It’s a whole new “Vintage Point” in Sonoma, CA

From Pinot Noir to Chardonnay… from Limos to SUVs… from porcinis to truffles — Sonoma is a wine drinker’s, food lover’s, nature enthusiast’s paradise. And, what’s a better way to start a vacation than with fall mushrooms? I honestly can’t think of anything better.

After the fastest grocery shopping trip ever (seriously… I’m no stranger to huge grocery stores – but this trip was one for the record books – and we didn’t forget ANYTHING!), we headed to Ramekins for a culinary class to teach us everything we needed to know about mushrooms. There were about 20 brave people total in the class, and we divided into small groups to prep one of the five total recipes developed by chef Annie Simmons. Our group was in charge of the Arugula and Bread Salad with Mushrooms and Winter Herbs. That said, my favorite was the Creamy Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup.  (Stay tuned for recipes!!) The most important lessons I learned were:

  • If you see fresh porcini mushrooms, stop whatever you’re doing and buy them. They have about a 2 week season, so it’s your lucky day if you find them!
  • When you saute something, the best thing you can do is let the pan alone. Resist the urge to stir, mix, touch anything in the pan for at least a minute, and you’ll be much better off for it.
  • If you’re using multiple mushrooms in the same dish, cut them in different shapes and sizes. It will add texture to the dish, AND you’ll be able to tell which is which.
  • Whenever you season a dish, sprinkle it from high up in a circular motion. This ensures that you get the season evenly throughout, and you’ll look pretty cool doing it.

Check out the fruits of our labor:

Prepping the mushrooms

Here are all the ingredients to our bread and arugula salad

Shannon and Evelyn hard at work.

Chef Amy Simmons giving us instructions. (She caters too - check her out at


Here I am after seasoning with a flourish.

Wild mushroom soup - my favorite of the night.

Pasta with Porobellos and Greens

Roast Pork (aka, filet tenderloin, as the pork was taken earlier in the day by another class!) and our arugula and bread salad

Three happy (and full) ladies!

Once we perfected cooking, the most logical next step of course was to go wine tasting. And boy did we ever. Three days worth of tasting, in fact…and we rode in style! We visited a baker’s dozen of wineries over the weekend including Westwood, Cellar Door, Ledson, Jaqk, Ram’s Gate, Kamen, Loxton, Seghesio, Medlock Ames, Enkidu, Ridge, J and Rodney Strong and had a sampling of different varietals at each. My favorite, of course, were the bubblies, though I found a few chardonnays I enjoyed and  Pinot Noir or two.  Here are the highlights:

The "tasting crew" at Westwood.

Here I am getting into the Halloween spirit at JAQK! The bubbly here was one of my faves.

The view from Ridge winery. We tried a $145 bottle here!

Here I am with the birthday girl at Ridge!The nose on the syrah was lovely.

A little tasting at Rodney Strong.

Here's the crew tasting Kamen's exclusive 2007 Kashmere. It was the best wine of the entire weekend!

And here we are again at Ram's Gate.

Overall, it’s been an amazing long weekend. I wish I could stay here for ever, but alas… back to reality tomorrow!

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