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At Sonoma's Stone Edge Farm Estate Vineyards and Winery, cabernet sauvignon vines grow next to vegetable beds and olive trees, creating a natural web of interdependency.

John McReynolds, who serves as winery chef and personal chef to owners John "Mac" McQuown and his wife, Leslie, compares the 16-acre, all-organic estate to a small Italian farm.

"With the vineyard and olive oil and vegetables, it's like going to a Tuscan fattoria," said McReynolds. "It's a complete system."

Now that the vines have been picked for the 2012 Stone Edge Farm Cabernet Sauvignon, McReynolds is looking forward to the "other" harvest: the farm's 150 olive trees, a mix of Manzanillo and Ascalano varieties.

"We'll be picking olives in mid- to late-November," McReynolds said. "We'll bottle the olio nuovo (immediately), and the rest will be available in January."

This year's harvest is especially precious, since the farm has not had any fresh olives to press since the December 2010 harvest. Like many growers on the North Coast, they lost all of their olives last year to the vagaries of nature.

Once plucked by hand, the Manzanillo olives will be whisked off to The Olive Press in Sonoma and bottled as the Stone Edge Farm Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

"California has, overall, the highest quality olive oil in the world," McReynolds said. "The most popular style of oil is Tuscan, which is harvested early and is more pungent and bitter (than the Manzanillo)."

McReynolds serves the farm's buttery olive oil with bread, cheese and other savory bites to showcase the estate's high-end, Bordeaux-style wines during tastings at the winery.

The Stone Edge Farm Cabernet Sauvignon wine, made from a blend of the estate grapes tended by viticulturist Phil Coturri and grapes grown by winemaker Jeff Baker at his vineyard on Mount Pisgah, is aimed at discerning oenophiles and collectors.

"Jeff extracts the best tannins and comes up with elegant wines," said Director of Hospitality Philippe Thibault. "He knows that wine is made in the vineyard."

To help the olive oil complement the wine during tastings, McReynolds adds a ramekin of dukkah, an Egyptian spice blend he makes himself from cumin and coriander seeds, almonds or hazelnuts.

The cheese selections, such as Vella's tangy Mezzo Seco and Italy's fruity Piave, are served with membrillo paste the chef makes from the farm's aromatic quince fruit.

In the late fall, the olive oil also adds an unctuous sheen to pepperonata, a Sicilian condiment made from heirloom tomatoes and Corno di Toro peppers grown at the farm. The chef also sprinkles it over savory salads made with figs and butternut squash, toasted walnuts and prosciutto.

For home cooks, it's often more practical to reserve high-end olive oils for drizzling or dressings, he said.

"I cook with our olive oil, but it's $24 a bottle," he said. "For cooking, some of the Central Valley oils are quite good."

McReynolds first met the McQuowns in the 1980s, when he was studying at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

In 1995, entrepreneur and investment manager Mac McQuown, who developed the first institutional index funds at Wells Fargo Bank in the early 1970s, bought the former sheep ranch in the El Verano area of Sonoma as a weekend retreat.

That was the same year that McReynolds opened his renowned Cafe LaHaye in Sonoma and started buying lettuces and vegetables from McQuown's farm.

"They would bring whatever they had," he recalled. "I loved orders like that."

McReynolds left Cafe LaHaye in 2006, but by that time, he already knew he wanted to write a cookbook.

"For me, it's the only thing that was unfulfilled," he said. "That's the only thing I'm ever jealous about another chef."

McReynolds joined the team at Stone Edge Farm in 2008. Last year, he started writing a cookbook showcasing the philosophy behind the farm, with its fresh eggs and honey bees, compost piles and rocky, well-drained soil.

The cookbook, which will be out in fall of 2013, includes seasonal menus, musings on cooking techniques and essays on foraging, olives and the edible vineyard.

"Mac's vision is to have a winery that isn't just a winery but also a farm," he said. "It's going back to the old ways. That's what I see now as the new way."

"Cooking fish in a protective covering of grape leaves keeps it moist and imparts an almost lemon-like sourness," McReynolds writes. "Halibut, with its mild taste and meaty texture, is a good choice for this cooking method, but I have also used it with great success for salmon, whole branzino and whole red snapper. Either fresh, unsprayed grape leaves or leaves from a jar will work for this recipe."

Halibut Fillets Baked in Grape Leaves, with Lemon Vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings

Lemon Vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

— Kosher salt

— Freshly ground black pepper

Halibut Fillets:

3 to 4 fresh or 5 to 6 bottled grape leaves for each fillet

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing the pan

— Kosher salt

— Freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

4 halibut fillets, 5 to 6 ounces each

For vinaigrette: Place ingredients in a glass jar and shake vigorously.

For halibut fillets: Preheat oven to 400?F. If using bottled grape leaves, gently rinse and then dry them on paper towels.

Brush a sheet pan lightly with some olive oil. Lay out the grape leaves, vein sides up, in 4 groups on a cutting board. Overlap the leaves in each group to create 4 solid circles. Use half of the olive oil to brush the circles, then sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme. Place a fillet in the center of each circle; brush fish with remaining olive oil. Wrap the leaves around each piece of fish to create a neat package. Place packages on a baking pan, exposed leaf edges down. Bake for 18 minutes.

To serve, partially peel back leaves and drizzle Lemon Vinaigrette over each fillet.

Chef's notes: These halibut packages can also be cooked on a grill, but this method requires a little more attention to keep the leaves from blackening too much.

In choosing fresh grape leaves, look for new growth. The leaves are more pliable.

"For this salad of contrasting shapes and vivid colors, raw butternut squash ribbons are tossed with the Tyrolean ham called speck, radicchio, toasted walnuts, Dry Jack cheeseand figs," the chef writes. "The neck of the squash is firm and sweet, which makes it more suitable for shaving raw than the lower half, which can be baked or roasted."

Butternut Squash Salad with Speck, Radicchio, and Fig

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon toasted pumpkinseed oil

? teaspoon sea salt

? teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 neck portion (top half) of a medium butternut squash, thinly peeled

1 small head radicchio, cut into ?-inch strips

4 slices speck cut into ?-inch strips (prosciutto may be substituted)

? cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

1 cup shaved Vella Dry Jack or Parmesan cheese

8 ripe figs (preferably Black Mission), thinly sliced into circles

Prepare the vinaigrette by placing the red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, pumpkinseed oil, salt and pepper into a small glass jar and shaking vigorously.

Stand the base of the "neck" end of the squash on a cutting board and slice from top to bottom into 3 equal sections. Shave each piece on a mandoline or Benriner slicer to long, paper-thin ribbons.

In a large salad bowl, combine squash ribbons, radicchio, speck, walnuts and cheese. Pour in the vinaigrette and toss well to coat every ingredient well. Taste and add more salt or pepper if desired. Divide salad onto 4 plates. Distribute fig slices evenly on top of each serving.

Chef's note: Pumpkinseed oil from Austria adds a toasted flavor that goes especially well with squash. Speck is a lightly smoked prosciutto from SudTirol, the German-speaking area of Northern Italy. Regular prosciutto is a good substitution.

"Here, capsicum and potatoes are combined in a soup that both comforts the palate and stimulates it," he writes. "It's best as a mixture of peppers that could include red bell pepper, pimento, Corno di Toro, Jimmy Nardello's, gypsy or antohi varieties. I particularly like this soup at harvest time and especially when I can cook it outside over a hardwood charcoal fire, which imparts a slight smoked flavor. The corn adds sweetness and textural contrast."

Red Pepper and Potato Soup with Corn

Makes 6 servings

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

2 leeks, green mostly removed, sliced

1 large yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic

1? pounds mixed ripe peppers, stems and seeds removed, coarsely chopped

2 medium German Butterball or Yukon Gold potatoes (about 10 ounces), peeled and chopped

2 teaspoons sea salt

6 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

2 ears fresh, uncooked yellow or white corn, kernels cut off the cob

— Sea salt

— Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large pot over medium heat with the olive oil and butter. Add leeks, onion, garlicand peppers. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and salt, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add stock, cover partially and cook for 25 minutes. Pur? mixture with an immersion blender, then strain it through a conical strainer.

Heat a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter, and just before it begins to seriously brown, add corn, salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, shaking and stirring constantly.

Fill bowls with soup and top with some of the corn.

Chef's note: Straining the soup is not strictly necessary but will result in a smoother texture.

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com.

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