Tasting rooms in Wine Country: a dime a dozen. Cheese and charcuterie pairings: so last season. But now, Healdsburg brings the outdated tasting room back into vogue with the trend du jour: creative small plates that showcase food-friendly wines.
Bay Area wine snobs might be quick to turn up their noses to such a household name as Kendall Jackson. But oenophiles and epicures are taking note of Partake by K-J, the unexpectedly inventive, urban-chic restaurant that opened this past spring in place of K-J’s tasting room.
At Partake, chef Justin Wangler (formerly of Syrah Restaurant in Santa Rosa) assembles a seasonal menu of pretty dishes with the help of culinary gardener Tucker Taylor, who’s credited with transforming French Laundry’s Yountville garden into a destination. Taylor aims to do the same for K-J’s three-acre gardens in Santa Rosa, growing pro-duce for Wangler’s vibrant, vegetable-centric small plates. Dishes like caramelized carrots with guajillo chile, coconut, and pepita brittle pair brilliantly with reserve wines such as the crisp Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Riesling, which won San Francisco Chronicle’s Best of Class award in 2012.
Opening this month just off Healdsburg’s main plaza, two new boutique tasting rooms are teaming up with neighboring restaurants. Banshee forgoes the traditional tasting room setup in favor of lounge seating and a long communal table. Quarterly partnerships with local restaurants—first up, Shed—will bring shareable snacks like jars of chicken liver mousse with seasonal fruit. Nearby, Cartograph collaborates with next-door restaurant Zin, known for regional American comfort food, pairing its award-winning pinot noirs with the likes of deviled eggs, smoked pork chops, and produce from Zin’s own Eastside Farm.
Also this month, Jordan goes big with a reservation-only three-hour tasting excursion that traverses the estate’s garden, lake, olive orchard, and vineyards. Breaks for wine and bites are prepared by chef Todd Knoll (Ritz-Carlton SF). Knoll puts the property’s produce to work in pairings that showcase Asian, Mediterranean, and Californian influences—try a Spanish escabeche or grilled dry-aged beef with morels. Think of this as the estate-to-table movement.
This article was published in 7x7's September issue. Click here to subscribe.