Another bASH, another delightful evening of outstanding wines and delicious eating (and possibly a little overeating). Last Saturday night, Appellation St. Helena presented bASH 2014, a competition for pairing food and wine held at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone showcasing wines from this Napa Valley appellation. The winners were determined by the attendees and the event flowed more smoothly than ever at this 3rd annual event. Two new developments this year which we heartily endorse were the inclusion of food descriptions in the program and many “demonstration” platings out for bASH guests to see.
What made the evening so delightful? First of all, the spectrum of wines. Napa Valley may be Cabernet Sauvignon country but the Appellation St. Helena wineries were also pouring Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel. In fact, there was even a Rosé (made from Malbec and Merlot grapes) and a Moscato that evening to try.
The second major attraction at bASH is the variety of delicious and well-executed food offered alongside the wines. At bASH 2014, it was clear once again that a lot of thought (and effort) had gone into the chefs’ creations. Some of the food offerings came from local restaurants and caterers, but most of the food selections in the competition were developed and prepared by student teams from the CIA’s Culinary Program. The small plates included everything from Salads to Sliders and Pupusas to a Panna Cotta served with Spiced Pears (cinnamon, allspice, clove, bay leaf, thyme, and star anise) whose flavors brought back nostalgic memories of Mincemeat Pie.
So what did we like? A lot. The wines were outstanding, many of the dishes made us want seconds, and multiple times we were excited to find highly effective and interesting pairings of food ingredients and spices with the flavor components of the wines they were partnered with. Which was, after all, the whole point of the evening.
And you know what? We won! Well, not us personally, but this was the first time at bASH that our favorite pairing of the evening won 1st place in the judging that night. Corley Family Napa Valley was pouring their 2010 Yewell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon alongside a Monticello Braised Shortrib Tortellini with Black Pepper Cream Sauce and Pumpkin Seed Pesto from Sweetpea Catering, and that pairing won in the “Winery & Restaurant/Caterer Partners” competition this year. This was our favorite combination of the evening, and we may have liked Ms. Jeanna DeMarco’s Shortrib Tortellini even more than her awesome Wild Boar Tortellini at the PS I Love You’s Dark and Delicious event earlier this year.
The winner of the “Winery & CIA Team Partner” competition (which was another one of our favorites of the evening) was Calafia Cellars’ 2010 “La Reina” Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, paired with a Blue Cheese (with Granny Smith Apples and Bacon) Mousse Cone accented with Fig Jam, Candied Walnut, and Marinated Tomato from CIA students Shenelle Perez (San Francisco, CA) and Byonghan Koh (Korea).
It was a close race that evening, and the number of votes received by each of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners in the “Winery & CIA Team Partner” competition were within 4 votes! Keep reading, and we’ll tell you what our favorite foods and St. Helena appellation wines were at this year’s bASH.
Favorite Food and Wine Pairings at bASH 2014
There were 34 (!) Food and Wine Pairings offered at bASH 2014 and we’ve listed below our personal favorites (in addition to the two winners described above). Each time, 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.
Clif Family Winery 2013 “Rte Blanc” Sauvignon Blanc paired with a Crostini of Burrata Cheese with Roasted Cauliflower & Garum from Clif Family Winery & Velo Vino’s Chef John McConnell
Crocker & Starr 2011 “Stone Place” Estate Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Spiced Pears, Almond Milk Panna Cotta, and a Brown Butter Shortbread Crumble from CIA students Shae Heyman (Missoula, MT) and Madeleine Brandstetter (Chicago, IL)
J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines 2012 Carol’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc paired with Cured Snapper with Green Bell Pepper Gelée, Goat’s Milk Yogurt and Fennel from CIA students Barbara M. Garcia (Aquas Calientes, Mexico) and Carlos Arciniega (Juarez, Mexico)
Pellet Estate 2011 Pellet Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Wine Braised Oxtail with Cauliflower/Parsnip Purée and Herbed Brioche Cauliflower Crumb from CIA students Addison Girdner (Boise, ID) and Michael Pazan (Ventura, CA)
Stanton Vineyards 2011 JB Vineyard Petite Sirah paired with Duck Molé Nachos served with Avacado, Cilantro, Queso Fresco and Nasturtium from CIA students Steven McDyer (Santa Rosa, CA) and Stephanie Torgerson (Fairfield, CA)
Taplin Cellars 2009 Taplin Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a Lamb Slider Topped with Gorgonzola Dolce and Terra 9 Cabernet Caramelized Onion Jam on a Rosemary and Thyme Herbed Gougère from CIA students Kathryn Schmitz (Richmond, VA) and Bryan Owens (Hollywood, MD)
In addition to the dishes included in the pairings above, we especially enjoyed these other small plates during the bASH event as well:
- Huntsman Ragout (Venison, Elk, Duck) with Ricotta Tortellini from CIA students Josh Hurst (White Plains, NY) and Ryan Hatton (Maryville, TN)
- Juniper Braised Lamb Shoulder with Cauliflower Cream, Shitake Mushrooms, and a Nasturium Leaf from CIA students Nicholas Sobick (Reno, NV) and Ryan Paternostro (New Orleans, LA)
- Lamb (Two Ways) Taco with Fig Crema from CIA students Alyssa Lark (Anaheim, CA) and Kattie Dezee (Sioux Falls, SD)
- Pulled Pork and Pimento Cheese Pupusas with Red Chili Sauce, Pickled Onions, and Shaved Radish from CIA students Sarah Alcone (Laguna Beach, CA) and Kaitlin Steets (Houston, TX)
- Slow Roasted Carnitas Sliders with Mezcal-Honey Barbecue Sauce and Carrot-Daikon Slaw from La Condesa
The other food joy of the evening was nibbling on chocolate pieces from Brix Chocolate For Wine, a line of chocolate specifically blended to complement wine. Their chocolates are available for sale online or in some wineries’ tasting rooms and we recommend you seek out their Milk Chocolate and Medium Dark Chocolate in particular.
Favorite Wines at bASH 2014
If you are looking for excellent current wines from the St. Helena Appellation, we found many at bASH 2014 and highly recommend you seek these out in stores, at a restaurant, or from the winery itself. 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. We are listing the wines already mentioned above as well as 2 additional favorites:
- Anomaly Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2011 Anomaly Cabernet Sauvignon
- Calafia Cellars (St. Helena, CA) – 2010 “La Reina” Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
- Clif Family Winery (St. Helena, CA) – 2013 “Rte Blanc” Sauvignon Blanc
- Corley Family Napa Valley (Napa, CA) – 2010 Yewell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
- Crocker & Starr (St. Helena, CA) – 2011 “Stone Place” Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
- J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines (San Jose, CA) – 2012 Carol’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
- Pellet Estate (St. Helena, CA) – 2011 Pellet Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
- Sequum (St. Helena, CA) – 2009 Kidd Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon
- Stanton Vineyards (St. Helena, CA) – 2011 JB Vineyard Petite Sirah
- Taplin Cellars (St. Helena, CA) – 2009 Taplin Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
For the third year in a row, we had a terrific time at Appellation St. Helena’s bASH. It was a wonderful way to try wines from the appellation all conveniently gathered into one location and savor thoughtfully composed and prepared food items.
Appellation St. Helena is a non-profit organization of over 50 winery and grape grower members who actively promote their wines and the local community through charity events, wine tastings, and community involvement. If you are interested in learning more about the organization and its activities, or to be one of the first to hear about bASH 2015, we encourage you to go here to get onto ASH’s mailing list.