The tasting menu starts auspiciously with aromatic sauvignon blanc and citrus-cured king salmon in a spring garlic emulsion. A few courses later, the Brittany-born chef visits the table to pour an intense mushroom consommé over a petite fava mushroom tortellini, paired with pinot noir.
If you think Sonoma’s top restaurants are the only places to enjoy seamless pairings, garden views and polished service, think again. You’ll find all of these features during a wine tasting at Bricoleur Vineyards, an expansive family-owned estate in Windsor, about 60 miles north of San Francisco. Whether you choose the six-course Rooted tasting ($125) or the mini Soaring tasting ($75), Bricoleur executive chef Thomas Bellec and advisor Charlie Palmer ensure that you’re in for an unparalleled culinary experience. The winery also hosts a quarterly four-course Seasons dinner ($275), with the next one, celebrating love, slated for February 11.
“Wine goes with food, and food goes with wine,” says winery cofounder Mark Hanson. “When I have gone wine tasting around the world, the places that stand out in Italy, France or Argentina offer that experience.” For example, Hanson finds that the aromatic white wine viognier really sings with the right dishes. At the love dinner, he is especially looking forward to the course that pairs lobster tail in a leek fondue with estate chardonnay.
Bricoleur’s culinary offerings showcase the 20 wines by veteran winemaker Cary Gott and assistant winemaker Tom Pierson. The lineup includes brut sparkling wines, a pair of rosés, chardonnays, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and a late-harvest viognier/chardonnay blend. Their Bricoleur and Flying by the Seat of Our Pants labels source from the Hansons’ Kick Ranch vineyard and other select sites.
When Hanson, his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughter Sarah Hanson Citron, embarked on their winery project in 2017, they weren’t planning a top-tier culinary program. But delayed approvals and COVID-era food service requirements gave them time to dream up their ideal winery. Bricoleur, whose name is a French term for an artisan who cobbles things together with whatever is on hand, nods to the iterative process. But the Hansons possess plenty of generational knowledge and business acumen.
Elizabeth’s great-grandfather was Pietro Carlo Rossi, a pharmacist-turned-winemaker whose innovations at the Italian Swiss Colony wine company laid the foundation for California’s modern wine industry. He also passed down a tradition of expansive dinners with family and friends. “I grew up thinking Sonoma County is all about family, community, connection and gathering around the table,” Citron says. “As we were going into this venture, it was something we felt was missing: the opportunity to gather and linger and relax and enjoy the view and the environment while learning about wine.”
Mark, a computer industry leader for 30 years before moving to his current private equity role, doesn’t do anything by half measures. Visual delights at Bricoleur include a large rose-covered pergola, a matcha green pond with a trio of black swans and an extensive culinary garden. Bricoleur also offers a four-bedroom guest residence. Guests are welcome to pick berries, fish for bass and bluegill, or unwind with a glass of zinfandel.
A score of wines and the estate gardens give chef Bellec an extensive flavor palette for pairings. The long communal table at the forthcoming love-themed dinner will be laden with dishes that include truffles, Sonoma lamb and sustainable Tsar Nicoulai caviar, paired with glasses of the latest sparkling rosé, a Burgundian-inspired chardonnay and a red grenache, the newest bottling. “We’ll have some local oysters as well,” says Bellec, a member of the prestigious Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, who spent 18 years with Four Seasons resorts. “We’ll highlight all of Sonoma County.