The second half of our day was as incredible as the first believe it or not. We had just finished up at Continuum on Pritchard Hill. It was time to venture Westward over the Oakville Grade to Sonoma County where we had a private appointment at Williams Selyem, one of the top Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producers in California. Jill and I have shared multiple WS Pinots for special occasions throughout our relationship – this was a special winery for us to be able to visit in person.
After finding another unmarked driveway, we were allowed entry onto the property and slowly drove up the driveway. It’s only recently that Williams Selyem began bottling estate wines. Before, they would only produce wine with purchased fruit. Granted, the fruit was some of the best you’ll find in all of Sonoma, it’s special when one of these producers decides to do an estate wine – growing, vinifying and bottling from start to finish.
Michael was our host at WS and gave us an awesome tour of the vineyards, tasting both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes form their Drake Estate. He showed us into the barrel room and explained how they use different vessels than others to ferment their juice. The proprietor, years ago, came across a number of milk vats that were for sale. Since essentially they are a similar size and just as good of quality as a tank made specifically for wine, they bought the milk vats and began using them to ferment grapes! So cool!
We tasted through their Blanc de Blanc Brut – a sparkling wine made only from Chardonnay grapes (Blanc de Blanc). We sampled some of their awesome Chardonnay and Pinot after that from multiple single vineyards that happen to be right around their property. Michael explained the difference between their dozen or so Pinot bottlings, many of which hail from all over the area – even as far as the coast.
We learned about the history of the winery and were shown their wall of bottles which features a bottle of every wine they’ve ever produced, including their inaugural vintage which was originally under a different name all together. Michael was great – friendly, passionate, informative, and genuinely pleased that we appreciated their wine so much in the past. Thank you so much.
Walking through the vineyard sipping on a beautiful glass of Pinot Noir is just what we had in mind for this exclusive and personalized tour. After heading out of WS, I pulled the car over by their little fruit orchard near the gate for Jill to hop out and grab a perfect apple for the ride. Don’t tell…
We were starving! Yelp led us to an unscheduled stop at a small pizzeria in downtown Healdsburg – Campo Fina. We knew we had more food to follow so we kept it real light and tried a simple sausage pizza. Featuring house made sausage, green peppers, and of course a deliciously zesty and flavorful tomato sauce, we were extremely pleased with our choice. The pizzas are made in a wood burning oven that sits in view of everyone on their patio out back.
Within minutes our pizza arrived hot from the fire. The sausage was excellent. Large chunks that had a meaty, herbaceous quality to them were generously placed throughout the pie. The crust was crispy and super thin – you could hold the slice up and it stood upright, not an easy feat – overall, an excellent Neopolitan style ‘zah.
We went back home and relaxed for a bit to gear up for yet another awesome dinner. Goose and the Gander is located in downtown Saint Helena. It’s a gastro pub kinda place very similar to our Girl and the Goat – name coincidence aside. We intentionally arrived a bit early to check out the hidden away bar downstairs. Michael at Williams Selyem told us to swing by there before dinner and try a couple of their awesome cocktails. Out front was a really nice garden patio. If it wasn’t so chilly we may have decided to hang out there before din din. Not tonight.
I ordered the Scarlett Gander – Hanger One Buddha’s Hand Vodka, Lemon, Mint, Shiso, Ginger, Galangal, Cherries. Excellent play with flavors. The Asian qualities of the drink stood out nicely and provided some nice refreshing qualities to the beverage.
Jill went with the Cucumber Collins. Another winner, as it’s a play on the classic with a couple unique twists. The fresh huckleberries garnished atop the drink were spot on as far as garnishes go. They weren’t merely for looks, but they were ripe, and sweet. Delish.
I ordered some of the Padron Peppers to start. Similar to Shishito, but MUCH MUCH hotter, the peppers were stuffed with a creamy mixture of sea salt, fennel pollen and a touch of oil. So simple but really flavorful. I must admit, though, they were extremely spicy and almost killed a taste bud or two before dinner. Luckily, with a cocktail or two, the fire subsided and I was in the clear.
We sat down for dinner and immediately were drawn in by the Berkshire Pork Belly “Wedge” salad that came highly recommended by the server. A large cube of pork belly was gently laid atop a bed of greens and other goodies. Shaft’s Blue Cheese Dressing, Shaved Heirloom Radishes, and Tiny Greens were all that was needed to create a savory, smoky, blue cheesy dish. The belly was fried perfectly. Crispy on the outside and super tender and moist inside.
Okay. We ordered another burger. BUT IT SOUNDED SO GOOD! Plus, we’d had such great luck with burgers out there up until now, we decided it’s just what we felt like. Goose and the Gander killed it. Fantastic, tall and super doughy bun supported an equally tall and perfectly cooked patty of house ground grass fed beef. Being accompanied by duck fat french fries certainly didn’t hurt.
Toppings were simple to let the quality of the beef and bun shine. A secret sauce, smoky Gruyere cheese, house smoked bacon and…the item that really brought the burger together…bone marrow. Yes, everywhere should offer some nice rich bone marrow as a burger topping option. If you think that sounds like overkill, it wasn’t. There was just enough marrow to make the burger extremely decadent and indulgent without being overly rich. We loved this example of meat between bread.
Every burger we had sampled during our trip was different yet fantastic in its own way. The service at G&G was quick, friendly and non intrusive as we sat for a bit and didn’t feel like being bothered. We left the restaurant full but not overstuffed. Being on vacation is certainly all about indulgence, but it’s also about pacing yourself for the long haul. ‘Til tomorrow…
I’m hungry. Let’s eat!