When Karen and I started thinking about making our first-in-a-long-time visit to a winery [or anywhere for that matter] we wanted to take into account certain criteria – protocols followed, outdoor seating, an exceptional experience and of course, great wine.
Comstock in the Dry Creek Valley immediately came to mind.
We’ve been fans of the wines and people from Comstock ever since meeting the General Manager of the new winery, Kelly Comstock Ferris, at the Sonoma In The City traveling road show in Beverly Hills in 2014, later that year visiting Kelly at the under-construction winery, and then visiting about two years after that and staying on the property for the ultimate wine country experience. We knew they were the right choice.
Of course, things are a little different now. Like everyone else, Comstock has had to pivot. Tastings are by reservation on the large scenic patio.
A central feature now is paired tasting experiences. We had the pleasure to try the Grilled Cheese Pairing, which included:
2018 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc paired with a Confit Tuna Melt with Shallots, Celery, Kumquat Kosho & Estero Gold on House-made Rye English Muffin.
2015 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay paired with House-made Country Ham, Gruyere, Dijon & Bechamel on Sliced Sourdough.
2017 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir paired with Applewood Bacon & Smoked Cheddar on Brioche, Tomato Soup Shooter.
2014 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel paired with Akaushi Cheesesteak with Peppers, Onion, Mushroom & Smoked Provolone on House-made Roll.
Definitely not your Grandma’s grilled cheese.
We were excited that the Sauvignon Blanc was on the list. We were out of the supply that we had ordered earlier in the year so it was a great chance to see how it was tasting and replenish our stock – which we did!
We don’t drink Chardonnay often anymore. We have nothing against it, there are just so many other varietals out there. But this one was outstanding, hitting all the right notes with a little bit of bottle age to mellow it out. This might have been our favorite pairing, although the Pinot Noir with the twist on the classic grilled cheese and tomato soup gave it tough competition for sure. Actually, they all did.
Especially the last one. Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is always great, and paired with the cheesesteak. Well…Mmmm…Steak.
As I mentioned to Karen, who then passed my observations on to Tracy Fabro Bidia, Comstock’s Hospitality Director when she stopped by our table to check on us, many people say that pairings are overrated – until they try the right ones by people who know what they are doing.
In this case, we were really blown away. Of course, it helps to have someone like classically trained Chef Jude Affronti putting these together. Chef Affronti said that his approach is actually fairly simple: he tries to make 1 + 1 = 3, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Well, it definitely works.
Another experience that we didn’t get a chance to try but I expect to be equally as delicious is labeled Wine & Woodfired, paired as follows:
2017 Viognier with Thai Chicken Skewer the Estate Peach Chutney Kumquat Kosho Slaw, Sweet Corn Ginger & Citrus
2015 Chardonnay with House-smoked Local King Salmon with Roast Trevisa, Watermelon, Cucumber, Mint & Garden Radish
2017 Pinot Noir with House-made Sausage with Portobello Summer Squash, Mushroom Conversa & Plum Gastrique
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon with Espresso Crusted Akaushi Coulotte Steak with Horseradish Ricotta, Heirloom Shelling & Wax Beans, K1 Steak Sauce
Next time for sure. Mmmm…Steak.
We rounded out our tasting with a few other gems. Karen especially loved the 2019 Sonoma County Rosé, the 2016 Rockpile Petite Sirah was outstanding as well, and the 2016 Bennet Valley Syrah, in spite of tasting so many excellent wines, was my favorite wine of the day. We finally got to meet winemaker Chris Russi too. He had significant winemaking experience before coming to Comstock, with Geyser Peak in Sonoma County, Peter Lehmann in Australia and Christopher Creek in the Russian River Valley all on his resume, among others. Unlike some wineries and winemakers that might have a “house style”, Chris’s approach is to let each vineyard speak for itself without undue influence. [I also noted after visiting that he owns an old vine vineyard in the Russia River Valley that is listed on the Historic Vineyard Society website, which always earns extra points with me.]
Thank you to Kelly and Tracy for taking such great care of us. In chatting with Kelly near the end of our visit, two things became crystal clear:
One: the future is bright for Comstock no matter what it holds.
Two: we need to visit more often.