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Suisun Valley review in Comstock’s

The following was published in Comstock’s Magazine in their Dec 2009 issue.

Suisun-er or Later

After more than a century of grape growing, wine emerges north of Fairfield

by Pru Mendez, Ben Magaña, Paul Marsh and Ed Roehr | December 2009

Anyone driving down Interstate 80 can see that orchards and field crops are no small business in Solano County. Landmark signs such as Milk Farm and Nut Tree are reminders of the county’s agricultural history. Perhaps not as obvious are the acres of wine grapes tucked into Suisun Valley, north of Fairfield. Wine-grape growing began in the 1800s in the valley, and in 2007, it was the county’s seventh-largest crop at $11 million. However, fewer than a dozen wineries have surfaced in the region.

Comstock’s recently asked four wine and food gurus from around the region to sample Suisun Valley wines and share their tasting notes with readers. The Petite Sirah can be found at The Firehouse Restaurant, the other three at the Suisun Valley Wine Cooperative while supplies last (

Lanza Family Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Suisun Valley
The Lanza Family label is crafted from the best lots at Wooden Valley Winery & Vineyards. The Lanzas took over the winery in 1955, eventually replacing orchards with vineyards and purchasing an adjacent ranch to span more than 300 acres. The labels’ 2006 Cabernet is barrel-aged for 22 months, leaving this wine dark and classy with an expensive leather quality. Lovely, fine tannins frame a proud and balanced Cabernet Sauvignon.

What to eat with this wine: a bison burger. The Tucos burger features organic bison from Full Circle Bison Ranch in Southern Oregon. Mendez serves it with a house-made bun, similar to Portuguese sweet bread, and a small green salad dressed with a house-made citrus dressing.

Pru Mendez is the owner of Tucos Wine Bar ( in Davis.
Winterhawk Pinot Noir 2007 Suisun Valley
These grapes come from the western slopes of Suisun Valley, which attracts cool winds from San Pablo Bay. Winemakers used year-old barrels to limit oak and allow the fruit to emerge. This wine is a classic Pinot Noir with decent acidity and a clean taste. It’s nicely balanced and medium in length with a chocolate-cherry finish. It would pair well with light pork dishes and rich fish dishes, such as salmon.

What to eat with this wine: a pork chop. Paul Martin’s serves its natural pork chop from Bledsoe Natural Pork in Dunnigan. The meat is cut in-house and mesquite grilled with Hoisin marinade. It’s served with roasted red potatoes and sautéed Brussels sprouts.

Ben Magaña is the operating partner of Paul Martin’s American Bistro ( in Roseville.

Gustavo Thrace Petite Sirah 2006 Suisun Valley
The Gustavo Thrace tasting room is located in the heart of Napa, but winemaker Gustavo Brambila draws from Northern California’s diverse climates and soil, from the Russian River to the Sierra foothills and Lodi. Brambila made 160 cases of the Suisun Petite Sirah, which features an inky color and a nose of dried bing cherries, cinnamon and cedar. The finish is long and full with medium tannins, hints of clove, mocha and raspberry jam.

What to eat with this wine: lamb chops. Marsh suggests pairing this Petite Sirah with a Dijon-and-tarragon-encrusted lamb chop with bacon and chanterelle-roasted potatoes.

Paul Marsh is the assistant wine buyer and sommelier at The Firehouse Restaurant ( in Old Sacramento.

Ledgewood Creek Syrah 2007 Suisun Valley
The grape growers at Ledgewood Creek Winery & Vineyards began crafting wine for consumers in 2001. The fruit is still harvested by hand — red grapes during the day and white grapes at night. The label’s 2007 Syrah is richly dark in color but not inky. The flavor carries a hint of balsamic sweetness with raspberry, subtle oak and light tannins that don’t linger. At 15.4 percent, the high-alcohol content makes this wine excellent to pair with robust flavors.

What to eat with this wine: a hearty stew with braised beef, winter vegetables, star anise and cardamom. Roehr’s stew features natural Angus beef from Trinity County with roasted Tokyo turnips, blue potatoes, dinosaur kale and carrots. He adds two types of roasted squash: red kuri from Riverdog Farm in Capay Valley and blue hubbard from Soil Born Farms in Sacramento County.

Ed Roehr is the chef and co-owner of Magpie Caterers, Market & Café ( in Sacramento.

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