If you enjoy awesome wine, food, and wine-and-food pairings then you should clear your calendar now for bASH 2019 on Saturday, March 30. More than just a wine tasting event, this annual showcase for Napa Valley’s Appellation St. Helena has over 30 premium wineries joining forces with local culinary talent to compete for your vote for best wine and food pairing of the evening. This is the 10th time this delightful event has happened, giving attendees the power to select the winners. That’s right: if you attend bASH 2019, you get to eat, drink AND judge.
We are huge fans of wines crafted from varietals grown in the St Helena appellation. Last year’s bASH allowed us to savor outstanding Cabernet Sauvignons from Anomaly Vineyards, Calafia Cellars, Ehlers Estate, MC4, Mending Wall, Pellet Estate, Raymond Vineyards, St. Helena Winery, Taplin Cellars and Trinchero Napa Valley. However, we also had the pleasure of enjoying other wines such as the Ballentine Vineyards Maple Station White Blend, Charles Krug Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Benessere Vineyards Aglianico and Prager Winery & Port Works Royal Escort Port.
We’re not sure which wines those folks will be pouring this year, but we’re glad all of those wineries will be returning for the 2019 bASH. Other participants so far include Chase Cellars, Crocker & Starr, HALL Wines, Revana Family Vineyard, Robert Biale Vineyards, Rombauer Vineyards, Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery, Stanton Vineyards, Titus Vineyards, Tuck Beckstoffer Estate and Varozza Vineyards. Their wines will be served alongside delicious food offerings from participants such as Chef Jonathan Bodnar (Smoakville), Market Restaurant and Sunshine Foods.
However, most of the food pairings at bASH 2019 will actually come from “Rising Star” students at the Culinary Institute of America. These current and/or recent students will be creating dishes from scratch, specifically designed to complement the wine that they have been matched with. This makes your evening of wine sipping and food tasting a challenge as you keep trying to figure out which combination (and team) deserves your vote(s) the most.
If you come, you will enjoy this lovely extravaganza in the historic Barrel Room of The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (2555 Main Street, St. Helena) between 6:00 and 8:30 pm. Tickets for bASH 2019 are $175 each and that’s a pretty good price for what is practically a 30-course Chef’s Tasting Menu with wine pairings for each course. You can purchase tickets here but you should move quickly because tickets are limited to only 300 attendees.
When you purchase a ticket, you will be automatically entered to win a six-pack case of wine from participating ASH wineries. Three raffle winners will be selected at the end of the evening. Also, proceeds from the evening go towards Appellation St. Helena and the scholarship fund of the Culinary Institute of America.
If you’re wondering what kind of dishes to expect, the #1 pairing from CIA Student Chefs at the 2018 bASH featured Steamed Bao Buns with Braised Beef Cheeks, Shallot Aioli and Spring Vegetables from David Ju and Chase Evans. This was deliciously paired with the St. Helena Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from Del Dotto Vineyards. Also that night, the CIA Director’s Award for Excellence in Creativity and Innovation went to Student Chefs Charles Fulbright and Conner Black for their “Saturday Special.” Paired with a Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel Rosé from Chase Cellars, this tasty treat consisted of Beet-Cured Salmon on Potato Waffles accented with Crème Fraiche.
Another combination we personally loved last year was a Polenta dish paired with Varozza Vineyard’s Bloodline, a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. From CIA Student Chefs Justin Young and Jeremiah HD Kammes, the small plate was composed of Creamy Gruyere Polenta, Roasted Portabello Mushrooms and Bloodline-Braised Oxtails garnished with Chives and a Black Truffle Salted Potato Chip.
Some of our other favorite dishes that evening from CIA Student Chefs were a Black Truffle Thai Curry Wonton with Lemongrass Thai Basil Oil, Baby Octopus Confit with Calabrian Chiles and Chorizo Bravas Sauce and Braised Beef Cheek Agnolotti made with Pea Shoot Pasta in a Mushroom Broth. We were also quite impressed by a dual preparation of lamb: Coffee-Rubbed Boneless Leg of Lamb with a Coffee/Red Wine Demi-Glace, and Puff Pastry adorned with Blueberry Goat Cheese Whip and Lamb-Fat Caramelized Onions. So, that should give you some idea of how much effort the chefs cooking at the 2019 bASH will be demonstrating.
Amongst the professional cooking teams at the 2018 bASH, the winner was a group from Acacia House offering Oxtail Toast with Pickled Mustard Seeds and Wild Fennel. This was paired with the St. Helena Home Cabernet Sauvignon from Beringer Vineyards. Personally, our favorite white wine pairing last year came from Charles Krug Winery when their Estate Chef Daryl Muromoto served Braised Pork Ciccioli Crostini with Estate Citrus Marmellata along with the winery’s Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc.
FYI, after you select your own favorites at 2019 bASH, you can then compare your answers to those from a team of industry judges who are selecting winners for their own awards. This year’s professional panel is composed of Wine Enthusiast contributing editor Virginie Boone, James Beard Award recipient and cookbook author Susie Heller, San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Soleil Ho, James Beard Award recipient and wine expert Leslie Sbrocco and Master Sommelier Christopher Sawyer.
Napa Valley’s St. Helena appellation lies about 20 miles north of the San Pablo Bay, nestled between the Mayacamas and Vaca Mountain ranges. More than 400 different vineyards are located within the appellation, planted in 21 different soil types. The region’s hourglass shape locks in heat during the day, amplified by the nearby hillsides. At night, cooling breezes are funneled through the region, dramatically reducing the temperatures to help the fruit grown here develop ideal balance and acidity.
Appellation St. Helena is a non-profit organization of over 70 wineries and grape growers dedicated to promoting the quality of the grapes grown in, and the wines produced from, the St. Helena American Viticultural Area (AVA). The official AVA was approved in 1995, with its boundaries in Napa Valley defined by Bale Lane to the north, Zinfandel Lane to the South, the intersection of Howell Mountain and Conn Valley Road to the east, and the 400 ft. elevation line establishing the west border.
If you are looking for more information about the appellation, and our personal recommendations for nearby restaurants, please go here. Depending on your interest, you can also follow the drop-down menus on the navigation bar above to see our Favorites By Wine Region for other areas in the Napa Valley (or Sonoma, Mendocino, Santa Barbara, etc.).