St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
Every wine and food lover knows about Napa Valley and Sonoma County with its many wineries that have prospered over the years. While they each have distinct and renowned restaurants and wineries, along with a quaintness all their own, an especially inviting and unique area is Santa Rosa.
Being that Santa Rosa is the largest city in Sonoma County, there are plenty of notable wineries worth visiting! My winery of choice for this trip was the St. Francis Winery, located at 100 Pythian Road. Being my first visit, I learned a great deal about wine and the fascinating history behind St. Francis Winery. In 1979, founders Joe Martin and Lloyd Canton christened their vineyard after St. Francis of Assisi, as he was the protector of the natural world. As their production grew over the years, their philosophy was that each wine was to be made from 100% hand-picked Sonoma County grapes that produced big, bold, full-bodied wines with immense flavor.
While the original vineyard was planted to produce Chardonnay, winemaker Tom Mackey was hired in 1983 and conquered the unworkable by also producing amazing Merlots. He is the first and only winemaker that St. Francis has ever employed and possesses an unbeatable passion for producing the best wines that have won numerous awards. Talent, along with Sonoma’s terroir of the right weather, temperature, earth, and soil is the secret behind these great wines. St. Francis Winery is also very environmentally aware, as they are the first winery to function on solar electricity.
St. Francis owns over 600 acres in Sonoma, with each vineyard producing excellent wines as a result of their specific terroirs. The original estate, “Behler Vineyard” in Kenwood produces Merlots and Chardonnays and the “Nuns Canyon Vineyard” in Mayacamas Range produces great reds from Cabs and Zins to Sangiovese. The “Lagomarsino Vineyard” in Healdsburg of the Russian River Valley has smooth Cabs, Chardonnays, and Cabernet Francs. Last, but not least, the “Wild Oak Vineyard” in Santa Rosa covers Syrahs, Merlots, and Cabs.
St. Francis Winery welcomes visitors by offering regular wine tasting, in addition to food and wine pairings daily for those with reservations in advance. If you love food and enjoy finding the right wines for certain flavors, this session is a must! For $20 per person, there is a sampling of four select wines and gourmet appetizers prepared by Chef Todd Muir. We were presented with four delightful culinary treats, along with carefully paired wines. The first was a rich 2004 Behler Reserve Chardonnay, with its strong aroma of oak, pear, vanilla, and tropical fruits paired with a rich Butternut Squash Soup and Blue Cheese Crumble. Next, the 2002 Nuns Canyon Syrah was mysteriously complex as it unfolded intricate layers of flavors and aromas when paired with Duck Sausages with Herbs de Provence. The 2002 Rowe Vineyard Zinfandel was bright and spicy, and when paired with the Grilled Eggplant Napolean with Roasted Red Peppers, Fontina, the goat cheese sandwiched in between really intensified the taste of the wine. My favorite was the Braised Beef Bourguignon with Bacon and Mushrooms with the Rockpile 2003 Red Wine from Sonoma. The rich, meaty stew made of red wine and herbs did not overpower the Rockpile because it was able to hold its own in strength and compatibility.
Wines can be purchased at the winery, online, or select wine shops. The winery also holds special events such as outdoor dinners during the summer or holidays with gourmet courses and wine pairings. On Sundays, the St. Francis visitors center offers their educational wine series, like Food for Thought (exploring the five basic taste sensations paired with wine) and an Aroma Workshop. The visitors center is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. except major holidays. For more information, visit stfranciswine.com.
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
100 Pythian Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95409