The wine regions of Napa and Sonoma are well-known among wine lovers, but for wine country visitors the town of Healdsburg is less well-known. Some of my favorite wineries are located near this wine country town, just west of Sonoma and about 2 hours north of San Francisco. The region is known for Zinfandel, particularly the area called Dry Creek. Follow Dry Creek Road and you'll pass dozens and dozens of wineries.
On my recent visit to the area my family and I had a fabulous time at Preston Vineyards, a family-owned winery a few miles up Dry Creek. Preston makes a variety of red and white wines, but it's the winery and grounds that are truly spectacular. Acres of vineyards surround gracious gardens and silvery olive trees. The tasting room boasts a wide porch with a farmstand (run on the honor system; you count your purchases and leave the money in a box). The tasting room has a fun mix of wine country accessories, but they also sell their estate-made olive oil and freshly baked bread (made by the owner Lou Preston in the bread oven located just across the garden). You can order the olive oil online; it's a slightly peppery oil in a beautiful bottle that makes a great gift!
And on Sundays, Preston sells jugs of Guadagni wine, what they refer to as their field blend. It's a nod to the days when the Italians made barrels of simple red wine to serve with dinner. A jug is about 4 bottles, and you get a discount when you bring the bottle back for refills. During the week you can play bocce ball (it's too busy on weekends) but any day of the week you can bring a picnic with up to 8 friends, buy a bottle from the tasting room, and spread out and enjoy this little corner of wine country.
Lou and his wife Susan obviously love wine and food, and they make this spicy orange butter recipe in their kitchen from chilis they grow in the garden. I love it slathered on freshly baked cornbread or biscuits!
CHILI FLAVORED BUTTER
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
2 teaspoons orange juice
2 teaspoons ground red chili (such as New Mexican or Pequin; you can experiment here)
1 pound unsalted butter, softened
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix them thoroughly. Allow the butter to sit for an hour to blend flavors. Chill before serving.
Recipe courtesy Susan Preston