We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Visit to the Anderson Valley, Husch Vineyards and Jacques Pépin's Tomato and Summer Squash Gratin

My Traveling Tales by Linda

Zac Robinson of Husch Vineyards
   The Anderson Valley in California is a paradise... not a virtual paradise, but the real thing. I had traveled through this wine lover's destination years ago, and did not stop at the names that called to me at the time... Husch, Navarro, Roderer, Scharffenberger, Elke and Goldeneye. However, at little over a year ago, all that changed for me. My friend, Mark, took me on my first wine tasting trip there, and I fell in love. From where I live in Petaluma, it takes about an hour and a half to get to the entrance of the valley. From there it is about another twenty minutes to Husch, which claims the honor of being the first vineyard in Anderson Valley appellation.

Amy poses in front of the rose-covered cottage that serves as the charming 
tasting room at Husch Vineyards.

   Last Sunday marked my first visit to Husch Vineyards. Being a part of the retailing arm of the wine business, my Wine Specialist compadres, Mark and Amy, arranged for us to get a special tour hosted by Zac Robinson. Zac and his sister, Amanda are the family owners of the winery. They are most recent stewards of this land, since they are descended from three generations who have grown grapes and produced wine here.

Zac leads us through a tour of the vineyard.
Amy inspects the tiny grapes.
The future harvest of 2013.
   For the first part of our tour, Zac took us out to see the vines which were just beginning to set fruit, and we were pleased to see that they abounded with tiny berries. Zac said that the most difficult pest to deal with is gophers, and they have opted for a natural form of rodent control. He pointed out the owl nesting box that we were standing by, and he showed us an "owl pellet"which I had heard of but never seen. Owls regurgitate the unprocessed part of their food. Encased in the pellet, we were able to see, was a gopher skull... proof that the plan is working.

A nesting box is home to barn owls. The owls help keep the voracious gopher population in check.
A gopher skull encased in an "owl pellet". The rodent control program appears to be working.
   We passed by the crushing equipment on our way to the production barn. Zac explained how the process works.

Do you speak wine code?
     Then Zac took us into the main production building and showed us how the wines are made. This is also where the library of wines is located.

Zac educating Mark and Amy about wine barrels.
   It was a special treat for us to be able to taste from several bottles in the library. Zac showed us how the wines are cataloged, and then let us sample from some of the older bottles.

Amy seems pretty pleased with her "library" encounter.
   Zac was most obliging and let us linger awhile sipping and chatting. We found the wines to be excellent. Too soon it was time to say good bye, and reluctantly we headed back for home to prepare our dinner. Amy is a vegetarian, and definitely in the minority when she is in the company of Mark and I. We are dedicated omnivores, but Mark had a dish in mind for dinner that would make us all happy.

PS... it pairs well with Husch wine!

Tomato and Summer Squash Gratin

   Recently Mark and I watched a cooking show which featured Jacques Pépin making vegetable dishes that would serve as sides or the main meal. I was so mesmerized with watching Jacques whip up his classic dishes, that I made poor Mark watch the show four times. After four viewings, he certainly knows how to make a mean tomato and summer squash gratin. It is super simple to make, and is delicious.


The amounts needed for this recipe will depend on how much you wish to make. If you have left over bread crumb mixture, simply freeze in something airtight until the next use.

ripe tomatoes
zucchini or other summer squash
2-3 cups of fresh bread crumbs (Mark used old sourdough bread left over from my homemade loaf in the photo below to make the crumbs)
2-3 Tbs. good quality olive oil
2 Tbs. chopped fresh herbs. Mark used fresh oregano, thyme and sage from my herb garden.
1/3 to 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Celtic sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Sorry... mums the word on this recipe until our sourdough cookbook comes out.
I love to plant fresh herbs in the Spring. They are there when I need them, 
and it is a big money saver, too.


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the tomatoes into rounds and then cut in half. Cut the zucchini into slices down the length. The slices should be similar in size... a little less than a 1/2 inch thick. Layer in a shallow buttered dish.

2. I like to make my fresh bread crumbs in the food processor. Stir together the bread crumbs, herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil in a bowl. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano, reserving a couple of tablespoons for the top.

3. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the assembled tomatoes and squash. Sprinkle the reserved cheese on the top.

4. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the topping is crisp and lightly browned. Remove from the oven, cut into desired portions and serve immediately.


  1. Yummy! it looks a lot like a Tian that we make here in the deli with added potato slices and cheese. AND love the Husch wine...inspiring ladies!!!

    1. Thanks, Anne. We ppreciate your kind words. We certainly wish we lived close enough to sample your delectable food at New Frontiers Markets. Best of luck with your new blog! The potato and cheese slices sound like a great addition. Someone needs to tell Jacques... :-)


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