A Taste of Spring in Sonoma County
How do you know spring has sprung in Sonoma County? It’s not just that the landscape has turned vibrant, glorious green from generous rains, or that streets are abuzz with festivals and events. It’s that everything tastes new.
With some of the most versatile produce in the country, along with a range of ethically raised meats, Sonoma County offers a bevy of succulent springtime flavors. Here are a few of our favorites, along with suggested wine pairings from beloved local producers.
One of the first signs of spring in Sonoma County is the emergence of bright stalks of asparagus, which typically sprout in March. The most common type of asparagus – both in California and nationwide – is the “Mary Washington,” a classic heirloom variety with robust, green stalks. Also typical in the region is the “Purple Passion” asparagus, which offers a mild, nutty flavor.
You may have also seen white asparagus, a delicacy that can be raised from any variety of green or purple asparagus, but is cultivated entirely in the dark. To grow white asparagus, farmers cover the plants in either mounds of dirt or plastic to block out the sunlight and inhibit the production of chlorophyll. The resulting flavor is refined with just a hint of bitterness.
Try it Here:
- Glen Ellen Star, Glen Ellen
- Wood-roasted asparagus with sauce gribiche, shaved radishes, frisée and garden greens
- OSO, Sonoma
- Sauteed asparagus with housemade hoisin sauce, chili de arbol, peanuts and scallions
Pair With: A 2021 Passaggio Wines Fiano
Not familiar with Fiano? You’re not alone. Primarily cultivated in Southern Italy, this wine grape is rarely found in California, though it thrives in certain regions of the state, including here in Sonoma County. Offering bright flavors of pear and melon, Passaggio Fiano is made by Cindy Cosco, a friendly fixture of Sonoma Valley who operates a relaxed yet elegant tasting room in the village of Glen Ellen.
The bounty of greens harvested from Sonoma County farms each spring is outrageously abundant. Typically planted in mid-winter and harvested beginning in April, a crop of Northern California greens offers plenty of variety.
Arugula, for example, offers a pungent bite that nicely complements sweeter greens. Pea shoots, meanwhile, are bright and crisp and can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Mizuna is a member of the mustard family with delicate frond-like leaves and a spicy cabbage-like flavor. The list of leafy and delicious greens goes on, with more than 40 types harvested each year in the area. Enjoy them every which way, including in colorful salads.
Try it Here:
- Stockhome, Petaluma
- Shaved fennel and arugula salad
- Bloom Carneros, Sonoma
- Burrata and pea shoot pesto with organic baby arugula and Meyer lemon vinaigrette served with house made focaccia
Pair With: A 2021 Kivelstadt Cellars “Wayward Son” Skin-Contact Roussanne
Kivelstadt was one of the first California producers to jump into the (now-trendy) orange wine craze, and has since perfected its production into an art. Visit the Kivelstadt tasting room and eatery, with its sunny patio adjacent to Bloom Carneros, on the outskirts of Sonoma.
Did you know that increased sunlight impacts the egg production of chickens and other animals? A hen needs a minimum of 14 hours of light per day to produce eggs, and in the warmer months, they bask in the sun for extended periods, offering the world eggs aplenty. Eggs are in season, then, beginning in springtime.
In 1918, the town of Petaluma was declared the “egg basket of the world” and a parade was led by an appointed egg queen. Today, that event has been resurrected as the “Butter and Eggs Parade,” taking place annually on the third weekend in April. Sonoma County remains full of good eggs, in every way.
Try it Here:
- Altamont General Store, Occidental
- Egg sandwich with Coastal Hill Farm eggs, Havarti cheese, fresh greens, pickled onion, and kimchi special sauce on bánh mi roll
- Girl & The Fig, Sonoma
- Quiche Lorraine with mixed greens and steak frites
Pair With: A Breathless Blanc de Blancs
Wine at breakfast? We say go for it! (Drink responsibly, friends.) Sparkling wine can be suitable at just about any time of day, and this food-friendly version is produced by a team of women who’ve become regional authorities on the stuff. Discover the Breathless Wines tasting room just a few blocks from downtown Healdsburg.
As a coastal region, Sonoma County is in close proximity to a range of fresh seafood. While some, like mussels and clams, stay in season year-round, others are available seasonally. Shrimp comes into season in late February and stays fresh through fall – and is well worth a taste!
Try it Here:
- Willow Wood Cafe, Graton
- Baked rock shrimp over polenta with Roma tomatoes, sweet peppers, shallots, basil, and garlic butter
- Fishetarian Fish Market, Bodega Bay
- Prawn and chips
Pair With: A 2021 Talisman Wine Rosé of Pinot Noir, Dawson Vineyard
All Rosé wine is not created equal. You’ll agree when you sip this delicious single-vineyard version from local Pinot Noir specialists Scott and Marta Rich. Its depth of flavor will beautifully accompany just about any seafood dish. Pick up a bottle at Talisman’s laid-back tasting room in the heart of Glen Ellen.
Lamb is one of the season’s most prized delicacies. The tender meat has a mild, grassy flavor. In contrast, mutton is well-marbled with fat and richer in flavor. Responsibly farmed lamb can be found from several local ranches, including Green Star Farm in West Sonoma County.
Try it Here:
Pair With: A 2021 Little Trouble Syrah, Grist Vineyard
One pairing that we can’t resist is well-prepared lamb and a good Syrah. Little Trouble Wine Co. is a new wine label formed by two friends, each with formidable wine biz experience. Fruit for their Syrah is sourced from a vineyard overlooking Dry Creek Valley, and the resulting wine is full of robust, savory flavors balanced by a nice acidity. Little Trouble doesn’t have a tasting room, so you’ll have to visit the vineyard’s website to snag a coveted bottle.
Preparing Your Own Sonoma County Spring Feast
Spring in Sonoma County is a wonderful time to pack a picnic and take in the great outdoors. To create a fresh, local and tasty feast, make sure to buy ingredients from the following local purveyors:
- Andy’s Produce Market
- McEvoy Ranch
- Oak Hill Farm
- Skippy’s Egg Store
- Sonoma County Farmer’s Markets
- Tara Firma Farms
You can also find yummy finds along the Sonoma County Farm Trail.
Written by Amy Bess Cook