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'Outstanding in the Field' at Split Rock Springs Ranch

High above the city of Cloverdale in northern Sonoma County, Split Rock Springs Ranch has a commanding view of the Alexander Valley
High above the city of Cloverdale in northern Sonoma County, Split Rock Springs Ranch has a commanding view of the Alexander Valley
L. Compisi

Pine Mountain Cloverdale Peak American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a small wine growing region at the northern tip of Sonoma County. Its evolving community of owners share a passion for stewardship and excellence. Emblematic of that emerging community of winegrape growers and neighboring ranches which include sheep, horses, olive orchards and a soon-to-be ecological retreat with Scandinavian sensibilities called Solliden, is Split Rock Springs Ranch (SRSR). SRSR is a uniquely imagined and painstakingly developed expression of the Pine Mountain - Cloverdale Peak community high above the City of Cloverdale.

Olive trees at Split Rock Springs Ranch
L. Compisi

Split Rock Springs Ranch partners, Glen Lajeski and Gerry Etcheverry, have created a bit of Eden over the past several years including the planting of 1,500 olive trees, mostly Italian and Spanish varietals (Leccino, Pendolino, Frantoio, Arbequino among others); building a special kennel for the numerous prize winning show dogs that they breed, train and show; creating a unique series of tent style guest bedrooms and living spaces linked by boardwalks over running mountain springs, planting amazing gardens and building a glass house inspired by architect Phillip Johnson....all off the grid using solar and a bit of propane.

Utilizing only organic farming practices, SRSR has been certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers organization (CCOF) since the beginning. Their olive harvests have grown from 50 gallons to 150 gallons over the past couple years. Mountain grown olives are known to make exceptional olive oil and the olives from Pine Mountain are no exception. Besides SRSR, neighboring Silverwood Ranch also produces olives and olive oil. Yvonne Hall, owner of Olivino in Hopland where both ranches have their olives pressed, says, "We have seen very flavorful olive oil coming out of Pine Mountain in Cloverdale. The current dry conditions have not affected the rich flavors produced with their mountainside fruit."

Restaurants like AQ in San Francisco and the Dry Creek Kitchen (DCK) in Healdsburg are just a couple of the high end restaurants that favor olive oil from Pine Mountain's SRSR. DKC Executive Chef Dustin Valette loves the flavor profile produced by SRSR olives, "Split Rock Springs Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil offers us a locally sourced olive oil with exceptional flavors and the highest quality. It is mild, aromatic, buttery, and floral. Perfect on the table or in the kitchen." No wonder SRSR EVO won Silver at the LA International EVO competition this spring.

Most recently Glen and Gerry hosted the roving culinary adventure Outstanding in the Field at Split Rock Springs Ranch. This amazing, self proclaimed, 'restaurant without walls' featured the culinary creations of Executive Chef Mark Lieberman of the AQ team with owner/manager Matt Semmelhack and Chef de Cuisine, James Wong onsite. Chef Wong prepared an exquisite 5 course meal al fresco. A real challenge considering the location and the lack of your typical commercial kitchen fixtures and tools. The 134 guests seated at a single long 'infinity' table were delighted with the freshilicious, local and organic food. Perhaps the dark horse hit of the evening was the marinated Split Rock Springs Ranch olives with wild fennel pollen prepared by Chef Wong and team. Exquisitely flavorful!

Each course was paired with a wonderfully well balanced Pine Mountain Upper Ridge Vineyard designate estate gold medal wine produced by Imagery Winery. A 2013 Dry Riesling accompanied the hors d' oeuvres and the 2013 Wow Oui (Sauvignon Blanc) complimented a salad of summer squash and zucchini with Penny Royal Farms Chèvre Fondue. The 2011 Tempranillo and the 2011 Malbec, also from Pine Mountain's Upper Ridge Vineyard, were outstanding and beautifully paired with Wild Pacific Salmon (poached in SRSR Olive Oil) and Roast Pork, respectively. Heavenly!

The Pine Mountain community will continue to evolve and offer surprising new developments. But no worries, these artistic, imaginative, productive and creative people will not stop until they have exceeded the elevated expectations they have created!