The Sebastiani name is emblematic of hard work and family winemaking in Sonoma County. Sam Sebastiani, the 3rd generation patriarch of the family, is no exception. A recent winemaker’s dinner at Aventine Glen Ellen offered an opportunity to hear the philosophy, passion and maturity that seven decades of winemaking can produce while enjoying these new wines with fabulous food.
To better understand the present it is sometimes important to review the zig zagging path taken to arrive there. Sam’s grandfather, Samuele Sebastiani, a stonemason from Tuscany, started his Sonoma winery in 1904, and his offspring have been engaged in grape growing and wine making for over a century. After Samuele’s passing in 1944, son August (Sam’s father) bought the winery from his father’s estate and began a modernization and expansion program to the central valley increasing production to about eight (8) millions cases a year. When August died in 1980, August’s wife, Sylvia, and their 3 children, Sam, Don and Mary Ann took over operations and ultimately initiated a refocusing on smaller lot, premium, artisanal wine production.
In 1989, Sam and his former wife, Victoria, struck out on their own and created the very popular Viansa Winery & Market Place on a hilltop at the entrance of the Sonoma Valley. Viansa featured a large tasting room, a gourmet market, a picnic area, a helipad, spectacular wetlands (a reflection of Sam’s and his father August’s passion for birds and their habitat preservation) and a perfect venue for weddings, events and busloads of tourists. Viansa was handed off to Sam and Victoria’s seven children in 2004.
For the next 19 years Sam and new wife Robin, split their time between California and ranch in Nebraska. Sam continued his passion for birds and worked to restore their 2000 acres of wetlands on the North Platte River in Nebraska, creating a magnet for migratory fowl, ducks and geese.
After being virtually away from the grapes for years, Sam got back into it in 2010 when he established his current label La Chertosa. La Chertosa is named for the magnificent 14th century monastery in the Tuscan valley of Farneta (about 7 km from Lucca), Italy where the Sebastiani ancestral roots began. La Chertosa wines are produced primarily from grapes grown in soil similar to the red Tuscan soils found in Farneta. Sam, like his grandfather, found those soils in Sonoma County and also in parts of Amador County.
Sebastiani introduced his wife, Robin, sitting at the opposite end of the large family style table while welcoming his guests. He described his winemaking style as traditional and old world which translates to food friendly balanced wines. Sebastiani’s philosophy of balance and softer tannins while creating table friendly wines was more than evident in each wine. He commented that his wines are aged moderately in new (about 33%) and young oak barrels. Between courses the passionate Sebastiani walked around the table sharing how winemaking is in his DNA and how he missed being involved for so many years.
What culinary style could pair better with these “Old World Wines” than the uniquely updated Italian creations from Chef Adolfo Veronese at his Aventine Glen Ellen restaurant. Chef Adolfo prepared a four course meal to pair with Sebastiani’s four wines. Chef Adolfo explained the menu and welcomed everyone to Aventine before dashing down to the kitchen to direct those important activities.
The Antipasto: Ahi Tuna Tartare with Basil and Pine Nuts, Hawaiian Shrimp, Marinated Baby Octopus, Yellow Frisee, Blood Oranges Segments and Lemon Vinaigrette was perfect for the 2012 La Chertosa Reserve Chardonnay (Sonoma Valley). This exceptionally well balanced Chardonnay avoided the heavy handedness of some California Chardonnays. It offered only a hint of oak while highlighting deep fruit flavors that allowed the delicacy of the crudo play along with it on your palate. These palate pleasers danced a gentle minute on your tongue.
Primo: House made Three Cheese Ravioli, English Peas, Trumpet Royale Mushroom Chips, Porcini-Sage Cream Sauce. The best way to describe this dish is exquisite. Again, like the 2012 La Chertosa Reserve Zinfandel from Amador County, the dish was balanced with buttery softness, not something you expect with a Zin. The pasta is unlike anything you can find elsewhere. Surprising to some, the Zinfandel complemented the cream sauce and added a layering of flavors. A symphony on the palate.
Secondo: The 2012 Reserve Sangiovese from La Chertosa, Sonoma Valley, offered notes of red raspberry and delicate rose petal while standing strong and enhancing the scrumptious Roasted Prime Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Sicilian Sun Dried Tomatoes, Grilled Polenta and a Red Wine Thyme Sauce. OMG!
Formaggi: The last wine, La Chertosa 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, has a splash of Sonoma Valley Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc for good measure. Paired with Shaft’s Bleu Vein and Estero Gold Reserve and served with Mostarda di Cremo, Candied Pecans, Lavender Honey and Grilled Focaccia. You have got to be kidding me. Power but balanced wine with appropriately powerful artisanal cheeses.
If you enjoy wine with food then these wines are made for you. They are balanced, harmonic and wonderfully pleasing with food, including seafood, pasta, meat or cheese. La Chertosa wines have been available in Nebraska and Colorado and have only recently come to California. They can be found in numerous restaurants and retail specialty stores throughout these three states.
About Aventine Glen Ellen, from the partners who created the wildly popular Taverna Aventine in San Francisco and Aventine Hollywood, is the newest fine dining and entertainment hot spot in Wine Country. Aventine Glen Ellen is located at 14301 Arnold Dr. Glen Ellen, CA in the historic Jack London Village. Aventine Glen Ellen will feature a modern take on classic Italian food prepared by Chef Adolfo Veronese. It will have an on-site brewery, full bar and live music. It has private rooms and beautiful terraces available for banquets, private parties and weddings. Aventine Glen Ellen will be open for dinner six days a week from 4:30 PM to 10 PM (until 11 PM on Friday and Saturday) with Happy Hour Tuesday to Sunday from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM. Additional Brunch will be served on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Closed on Mondays.
For information or to make reservations please call (707) 934-8911. If you prefer, you can email us at email@example.com