September is a wonderful month to visit the Sonoma Valley region, with grapes working their way to harvest amid lush green vegetation that surrounds the wineries. The town of Sonoma is situated in the middle of this region and contains an old fashioned town square, known as Sonoma Plaza, which dates back to the 1830s. The town square is lined with shops, cheese stores, restaurants, wine tasting rooms and some great hotels. It's a great place to set up headquarters and visit a large number of wineries mere minutes away.
One of these wineries, Ravenswood, is tucked into the foothills of the Mayacamas mountain range which separates the Sonoma Valley region from Napa Valley. 1976 was the first harvest for this winery, named for the ravens that seemed to mock the wineries founder, Joel Peterson, as he hurried to bring in zinfandel grapes before a thunderstorm hit the area.
The dark and mysterious myths associated with ravens lent the perfect name to a winery which produces zinfandel and petite sirah wines that are deep purple, almost black in color. Ravenswood's label depicts three ravens with their talons interlocked which appears to be a secret handshake.
Carrying true to Ravenswood motto of "No Wimpy Wines" the 2011 Vintner's Blend Old Vine Zinfandel is big, bold and spicy. This zinfandel contains the flavors of black cherry and raspberries, with hints of vanilla on the finish. It should pair well with any type of pasta covered with red sauce.
The Ravenswood 2011 Vintners Blend Petite Sirah is full-bodied
and a dark, deep purple in color. It contains dark fruit flavors with a fair amount of chocolate on the finish. It is the perfect match for a rack of barbecued ribs slathered with a spicy sauce.
If you visit Sonoma and decide to stay in the square, don't miss lunch at the El Dorado Kitchen -- which the locals call the EDK. The restaurant prides itself on the use of locally produced ingredients from sustainable farms. In addition, twenty different wines by the glass are available.
Do not miss the Vella Cheese shop, located within walking distance of the plaza, located in an old stone building since 1931. They are known for their handmade and hand-cut cheeses, most notably a variety of Monterey Jack. The cheese shop can suggest different cheeses, salami and crackers to enjoy with a sampling of Ravenswood wines.