Tuesday 19 June 2018
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Great weekend in Sonoita (Part 1)

What a wonderful weekend in Sonoita. Wine country is fabulous!

Friday started early with a business visit in Tucson, another business meeting in Sonoita and then an interview with Kent Callaghan of Callaghan Vineyards to wrap things up. Kent will be our next featured winemaker and the interview went very well. I really enjoyed talking to Kent and getting his unique perspective on winemaking and on wine in Arizona . . . you’ll have to pick up the next issue of the magazine to learn more about this subject! 😉

Josh and I decided to take advantage of a night off with a dinner at Canela Bistro, in the heart of Sonoita. We enjoyed dinner here on a previous night last November and wanted to give it another go. Well, we were so happy we did. Oh my gosh! It was good last time . . . this time it was heavenly. Josh was making happy noises throughout the entire dinner. That doesn’t happen very often!

We decided to honor our interview with Kent by making it a Callaghan night and drinking only Callaghan Vineyard wines. This is not a difficult or painful thing to do. I enjoyed a glass of Callaghan’s Lisa (a nice smooth white wine) while Josh enjoyed a glass of Junior (a cabernet syrah blend). I really wanted to try the asparagus, described as tempura fried asparagus garnished with Dale’s fam fresh poached egg & pancetta-dijon vinaigrette. It was light and the asparagus was cooked perfectly, a light crunch but not undercooked. Josh ordered the cheese platter with Dutch aged Gouda, a mild Dutch sheep’s milk Gouda and a Fourme d’Ambert (pasteurized cow’s milk blue cheese from France). It was garnished with walnuts, honey and toast. When I nibbled on the cheese, I sipped from the Junior, it was a perfect compliment. We were off to a great start.

Then we were onto dinner. I ordered the special, a grilled organic Lazy Double J Ranch (from Willcox, AZ) Pork Chop which was served with light and creamy sour cream polenta, sauteed green apples, “Tokyo” white baby turnips and Italian style salsa verde. The salsa verde was the perfect compliment to the pork chop – wow! You may feel like you’re in Kansas, but you’re not in Kansas any more, Toto! These people are serious about their food! Portions were nice and food was cooked perfectly. Josh isn’t a big fan of apples with his meat but after tasting this combination, he was pleasantly surprised.

Josh played it safe and ordered the grilled ribeye (or so he thought). What could have been very boring and neutral in another location turned into something very special here. The ribeye was cooked a perfect medium rare and was sliced, which initially turned Josh off. Then when he tasted it, though, he had the realization that it was perfect and couldn’t have been better if served differently. He gushed that the flavor of the fat was like foie gras, not chewy and gristly like a lot of ribeyes can be. Then I thought he was going to explode with delight when he tasted the gratin of Bob’s spring garlic & potato. I really don’t think I’ve ever seen him this excited for a potato before, generally he only eats the entree and leaves the rest on the plate. He was nice enough to share a few bites with me but finished his entire plate pretty much on his own (although, I think I heard a button fly off . . .).

Oh, and the perfect match for this delictable meal was a bottle of Callaghan Vineyards Caitlin’s. A blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc. It was truly amazing. It had some nice spice yet didn’t overpower the food. I think this may have become my favorite Callaghan wine! We rolled out of there and into bed and I think we were both still full the next day.

I really recommend that you dine at Canela when you visit Sonoita. Any foodie would have a field day here, between the local, quality ingredients, the character of the dining room and the obvious skill of the chef, anyone would be surprised and delighted after their meal. Keep in mind that they are only open four nights a week from Thursday to Sunday and only open during the day for Sunday brunch. They are receiving a lot of deserved media attention so it’s a smart idea to make reservations. Owners Joy and John really have created an amazing experience for their diners!

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