All in the Family


I usually go home for Christmas, but when my brother goes to his in-laws’, my parents fly out here from D.C., and we spend the holiday wine tasting, eating out and getting pampered at the Sonoma Mission Inn. That was the case this past year. Feeling extra adventurous, we decided to take a day trip to the Anderson Valley—fast becoming my favorite wine-tasting locale—and that’s how I discovered Esterlina, a family owned and run winery up in Philo.

And who in SF doesn’t know about Maverick? Roughly two years old now, this restaurant is only getting better. (I still haven’t tried the brunch, but I hear it’s one of the city’s best, and they take reservations). So when I heard about Maverick’s Winemaker’s Dinner with Esterlina, I cleared my calendar.

Maverick’s sixth winemaker dinner was a smash hit. The amuse made good use of Mike’s (wine director and co-owner of Maverick) mom’s homegrown avocados and set the stage for a night of farm-fresh delights.

Amuse bouche with homegrown avocados        California white sea bass

The first pairing was grilled white sea bass with Esterlina’s 2005 Russian River Chardonnay. The fish was so fresh that I could’ve eaten it plain, but then I’d miss out on the toasted pearl pasta with a fennel, leek, celery and blistered tomato sauce. The chard was classically fruity and oaky; it was the gold-medal winner of this year’s SF Chronicle Wine Competition.

Wild mushroom pate with levain toast points

Scott, Maverick’s co-owner and executive chef, also created a vegetarian menu, and since I love mushrooms, I swapped the chicken liver pate with the wild mushroom pate. How happy was I when I took a sip of the 2004 Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir? The Pinot’s earthy aroma, cherry flavor and crisp acidity complimented the pate’s creamy goodness.

Now, I’ll let the rest of the photos speak for themselves:

Braised beef cheeks, parmesan zucchini, polenta and mozzarella
2002 "Cole Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon

Chocolate-covered shortbread with fleur de sel caramel sauce
2002 Everett Ridge Dry Creek Port

Maverick usually bustles, and that night, the energy was as effervescent as ever. Contributing to the buzz (pun partially intended) were brothers Steve and Eric Sterling—marketing expert and winemaker, respectively. The entire night, they mingled with us diners and poured tastes of some of their other wines while sharing insight into their family’s philosophy.

Don’t you love it when a meal lasts three hours when you thought only one passed by? It’s all about good company, good wine and good food.

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