These mornings find me in long pants and sweatshirt. The fog lingers well into the day. Very definitely a cooler than average summer in our neck of the woods. Yet the harvesting continues. I’ve already picked and dried several hundred plum tomatoes, am fermenting several gallons of Asian pear cider vinegar, and have dug up most of the potatoes, shallots and onions. On my way to the winery yesterday I saw pickers harvesting Pinot Noir at a vineyard near Joe Swan over on Laguna Road. Many have commented this summer that there has been big fluctuations in temperature just miles apart. Weird.

This week was the last concert of the summer season, and Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings played to a huge crowd. It’s always a bit sad when the concert series comes to an end; it’s a sign that another summer is about over.

That time is marching by was brought home in another way this morning. When we moved to Dry Creek Valley fifteen years ago, I would walk down the hill to get the morning paper and see a young neighbor girl waiting for the school bus. A couple of years later she was joined by her younger brother. She graduated, and I saw the boy grow up. This morning the bus didn’t stop. . . there was no one to pick up, as he too had graduated . . . . damn.

Last Friday evening we had a real treat. The Primiato Corpo BandisticoCitta di Monte Unano” – a 50 piece Italian orchestra – played in The Plaza as part of a Sonoma-Italy cultural exchange program. We enjoyed the music of Puccini, Verdi, RimskiKorsakov and others on a perfect evening. Sitting with friends sipping an assortment of Taft Street wines, it is hard to imagine a more idyllic scene.

I have just finished a fascinating book – Gang Leader for a Day, by Sudhir Ventkatesh. The book traces the experiences of a graduate student at the University of Chicago during the 1990’s. As a research project he decided to study the world of the Robert Taylor Homes, at that time perhaps the most notorious housing ghetto in the United States. He befriended a gang leader and soon became a frequent witness to the world of crack cocaine dealing, prostitution, drive by shootings, myriad form of hustling, and an odd but real sense of community. Another world for sure, but an intriguing read.

This weekend much of the Taft Street gang will venture out to the coast, where we will attend a winemaker dinner at Sea Ranch on Friday, August 28th. After wining and dining, we will spend the weekend kicking back – reading, walking the beach, and product testing.

Our Facebook account has 245 members as I write, and the numbers grow daily. It’s a real treat to see the rapid growth in the number of friends we have made. Our story seems to be an interesting one, so we will continue to tell it.

The next blog should include a harvest update. I went through my vineyard this week, culling uneven maturing bunches. I’ve got a number of vines infected with Pierce’s disease, but the healthy vines carry a heavy crop. Casual observation of neighboring vineyards indicate it could be a big year.

Stay tuned.


RAMBLING ON………….and on…..and on

Warm, smoke filled days indicate the Western wildfire season is in full swing. High summer means tomatoes and Asian pears are out in (over)abundance, and our six fig trees are about ready to bear. Why anyone has six fig trees is beyond me. Grapes are a month or so away. Peppers and eggplant are making their moves, and citrus, apples and squash are not far behind.

We’re going to try something new at the Tasting Room. Every month we’ll work with one of my recipes – a kind of hands on cooking demonstration/lesson. Our first get together will take place next Friday. August 21st, from 3:00 – 5:00 pm. We’ll make fresh spring rolls, using the recipe I picked up on my trip to Viet Nam last month. We’ll pair the rolls with our 2008 Mendocino Gewurztraminer, which we’ll offer at a special price that day. Come and join the fun.

The weekly summer concert series held in the square in Healdsburg is all too quickly coming to an end. Our favorite local musician, Danny Sorrentino, played this week. Danny and his band played at Kathy’s and my 40th anniversary party the year before last. They kick butt. Only two concerts to go, with the great Roy Rogers bringing things to a conclusion August 25th. Nothing says summer like a basket full of fresh food, several chilled bottles of Taft Street wine, and friends enjoying an early evening in the park.

I read a lot. I also collect cookbooks, so I am not much interested in cluttering up the house with old paperbacks. I am, therefore, a faithful user of the Sonoma County library, Healdsburg branch. The library holds the most extensive wine library in the United States, and I go there often to check out wine industry periodicals. I also feed my mystery habit, and in the past couple of weeks I’ve caught up with a few of my favorite gumshoe writers: Lee Child, Ed McBain, Robert Parker and Bill Pronzini. I also read Miles on Miles: Interviews and Encounters with Miles Davis. The book, edited by Maher and Dorr, consists of a series of interviews with Miles Davis, from the 1950’s until right before his death in 1991. A great musician and a very irascible human being. But who cares when you can listen to Birth of the Cool, Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain, and Bitch’s Brew. Interesting read.

One Sonoma County landmark I can see (almost) from my back porch is the Dry Creek Store – Established 1881. This is the only non agricultural retailer allowed in the Dry Creek Valley, having been around for longer than any zoning restrictions. A few years back Gina Gallo (yes, those Gallos) bought the place, and she has done a fine job in upgrading the food, while maintaining the ambiance – good old time Sonoma funk. The bar is terrific – a tiny room filled with old signs and farm paraphernalia. Excellent Bear Republic IPA on tap. Sipping a tall, cool one while sitting on an Adirondack chair looking out over the Dry Creek Valley is relaxation, indeed.

One of the many good things about being in the wine business is keeping up with the competition. We at Taft Street conduct monthly tastings, where we take one of our current releases and blind taste it against six or seven similar wines, often from the Russian River Valley. Last month we did Zinfandel, and our 2007 Russian River Valley Zinfandel Cobblestone Vineyard won handily. This Friday we are tasting 2008 Pinot Noir Rose. Rose wine has experienced a big upsurge in popularity over the last several years, and we have done quite well with ours. We will post the results on our Facebook/Taft Street Winery page.

….and so on. Come see us next Fridays for spring rolls and wine.

Until then,


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