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 percent Merlot, 3 percent Malbec, and 2 percent Petit Verdot.
The grapes come predominantly from Shafer’s two Stags Leap District sites: the “Borderline” vineyard near the winery and Shafer’s hillside estate vineyard, which is the source of some of its most coveted wines.
As the youngest of seven kids, Elizabeth Osterman-Brown jokes that she learned to love vegetables early on because they were usually what was left at the dinner table after her siblings elbowed her out of the way to get their pick of everything else.
That hard-won passion served her well later in life when she started Last of Seven, a pickle company, a year ago, naming it appropriately enough, Last of Seven.
It also provided her the last laugh, when her Last of Seven LO7 Original Pickled Carrots won a 2022 Good Food Award.
Her company, based in San Francisco and Santa Barbara, sources California-grown carrots, asparagus and other veggies, then bathes them in distilled vinegar plus herbs and spices. The pickles are gluten-free and certified kosher, too.
These snappy, crunchy pickles are tangy but not wincingly puckery, as I found when I tried samples recently.