Bacon, Bao and Brisket: Best of bASH 2017

Nana's Brisket Sandwich from Del Dotto Vineyards

Nana’s Brisket Sandwich

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.

Deconstructed Wellington

Deconstructed Wellington

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.

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Indulge in Stags Leap District: 2017 Vineyard to Vintner

Stags Leap District, as seen from Taylor Family VineyardsCabernet Sauvignon fans take heed because the Stags Leap District’s annual celebration, the 2017 Vineyard to Vintner (V2V), is all set for April 28-30.  It’s not too late to buy a passport to Winery Open Houses on Saturday or a Buffet Lunch on Sunday which includes a comprehensive peek at upcoming 2014 releases.  There are also a few tickets left to an exclusive Library Wine Dinner on Friday night to help start your weekend right.

From 10 am to 4 pm on April 29 you can enjoy Open Houses at fifteen wineries including historic properties such as Chimney Rock Winery, Clos Du Val, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Shafer Vineyards, Silverado Vineyards and Stags’ Leap Winery.  This is also a rare chance to visit wineries only open to the public once a year (during V2V) such as Ilsley Vineyards, Lindstrom Wines and Malk Family Vineyards.

Pine Ridge Vineyards Le Petit Clos Chardonnay at Vineyard to Vintner

Pine Ridge Vineyards Le Petit Clos Chardonnay

The internationally famous Stags Leap District produces Cabernet Sauvignon wines critically acclaimed for their lush fruit and soft tannins with complex layers of flavor. However, there are also plenty of stellar non-Cabernet-Sauvignon wines in the area.  Some of our favorites at last year’s Vineyard to Vintner were the Malk Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Taylor Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Pine Ridge Vineyards Le Petit Clos Chardonnay, Chimney Rock Winery Cabernet Franc, Clos Du Val Cabernet Franc and Steltzner Vineyards Malbec.

This District-wide event offers everyone a chance to explore winery caves, savor special barrel tastings, and enjoy food and wine pairings not available to the general public.  Keep reading and we’ll give you some more details about this fun and enjoyable weekend.
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Easter in Napa Valley: Hop This Way…

Easter basket and bunnyAre you trying to find a special activity for Easter in Napa Valley this year?   Say, maybe a photo with the Easter Bunny? Or an Easter Egg Hunt that works well for your children’s age groups or your child’s special needs?  Are you interested in dying some eggs but don’t want the mess in your own kitchen?  Or, are you just trying to find a uniquely “Easter in Napa Valley” event for your friends and family?  Keep reading and we’ll tell you about all sorts of things going on this year, including several Brunches.

Easter Sunday is on April 16 this year and there are plenty of places to go for Easter Egg Hunts, Easter Bunny sightings, and Easter Brunch.  But, we’ve also found several Easter activities happening before then. So, you may be able to find something for your schedule no matter how hectic it is.

Before Easter in Napa Valley

Easter Egg Hunt and More, April 9 – CIA at Copia, 500 First Street, Napa  (707) 967-2500

CIA at Copia

CIA at Copia

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia is having their first-ever Easter Egg Hunt at 10 am on April 9, one week before Easter.  You should bring your own basket to put the eggs in but the Hunt itself is free to participate in.  But, you will need to register online in advance (go here) and then check in that morning in front of the restaurant starting at 9:30 am.  If you’re hungry, they’ll be selling coffee and pastries from a food truck both before and during the hunt.

After the Easter Egg Hunt, adults can enjoy a Sparkling Wine Tasting in the CIA at Copia Atrium ($4 per tasting, or $15 for 4 tastes), or take advantage of The Restaurant at CIA Copia which will have a Mimosa Bar.  Or, if you feel like shopping the Store at CIA Copia will be open as well.
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New Discoveries in Santa Barbara


Bree’osh Cinnamon Raisin Roll

We made some new discoveries in Santa Barbara on a recent trip and felt compelled to share. They may not be new to you, but they were to us and we enjoyed them so much we can’t wait to return to the area and indulge again. If you haven’t experienced them yourself we highly suggest you do and hopefully soon (and often). No matter what time of the day it is, at least one of them would probably be a perfect place to visit.

Bree’osh (1150 Coast Villlage Road, Montecito, 805-570-9151)

First of all, let’s discuss the awesome visual and flavor delights to be found at Bree’Osh.  This French artisan bakery and café in Montecito specializes in both sweet and savory brioche bread.  And, it’s genuinely French; husband and wife owners Pierre and Nelly Henry are actually from France.  They’re closed on Mondays and Tuesdays but you can come here for breakfast, brunch and/or lunch the other days of the week.

Bree'osh Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur

The menu here is focused on pastries, eggs, and sandwiches, and you’re bound to find something appealing to you.  Brioches, Croissants, Breakfast Sandwiches, Quiches, Omelets and Croque Monsieur (and Madame) are all on the menu (some of which also come with a side salad).  Bree’osh even has high quality beverages: coffee from Handlebar Coffee Roasters and tea from Smith Teamaker.
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Blaze a Trail: Signature Sonoma Valley

Signature Sonoma ValleyIf you’re looking to attend one of the newest premium wine events, the inaugural Signature Sonoma Valley takes place in two weeks and there are still tickets available.  This is your invitation to explore the vineyards and cellars of some of California’s most iconic winemakers and multi-generational winegrowers. There are three events to select from on April 7 and 8, or you can mix and match to create the experience you want.

This exclusive, two-day immersion into the lovely wines and welcoming community of Sonoma Valley features wineries such as Buena Vista Winery, Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards, Kistler Vineyards, Pangloss Cellars, Ram’s Gate Winery, Ravenswood Winery, Schug Carneros Estate Winery, Sojourn Cellars, The Donum Estate and Three Sticks Wines.

Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Valley

In southeastern Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley is the home of five different American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): Bennett Valley, Los Carneros, Moon Mountain District, Sonoma Mountain and Sonoma Valley. Vintners here craft premium wines ranging from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel thanks to the geographical diversity of steep mountains, rolling benchlands and fertile plains combined with local variations in climate.  Grapes were first planted in Sonoma Valley back in 1824 and there are now approximately 13,000 vineyard acres in the Valley.

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Pinot Noir Recommendations: Favorites from the 2017 World of Pinot Noir

World of Pinot Noir Glass If you’re looking for Pinot Noir recommendations, or winery suggestions for your next wine tasting trip, we spent a few days tasting wines from over 200 wineries earlier this month at the World of Pinot Noir and we’re eager to share our favorites. So, whether you’re looking to buy some wine to go with your next meal or for your wine cellar at home, please see below.  We’ve sorted our preferences geographically in case that helps as well.

Are you familiar with World of Pinot Noir?  It’s a spectacular celebration of this varietal and the 2017 event on March 3rd and 4th saw the largest turnout of attendees (almost 3000) and winery participants (over 200) since its inception in 2001.  In addition to two separate Grand Tastings, the marquee events at this year’s celebration included Kosta Browne’s 20th Anniversary Dinner, a Maison Louis Latour Dinner and Seminar, and a “Rock Star” Dinner honoring Merry Edwards.

Stephen Ross Wine Cellars Pinot Noir

Stephen Ross Wine Cellars

We found plenty of excellent wines to recommend at the event, which isn’t surprising considering participating wineries included Alma Rosa, Au Bon Climat, Deovlet WinesFiddlehead Cellars, Freeman WineryGoldeneye, Hirsch Vineyards, Merry Edwards WineryPenner-Ash, Stephen Ross Wine CellarsSanford Winery, Talley Vineyards and Wayfarer.  In addition to delightful still wines, we also found two excellent sparkling wines: a Blanc de Noir from Domaine Carneros and the 2012 Sea Spray from Sea Smoke Estate Vineyards.

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Awesome Combinations Ahead: bASH 2017

Short Ribs on Polenta Cakes

Short Ribs on Polenta Cakes at bASH 2016

If you’re a fan of awesome wine and food pairings then you should clear your calendar for bASH 2017, coming to St. Helena on April 1 between 6 pm and 8:30 pmWhat is bASH? More than just a wine tasting event, it’s a showcase for this northern Napa Valley community when 25 premium wineries that are part of the Appellation St. Helena organization join forces with local culinary talent to compete for your favor. That’s right: if you attend the event, you get to eat, drink AND judge.

Taplin Cellars

Taplin Cellars

bASH 2017 will feature tastes of wines from wineries such as Anomaly Vineyards, Benessere Vineyards, Del Dotto Vineyards, Flora Springs Winery, Melka Wines, Parry Cellars, Pellet Estate, Robert Biale Vineyards, St. Helena Winery and Taplin Cellars served alongside delicious food offerings from participants such as Acacia House, Goose & Gander, PRESS and Woodhouse BBQ.

However, most of the food pairings at bASH will actually come from “Rising Star” students at the Culinary Institute of America who 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.

Pellet EstateIn fact, our favorite combination at last year’s bASH started with a dish prepared by CIA Student Chefs Taylor Guglielmino and Samuel Hamlin: a serving of Short Ribs on Polenta Cakes with a Mushroom Reduction and Citrus Lime Sauce which was paired with a delightful 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Pellet Estate.  Three other excellent dishes from CIA Student Chefs last year were Oxtail Agnolotti, a Lamb Tartine with Smokey Goat Cheese Spread and Pistachio Picata and a Triple Berry Vol au Vent with Fig Balsamic Glaze.

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