“Olive & Vine”, quietly located up the road from the city center of Sonoma, among the rustling trees and spread out vines of the fields, uses the intuition of an old brewery to create its visual motifs building the idea of open air kitchen with the balance of home spun culinary virtuousity without sacrificing quality to simply create the right pairing.
Experiencing consecutively during the Sonoma International Film Festival, the venue only open for 3 days a week, takes its regulars in pride. When the local wine owners come to your place to spend Sunday evenings drinking wines and noshing on small bites, that endorsement speaks loudly in many ways, more than any newspaper review.
Sunday Sessions, an unofficial summit of music and wine, spearheaded by sommelier in conjunction with owner realizes its wonderful relaxation despite the heavy hitter quotient.
Beginning with a light but tart Arroba Chardonnay Santa Maria, the beginning music filtered wise with fennel roasted olives which, while simple, very much set the stage for a balance frills/no-frills approach where the food should speak for itself but it was the local artisan meat and cheese plate that truly waxed poetic, especially with a heavenly “Mine” blue cheese that simply melts one into the seat.
The salads continued the predilection with both entries creating an intensity of taste with one creating a necessity rather than a want. The signature Caesar Salad understands the balance of both the luminence of dressing but not its saturation as well as the influence of anchovies but not the loss of its functionality with croutons, cracking and spicy bring up any slack.
However it was the goat cheese and beet salad with its candied walnut interspersing with the tangible red quotient and the slicky inclusive taste of the cream which truly lifted the experience, leaving one hungry for more.
Finding the balance between seafood and land based inflections always creates an interesting progression. The heavily sauced cioppino really wants to give the texture of the local seafood simply over the hills and close to table. The white fish definitively moves with this direction building in manilla clams and shrimp for a reverential intention that is both tantalizing but not overwhelming.
The Cog Au Vin elevated the lay of the land, paired smartly with a Muscardini Gangiovese, which rightly complemented the braised chicken swirling with wild mushrooms, mashed potatoes and underlying carrots, both intensifying the indentity of the food without losing the pure grass-fed predilections of the meal.
Olive & Vine, even in their abbreviated menu, shows a balance between a study in detail but not overwhelming its ingredients. The key to a great meal always begets ambiance + quality + portion + taste which flows together smoothly in this out of the way gem.
By Tim Wassberg