Following some parking lot socializing and car gazing plus a loop tour of nearby Sonoma and the surrounding countryside, LCOC members and guests got down to the serious business of wine tasting and food enjoyment on Oct 13 at the annual Mike Cunningham Wine Tasting and PIcnic at the beautiful Sebastiani Winery in Sonoma. Our thanks to Kerry and Stacy Roscoe for getting their Sebastiani Wine Club discounted bottle prices for all guests to enjoy and to Kerry for leading the tasting of some of Sebastiani’s best white and red offerings. All were delicious but my personal favorite was the Zinfandel.
And speaking of delicious, thanks to John Kiszla and Jim Finley for planning the entire event and doing all the cooking. Treats included marinated tri-tip roast, chicken, potato salad, dinner roll and some wonderful green beans topped off by brownies with chocolate icing and very seasonal and yummy pumpkin cookies! All this in a lovely and secluded setting outdoors on the winery grounds.
Sebastiani’s first century in Sonoma winemaking began when Samuele Sebastiani emigrated from the Tuscany region of Italy in 1895 and started Sebastiani nine years later in 1904. A stonemason by trade, he quarry-mined the Sonoma hills for cobblestones that were used to build the streets of San Francisco. He worked long hours and saved carefully to buy land in Sonoma County, from which he would make wine for the Sonoma community and San Francisco’s restaurants.
The winery was the only one in Sonoma County to continue operations through Prohibition, making a small amount of sacramental and medicinal wines. It has been joked, and perhaps with some grain of truth, that during this time there was a resurgence of people becoming very religious.
in 1980, Sylvia Sebastiani and her children, Sam, Don and Mary Ann, assumed management of the company. Sam stayed until 1986, when he left Sebastiani to start his own winery, south of the city of Sonoma. The Sebastiani company’s biggest growth spurt came during this time. The family built a large-volume, Central Valley-based portfolio of value brands, collectively called Turner Road Vintners, while continuing to produce its Sebastiani-labeled wines. Production of Turner Road Vintners brands reached 8 million cases a year.Bill Foley purchased Sebastiani in 2008 and immediately took a number of steps to enhance wine quality and raise the winery’s image. Working closely with winemaker Mark Lyon and the viticultural team, Bill lowered production, restricted yields, acquired more new barrels and winemaking equipment, revamped farming protocols and acquired additional vineyards to guarantee consistent and superior fruit sourcing. Today, the winery is making the finest wines in its long history with emphasis on single-vineyard and sub-appellation wines.