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By Dianne Boate and Robert Meyer

De La Montanya Winery the apple of our eyes.
This story developed over 3 separate days in Sonoma County during very hot weather, but never mind, when the sun hits the earth, the ripening grapes, and an apple orchard, there is an elixer in the air and with nothing to do but enjoy yourself, you adapt in order to take in the full experience.

First visit
The Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley hosted a media and trade event in August that consisted of a winemaker seminar about growing Zinfandel grapes, lunch for groups of 20 at various participating wineries, and last, a regional wine tasting paired with breads, cheeses and other products of the area that are all so excellent.

On purpose, couples were separated and sent off for lunch; Robert went to Bella Winery at the upper end of the valley, which used to be the old Meeker winery. Lunch was served in a newly created tunnel. Dianne found herself at De La Montana Winery, a small family owned winery where great care is taken of the grapes, the roses and lavender artfully organized around the tasting room, and all details of hospitality to the point of thinking you just do not want to go home! Lunch was served in the spacious outdoor area behind the tasting room , shaded by apple trees. Well, how about a whole orchard? And when we were finished, picked apples and paper bags were made available to all to help themselves.
Dianne, ever the Gatheress, spoke to the owner, Dennis, about the apples, having spotted the waiting crop in the trees. “Every year,” he said, “we give as many away as possible to the schools, but this year the apples are early and they are going to go to waste. You are welcome to come back and pick!”

Second visit
Ten days later we were back to pick apples, Where do you start with 103 trees? It is hard work! At the end of the day we met Dennis and his winemaker, Mike Loykasek, in the tasting room, really to say goodbye and thank you, but they offered some delicious samples of the wine which Robert had not had. His favorite was the wine called Primitivo, which is kin to Zinfandel and the Viognier, a full bodied, complex white wine. The winery also makes Pinot Noir, Rose, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, all in small case lots. Case production is roughly 2800 cases. There is a good reason for that, which follows.

Third visit
We promised a picnic lunch, but arriving mid-September, we probably could not have come at a worse time. The grapes on the property were in their third picking, but the De La Montanyas have 115 acres spread out in other vineyards and there is one thing everybody in the wine business knows : The grapes do not wait for you. Dennis told us everybody was putting in 14 hour days and it was going to last at least one more week. He was smiling through his fatigue for here is a man who is doing what he really wants to do, the way he wants to do it, and that is, high quality at every turn. “There are tons of fruit left behind because the quality was not up to our standards. We want the best possible grapes with the best possible methods. We have chosen not to be fanatical about numbers. We want to be known for our friendly, down home, small family winery that serves up first class wine. We like to have fun with it.” There is great evidence of this in the special “Pin Up” Wine labels with pin up girl photos- including garters, yes! Out in the picnic area is a make believe graveyard called “Boot Hill.” One marker says, “Here lies the last wine writer to give us a low score. He gave us a 78 and we gave him a 44.”

Visit the winery on weekends, or by appointment, 707 433-3711. The Winery is located just off Westside road south of Healdsburg. Take Felta Road to Foreman Lane and go directly under the Westside Road overpass. For more information, www.dlmwine.com and

Early next year we will be telling you about the wonderful Passport Weekend in Dry Creek Valley in the spring.

We estimated our apple haul to be over 150 pounds. That translates into around 450 apples. Here is one delicious recipe
Dianne created.

Inspired by recipe in Carla Emery’s The Encyclopedia of Country Living, Sasquatch Books.

15-16 large Delicious Apples, washed and cored (not peeled!)
maple syrup - about 1 cup
butter - about 1/3 cup
raisins - about 1 cup cinnamon
water - 3 cups
First get out your turkey roaster with lid, or a large rectangular baking pan or dish, preferably with a lid. Spray with Pam. Place cored apples in pan - (I fit 15 into my turkey roaster) - then put into each apple cavity:
1 tablespoon each, maple syrup, raisins
1 teaspoon butter Sprinkle all apples evenly with cinnamon.
Pour 3 cups water carefully into pan, cover, and bake in 375 degree oven 40 - 50 minutes or until apples are done.

This is the most delicious baked apples we ever tasted! After baking, (trying not to eat too much at one seating,) transfer apples to smaller containers and freeze. Be sure to transfer all the syrup liquid in bottom of pan.

Don’t forget plain cream, whipped cream, and ice cream for toppings. Apples Without End.

Dianne Boate is a photographer about to participate again in ARTSPAN Open Studios in October. Her work can be seen at www.danielakart.com. Robert Meyer is a consultant to the wine and spirits industry. Currently they are coring and peeling a lot of apples together.