Barfly: Gourmet food and wine tours perfect for foodiesMay 02, 2017
Gourmet food and wine tours perfect for foodies
Gourmet food and wine can be a bit daunting. Where to go? What to do? What goes with what? And then there’s the reservations. It can be a bit overwhelming. Throw in driving, and your options can be quite limited. But what if someone did it all for you?
That idea occurred to longtime Marin resident Renee ReBell, of Novato, about four years ago.
“I was working for wine.com as an account manager, pouring wine on the Sonoma Plaza and creating events that showcased small winemakers through chef’s events,” she says.
Then ReBell took a food tour in Chicago in 2013 and a lightbulb went on. She put together her own tour of Sonoma soon after.
“I listed the Sonoma Plaza Food Tour on my event website for anyone that was curious,” she says. “The American Heart Association asked me to donate the tour and that was ultimately the impetus for building the company out properly.”
Together with her son Drew, she assembled three colleagues, Arlene Pasquin, Vivian Richardson and Marcia Smith, dubbed them “Gourmet Gurus” and launched Gourmet Food and Wine Tours.
“I was a single mom, without support and worked hard to get this business off the ground. It nearly killed me in the first few months. But, I had a lot of faith and enough attempts at other businesses that I had a good idea that this one would work,” she says.
The all-inclusive three-hour daytime walking tours cost $125 for Sonoma, $155 for Sausalito and $175 for Napa is $175, cheaper for non-drinkers. For more information, call 415-250-2273 or go to gourmetfoodandwinetours.com.
Recently we caught up with ReBell
Q What expertise led you to form this company?
A I was never formally trained in wine other than what I learned from wine.com and learning from the winemakers themselves. Pairing is very intuitive for me. I think pouring with boutique winemakers was the most beneficial. I like to select interesting combinations that the guest might not expect. At our Indian restaurant in Sonoma, we pair Cline Cellars viognier with an eclectic array of uncommon food items. It is so fun and people respond so well to the adventure of the meal.Q How are your tours different from other tours?
A Our tours are elevated food tours that incorporate local wine. We are a wine tour as much as we are a food tour. All our guides are from the wine or culinary industry. Some are extremely well traveled and have owned their own food-related businesses. We tell stories and provide guests with knowledge and take-aways that make great dinner table conversation. Unless we run corporate tours, we only entertain six to 10 guests at a time, depending on the location. These micro-groups keep our intimate tour at one table, with strangers becoming fast friends through shared food, wine and stories. Outsiders have no way of telling we are a tour and the restaurants we use appreciate us keeping everyday tours tiny.
Q What partners or products do you highlight in your tours?
A Each of our towns has at least one restaurant in the Michelin guide book, with Yountville leading the way. Some of our restaurants provide amazing and historic stories as well as great food and wine. Better-known restaurants on our tours include Poggio, the Trident, the Girl & the Fig, El Dorado Kitchen, Bouchon Bakery, Bistro Jeanty and the French Laundry.
Q What is a typical tour like?
A We enjoy four different restaurants with a gourmet offering that best represents that particular restaurant, along with a half glass of local wine. We always finish with a very special chocolate. We discuss the chef, the kitchen, the gardens and relevant films and series.
Q What upcoming additional tours will you be offering?
A St. Helena is next. My daughters want to create a vegan food tour too, so that will probably happen eventually, although we have not pinpointed the exact destination.
Jeff Burkhart is the author of “Twenty Years Behind Bars The Spirited Adventures of a Real Bartender” and an award-winning bartender at a local restaurant. Follow him at jeffburkhart.net and contact him at email@example.com.