My husband and I have just returned from ten fabulous days of traipsing around the southwest. It was time for us to unplug and simply go where we wanted to go and see what we wanted to see. We loaded up our car with our bikes hitched onto the back and headed west with the intention of going until we hit wine or the Pacific ocean, whichever came first (the wine).
Detaching and being a little less connected to our cell phones and computers was liberating, seeing a little piece of the world at sixty-five miles an hour was refreshing and enlightening, riding bikes through the streets of San Francisco and zipping through traffic like crazed bike messengers was exhilarating and fun, having a picnic on the beach at sunset was romantic and sweet, and seeing family and friends along the way was meaningful and important. Briefly leaving our day-to-day world behind, we went on an adventure with little more than a general direction (west) as our guide, we just up and left one Sunday afternoon.
The first night was spent in Park City where we woke to crystal clear blue skies and sixty-five degree weather that felt delicious to us after spending weeks in upper nineties heat. Before getting back on the road, we took a spin around on our bikes and had a hearty breakfast sitting outside under the red umbrellas at the Bridge Cafe & Grill.
Next on the agenda, Sonoma, California.
With rolling hillsides patch-worked with vineyards, residential streets lined with charming Victorian houses with gardens displaying roses the size of jumbo latte cups and a culinary scene to satisfy any craving, Sonoma is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the palate.
Gundlach Bundshu, the oldest family owned winery in Sonoma that was established in 1858 was the first stop on our wine tasting tour.
They are known for their red wines, however, we also enjoyed the Gewürztraminer which was crisp and surprisingly dry. Gundlach Bundschu’s premier wines are also known for their unique series of labels that feature either historical works or pieces commissioned by the Bundschus.
The first of these labels was designed in 1981 by renowned artist Chuck House. More recent labels have highlighted the harvest contributions of Mexican Americans, transportation and the American landscape.
The tasting room and a lovely red to sample. Can you taste the cherries? Chocolate? Tobacco? Ah, I just taste wine…
We took a break from sipping and grabbed some lunch in the town square and then made our way over to Raven’s Wood which is just up the road from the town center.
Next stop, Chateau St. Jean.
The grounds at Chateau St. Jean were gorgeous with a European ambiance. The gardens were spectacular, the tasting room was quite beautiful and grand, and the staff were friendly and very knowledgable.
Now back at home in Colorado, we cracked open a chilled bottle of Gundlach Bundshu Gewürztraminer and paired it with a fresh heirloom tomato tart, an Italian bean salad and a green salad with homemade croutons. It was a perfect light summer meal.
Fresh Heirloom Tomato Tart
For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks) cut into small pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-4 tablespoons cold water
In a food processor, pulse the flour, butter, Parmesan and salt until it resembles a coarse meal. Drizzle in ice water, one tablespoon at a time, just until it holds together. Roll the dough into two balls and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour.
Roll the dough into a 12″ diameter circle, press into tart tin and then cut the excess off of the edges. Lightly prick the bottom of the tart with fork and place in the freezer for ten minutes. Carefully, line the filled tart tins with parchment and fill with weights.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully remove parchment and weights and then continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes or until the crust begins to get a golden hue to it. Remove from oven and cool completely in the tart tin on a rack. Remove the crust from the tin once it is cool and transfer to a plate or platter.
For the pesto:
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling on tart
1/2 to 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Optional: 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
In a blender or food processor, pulse the basil, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt until finely chopped. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until the mixture becomes a smooth paste. Add the Parmesan and pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble the tart:
2-3 assorted heirloom tomatoes, sliced in thin rounds
2-3 ounces chevre style goat cheese, crumbled
Fresh basil leaves for garnish
Balsamic syrup or a great aged balsamic vinegar
Using a spatula, spread the pesto over the cooled crust. Add a layer of the crumbled goat cheese (if you’re having a difficult time crumbling the cheese, place it in the freezer for ten minutes or so and then use a fork to scrape off crumbles).
Arrange the tomato slices on top of the pesto and cheese, sprinkle with kosher salt and garnish with sprigs of fresh basil. Cut the tart into wedges and serve with balsamic vinegar to drizzle over the top.