Amista Vineyards; Wine Country Saturday

My wine country Saturday was filled with excellent vino, culinary delights from two local chefs and new friends. Vicky and Mike, the charming owners of Amista Vineyards, wouldn’t want it any other way and I was fortunate enough to experience it.

The day started with Chef Shari at Baci Cafe and Wine Bar.  We were greeted by the lovely owner Lisbeth Holmefjord who handed us crisp white aprons upon arrival. She closed the restaurant especially for us and we got the grand tour of their well-organized, clean and stocked kitchen.

We broke up into teams to prepare a lunch that would be accompanied with delicious Amista Wines. We had this cozy restaurant all to ourselves–spoiled!

Chef Shari’s warm demeanor and zest for all things culinary shined. He is a humble leader giving “props” to his kitchen team who consistently deliver organic Italian cuisine night after night in downtown Healdsburg.  Castro, one of his main sous chef’s had the most amazing knife skills I have ever observed. He moved so easily all I could think of was sunlight. Followed by, “I need to enroll in a knife skills class–stat”.

Our lunch included a Dry Creek Heirloom Salad, Penne all’ Amatriciana and wood-fire pizzas with many topping variations. Nom, nom, nom.  Every bite was delicious. The 2008 Amista Chardonnay paired perfectly with our Dry Creek Salad, followed by a lovely 2008 and 2009 Amista Zinfandel. Personal favorites of Wine Master Mike. And I agree. Seldom do I find myself enjoying not one, but three glasses of wine before 2 p.m. on a Saturday, but there I was soaking up every minute of it.

We socialized.

We learned.

Vicky, owner of Amista Vineyards lobbying for Gnocchi. You go girl.

And then we took a break to explore wine country and later reconvened at Amista Vineyard located in the breathtakingly beautiful Dry Creek Wine region of Sonoma County.

I got there a bit early to snap up some pictures before the sunset.

And then, the glorious eats…by Chef John Franchetti of Rosso’s restaurant in Santa Rosa.

Ain’t no party like an oyster party…woot!

My hat’s off to Michelle, the director of operations for Amista Vineyards, for the classy touch. Before we sat down for dinner we indulged in wine, learned that we had a triathlete couple in the group, a financial advisor, a San Francisco restaurateur, few technology geeks (as they affectionately referred to themselves), bio-medical entrepreneur, Stanford Professor, family friends and relatives. Mike and Vicky know how to host one dynamic dinner party.

Before I close, just a few more candlelight dinner photos from Chef John Franchetti.

Peking Duck, followed by a flour-less chocolate tort.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a good picture of dessert. @sonomawilliam did not remind me fast enough to take a photo before the sweet freak ate it. Many thanks to Vicky, Mike and Michelle for an unforgettable Sonoma County wine country Saturday.

Chef Shari’s Dry Creek Salad (Serves 6 to 8 )


2lb large heirloom tomatoes, mixed color

1lb small heirloom green and yellow tomatoes

1/2 basket of heirloom cherry tomatoes

3 firm red plums

1 large asian pear

2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


peel the large tomatoes and cut them into square shape

cut the small tomatoes into 6 wedges

cut the cherry tomatoes in half

cut the plums into wedges and take out pit

peel the asian pears just before composing the salad so it does not brown

On large white dishes squeeze the sauce onto the bottom of the plates. In a large bowl add the cut tomatoes, plums, asian pears, salt and pepper to taste and add olive oil and toss.  Spoon equal amounts of fruit on each plate so it looks clean (working from the middle of the plate). Drizzle the olive oil.


1 bunch cilantro with half of stems

3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar

2 cups of grape seed oil

1 cup peach jam (apricot or orange marmalade will work if you cannot find peach)

1/2 cup salt water (2 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 cup water – mixed well – should taste like sea water)


In a mixer add the cilantro and the vinegar and mix well until everything is chopped.  Add the jam and blend.  While mixer is running slowly add the oil by drizzling it into the blender.  When mixture is emulsified add the salt water. Put in plastic bottle for pouring.

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