Crowd(ie) Pleasers

lonely picnic bench in Annadel Park (Santa Rosa)

Last week, we spent the weekend exploring parts of Sonoma County, that we had left undiscovered, not by any deliberate design, but a somewhat happy consequence that we just had not made it there just yet.  My husband found us a wonderful bed and breakfast just outside of Santa Rosa that proved to be ideally located for our planned activities.  The B&B, Melitta Station Inn was run by a lovely retired English couple, Tim and Jackie.  Jackie is an evil genius in the kitchen; you could come back to the B&B delightfully full and she would have some enticing nibble set out that you simply could not resist.

For breakfast one morning she offered up her version of crowdies.  Never heard of a crowdie?  Me neither, so I did some investigating.  The term appears to apply to either of the following definitions:

1.)  The Scottish version of cream cheese that is partially cooked.  The cheese was introduced to the Scots by those thrifty Vikings back in the eighth century. A soft, curd cheese originally made from the whey of slightly soured milk. The seasoned whey is squeezed in a muslin bag to remove excess water and set aside for two days before being rolled in oatmeal. Its consumption is recommended before a Scottish social gathering called a céilidh, which usually involves music, dancing and whisky drinking (the crowdie is said to help with the ill effects of the drinking.)

2.) A Scottish style parfait make with crowdie cheese, whisky, raspberries, and oats, all ingredients readily found in Scotland.  Jackie went on to say that some cross border ribbing takes place between Scotland and England in that these may be the only food stuffs that Scotland can produce, and they all show up in a single dish.  We were not able to try this version, but Jackie had a modified breakfast version for us that was the perfect meal after a trail run.

Jackie’s version, for which I have no picture, was that delightful contradiction of tartness from the sour cream/yogurt and sweet from the fruit which in this case was a batch of peaches macerated in sugar and a wee bit of whisky.  Her version was perfect for a brunch but could easily be a delightful ending to a meal.

A Bit About Sonoma County

bridge on a meandering drive

Sonoma (or Slow-noma as the locals like to call it) and its next door neighbor Napa Country are famous for their wines.   Within the county of Sonoma are various valleys that because of their microclimates make them ideal for growing specific grape varieties.  Each valley has unique features that are best suited for specific grapes.  Within Sonoma County, are several valleys that have their own terrior they stamp on their wines.  Within Sonoma, these wine regions include:

Alexander Valley:

The grapes of this valley include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Merlot
  • Syrah
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel

More Information:

Alexander Valley Winegrowers

Alexander Valley Wineries as suggested by Sunset Magazine

Wikipedia writeup on Alexander Valley

Bennett Valley

Some of the highest vineyards in Sonoma

One of the smaller valleys with only 700 acres as opposed to 15,000+ acres.

The cool coastal fog that creeps in between a gap in the mountains is much appreciated by the cool weather loving varities that include

  • Chardonnay
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Noir
  • Syrah

More Information:

Bennett Valley Grape Growers

Cameros-Sonoma

This section of Sonoma Country butts up against the northern most portion of the San Francisco Bay.  It rises from a marshy wetlands and also one of the coolest regions of the county.  The first two varieties do very well here, and Merlot is a latecomer that is finding its own in this region.

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir
  • Merlot

Chalk Hill

This region extends along a portion of the winding russian River and is named for the blanched volcanic ash hillsides that offer superb drainage and sunny hillsides.  The grapes of this region include:

  • Chardonnay
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Merlot
  • Sauvignon Blanc

Dry Creek Valley

view from Gustafson Vineyards of Sonoma Lake

For us this is a default destination in Sonoma, in addition to grapes, such tasty treats as kiwi fruit, apricots, peaches, plums, pears and olives are grown here.  This valley was originally planted by French immigrants, but they were soon joined by Italian farmers who noticed a more than passing resemblance to their native Piedmont and Tuscany.  The wines you might find today include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Carignane
  • Chardonnay
  • Merlot
  • Petitie Sirah
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Zinfandel

More Information:

Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley

Green Valley of Russian River Valley

This valley was once the home of the Gravenstein apple, and today in addition to the wines a mix of redwood forests, llamas and Christmas tree farms line the winding roads.  A sampling of the wines found here include:

  • Chardonnay
  • Gewurstraminer
  • Pinot Noir
  • Sauvignon Blanc

Knights Valley

a crop of redwoods

This area was one of Sonoma County’s five original viticultural areas.It is relatively large with over 37,000 acres and lies between Alexander Valley AHA and Chalk Hill AHA.  This area is the dividing line between Napa and Sonoma.  This region is known for the Bordeaux grape varieties such as

  • Cabernet Franc
  • Chardonnay
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Petit Verdot
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Viogner

More Information:

Wikipedia: Knights Valley AHA

Hidden Gems – Knights Valley

Rockpile

This region lives up to its name that was bestowed on it by the prisoners who had been put to work grading roads leading to the local sheriff’s ranch.  This regions is relatively small with only about 200 vineyard acres out of a total of 1,300 acres (obviously not all plant supporting).  This area has an evening fog that seeps in only to be chased away by the sun during the day.  The grapes that thrive here include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Petitie Sirah
  • Syrah
  • Zinfandel

Russian River Valley

The grapes of this valley include:

  • Chardonnay (41%)
  • Pinot Noir (29%)
  • Zinfandel (9%)
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Pinot Gris
  • Viognier
  • Gewurtztraminer

Note that the first three varieties alone account for about 79% of the wine grown in this valley.

More Information:

Russian River Valley Winegrowers

Russian River Travel

Russian River Valley wineries via Sunset Magazine

Sonoma Coast

Cloudy Sonoma Coast

At first blush, this region is not an obvious choice for a wine country.  It has twice the annual rainful of its more inland neighboring wine regions.  It is also its newest and least planted despite being the largest region – how’s that for conflicting metrics.  The grapes here are Chardonnay and Pino Noir.

Sonoma Mountain

The Sonoma Mountain has the Sonoma Valley to the East and Santa Rosa Plain to the west.  It misses the morning fog that other regions get.  This area is know for its Cabernet Sauvignons, but it has not entirely crowded out other variets such as:

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Semillon
  • Zinfadel

Sonoma Valley

downtown Sonoma

Here in the Valley of the Moon, some of the county’s first grapes were planted by Franciscan padres as they expanded their line of missions up California from the Mexican border.  The grapes found here include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Noir

More Information:

Sonoma Valley Wine

Here in this region lies the town of Sonoma.

Update me when site is updated

31 comments for “Crowd(ie) Pleasers

  1. September 13, 2010 at 4:24 AM

    I find this part of California absolutely lovely and wish I could spend an entire summer there exploring the vineyards and tasting all these different wines. Beautiful pictures.

  2. September 13, 2010 at 5:48 AM

    There once was a time when my parents were trying to relocate in San Fran. I often think of the different growing up I would have had if it came to fruition. Such a varied and beautiful part of the country. Now I need to search out crowdie recipes…

  3. September 13, 2010 at 6:10 AM

    We love the Valley of the Moon! Some of our favorite wines come from Russian River Valley!

  4. September 13, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    I had never heard of crodie before. Thanks for sharing the description. I always love to learn about new foods. It sounds delicious. Isn’t Sonoma County beautiful? Thanks so much for sharing your photos.

  5. September 13, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    Can you believe that I never been to this part of California? And I live in CA…the pictures are awesome…we may have an opportunity to see some since we are going to SF for the weekend :-)

  6. September 13, 2010 at 7:04 PM

    Crowdie never heard about it, but the version you’ve tried sound very good.

    California is wine-kingdom – Sonoma a wonderful place for wine lovers and I see the strong presence of white wines there like the Chardonnay- mmm chilled :)

    Have a great week!

    Gera

  7. September 13, 2010 at 7:54 PM

    crowdie wow sounds great, we visited sonoma a couple of years ago, but did not spend enough time there as I would have liked, thanks for such great info for my next visit..

    sweetlie

  8. September 14, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    I love Sonoma (wineries included!). Have you ever been to The DiRosa Art Estate. I think that’s the name. FANTASTIC experience. GREG

  9. September 14, 2010 at 3:35 PM

    I wish I could visit every corner of Sonoma and Napa. You must have had a great weekend!

  10. September 14, 2010 at 7:45 PM

    I was in Sonoma county over the weekend, too! But I went to the west side – along the coast of Bodega and Sonoma Coast State Park. Oh my gosh, it’s so pretty there. I didn’t do wine tasting this time, but had some wonderful ice cream in Sebastopol. :) Next time I’m in the area, I’ll try a crowdie!

  11. September 14, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    What a great getaway! And that crowdie sounds divine. What a way to wake up in the morning to something so satisfying as that.

  12. September 15, 2010 at 6:17 AM

    So craving a glass of wine right now! Great insights. Must print and take on my next wine shopping trip!!!

  13. Lazaro
    September 15, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    Wonderful read. I am not the most learned person on wine, so this was perfect for me. Really well written and enjoyable.

  14. September 16, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    I would love to visit Sonoma County one of these days. I’d be interested to try a crowdie. From the way you describe it it actually sounds like a perfect way to start the day.

  15. September 17, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    Sonoma county looks great & just beautiful. I love reading posts like this, trly entertaining & interesting too!

    I love drinking excellent & good wines from all over the world & love travelling too!!!

    What a lovely post this is!

  16. September 18, 2010 at 8:34 AM

    Being from California, one of my regrets is not having traveled to the wine country when I was still living there. I was too young and broke to appreciate it. Napa and Sonoma are on my lists of “To Do” when I visit home (L.A.)

  17. September 18, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    ooh, what a nice weekend! I used to live in that part of the world and there is so much to enjoy. I especially like Chalk Hill and Dry Creek. Also, although I never gave birth to a female child, my girl name in waiting was always Ceilidh.

  18. September 18, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    I explored the Sierra Foothills vineyards recently…and maybe I should do the Sonoma next time. I only explored the Sonoma Farm Trails last time.

  19. admin
    September 18, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    Taste of Beirut – Agreed, this is truly a wonderful place. I definitely feel fortunate to have it close by.

    Claudia – You’re not the only one that wonders how you life would be different if you grew up somewhere else. Look no further, I lined to a few crowdie recipes here, including the delicious one that Jackie made for us.

    5 Star – Somehow, I knew you would have these locations all staked out.

    City Share – Thanks for stopping by. I had never heard of a crowdie before it showed up on my plate, so I was very curious. It was delicious.

    Juliana – There are so many places to check out in California – I think its a full time occupation.

    Gera – Do I sense a white wine lover in you? Chardonnay definitely seems to be the preferred white grape in Sonoma.

    Sweetlife – thats the thing, always need to come up with some excuse to return.

    Sippity – Have not tried the DiRosa Art Estate, but on your recommendation, I’ll be sure to check it out.

    Lisa – It was a great weekend, and even though Napa and Sonoma are so close, there is still a lot of territory to cover.

    Kitchen Em – We were in Sebastapol too! We went on a long drive up the coast as well, such beautiful county. Definitely try the crowdie, it looks to be easy to make as well.

    Carolyn – The crowdie was indeed a treat, and well worth the 8 mile run that preceded it!

    Ruth – Hey, long time no chat! You’re in wine country heaven yourself, would be great to compare styles someday.

    Lazaro – I’m still learning myself – I consider it a work in progress, and no hardship to do homework.

    Jenn – Hopefully you can break away from all your wonderful exciting projects as Sonoma is really some beautiful country.

    Sophie – I’m with you! Good wine and traveling just go well together.

    The Kitchen Masocist – I am fortunate to have moved here when I could really enjoy these counties so I feel your pain. Here’s to you getting that visit in soon!

    Tammy – Live the name, and Dry Creek is definitely a favorite destination of ours.

    Tigerfish – The last vineyards we were at were in the Sierra Foothills and its fun to see the differences in styles and grapes between the regions.

  20. September 18, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    We simply have to make it a priority to get to wine country. Beautiful pictures! I’m very interested in this crowdie now, too. It sounds like I would enjoy it by either definition. The version you got sounds great!

  21. September 20, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    I adore the sonamo reds, esp. the cameros’ pinot noir. Wish I could visit it one day!

  22. September 20, 2010 at 3:19 PM

    I hadn’t heard of crowdie either, at least not until last month on my trip to Scotland. Only got to try the actual cheese, though, and missed out on the version that combines the cheese with oats, whisky and raspberry. Which, I guess, is as good an excuse as any to make a return visit!

  23. September 21, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    Nice read! It seems like a lovely getaway. And I love the homey feel of a B&B. It’s so much more personable than a hotel with innkeepers. I’ve just bookmarked the Melitta Station place. Thx!

  24. s
    September 21, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    An evil genius in the kitchen? Man, that’s like the best compliment ever. I must meet this Julia some day!

    I’ve never really been able to get pampered at a B&B. I think I’m gonna have to make it a mission to visit one some day.

  25. September 22, 2010 at 8:34 AM

    Sounds like a great place to explore. I just fall in love with the picture of Dry Creek Valley.And Jackie’s breakfast sounds so mouthwatering with peach and sour cream.

  26. September 22, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    Both the crowdie and the parfait are so intriguing! I want to see a picture of each now! And how beautiful the country is! I have never been to Sonoma but we love to drive through the wine regions in our area of France: Muscadet, Anjou, Saumur. It is so beautiful and lush!

  27. September 22, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    Your post makes me want to relive my recent vacation. Lovely pictures! And crowdie sounds very, very interesting.

  28. September 22, 2010 at 11:07 PM

    I soooo missed the information you always feed me. I’m back and I’m glad I can check your posts again. You know, I kindof what to go on a vacation now…somewhere in the countryside!

  29. September 23, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    You have visited some of the favorite wineries. Also, my favorite zinfandels and petite syrahs are grown in Dry Creek Valley and Rockpile, which gets nice, hot and dry. I’ll have to check out the Melitta Station Inn one day, it sounds so charming.

  30. admin
    October 3, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    Lori – Can’t believe in all your travels you have not make it to wine country, you’ll have to remedy that soon.

    Angie – I hope you can!

    Daily Spud – Sounds like me, always looking for reasons for a return trip – as if you need any. =)

    Jackie – I think you would really like.

    S – Always good to have a mission, and you are right. Any evil genius is a good person to have in the kitchen.

    Zerrin – Great fun to explore, and Dry Creek is amazing.

    Jamie – I think I need to compare the French and California wine countries to see how they match up. Great idea.

    Lynn – The crowdie was indeed delicious, and definitely worthy of further research.

    Rylan – You’re back from your incredibly busy schedules. Woohoo!

    Christine – Its hard to miss around here, in finding a good winery that is. Melitta Station is definitely worth a stop.

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