Sonoma – Part 2 of 3: It’s Always Sunny in Sonoma

It’s Always Sunny in Sonoma 

by L.M. Archer, FWS

Pinch me. I’m finally here. Sonoma. It’s sunny. Unlike home – soggy Seattle. We’ve flown from Seattle to San Francisco, then driven the hour north to Healdsburg. Walking down the streets of Healdsburg, four different people greet me warmly in the first hour – and they aren’t selling anything, either.  Maybe I didn’t get the memo…Maybe the ‘random acts of kindness’ movement started here…Maybe… it’s  just always sunny in Sonoma?

Our hostess with the mostest, Lucy Lewand of Healdsburg’s historic Camellia Inn, smiles when I tell her about the random acts of kindness. Lucy is a second generation Sonoma resident, community cornerstone, sage advice dispenser, and successful business owner. The type of person who knows where all the bodies are buried (under the Inn’s 80 varieties of camellia bushes, no doubt.) Yet she maintains  a cordial and unflappable presence amidst an Inn bursting with new guests and regulars alike – all in town for the Easter weekend to enjoy wine tastings, culinary feasts, and recreational activities.

Guests at Camellia Inn enjoy complimentary afternoon wine and cheese tastings, elaborate buffet breakfast (including diabolically delish fresh fruit smoothy shots), a pool, and  WIFI. If we didn’t have such a full schedule, we might simply stay at the Inn and get lost in its Victorian opulence.

However, my partner in crime, loyal mascot and I have three days to focus on what makes Sonoma so unique.We’ve devised a plan: sample downtown tasting rooms our first day, venture forth to Dry Creek, Russian and Alexander Valleys on day two, and meander south to Napa en route to San Francisco our final day.

Heart of Downtown Sonoma  - Portalupi Wines

First stop:  Portalupi Wines on North Street, one block from the Camellia Inn.

Portalupi Tasting Room: 107 North Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448 |

Portalupi Wines pivots on point from the moment you walk in the sleek, European-vibe tasting room. Artisanal in all aspects, from the small case production wines to the hand-crafted charcuterie, balsamics, oils, and smoked salmon offerings, Portalupi does its family name and Italian heritage proud. The brainchild of husband and wife former premium wine folks Jane Portalupi and Tim Borges, the Portalupi Wine name honors Jane’s grandparents, who owned a local grocery in the early 1900′s, and sold wine in milk bottles. Portalupi Wines continues this tradition with their Vaso de Marina red blend, named for grandmother Marina, who advised “wine is meant to be enjoyed every day.”

On tap for tasting:

2008 Pinot Noir, Paso Robles – Gold Medal winner, 91 score Wine Spectator. binNotes personal fave.
2008 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley -  A spicy show-off.
2009 Old Vine Zinfandel, Russian River Valley – 90 points Wine Spectator.  Worth the hype.
2009 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley - Gnarly but nice.
2009 Barbera, Mendocino County – Roast foods friendly red.
2011 Bianco, Chardonnay/ Sauvignon Blanc/ Muscat Canelli  - One breezy blend.
Vaso de Marina - Signature Milk bottle red blend table wine meant for sharing.

Kevin, the tasting associate, knocked it out of the park assisting us – molto grazie!

Front Street: Davis Family Vineyards
Our master plan melts in the afternoon sun as we trundle through the backside of Healdsburg and the long way round to Davis Family Vineyards on Front Street.

Davis Family Vineyards: 52 Front Street, Healdsburg CA 95448  |

Skating in seconds before closing time, associate  Adrienne Donnelly gracefully accommodates us with a tasting of:

2010 Cuvée Luke – Sierra Foothills. Worth a hike on your taste buds.
2010 Chardonnay – Estate Soul Patch. Soulful, soft summer sipper.
2010 Horse Shoe Blend – Occidental Ridge Russian River Valley. Cowboy up!
2010 Pinot Noir – Soul Patch. Ruby bauble breathtaking in subtlety; binNotes’ fave.
2010 Pinot Noir – Starr Ridge. Starry, starry noir  twinkles on the palate.
2010 Old Vine Zinfandel – (117 year old vines) Pepper, dill, bright. Non-Zin drinkers will convert with this one.
2010 Marco Mistral Blend – Syrah, Grenache, Zinfandel. Named in honor of a Davis Family Friend known as the “Life of the Party.” Chewy summer BBQ blend.
2010 Syrah/3% Viogner – Estate Grown. Refined Rhone homage.

After a tasting like this, notes turn illegible, but the overall impression remains: Davis Family Vineyards does not disappoint. So worth the hike. Cheers!

Stay tuned for Part 3.

Part 1 of 3 here.


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Thank you to Lucy Lewand.
Camellia Inn – 211 North Street, Healdsburg CA 985448 |

Thank you to Kevin at Portalupi Wines.

Thank you to Adrienne Donnelly.

TASTE WA 2013 Endnotes: Palate Fatigue…and More

Welcome to binNotes, a blog for those who consider wine an art, not just a beverage.


As binNotes tilts towards palate fatigue after this weekend’s Taste Washington 2013, some final notes featuring favorite wineries, eateries, and seminars:



Chocolate…chocolate…chocolate…binNotes’ fave find:

Image: Intrigue Chocolate Co.

Intrigue Chocolate Co.

Bacon Chocolate, anyone?  Chef Aaron Barthel handcrafts a chocoholic’s Willy Wonka Wonderland.


photo 3

Hedges Family Estate 2011 Estate Dry Cabernet Franc Rose, Red Mountain $18

Hidden gem, Old World soul of a pour. Dry, dusty hue, adaptable.

photo 2

Jones of Washington: 2011 Pinot Gris $12

Scintillant Alsatian-style Pinot Gris that leaves you begging for more… which you can’t get right now…because it’s SOLD OUT.

So try the 2011 Jones of Washington Chardonnay $15…an insouciant skip across the taste buds that pairs well with others.

photo 4

Challenger Ridge Vineyard and Cellars: 2010 Northern Lights Muscat Ice Wine $36

Sidereal, aromatic, uncloying ice wine that glimmers on the palate.

Honorable Mention:


Kaella Winery: 2010 Rosé of Sangiovese $17


 2010 Sangiovese, Red Mountain (Ripasso-style) $25

Clever use of Sangiovese for first crush rosé, with skins then added to the Sangiovese for a superb socially acceptable wine for any meal.

binNotes faves:



photo 1

binNotes attended the Sunday morning seminar:  Yakima Valley 30th Anniversary

Moderated by: Andy Purdue,

Panelists: Bob Betz, MW – Betz Family Winery, Todd Newhouse – Upland Estate, Thomas Price,MS  -  Metropolitan Grill, W. Blake Gray – The Gray Report

Three wine guys and one out-of-state grenade-thrower riffing on Washington State’s oldest AVA, where they ask the question: ‘Why isn’t Yakima Valley better known?’ Is it the lack of B&B’s, as suggested by W. Blake Gray? Stay tuned for further developments.

Thanks to Washington State Wine and Visit Seattle.

Copyrighted 2013. All Rights Reserved. All event photos courtesy of author.  Chocolate image courtesy of Intrigue Chocolate Co. 

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Welcome to binNotes, a blog for those who consider wine an art, not just a beverage.


This week, binNotes hits the road to Sonoma to research a pending project.

Follow binNotes to receive notification about and a link to the published piece.

Look for binNotes favorite wines from TASTE Washington 2013 this Thirsty Thursday. Spoiler alert: View binNotes Pinterest Favorite Wines.


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2013 Logo

 Welcome to binNotes, a blog for those who consider wine an art, not just a beverage.


Crazy good times, folks!

Come eat, drink and learn this Saturday and Sunday at TASTE Washington 2013!

 Seattle CenturyLink Field Event Center

 Saturday and Sunday, March 23rd & March 24th 2013

Celebrity Seminars: 11 AM – 12:30 PM

VIP Tastings 1-5 PM

Grand Tastings 2-5 PM

Register Here


 Find out which 60+ award-winning restaurants will be dishing out bites here.


Kickin’ grape and takin’ names…Find out which select Washington wineries will be pouring here.


NEW! Expand your brain cells before killing them…Get a run-down of celebrity seminars here.

Learn more here: TASTE WASHINGTON 2013!

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#SFWE 2013 Update

Welcome to binNotes, a blog for those who consider wine an art, not just a beverage.

Kevin Finch, Executive Director -

Kevin Finch, Executive Director – L.M. Archer©

Enjoy these fresh images from binNotes attendance today at Seattle Food & Wine Experience 2013. Peha Promotions hits another one out of the park!

FYI,  #SFWE 2013 helps benefit Big Table, a non-profit organization geared towards assisting food service workers in crisis, transition, or need. Based in Spokane, Big Table expands to Seattle in 2013. Learn more here.

Foodie find of the event: - specialty shortbread bites fashioned for perfect pour pairings. Yum!

Shout outs to Oregon Wine and WBC 2012 alumni Cornerstone Cellars Oregon, R. Stuart & CoSeven of Hearts Winery, Stoller Family Estate & recent interviewee Youngberg Hills Winery. Cheers!

Copyrighted 2013. All images courtesy of the author. All Rights Reserved.

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Restaurant Intervention SVU: Patina

Welcome to binNotes, a blog for those who consider wine an art, and not just a beverage.

It’s time for a special installment of binNotes Restaurant Intervention – SVU (Special Victim’s Unit) featuring: L.A.’s Patina Restaurant.

By L. M. Archer, FWS

Warning: Viewer Discretion Advised.

Image: L.M. Archer

Image: L.M. Archer

 I: Primi

When it was all over, and they’d cleared the crime scene, I realized I should have just ordered the vegetables. I would have avoided the whole bloody mess, literally.

But no. This is L.A. City of angels. City of demons. A city where everyone looks the part they’re paid to play. Including the wait staff of Patina, in the bowels of Frank Gehry’s Disney Museum. Bowels may not be an appropriate choice of words for the dinner table…maybe in the haunches of the Museum…no, that doesn’t sound quite right either…

Let me set the scene:

Enter Stage Right: Mr. and Mrs. binNotes in town on business, opting for a romantic pre-Valentine’s celebration at this concierge-recommended restaurant.

Enter Stage Left: Major Domo, oozing gravitas with well-honed pate, bespoke suit and James Joyce-ian attitude specs.  If he were a surgeon, I would trust him to operate on my major organs. As a Major Domo, I trust him with my palate. Implicitly. He will make cameo appearances at the beginning and end of our dining experience.

But this is L.A….where there are no small roles, only small actors. And not everyone can be a star. Enter the Head Waiter, a Major Domo in training – not quite bespoke enough yet to don the glasses, but trying hard in the fawning department. His role, we discover, is to appear at the service of each course and advise of the ingredients and preparation. For questions about wine, he defers to the Sommelier.

Enter Stage Left: The Sommelier, a delightful Frenchman from Toulouse with a refreshing candor about the wine list. We both commisterate over the jacked-up Burgundy prices, he dismisses my inquiries about a Crémant de Jura with a nod “no no no…Madam…it’s Chardonnay…not Blanc de Blanc…” and we settle on a domestic Pinot Noir.

The supporting staff of water pourers and hand-crafted bread servers appear and disappear in a hush. All seems well in the wonderful world of the Disney Museum…but that’s about to change.

Image: L.M. Archer

Image: L.M. Archer

II. Secondi

Yes. I should have stayed with the vegetables. Root vegetables, to be exact. Individually roasted, so as not to contaminate the other vegetables with their essential flavors. Then those essential flavors combined into a lovely vegetable jus with lemon daubs. But the siren song of the well-cast staff lulls me into thinking that vegetables are not enough.

“And for the second course, Madam?”  ‘Well, I’m not really that hungry‘, I think,  ‘but since you’re staring at me through your James Joycian eyeglasses and I really don’t want to fill up on these delicious hand-made olive demi-baguettes and the unsalted artisanal butter, I guess I’ll go with a protein’. The only protein I can eat. Seafood.

“Very good, madam.”  For these prices, it better be.

III. Fini


Waiting for our proteins to arrive allows us time to scan the mise en scène.  Rich curtain-carved  wooden panels adorn the non-banqueted walls, while muted lighting softens the shell-shaped cream ceiling.  It’s not surprising that the restaurant resembles a theatre-in-the-round, with booths surrounding a bevy of two -and four-top tables in the center. This is, after all,  L.A., where everyone’s always ready for their close-up. Nor is it surprising that the wait staff seat out-of-towners at the center tables, for the amusement of booth-sitting regulars. Regulars like the ‘movie executive’ and ‘aspiring actress’ seated nearest our table, oozing subtext and typecasting…but I digress…proteins now served.

Enter Head Waiter. “And how is Madam enjoying her meal?”

“Uhmm…it’s…it doesn’t taste like what I ordered…” I say, i.e.,: ‘Like, not at all. It tastes like it hasn’t finished unthawing from its holding tank in the back of the walk-in freezer where its been hibernating since being plucked from antibiotic-infested farmed waters light years away.’ In truth, no amount of Cialis can possibly revive the flaccid crustacean laying limp on my plate.

“It’s poached, Madam…in port and white wine sauce…”  he says, i.e.,  ‘What do you know about fine seafood, you frazzle-haired, one-size-fits-all synthetic, wrinkle-free, all black garbed out-of-towner? Really?’

“Oh…” I say, i.e.,  ‘Really. Really? Do I really have to get nasty with this guy in front of all these super sincere, hard-working support staffers worried about keeping their jobs and making sure their kids make it on The Dream Act?‘  No. Life’s too short.  And the vegetables -and wine – were great.

Finale:  Head Waiter and the Major Domo remain conspicuously absent for the remainder of the meal, as the support staff clear the crime scene and leaves us to ponder our experience.

“My meat sucked,” Mr. binNotes advises as we carried the remnants home to our loyal mascot, Lucca.

Two proteins massacred in one evening. And the perpetrators still on the streets of L.A., ready to strike again.

Yet another unresolved case in the culinary criminal justice system.

Patina on Urbanspoon

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Upcoming Wine Events: February 2013

Welcome to binNotes, the blog for ‘those who consider wine an art, not just a beverage.’

Thanks for your understanding during the month of January as binNotes veered ‘offline’ to work on some pending projects.

One of these projects involves Paso Robles Wine Country. Please look for my upcoming feature in Palate Press on February 14th.

Here’s a sneak preview of upcoming February 2013 Paso Robles wine events:

Image:Garagiste Festival

The Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure: SYV (Santa Ynez Valley)
Saturday, February 16th
All Events at Solvang Veterans’ Memorial Hall
1745 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA 93463
SEMINAR – 11:ooam-Noon
Media & Trade Tasting Noon – 2 pm
Grand Tasting 2-5 pm
Learn more here.

Image: Paso Robles Rhone Rangers

2013 Paso Robles Rhone Rangers Experience
Broken Earth Winery
Sunday, February 17th, 2013
Seminar and Luncheon 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Grand Tasting and Silent Auction 1:30 PM to 4:00 PM
Learn more here.


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Upcoming Wine Events

For Your Information:



January 14, 2013: Washington State Wine Awards 2013
3-7 PM – McCaw Hall at Seattle Center
Recognizing Washington State wine industry leaders for their professionalism and support.
Sponsored by Washington State Wine Association.


Walter Clore Honorarium: Doug Charles (Anacortes)
The Walter Clore Honorarium recognizes an individual who has demonstrated dedication to the advancement of the Washington wine industry. Charles owns Compass Wines store, and dedicates more than 75 percent of store inventory to Washington State wines. His label ded.reckoning is made by some of the top producers in the state.

Restaurant of the Year: Visconti’s of Wenatchee

Sommelier of the Year: Thomas Price of Metropolitan Grill (Seattle)

Best Event Featuring Washington Wine: Urbane (Seattle)

Independent Restaurant of the Year: Copperleaf Restaurant at the Cedarbrook Lodge (SeaTac)

Best Restaurant Group: Mackay Restaurant Group, El Gaucho restaurants (Western Washington)

Tourism Champion of the Year: Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau

Tourism Concierge of the Year: Anne Peavey, of Seattle’s Convention and Bureau Visitor

Hotel of the Year: Hotel Vintage Park (Seattle)

Retailer of the Year: Metropolitan Market (Seattle, Kirkland)

Retailer Group of the Year: Yoke’s Fresh Markets (Eastern Washington)

Independent Retailer of the Year: Wine World and Spirits (Seattle)

Retail Steward of the Year: Doug King of Metropolitan Market

Distributor of the Year: Young’s Market Company (Western United States)

Distributor Salesperson of the Year: Kris Patten of Young’s Market Company (Seattle)

*Award information graciously provided by Washington State Wine Commission.


Seattle Food and Wine Experience 2013
12 noon – 5 pm
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Seattle Center Exhibition Hall
Presented by Snoqualmie Casino.
Benefitting The Giving Grapes Foundation and Big Table.
Purchase tickets here.

Savor Cannon Beach
Thursday March 7 – Sunday March 10, 2013
OR vs. WA wine throw-downs, wine tastings, wine walks, and more.
Purchase tickets here.


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#Restaurant Intervention: @RioneXIII


No intervention needed here.  Rione XIII functions just fine, thank you, offering uncluttered Roman-inspired Italian cuisine in rain-strewn Seattle.

Rione XIII takes its name from the ancient Jewish section of Rome. The art of this eatery lies in its masterful pairing of old standards with new riffs and exotic sidenotes. It’s got the local hangout vibe handled, plus the ‘people are talking about’ it hum thrumming through the chill decor. Wait and kitchen staff share a stealth-like ‘on-it’  demeanor.

Our party of four skipped the appetizers (such as pork & duck terrine), mozzarella (house made), and Roman Street Pizzas (worth a return trip to try), opting instead to savor small plates: their signature savory Carciofi alla Giudia (fried artichoke with breadcrumbs and aioli), spicy Puntarelle alla Romana (winter greens with anchovy, chili, garlic and parmesan), and super-succulent Ruby Beets with satsuma, fennel and hazelnuts. Also on the menu: freshly prepared pasta, including indulgent Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe (long pasta noodles en brodo with Pecorino and pepper) and sanguine Bucatini Amatriciano (pasta in red sauce), plus meat-eaters’ delight Oxtails alla Vaccinara (Oxtail with polenta.)

A dessert list appeared at some point after plate clearing, which we waved away…espressos and sweets taunting us to crash against the rocks of self-indulgence…or at least to revisit their tasty shores another time.

Rione XIII graciously allows a $20 corkage fee for guests bringing personal cellar picks, but also offers an impressive wine list, including both dry and perfumed prosecco by the glass.  Aahh...La Dolce Vita, live from Capitol Hill. Ciao!

Rione XIII on Urbanspoon

Note: binNotes is on holiday through the New Year.

Copyrighted 2012. All Rights Reserved.

#Restaurant Intervention: @Canlis


Here’s a thought: A restaurant that strives to exceeds expectations.  Like Seattle standard, Canlis. Their ‘recipe’ for success? Here’s a few guesses gleaned from a recent visit:

  • (4) Generations of owners who care - about guests and staff.
  • (1) Timeless venue with jaw-dropping views
  • (1) Class-act piano bar
  • (1) Hefty wine list honed by award-winning sommeliers
  • (1) Impeccably-trained culinary and wait staff
  • (1) ‘Magic’ valet station (Guest cars waiting upon departure.)
  • (1) Extraordinary philosophy of  hospitality the ‘Canlis Way’: “The act of moving aside to make room for another.

Blend together lightly and enjoy. It doesn’t get any better. Bon Appétit!

Canlis on Urbanspoon

Check out other binNotes’ Restaurant Interventions here:

Villa Creek – Paso Robles, CA

McMenamins Hotel Oregon Pub

Copyrighted 2012. All Rights Reserved.