John Ash & Co. Restaurant, Vintners Inn

We had three meals during our two-week sojourn in Sonoma tasting wines, and while I suspect this restaurant does not have the impeccable reputation that it once did, we were very pleased with all of our meals.

Executive Chef Thomas Schmidt's food has a stick-to-the-ribs richness in an altogether satisfying style. They are not the most beautiful plates, nor is the service overwhelming (although it's not condescending either), but all in all, I thought every dish was what it should be. If it didn't hit the highest level of sublimity, so what? The food was delicious, mouth-filling, satisfying and exactly as described by the wait staff. In particular, I loved their coconut red-curry braised lamb shank and the miso-glazed black cod. Their fried calamari was also top-notch.

We had two Marcassin wines that were stunning - a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Of course, they are more concentrated and richer than Burgundies of the same vintage and varietal composition, but they are stunning wines nonetheless. Both were complex and rich. The 2002 Pinot Noir Estate was singing, and while not quite fully mature, certainly not far from it.

Overall, Vintners Inn is definitely a pleasant place to stay because of its great location, and the John Ash & Co. Restaurant is much better than I'd heard from some of the regulars who seemed a bit down on this location.

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