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The sun shone through the trees on an unusually warm Sonoma valley early evening as kids played in the park and tourists milled about the shops and tasting rooms.
And it felt like a dream as I walked through the threshold of Valley Bar and Bottle in downtown Sonoma right on the main square.
I’ve been visiting Sonoma and Napa since I was a child growing up in San Diego. And for Tracie and me, California wine country is filled with memories of when we first met and got engaged. It is a part of my native state that evokes our spiritual homeland, Italy.
But never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought there would be a natural-focused, europhile but still California-friendly wine bar in this rugged town.
Valley, no pressure, but you are the American wine bar of our dreams!
Seriously, it was such a thrill for me to finally meet up with Lauren Feldman and Tanner Walle who opened this wonderful spot in a place where Californian wine (rightfully) eclipses nearly all else.
When they opened the Valley in 2020, Sonoma — at least to my knowledge — had never had a venue like this.
But beyond the delicious food and the super fun wine selection (which embraces both Europe and California), the bar’s energy recharged my wine soul.
Lauren and Tanner both worked at the highest levels of the progressive food and wine scene in New York roughly around the same time I lived and worked there. We know so many of the same people and ate in so many of the same places in the city when Italian wine and natural wine were just beginning to be enjoyed by a broader swath of Americans.
There are just some of the coolest people I’ve met in the trade and I had a blast tasting and chatting with them.
Tanner is an amazing singer songwriter and he and I remembered some of our favorite smoky green rooms back from the days of Brownie’s and Sin-é (how’s that for aughts hipster cred?). His music is rad btw and he’s even dabbled in some French pop (sound familiar?).
But it also really thrilled me to have those deep-reaching conversations about an unknown grape from Slovenia or a rosé from Georgia.
It reminded me of the early rock ‘n’ roll days of wine in the late aughts when wine blogging was just breaking out as a new medium and wine education had suddenly because übercool.
And it was equally powerful and compelling to see how the legacy of those years in New York still ripple through our industry with glowing results.
The caliber of service and the passion for the wines truly renewed my faith in our mission as wine and food pros.
I just loved every minute of the experience and can’t wait to get back there with Tracie.
Lauren, Tanner, and Jared, thank you for all the support you are giving me with my growing wine distribution business in California. I couldn’t be more proud to know that the wines are finding a home they deserve.
But thank you, thank you for the super work you are doing and for driving food and wine culture forward. It was so awesome to connect with you. I know Tracie is going to love it as much as I did.