Maude’s Journey through Sonoma California
After wrapping up service with a full-house on a Saturday during our current Western Australia run, the team chartered a small plane on Sunday morning to make the brief flight to Northern California. Chef Christian Dortch, sous chefs Emmanuel Cadengo and Joshua Yap, and pastry chef Yesenia Cruz were joined by sommelier Andrey Tolmachyov and director of operations Ben Aviram for a whirlwind weekend jaunt through Sonoma which included foraging, fishing, and fermentation.
Settled on a hill overlooking the serene Russian River Valley, Copain Winery is fueled by winemaker Wells Guthrie’s penchant for the Rhone Valley region of Southern France. Look forward to a Pinot Noir and Syrah on the reserve pairing menu. The next stop on the itinerary gave Yesenia inspiration for the latter half of the menu. Jeff and Susan Mall returned to Sonoma after cheffing at a Baja California Sur resort. There they became intoxicated by Mexican chocolate, and upon returning, established VOLO chocolate, where cacao pods are harvested in the tropical Chiapas region of Mexico. Back in Sonoma, Jeff operates a self-designed contraption modified from a Champion juicer and ShopVac, that he refers to as the “Rubean,” which cracks the cacao bean and separates it from the husk. With the couple’s culinary background, they treat chocolate as food rather than candy, using salt strategically and sugar sparingly. Minds were blown when the team was offered a chocolate and cheese tasting.
An early morning call to the Russian River found our sommelier eating roe at seven a.m. while the team fished for steelhead trout that migrate up the river starting in late September. The river fishes year-round but steelhead begins the winter fishing season. Trout along with Liberty Farm duck will be a featured protein on the menu. Liberty ducks are a strain of Pekin Duck developed in Denmark with a slower, less stressful, open environment rearing and a typical market age of nine weeks. From fishing to foraging, the team joined Chef Patrick Hamilton on a misty mushroom hunt of porcini, golden chanterelles, hedgehogs, candy caps, and matsutake, and yielded a large haul of black trumpets.
Another winery stop at Littorai, where winemaker Ted Lemon, a former farmer, raises cows and pigs on the property. Ted, a lifelong winemaker, was the first American ever selected as a vineyard manager of a Burgundian estate. His minimalist approach to winemaking is reflected in his one hundred percent Pinot Noir varietals. Then it was back on the plane the following morning for Tuesday dinner service at Maude. The Sonoma menu is an exceptional tribute to region and a true collaboration of personal inspiration and team building.