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Kitchen Kinks

Russian River Brewing Company Windsor is a worthy work in progress

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HEY, THAT'S THE SANTA ROSA LOCATION! RRBC Windsor is so new that pictures 
of it haven't even developed yet.
  • HEY, THAT'S THE SANTA ROSA LOCATION! RRBC Windsor is so new that pictures of it haven't even developed yet.

Holy crap, this place is huge!

This was my first thought as I got out of my car at a recent visit to Russian River Brewing Company's new, second location in Windsor. I arrived at 1:30pm, just in time for a late lunch at the brewpub. Only five days after the grand opening on Oct. 11, I knew that a few amenities—especially the planned guided tours of the brewery and the tasting room—were still a few weeks off.

I did a double-take upon entering the brewpub. The décor took me back to my years living in Tennessee—a rustic-farmhouse aesthetic that reminded me of so many similar upscale Nashville restaurants. It was surprising to discover it in the middle of Sonoma County.

Nearly 150 people had already made the discovery and were dining in the indoor restaurant, the outdoor bar and in the comfortable leather chairs that surround the indoor fire pit. I order a Supplication and took a seat at the crowded indoor bar so I could better overhear what others thought of the long-anticipated arrival of the RRBC's Windsor outpost.

I am a total Fourth Street Santa Rosa RRBC brewpub loyalist—and as such, the Windsor menu made me feel like a stranger in a strange land: squash soup, steak and, alas, avocado toast. The pork schnitzel sandwich and the fries looked good. I put in an order and finished off the beer. A few minutes later, the food arrived, alongside a fresh Pliny.

The meal left something to be desired, and here's hoping RRBC Windsor works out the opening-week kinks. The fries were hot, but also soggy. The schnitzel was cooked to perfection, but came on a sesame seed bun (pretzel is traditional). To my right, a patron who just paid $22 for a steak lamented to the bartender that he'd erred in ordering it. "Too dry."

I also witnessed a poor avocado toast buried under a mountain of mixed greens.

When I visited, the brewery was still waiting on Comcast to install the cable for the TVs flanking the bar areas (it has since been installed), and the mini-brewery had yet to arrive. Now set to open next spring, the mini-brewery is a glass viewing area that will eventually allow visitors to watch brewers experiment with flavors that may or may not become permanent fixtures on the Windsor menu.

Minor gripes aside, the Windsor location allowed me to do something I've never done before: open a cooler and grab a six-pack of Pliny to go. There appear to be thousands of ice-cold beers for sale in the gift shop. The days of Pliny scarcity are over—at least for those of us living in the North Bay. Hallelujah!

Give owners Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo space and time to work out the bugs, and RRBC Windsor should become a mainstay of the tourist circuit and a nice hangout spot for locals—especially during the rainy season, when the weather will compel people to curl up by the indoor fire with their favorite brew.

I'm looking forward to my second visit, on a day like that.

Russian River Brewing Company, 700 Mitchell Lane, Windsor. 707.545.2337. Facility tours are scheduled to start Nov. 15.

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