Exactly one year ago today, we visited St. Francis Winery in Sonoma, and it was incredible. St. Francis Zinfandel was the wine that introduced us to this particular producer, some years ago, when great friends shared it with us. We loved it, of course, and shelved the information in the back of our minds. Those same friends invited us to spend a weekend at their cabin the following summer, and we were to bring wine for a meal. We browsed the isles at the liquor store, and picked out the St. Francis Zin, not remembering its significance. When we served it, our friends exclaimed in excitement that this was from their favourite winery, and they had been to visit! We asked them to tell us the story this time, and determined that if we ever went to California, we were going to St. Francis.
Fast forward two years, and we made our way to California for a wine-tasting adventure. I made sure to book a tasting at St. Francis well before embarking on the trip, and it’s a good thing I did, because they book up fast! For a standard tasting, guests can walk in with no appointment and approach the bar. We wanted the full deal, and I booked our lunch tasting months in advance. Upon booking, I discovered that St. Francis was the highest rated restaurant in all of the USA that year on opentable.com. I was impressed! The price was $72 per person, for a five course meal with wine pairings, seating only 16 people at once to facilitate an intimate and personal setting. For those not interested in a meal, St. Francis offers several other events at which to experience their winery, such as art festivals, concerts, outdoor movie nights, and even an annual Blessing of the Animals. Information on the wine, winery visits and the event schedule can be found at www.stfranciswinery.com.
For more than four decades, St. Francis Winery has consistently produced luscious, elegant, fruit driven wines that best interpret the richness and distinct varietal characteristics of Sonoma County’s unique, diverse terroir.
We arrived at St. Francis early to enjoy the grounds before our tasting began. We were greeted by a very friendly face, who in realizing we had a while to wait, offered us a complimentary glass of crisp white Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy in the hot weather as we walked the grounds. It was perfect.
The grounds are big and beautiful, and surrounded by the vineyard. There are charming benches to sit and relax, a calming fountain, gardens full of flowers in bloom, streams of lights decorating the spaces, and statuesque art acting as centerpiece to a lush lawn area. The gift shop is full of practical wine tools, artistic home décor pieces, and cute wine themed souvenirs. The tasting bar is long and grand, with plenty of room for tasters to make their way through their desired flights.
Once it was time for our booking, we were welcomed into the luxurious tasting room. Our two hosts explained the wine making process, educated us about the grape varietals, and gave tasting notes for each of the 4 wines that went with our dinner courses, and the 5th wine, specially paired with dessert. In a traditional pairing situation, the food is the star, and the wine is selected to enhance the meal, but at St. Francis, the chef has done the opposite. He has designed a well thought out menu to showcase the specific taste profiles of each wine, and very successfully so. He greeted us after the meal to personally answer our questions.
Upon finishing the tasting, my husband and I began to make our selections for purchase. As participants in the tasting, we were given an additional 15% off of our purchases, which turned out to be a pleasant surprise. St. Francis has a large selection of varietals and blends to choose from, and they kindly allowed us to taste some additional wines that hadn’t been a part of our lunch pairing. We found their prices to be reasonable, and left with a full case of some of our favourites, and a special gift for our friends who introduced us to St. Francis in the first place.
Our visit to St. Francis was a highlight of our trip, and I would recommend the investment of time and money there; it doesn’t disappoint!