The premium wines of Appellation St. Helena (ASH) shone brightly once again at bASH 2017, the local wine and food pairing competition where attendees’ votes determined the ultimate winners. During the event, over thirty premium wineries joined forces with local professional culinary talent as well as 31 teams of “Rising Star” students from the Culinary Institute of America.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Zinfandel wines made from grapes grown in the St. Helena appellation were paired up with dishes created using Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Celery Root, Eggplant, Escarole, Chicharrones, Duck Breast, Chicken Liver, Beef Brisket, Pork Belly and Roasted Lamb (and more) for an evening of savory delights.
At the end of the night, the final winners were couplings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Beef. The audience favorite for the wine and food combination was the Pellet Estate 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a Deconstructed Wellington (Beef Tenderloin, Foie Gras Mousse, Prosciutto di Parma, Duxelles, Crispy Leeks, Perigord Black Truffle on Puff Pastry with a Cabernet Reduction) from Jessica Haryanto (Indonesia) and Chase Evans (Lake Sherwood, CA).
On the professional Chef competition side, the winner was Executive Chef Joshua Schwartz from Del Dotto Vineyards with his Nana’s Brisket Sandwich (served with Crispy Shallots and Thyme Aioli). The winery actually offered two different wines to enjoy this with: their 2014 Vineyard 887 Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 2014 St. Helena Mountain American Oak Carved & Grooved Cabernet Sauvignon.
Our favorite part of the night? The increased presence, and wonderful pairings with, white wines. The 2017 bASH had, for us, the highest number of white wines we really enjoyed and outstanding dishes paired with them compared to all prior bASH events. In fact, one of our personal top three pairings of the night was with a white wine and it came in 3rd place. That was the Salvestrin Winery 2016 Sauvignon Blanc and Crab Tater Tot with Lemon Thyme Beurre Blanc from Sienna Best (Palmer, AK) and Leila Welch (Elko, NV).
Keep reading and we’ll tell you more about our favorite wines and dishes that evening. To deepen your own understanding of the St. Helena Appellation’s offerings, please check out the wineries and wines below. We’ve also got the names of some CIA Student Chefs whose careers you may want to start following.
Favorite Food and Wine Pairings at bASH 2017
At bASH 2017, it was clear once again that a lot of thought and effort had gone into the chefs’ creations (because really, who was expecting Eggplant Mousse in a pairing?). There were 39 wine and food pairings that night and we’ve listed below our most favorite small plate combinations prepared by other CIA Student Chefs (in addition to the two combinations already described above). Each time, we were impressed three ways: the wine itself, the food alone, and how well the elements of the dish complimented the flavor nuances of the wine.
Ballentine Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2015 Maple Station White Blend paired with a “Garden Rangoon” of a Dumpling Duo: one made with Mushrooms, Shallots and a Lemon Soy Sauce, and the second with Vegetables, Pineapple, Lemongrass and Ginger from CIA Student Chefs Ara Jo (South Korea) and Serena Nguyen (Anchorage, AK)
Corison Winery (St. Helena, CA) – 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Braised Belly Bao, a Freshly Steamed Bao Bun filled with Cabernet-Brined Pork Belly garnished with Kumquats, Charred Spring Onion, Cilantro and Cajun Chicharonnes from CIA Student Chefs Lawrence Gautier (Ocean Springs, MS) and Morgan Lewis (Tucson, AZ)
Ehlers Estate (St. Helena, CA) – 2014 Merlot paired with Brasato di Guanciale di Manzo con Fagiolo Blanco alla Toscano (Braised Beef Cheeks with Tuscan White Beans, Horseradish, Red Beet Purée, Micro Kale, Orange Zest and Thyme) from CIA Student Chefs Janelle Otting (Newport Beach, CA) and Meagan Mesner (Boca Raton, FL)
Monticello Vineyards (Napa, CA) – 2013 Corley Family Yewell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Smoked Hanger Steak, Horseradish-Chive Mousse, Garlic Oil Crouton and Cabernet Sauvignon Gastrique from CIA Student Chefs Jesus Manrique (El Paso, TX) and Matthew Painter (Woodstown, NJ)
Parry Cellars (St. Helena, CA) – 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon paired with “Appellation Mousse,” Eggplant Mousse in a Crispy Chicken-Skin Cup with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Apricot and Ginger Glaze from CIA Student Chefs Charles Fulbright (San Francisco, CA) and Brian Oberman (Napa, CA)
Taplin Cellars (St. Helena, CA) – 2013 Terra 9 Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Lemongrass Lamb Kofta, a Meatball made with Cabernet-Marinated Leg of Lamb, Lemongrass, Mushroom, Garlic, Parsley, Tamarind and Palm Sugar, topped with Crispy Shallots, Coconut Milk and Red Pepper from CIA Student Chefs Panita Pearson (Park City, UT) and Nina Widjaja (Indonesia)
Titus Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2013 Malbec paired with Lamb Tortellini with Manchego Foam and Red Beet Purée from CIA Student Chefs Calvin Garcia (Santa Clarita, CA) and Cameron Wood (Solana Beach, CA)
Varozza Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2015 Sauvignon Blanc paired with Coconut Milk Red Snapper Ceviche made with Habanero Peppers, Cucumbers and Shallots, topped with Toasted Coconut and Cilantro from CIA Student Chefs Kyle Nguyen (Irvine, CA) and Frederick Pizzuto (Poughkeepsie, NY)
Other Favorites at bASH 2017
We especially enjoyed two additional pairings during bASH 2017 and they both happened to come in 2nd place! First, there was only one sweet dish prepared that night and CIA Student Chefs Alexis Strasser (Williamsburg, VA) and Kaeli Johnson (Misawa, Japan) did an awesome job crafting a Chocolate Bacon Drumstick served in an Almond Lace Cookie Cone. Their pairing of this treat with the Revana Family Vineyard 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon earned them 2nd place in the Student Chef competition.
Then, our personal favorite for food and wine pairing involving a professional Chef this year was the Saint Helena Winery 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon alongside Acacia House Dolmas. The Dolmas were made by Executive Chef Thanawat Bates with Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Sweet Peas, Garlic and Mint, and then topped with Orange Labnah and Caviar. This combination actually came in 2nd place for the professional Chef competition that night.
FYI, Las Alcobas became Napa Valley’s first luxury boutique hotel, restaurant & spa to open in seven years earlier this month. The onsite restaurant Acacia House is headed up by Chef Chris Cosentino and is scheduled to open next month on May 8.
Favorite Wines at bASH 2017
If you are looking for excellent current wines from the St. Helena Appellation, we found many at bASH 2017 and highly recommend you seek these out in stores, at a restaurant, or from the wineries themselves. Please follow the links below to the wineries’ websites to learn more about wine availability and whether or not the winery has a tasting room open to the public.
- Anomaly Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Ballentine Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2015 Maple Station White Blend (Sauvignon Blanc, Malvasia Bianca, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc)
- Benessere Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2013 Phenomenon Cabernet Sauvignon
- Calafia Cellars (St. Helena, CA) – 2013 La Reina Estate (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot)
- Corison Winery (St. Helena, CA) – 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
- Ehlers Estate (St. Helena, CA) – 2014 Merlot
- Monticello Vineyards (Napa, CA) – 2009 and 2013 Corley Family Yewell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons
- Parry Cellars (St. Helena, CA) – 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pellet Estate (St. Helena, CA) – 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
- St. Helena Winery (St. Helena, CA) – 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
- Salvestrin Winery (St. Helena, CA) – 2016 Sauvignon Blanc
- Taplin Cellars (St. Helena, CA) – 2013 Terra 9 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Titus Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2013 Malbec
- Varozza Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 Bloodline (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah)
For the sixth year in a row, Appellation St. Helena’s bASH was a lot of fun for us as well as the happy crowd (which had the largest number of public attendees so far at a bASH). Next year’s event will be on April 14, 2018 so you may want to mark your smartphone calendars now. We strongly agree with Lesley Keffer Russell, St. Helena Winery General Manager and Appellation St. Helena President, when she said “The food and wine pairings here make bASH one of the most delicious experiences in Napa Valley.”
Appellation St. Helena is a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging and promoting the highest quality standards in grape growing and wine making in the St. Helena American Viticultural Area (AVA), and to gain recognition for this quality through education of the membership and the public. If you are interested in learning more about the organization and its activities, or to be one of the first to hear details about bASH 2018, we encourage you to go here to get onto ASH’s mailing list.