The food is fabulous (never had a bad or even merely a so-so meal), the wine list is packed with both stars and under-the-radar gems, and the corkage policy is hard to beat (zero… nada… nothing… as in: “We want you to have a good time”).
No doubt because of that policy, along with the wonderful food, it’s not unusual to see winemakers or winery P.R. reps having lunch or dinner with clients, and a half-dozen bottles (or more) seemingly jockeying for space amid the plates and glasses on the tables.
Indeed, my fiancée and I met up with friends there a few weeks ago, and my French Dip (thinly sliced roasted prime rib piled high on a house-made French roll, and substitute mashed potatoes for the French fries, cole slaw, very wild rice or seasonal green vegetable) resulted in a plate that really did not need dishwasher intervention.
On that same trip, our group had an opportunity to sample a restaurant that is taking the “Sonoma side” by storm: the newest iteration of a City-by-the-Bay eatery known as Aventine Glen Ellen. One of my co-travelers and long-time friends wrote this lavishly illustrated blog about the experience.
Aventine Glen Ellen is more upscale than the Rutherford Grill, to be sure, and the focus is on Italian fare. You can read more about the concept and check out menus here.
We sampled an array of appetizers, main courses and desserts, and just like at the Rutherford Grill, there wasn’t anything I didn’t love. My fiancée is still raving about the Raviolo Di Fromaggio and the caramelicious Budino.
If you need even more of an “excuse” to check out Aventine Glen Ellen, the restaurant will be hosting a winemaker dinner on March 31, featuring the patriarch of Sonoma’s fabled Sebastiani family, Sam Sebastiani, who will be sharing the family’s La Chertosa wines.
Here’s a look at the menu:
- Antipasto — La Chertosa Reserve Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley, 2012; Crudo — ahi tuna tartar with basil and pine nuts, sweet shrimp, marinated baby octopus, yellow frisee, blood oranges and lemon vinaigrette.
- Primo — La Chertosa Reserve Zinfandel, Fra Paolo, Amador County, 2012; house-made veal tortellini, English peas, fried porcini, sage cream sauce.
- Secondo — La Chertosa Reserve Sangiovese, Sonoma Valley, 2012; roasted prime beef tenderloin, roasted Sicilian sun-dried tomato, and seared polenta in a red wine thyme sauce.
- Formaggi — La Chertosa Cabernet Sauvignon, The Winemaker Remembrance, Napa Valley, 2010; Shaft’s Bleu Vein, aged 24 months, and Estero Gold Reserve, aged 15 months, served with Mostarda di Cremosa, candied pecans, lavender honey and grilled focaccia.
We’re told that La Chertosa is named for the magnificent 14th century Renaissance monastery in the Tuscan valley of Farneta, Italy, where the Sebastiani ancestral roots began. There, Sam’s grandfather, Samuele Sebastiani, learned to make wine in the “Old World” style.
Samuele came to Sonoma in 1893, and found that Sonoma resembled Farneta in three ways:
- It boasted a mild Mediterranean climate.
- It had the same red soils.
- It was blessed with gently sloping hillsides.
He founded Sebastiani Winery in 1904, one of the first wineries in California.
In creating his Sonoma winemaking style, Samuele employed the time-honored techniques taught to him by the Chertosinian monks in Farneta. Sam continues to utilize those techniques in crafting the harmonic flavors for which La Chertosa wines are known.
And come the evening of March 31 (beginning at 6:30), lucky diners will be able to sample La Chertosa wines with the exquisite cuisine of Aventine Glen Ellen for $100 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity.
As you might imagine, reservations are required for what promises to be a most memorable evening. The number to call is 707-934-8911.