Those entering Sonoma will receive a warm welcome to wine country with the opening of Sondra Bernstein’s Rhône Room at the property Sonoma Roadside, formerly called the Fat Pilgrim.
Proprietor of the girl & the fig restaurant in downtown Sonoma, the fig cafe in Glen Ellen, and a bustling catering business and food truck, Bernstein describes her eateries’ conceptual blending of the rustic and the refined as “Country food with a French passion.” Since opening in 1997, she and Executive Chef John Toulze’s creative interpretation of farm-to-table dining, prepared from the best of Sonoma’s bounty, have offered a true taste of place to those residing in and visiting Sonoma Valley.
The Rhône Room concept is, as are all of Bernstein’s creations, a collage of many elements. The first layer, a wine studio and lounge, will serve as a tasting room where guests will enjoy a selection of the girl & the fig’s house Rhônes, as well as be introduced to exclusive and lesser-known offerings from local Rhône producers. Wine flights highlighting winegrowing regions, varietals, and blends (both regional and French) will provide an educational component to the tasting experience.
the girl & the fig house wines are a layer unto themselves. Each bottling was developed in partnership with a winemaker with an affinity for Rhônes. Producers Jeff Cohn, Sam Coturri, Kieran Robinson, and Adam Webb have collaborated (along with several others). The lineup of house labels include the girl & the fig, Sonoma Roadside, Projet de Vie, Très Bonnes Années, and the recently created Mes Amis Français, which was made with the Gaillard Family in the Northern Rhône.
Finally, it wouldn’t be fig-girl style if there wasn’t seasonal produce in mix. True to form, “the farm project,” the restaurant’s culinary garden, is flourishing just steps from the Rhône Room’s newly constructed outdoor patio.
Bernstein describes her vision for the project: “The Rhône Room will be somewhat of a hub; first and foremost tasting, drinking and purchasing wine, but also a place to check in, make a reservation for the restaurant, join the Rhône Around the World Wine Club, see what events are happening in the Valley and have a peek at what’s in season on the farm. I want this to be a fun stop for visitors during their Sonoma itinerary and also a place for locals to enjoy a glass of wine.”
Designing a environment that could fulfil the varied services she wished to provide required creativity, ingenuity and no small of amount of patience. At first glance, the tiny building might seem an unlikely location for a wine bar, and challenges did present themselves in terms of space (visits must be limited to 10 guests, and children cannot be permitted); however what it lacks in square footage it compensates for in charm, and it is certain that The Rhône Room will provide Sonoma with a new opportunity to enjoy unique tasting experiences from the girl & the fig.
By uniting her love of Rhônes and all things Sonoma, Bernstein hopes that introducing The Rhône Room will bring “the wine, the food, the valley, together in one experience.”