Now THAT’S how you conduct a food and wine pairing event. Last Saturday, Appellation St. Helena presented bASH, a competition for pairing food and wine held at the Culinary Institute of America. We’ve been to many food and wine events over the years at which winery and food participants had various levels of success in getting the food served to match the wines. In our opinion, bASH was the most successful event we’ve been to with respect to the pairing of food and wine and it was clear that a lot of thought (and tasting) had gone into the chef’s creations. Some of the food offerings that night came from local restaurants and caterers and other dishes were developed and prepared by student teams from the Culinary Institute of America’s Culinary Program.
What made the event so terrific? First of all, the spectrum of wines. Napa Valley may be Cabernet Sauvignon country but the wineries at bASH were sharing many wines including Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé, Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel. Of course, there was plenty of Cabernet Sauvignon too. The Appellation St. Helena wineries collectively presented an impressive display of the variety and quality of wines grown in this part of Napa Valley.
The second key to success? Plenty of food, differently prepared, and well made. Walking in to the event we were prepared to find tri-tip, short ribs, meatballs, dolmas and duck confit somewhere among the dishes (as we’ve been to a lot of events with food and wine). However, the foods presented at bASH went beyond the expected and the spices, preparations, and accompaniments demonstrated a thoughtful analysis of each wine’s flavor components. Some of the delightful palate surprises around the room were blueberry cheesecake balls, cheese grits, lemongrass, pickled cucumbers and meyer lemon gastrique as preparation components (although thankfully not in the same dish). On a few occasions, we even felt that the quality of the food pairing outweighed the appeal of the actual wine we were tasting.
Keep reading, and we’ll tell you what our favorite food and wines were at the 2012 bASH.
Favorite Food and Wine Pairings at bASH
There were 28 wineries at the bASH event and we’ve listed our 8 favorite food and wine pairings below. In each case, we were impressed three ways: the wine itself, the food alone, and how well the elements of the food offering complimented the flavor nuances of the wine.
Benessere Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) 2008 Estate Sangiovese paired with Sangiovese Braised Lamb and Tuscan Bean Purée Crostini with a Trio of Sauces (Pesto, Tomato Concasse, and Roasted Red Pepper Purée) from CIA students Michel Elegbede (Nigeria, Africa) and Steven McDyer (Kodiak, AK)
Calafia Cellars (St. Helena, CA) 2007 La Reina (Meritage of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Petit Verdot, 15% Malbec) paired with Grilled Korean Short Rib Lettuce Wrap with Pickled Cucumbers and Scallions from CIA students Rebecca Grimes (Poughkeepsie, NY) and Hayden Knotts (Boise, ID)
Charnu Winery (St. Helena, CA) 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Roasted Mushroom, Caramelized Fennel and Pine Nut Dolmas Accented with a Red Currant from CIA students Jennifer Kerns (Palm Springs, CA) and Jane Joel (Santa Cruz, CA)
Flora Springs (St. Helena, CA) 2009 Rennie Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Beef Tenderloin, Meyer Lemon Gastrique, Macadamia Nut and Cocoa Nib Crumble adorned with a Rosemary Orchid from CIA students Amanda Warren (Salt Lake City, UT) and Matthew Rundgren (Chicago, IL)
S. E. Chase Family Cellars (St. Helena, CA) 2008 Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel paired with Stout Braised Wild Boar Sliders on a Buttermilk Biscuit with Celery Root and Parsley Slaw from Silverado Brewing Company (St. Helena, CA)
Favorite Wines at bASH
If you are looking for some excellent wines from the St. Helena Appellation, we found several at bASH and we highly recommend you look for these in stores, at a restaurant, or from the winery itself. Some have tasting rooms open to the public but several do not. You can follow the links in this article to the websites for the wineries to learn more about wine availability.
Our favorite wines at the bASH event are below, and the list includes the wines mentioned in the Favorite Pairings section above as well as 14 additional ones.
Anomaly Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
Ballentine Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2007 Petit Verdot
Benessere Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) 2008 Estate Sangiovese
Boeschen Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2011 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, 2008 Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Calafia Cellars (St. Helena, CA) 2007 La Reina (Meritage)
Charnu Winery (St. Helena, CA) – 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
Corison (St. Helena, CA) – 2006 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Crocker & Starr (St. Helena, CA) – 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 Estate Cabernet Franc
Flora Springs (St. Helena, CA) 2009 Rennie Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Revana Family Vineyard (St. Helena, CA) – 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
Robert Biale Vineyards (Napa, CA) – 2009 Thomann Station Vineyard Petite Sirah, 2009 Old Crane Vineyard Zinfandel
S. E. Chase Family Cellars (St. Helena, CA) 2008 Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel
Salvestrin Winery (St. Helena, CA) – 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Tudal Winery (St. Helena, CA) – 2009 Legacy Lot Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Varozza Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2008 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Estate Grown Petite Sirah
Vineyard 29 (St. Helena, CA) – 2008 Aida Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
All in all, we had a great time at Appellation St. Helena’s 1st Annual bASH. It was a pleasant way to try wines from the appellation and enjoy thoughtfully composed and prepared food items. If you are interested in attending next year’s food and wine competition, go here to get onto ASH’s mailing list.