Ukiah, Ca. – Indy to Chicago, to Denver, to Oakland, Ca. can wear an old guy or gal out. But an incredible dinner in Ukiah, CA., with area winemakers can sure make you forget the travel woes and time difference.

I’m on a press trip, sponsored by the Mendocino Wine and Wine Grape Commission, to Redwood wine country. A long day of travel, delays, and mishaps was capped with a fabulous dinner.

The small group of five wine journalists dined at Patrona in downtown Ukiah, a community of about 30,000 north of Santa Rosa or two and a half hours north of San Francisco.

Chef Craig Strattman paired dinner with 10 wines from Mendocino producers who have created a fabulous niche with their Coro wines. Coro is a group of producers making a Zinfandel-based wine judged worthy by a series of independent blind tastings. Coro, Greek for chorus, featues similar labels but is independently produced by each winery.

The Coro standards, simplified, are that the wines must have no less than 40 percent and no more than 70 percent Zin. No other grape may exceed the percentage of Zinfandel. The other grapes permitted are a real variety of wine grapes: Syrah, Petite Syrah, Carignane, Sangiovese, Grenache, Dolcetto, Charbono, Barbera, and Pimitivo.

What you get, greatly over simplified, with most of the wines is a Rhone blend with a bit more flavor and muscle. But the producers don’t go for in-your-face wines, every one of the 10 we tasted was well balanced for food.

The really great thing about the evening is how the chef at Patrona prepared a four-course meal that paired beautifully with the wines.

Go ahead, salivate: Chicory Salad with Soy Glazed Lardoons and Roasted Mushrooms; Lentil Soup with Goat Cheese and Leeks; Grilled Duck with Crackling, Spinach and Pear, Yellow Finn Potatoes Cooked in Vinegar and Duck Fat; Chestnut Popovers with Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce.

Most all of the dinner ingredients came from local producers. The Lentil soup was one of the big hits for me. It was savory, rich with a hint of spice near the finish and it worked great with the bold wines.

I’m going to be writing more about the unique Coro concept and the wineries participating in this one-of-a-kind idea soon. But my body is telling me it’s 2 a.m. even if the clock isn’t. Tomorrow we visit wineries, have another dinner with wine makers and then do it all over again Friday before heading for the Pacific Coast!

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

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