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Reviews of the finest restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area by Carol and Joe Davis - the Dining Detectives. From Sushi to Prime Rib, the Detectives dine their way across the spectum of fine food. ©2006 Carol and Joe Davis

John Ash & Co. At Vintners Inn
BRAVO!!!!!!!
Elegant Setting-Classy Atmosphere-World Class Cuisine and Wine

It just keeps raining but that didn’t stop The Dining Detectives from venturing out to John Ash & Co., a short ride from Petaluma up 101 at the River Rd exit.

As we entered the gate to the Vintners Inn--Chateau/Estate on Barnes Rd. we could tell that this could top all of our other dining experiences. We had a "WOW" feeling seeing John Ash & Co. next to The Vintners Inn set in the middle of vineyards. As we entered the restaurant, the elegant atmosphere, which included immaculately set tables, high ceilings impressed us, and a fireplace too…everything was perfect. The view from the dining room included a perfectly shaped low cut hedge and nothing but vineyards beyond as if it was just The entire Sonoma Wine Country and us.
The rain didn’t appear to stop anyone else as on this Saturday night all the tables continued to stay full and the bar had a crowd that was enjoying some of the areas best wines including some Rare Vintages from Sommelier Markus Wilson’s 500 Bottle Wine Library.

We were warmly greeted by Michael-the headwaiter who would lead us through a fantastic dining experience. Michael, who has studied at The (CIA) Culinary Institute, has been with John Ash & Co. for over 6 years and his experience showed.

Chef Jeffrey Madura has created a total atmosphere that can only be called World Class and we were ready to enjoy some of the best tastes and loveliest presentation Sonoma County has to offer.

A large bottle of S. Pellegrino water and a basket of warm bread appeared on our table and we were ready.

Starters

Sonoma Duck Confit—with scallion pancakes, green onions, arugula and an Asian dipping sauce.

The Duck was moist and fell off the bone It was accented by the dipping sauce which appeared to be a Hoisan with a tad of sesame seeds. This was a large portion and we suggest that it might be best shared so as to leave room for dessert. Definitely our favorite Starter

Baked Brie—
Stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and basil with wilted spinach and croutes.
This was unique- the flavor from the sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic made a normally pedestrian appetizer special

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup—
With coconut milk, chives and truffle oil
Soup is always great on a rainy cold night and this rich, creamy, and tasty large bowl boasted mushrooms galore.

Sonoma Onion Soup--
With housemade croutons and Gruyere cheese. We did not have the pleasure of trying this soup but we did spy it at the next table and look forward to having it in the future. Our fellow diners looked happy as they were enjoying it.

Main Courses

The main courses on the menu give you a unique opportunity to have either a large or more moderate portion each priced accordingly. This is a nice touch and we feel that other restaurateurs might make note of this. Naturally we all opted for the larger size portion but it is nice to have the choice.

Smoked and Grilled Maple Cured Double Cut Pork Chop—
With braised red cabbage and a sauté of apples, onions and bacon with a cider cream sauce. This is usually not a dish that we order but when we saw it come out piping hot to the next table we had to go for it---we were glad we did. The red cabbage and apple accented the pork, which was moist and flavorful.

Tandoori Roasted Rack of Lamb—
With lentil puree and a raita sauce of yogurt, banana, pineapple and macadamia nuts.
Jeffrey Madura and David Billings (Executive Chef and Sous Chef) truly outdid themselves with this hearty and exquisitely presented main course.
We applauded as it arrived and enjoyed the great tastes of the lamb with the crunchiness and rich sweetness of the macadamia nuts. A true lamb fan delight!

Sturgeon-with Crème fresh/ horseradish on top and diced potatoes with bacon on the side

This fresh fish dish was perfectly cooked crispy on the outside with a sauce that was tart and pungent.

Scallops served with asparagus and roe with potatoes
These large scallops were light and flavorful. The presentation was fabulous and included roe around the outside of the plate-scallops surrounding the asparagus which was in a pouch and over the potatoes.

Pan-Seared Ahi Tuna—
With sautéed red onions, white beans, portabello mushrooms and red wine sauce-We couldn’t try everything but did notice this tempting dish as it came out to a neighboring table--- A good reason to return another time.

Desserts

Scott Noll (Pastry Chef) and David McDowell (Pastry Assistant) have created a little something for everyone.

Chocolate Blood Orange Meltdown—
A warm flourless chocolate cake with a soft center, encircled in a crème anglaise and blood orange sauce, topped with sweetened whipped cream-

This is the number one reason to have the moderate portions for your main course- You must save room for this dessert!

Trio of Tropical Brulees-
Kahlua, passion fruit, and coconut brulee served with butter cookies. Crisp top sweet on the inside- a nice combination

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake—Cheesecake made with Bellwether Farms "Fromage Blanc" on a candied ginger snap crust, topped with Meyer lemon curd and tulip abstraction.

Cheesecake is a fine art and this was a masterpiece.

Wines

Pairing wine with food creates the total dining experience. Sommelier, Markus Wilson has been afforded the luxury of having over 500 vintage wines in "The Library" to offer to the discerning clientele at John Ash & Co. He has taken this responsibility to a higher level with his choices of wines by the glass. It is unique to find "better" wines by the glass offered. Here you can enjoy the likes of:

Jordan, Alexander Valley 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon – A big and bold red –We liked it with the Pork Chop

Limerick Lane, Russian River, Sonoma County 1997 Zinfandel –
Perfect pairing for beef dishes

Chalk Hill, Chalk Hill Sonoma County 1997 Chardonnay—
A truly rich Chardonnay-Great paired with the Scallops

Saintsbury, "Reserve" Carneros 1996 Pinot Noir
Perfect with the Lamb

We could go on and on about the wine--- things like the wine being presented at the table in small carafes to allow it to be poured when appropriate, ability to order quality half bottles or even half glasses and the depth of "The Library".

But mostly, the enlightened idea that here at John Ash & Co. one is not punished for only ordering a glass. I think most diners would agree that they would gladly spend the money for better wines if they were made available. Too often today restaurants are shortsighted in their choices for wines by the glass feeling that people only want moderately priced wine over quality.

Cheers to John Ash & Co.

This was surely The "Finest" Sonoma County has to offer and we look forward to return soon.
Perhaps on a sunny afternoon we’ll see you sitting outside enjoying the warmth of the sun and the beautiful atmosphere.

John Ash & Co.

At Vintners Inn
4330 Barnes Rd.
(River Rd Exit)Santa Rosa, Ca 95403

Phone- 707-527-7687
Fax- 707-527-1202

e-mail- Johnashco.com

Hours
Lunch-- Tues-Sat 11:30-2:00
Dinner-- 7 nights 5:30-8:30
Brunch-- Sunday 10:30-2:00

Café Menu-- Tues-Sun 2:00- 5:00

Ample free parking

Major Credit Cards Accepted

Reservations Recommended