Day 2b: Sonoma Farmer’s Market & Mamma Tanino’s

Food Adventures, Napa & Sonoma

After visiting Lancaster Estate and Medlock Ames we were just about dead tired, quickly hopping back into the security of the car and its air conditioned heaven. Healdsburg was a good hour away from the city of Sonoma and we were expecting to arrive in time for the Sonoma Tuesday Night Farmer’s Market. After checking into the nearby hotel, we took a brief stroll to the park in front of city hall where the farmer’s market was located.

The entire block and surrounding neighborhood were bustling with people enjoying the sun and mingling around the tented shops. Stalls of produce from nearby farms lined the walkway around the city hall building carrying a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables. The colors were spectacular and we were enjoying the beautiful day so much that we had forgotten to take photos of the area.

Having drank most of the day and filling up on wine, we had forgotten to eat very much for lunch and were famished. At 6:30pm and without a reservation at any restaurant, we should’ve known better than to try walking into the restaurants that enclosed Sonoma Square. We decided to try Mamma Tanino’s – a place a little out of the way that we found on Yelp, a homely-looking, literal hole-in-the-wall in the corner of a strip mall. The patrons seemed to be an older, more local crowd. The interior was a warm, cozy space with an obnoxious yellow glow that enveloped every nook and cranny. This glow, while warm, took a terrible toll on the quality of our photos, but please bear with us.

Alice found out an interesting piece of information about Chef Gaetano that we didn’t want to speculate about its accuracy: he was accepted into culinary school at the age of 13 and graduated at 15. We managed to verify this information with his wife Kimberly who runs the front of the house.

Without further adieu…the noms:

Housemade Focaccia

The table bread was a simple fresh-baked focaccia that was extra toasted and a little burnt on its extremities. We didn’t mind too much, and I myself am a fan of slightly charred bread. Alice found a piece that tasted like pizza crust, in a good way.

Appetizer: Calamaretti Fritti

Fried calamari was very crispy but the batter was unevenly coated and didn’t adhere well to the calamari. The homemade pomodoro sauce had a little kick that kicked me in the…taste bud. The creamy tartar sauce with capers wasn’t all that special but I’m glad we were given the choice of two different dipping sauces.

Pappardelle Bolognese

Alice had the homemade, hand-cut pappardelle accompanied by a ragu-style sauce with beef, beef stock, carrots, and mushrooms. Just a little al dente to give it a more firm texture, making it a hearty and winning combination.

Gnocchetti Piemontese

I ordered another one of their homemade dishes – hand-cut mini gnocchi with a creamy tomato sauce. Texture was more like a cloud than a pillow, extra light and fluffy. I was able to polish off the entire dish and was left wanting more but that’s not to say that the portion was too small – it was just that good.


I have to admit that this was definitely not that great of a tiramisu. There was a little too much marscapone and it was made using both rum and kahlua. When it came down to it, the tiramisu had a strange sour taste to it, perhaps from the kahlua or perhaps from the marscapone, but we couldn’t tell. Either way, the tartness tasted a bit awkward.

All in all, Mamma Tanino’s was a great find. It’s unfortunate that their location in the forlorn strip mall seems to have a negative impact on their business. People of Sonoma, swing by and give them a try! The pasta dishes are awesome and the service, courtesy of Kimberly, is very friendly.


Check out Mamma Tanino’s Ristorante:

500 W. Napa St. Suite 512
Sonoma CA, 95476

See their Yelp reviews here!

Day 2a: Napa & Sonoma – Alexis Baking Co, Lancaster Estate, Medlock Ames

Food Adventures, Napa & Sonoma

Day two! We had scheduled two winery tours in Healdsburg so before heading there, we started off our day with a delicious brunch at the Alexis Baking Company (ABC) in Napa. It’s a quaint little bakery located across from a row of Victorian style homes reminiscent of Haight Ashbury in SF — thanks to the Yelp reviewer who pointed out the adorable purple house immediately across the street, we found the place very easily!

Huevos Rancheros with Poached Eggs

Unsure of what to get, Martin asked the girl behind the counter for the most popular dish on the menu, which turned out to be the huevos rancheros with poached eggs. Crispy tostada-like fried tortillas slathered with a black bean spread, layered with gooey melted cheese, and generously topped with lots of salsa above and below the perfectly poached egg. It was awesome watching Martin cut into the whites as the yolk slowly oozed over the dish. Delicious. Martin seemed to really enjoy it and shared only one bite for me to sample!

Cinnamon French Toast with Fresh Peaches

No matter — I had opted for one of the daily specials: cinnamon French toast topped with fresh peaches. The girl behind the counter seemed really excited about this one, proclaiming that it’s made from thick slices of the fresh baked cinnamon bread which is, as she put it, amazing. Amazing, indeed! To me, there’s something about fresh baked bread that makes it just indescribably delicious. Fresh baked bread that’s been dredged in egg batter, pan fried to get a crispy crust, dusted with powdered sugar, and served with farm fresh white and yellow peach slices — absolutely wonderful! It was sweet enough for me to not even need the syrup, and I thoroughly enjoyed every fluffy and crispy, sweet and tart, cinnamony and eggy bite.

Perplexing bathrooms

Random side note — was I the only one who stood and paused for a moment to decide which restroom to use? The doughnut or the eclair… which will you choose??

The Lancaster Estate coat of arms lion’s head

Onward we journeyed, saying goodbye to Napa and heading up north to Healdsburg where we met Liz at the Lancaster Estate. It turned out to be a private tour for just the two of us as Liz drove us through the vineyard and told us about the history of the 5 turned 50 acre estate as we tasted the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc.

Lancaster Estate – I love the perfectly straight rows!

Each row of vines was carefully positioned to catch the right amount of sun, and we saw beautiful rows cascading over the hillside. Absolutely beautiful! It was a warm day out so we were thankful for the reprieve of the wine cave, a temperature controlled cellar that houses the tasting room, a dining area for private events, and barrels and barrels of wine at various stages in production. The aroma of fermenting wine and oak barrels fills the cave as we wandered through the atria.

The Tasting Room

Eventually, we circled back to the tasting room to try their stunning reds — a Cuvée, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Nicole’s Proprietary Blend. Made simply from the best grapes of the season, the Nicole’s was incredible and, understandably so, completely sold out every year. The tasting flight made a believer out of me, as I’m usually partial to white and sweeter wines.


After selecting a bottle of their 2008 Estate Cab to bring home, we bid adieu to Liz and drove on to the Medlock Ames Ranch. Home to the main vineyard, the processing facility, a small tasting room, and an adorable garden, the ranch was gorgeous. There we were greeted by an adorable dog belonging to one of the workers and found our guide Lauren. It turned out that mainly wine club members visited the ranch and most other visitors visited the larger tasting room located off the main roads in a less rural part of Healdsburg. Personally, I was very glad to have found this ranch!

The hillside of the Medlock Ames vineyard

Lauren led on a great walking tour of the estate and told us about the history of the Bell Mountain region in which it is situated. We wandered up to the small organic garden that they maintain, a flourishing little plot of land with dozens of fruits and vegetable varieties.

Amazing strawberry

Have you ever eaten a bright red strawberry straight off the vine, warmed by the summer sun? It’s like a bite of sunshine. Succulent, sweet, and simply awesome.

Candy-sweet cherry tomatoes!

Lauren also offered samples of the cherry tomatoes (sweet as candy!), purple peppers that resembled Thai chilies, and even sauvignon blanc grapes off the vines. A wonderful tasting experience and we haven’t even gotten to the wines yet!

The Whites

Since it was just the two of us, Lauren offered us a tasting of all nine bottles that she had readily opened. First the whites — we made our way through 2010 and 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Chardonnay, and a 2011 Rosé. I really liked both vintages of the Sauvignon Blanc and I have a feeling that the upcoming late harvest she hinted about will be fantastic.

The Reds

Then we moved on to the reds, starting with a 2008 house Bordeaux blend simply named Red, followed by a 2007 Merlot and a vertical tasting of 2004, 2006, and 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. All a bit too full bodied for me, but Martin enjoyed this part, especially the vertical tasting. We had learned during our short time in Napa and Sonoma that 2007 was pretty much a good year for every winemaker, but we were starting to see that some winemakers were able to work their magic on the 2008 vintages as well.

Beautiful oak barrels ready for the upcoming harvest!

Our visits to Lancaster Estate and Medlock Ames were wonderful off-the-beaten-path adventures in wine country and we would definitely recommend paying them both a visit if you’re in the area. And be sure to start your morning with a delicious breakfast at Alexis Baking Company first! Many thanks to all of the new friends who made our day such a wonderful experience in Napa and Healdsburg.


Check out Alexis Baking Company:

1517 3rd St
Napa, CA 94559

See their Yelp reviews here!


Check out Lancaster Estate:

15001 Chalk Hill Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448


Check out Medlock Ames:

13414 Chalk Hill Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448