As the proprietor of one of the oldest bar and restaurants in Sonoma County, Roger Cramer can tell a few stories about some colorful characters who have dropped in the redwood plank building to slake their thirst or get a meal.
When it first opened in 1854 originally as a hotel called the Big Valley Inn, Bloomfield was a thriving town and a major stagecoach stop soon to have three or four hotels.
The historic two-story building these days is known as “Stormy’s” the nickname of Cramer’s mother, Ellen, who bought the place around 1961 and moved her family to Bloomfield from Berkeley.
Cramer was intrigued by the hundreds of holes in the wall, which he later found out were bullet holes fired by some of the patrons.
“They had too many shots of whiskey,” he said, and apparently thought it amusing to shoot at the deer head on the wall.
“They started shooting at the tips of the antlers,” he said.
Cramer thinks that was in the 1920s, based on what a longtime customer told him many years ago.
Recently the Clampers, or E. Clampus Vitus, the colorful fraternal organization that identifies significant buildings across the West, placed a plaque commemorating the roadhouse for its longevity.
“We look at things that the stuffier historical societies wouldn’t touch — roadhouses, brothels, bars and the like,” said Dr. Robert J. Chandler, a former president and historian for the Yerba Buena No. 1 Chapter of the group also known as ECV.
“When you get something that’s that venerable, it deserves recognition. Also the fact that the family has owned it for generations and is keeping it going.”
Chandler added that the group “plaqued” the Washoe House in Petaluma a few years earlier, another historical stagecoach stop that was likely on the same route as Stormy’s.
“They liked to keep them about 12 miles apart so you could change the horses,” he said.
Stormy’s Spirits and Supper also lives up to its name in another way.
“There were rumors for years we had a ghost, though it’s been pretty quiet since Mom passed away,” Cramer said.
“There were rumors a young man died in the building.”
Cramer said he’s had customers who say they’ve seen a ghost in the dining room — a young man with a Western-style hat and wearing clothes of a past era.
“They’ve seen an image go from the front of the bar to the dining room and vaporize,” he said.
Cramer, 68, doesn’t seem to worry that telling ghost stories will frighten customers away.
His family has had the establishment the longest of any other owners. He’s been working there since he was 11 years old and began sweeping floors, stocking cans of beer and soda.
He took over Stormy’s when he was 21 and has done all the jobs from chef to bartending to buying the food.
It’s a family-run business with his wife, Carolyn, their daughter, Taylor Cramer, 30, and her boyfriend, Fabio Herrera, all pitching in, whether it’s cooking, waiting tables, tending bar or doing payroll and accounting.
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
The Food-Friendliest Thanksgiving Red —-- Grenache
Donelan, 2014 Cuvee Moriah, Sonoma County Grenache, 14.6% alcohol, $50. ★★★★ What makes this a pitch- perfect Thanksgiving pick is that this Rhone red has tangy, high-toned fruit, coupled with savory spice and crisp acid. It has notes of pomegranate, red currant and cardamom. The Donelan has a round texture and finishes crisp, pairing well with a broad range of rich dishes. The wine is 84% grenache, with 16% mourvedre. Impressive.
Clos de Gilroy, Bonny Doon Vineyards, 2016 Grenache, 13.1%, $20. ★★★1/2: This is a bright grenache with generous fruit and snappy spice. Notes of raspberry, red currant, a hint of plum and cracked black pepper. This pick is spicier than some, so it works best with lean side dishes and turkey. The blend is 82% grenache and 18% syrah.
Tablas Creek, 2013 Grenache, 15.5%, $45. ★★★★: This grenache has black fruit aromas but its weighted to red on the palate. It has notes of wild strawberry and cherry, riding on crisp acid. It also has a hint of leather and chocolate in the mix. This wine is 100% grenache and its tangy fruit makes it a savvy Thanksgiving pick with dishes that are both lean and rich.
Quivira, 2014 Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Grenache, 14.8%, $34. ★★★★: This is a pretty grenache that leads with full- throttle strawberry but has layered flavors —-- a hint of vanilla and white pepper. This is another example of 100% grenache, and its tangy fruit coupled with bright acid makes it a savvy Thanksgiving pick.
Unti, 2014 Dry Creek Valley Grenache, 14.5%, $35. ★★★★: This is a full-bodied grenache that’s both fresh and savory. It has great complexity, with layered flavors of raspberry, anise and pepper. This classic Rhone works well with a Thanksgiving feast, as well as solo because of its tasty infusion of syrah. The wine is 80% grenache, 14% syrah and 6% mourvedre. Striking.