An Anniversary Weekend in Healdsburg
Take my advice. Don’t get married the day after Christmas.
Steve and I were living in New York City facing our second Christmas away from home and planning our wedding. So why not kill two birds – get married AND be home for Christmas in Hawaii?
Not so smart. Christmas was incredibly hectic that year and the annual residual fallout is that we’re too partied out after Christmas to celebrate our anniversary.
This year, Steve came up with a different plan. We’d wait until January to drive out to Healdsburg for dinner at Cyrus, one of those celebrated restaurants that require some planning to get into. We’d stay overnight at a B&B, do a little wine tasting and get in some shopping at the boutiques surrounding the town square.
Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, is just about an hour and a half drive from San Francisco, but seems like a world away. It is a delightful small town with charming shops and restaurants surrounding a town square. Healdsburg is central to over 100 wineries and tasting rooms, and home to famous Northern California wine appellations, including Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley.
For our anniversary dinner, Cyrus more than met our expectations, not only the food, but for service that was both impeccable and friendly. From the amuse bouche, which included a selection of little bites representing different tastes, such as an umami-rich broth; to the mignardises, the tiny, bite-size complementary desserts that finished our five-course meal, every dish was delicious and exquisitely presented. (How do they wrap strands of smoked soba noodles around a perfect rectangle of Tasmanian Ocean Trout so neatly?) We splurged on the addition of Pèrigord truffles, shaved over the eggs en cocotte with foie gras. But we had to pass up on the renowned cheese course when not another morsel of food would pass our lips.
In advance of our trip, my new Twitter BFF @avvwinery, tweeted me tips for places to eat and wineries to visit. He’s Harry Wetzel IV, assistant winemaker and family partner at Alexander Valley Vineyards. Of course we had to visit Harry’s winery, where we tasted and purchased a couple of delicious reserve wines to cellar, including the 2006 Alexander School Cabernet Sauvignon. We also took home some 2008 Sin Zin to drink this weekend and to use in a marinade for Sin Zin Steak, a yummy recipe shared by Harry, which you’ll find below.
At neighboring Hanna Winery and Vineyards we tasted crisp Sauvignon Blanc and a variety of beautiful reds, including the 2004 Bismark Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, a rich and elegant wine. We bought a bottle and some 2010 dry rosé for the summer.
Home on Sunday, we made our Sin Zin Steak. We marinated the beef for just half the time and it was just fine because the sauce is so intensely scrumptious. With more Sin Zin for drinking, it was a fitting, wine country way to end our weekend outing.
Note: Healdsburg is celebrating its 19th Annual Winter Wineland this upcoming weekend, January 15 and 16, where you can meet winemakers, taste limited production wines, new releases or library wines. Some wineries will offer food pairings and others will have tours. Ticket price includes wine tasting at all of the participating wineries. This event does not take place at one location – you go from winery to winery, visiting the ones you are interested in exploring. We’ve participated in this wine fest and it’s lots of fun!
Sin Zin Steak
1 cup Alexander Valley Vineyards Sin Zin
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil plus additional oil for cooking steak
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 (2 pound) flank steak
2 tablespoons butter
Mix wine, garlic, soy sauce, pepper, ¼ cup of the olive oil and vinegar in a shallow, non-reactive pan; add steak. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. Pre-heat to medium high a sauté pan large enough to fit the steak, add oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add steak. Cook for 5 minutes on each side and remove to a warm platter. Add the marinade to the pan and reduce by half. Whisk in the butter to finish the sauce. Strain sauce and keep warm.
Slice steak diagonally and thinly against the grain, plate and sauce. Serve with a baked potato and portobello gratin and a glass of Sin Zin. Serves 4
Recipe adapted from Alexander Valley Vineyards