The Napa Valley is the only region in the world where I can go to an event and feel right at home because I know so many people and instantly recognize so many faces – and that feels good. Flavor Napa valley is the latest in a number of world-class food and wine events to come to Napa. This is only its 2nd year; the event features five days of incredible food, wine, and education. Tonight was the “Appellation” tasting at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) highlighting 113 Napa Wineries – organized by appellation and sub appellation. November is becoming a fun month in the valley – last week we had the 2nd annual Napa Film Festival which drew amazing talent from all over the country and beyond.
The culinary institute is one of Napa’s most impressive buildings. It is built of stone quarried from the other side of the valley, used to be a working winery and now houses America’s top culinary school. There are not many events under one roof that combine the diversity and numbers of local wineries along with many of the the tops chefs in the valley. Names like Morimoto, Hurley, Reddington and many more were personally on site serving some of their finest small plates.
I’ve never owned a Television in my life but certainly know the name Morimoto – having eating at his restaurant in downtown Napa and hearing all the hype for a number of years (I don’t know anything about his personality, having never seen his show, but from a culinary perspective, well deserved). His table was by far the busiest – the line stretched all the way around the kitchen!
Of all the wineries represented, there were only five I had not yet met with and written reviews: Crosby Roamann, Fortunati, Jack Brooks, Melka and Patel. I focused my efforts on tasting their wines and introducing myself to the owner or winemaker and will connect with them later.
A couple of the wine highlights was trying the first ever commercially released red wine at Stony Hill, a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. Since the 1950′s Stony Hill has focused their production entirely on white wines. This is a classic example of a Napa pre “ripeness explosion” style of wine. In order words, it has some character, is lower in alcohol then typically found in Napa these days and certainly has some age-ability. A beautiful wine.
Also nice to revisit some wines from long time vintners I had not tasted in some time – Shafer and Staglin – and some I have, Jericho Canyon and Lamborn Family.
There are just a select handful of Napa wineries I would work at, if I worked at a local winery – Kongsgaard, Montagna and certainly a few others – and probably the only larger winery in Napa I would consider would be Charles Krug. It was great to finally meet Alycia Mondavi (granddaughter of Peter Mondavi Sr). Charles Krug has a number of labels – one of their newest, Aloft is a very limited production wine and was released for the first time this summer.
One of the nicest winemakers you will ever meet is Sandi Belcher of Arns Winery – she and her daughter Kathy were here pouring their current releases. In fact, I’ll be bumping into her again next week in Beijing on a hosted trip focusing on wines from the Napa Valley.
A few photos: