Appellation St. Helena recently held their bASH Food and Wine Competition. This annual extravaganza is one that wine and food lovers should not miss. Fine wines crafted from vineyards in the St. Helena Appellation are paired with incredible gastronomic treats created by chef teams from the California Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and professional chefs representing local caterers and restaurants. Attendees enjoy a lively, fun filled evening of sipping, tasting and voting for their favorite wine and food pairings. Results are tallied and winners are announced at the conclusion of the well-orchestrated event. My favorites among the many delicious pairings this year included the following:
Charles Krug Winery 2013 Sauvignon Blanc
Food pairing: Lobster Bisque with Pickled Asian Pear and Crab Meat created by CIA Team 24; Jason Raffin (Los Angeles, CA) and Alexa Mejia (Los Angeles, CA)
This crisp, lively Sauvignon Blanc is a lovely quaff heralding racy acidity. Aromas and flavors of citrus flecked pineapple, tropical fruit, tangy lime and mineral notes capture the senses. This food and wine pairing was striking in its contrast. The brightness and acidity of the wine cut right through the heavenly rich and creamy bisque leaving you with a keen desire for more of each.
Corley Family Napa Valley 2010 Yewell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Food pairing: Monticello Braised Short Rib Tortellini with Black Pepper Cream Sauce & Pumpkin Seed Pesto created by Sweatpea Catering & Private Chef Services Chef Jeanna DeMarco
This Cabernet Sauvignon is powerfully built yet approachable now with generous cassis, cherry and black plum fruit flavors, savory spice, well integrated tannins and a nice shade of oak from its 28 months aging in new French oak. The firmly structured wine displays precise balance of fruit, tannins and acids, which suggests good cellaring potential too. This tender meaty tortellini with a savory sauce was a perfect match to the spicy, dark fruit components and refined tannins in the wine.
Louer Family Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Food pairing: Venison Ragout with Ricotta Tortellini created by CIA Team 8; Josh Hurst (White Plains, NY) and Ryan Hatton (Maryville, TN)
This Cabernet Sauvignon is fruit forward, balanced and velvety smooth. Chock full of blackberries and currant with accents of spice and woodsy nuances, it is bright and plush throughout. The rich and tasty dish brought out the savory, earthy notes in the wine. This pairing showcased complementary flavors and textures with the earthy tones in the wine matching up with the subtle gamey quality of the venison ragout and the wine’s velvety texture harmonizing with the smoothly textured tortellini.
Taplin Cellars 2009 Taplin Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Food pairing: Slider topped with Gorgonzola Dolce and Terra 9 Cabernet Caramelized Onion Jam on an Herbed Gougère created by CIA Team 13; Kathryn Schmitz (Richmond, VA) and Bryan Owens (Hollywood, MD)
This deep, terroir driven Cab Sauv boasts aromas of eucalyptus and cassis. It fills the mouth with black plum, cassis and savory notes interlacing with a stream of minerality that makes its way from start to elevated finish. The wine paired deliciously with this meaty, Gorgonzola heightened slider with caramelized onion accents. The fat content in both the meat and cheese tamed the firm tannins exquisitely.
Parry Cellars 2010 Parry Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Food Pairing: Fennel Risotto with Braised Lamb created by CIA Team 3; Trisha Holguin (Los Angeles, CA) and John Pelham (Maplecrest, NY)
This Cab from Parry Cellars’ half acre Parry Vineyard is fresh and full flavored with impressive precision. On the palate cassis and dark berry entwine with herbs and finely integrated oak nuances. The impressively balanced wine was a perfect coupling with the tender meaty lamb and creamy herbed risotto. The simpatico flavors flowed together in unison, lusciously satisfying the taste buds.
Pellet Estate 2011 Pellet Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Food pairing: Braised Oxtail with Brioche Cauliflower Crumbs created by CIA Team 12; Addison Girdner (Boise, ID) and Michael Pazan (Ventura, CA)
Here is an earthy Cabernet Sauvignon that shouts out dark fruit and heady spices on the nose. The spicy, fruity qualities remain consistent upon entry, expanding further in the mouth with good depth, purity and complexity. This Cab was adroitly paired with the earthy wine-braised oxtail. The dish complemented the savory qualities in the wine while softening the firm backbone of tannins; wow, a pairing made in heaven.
Ehlers Estate 2013 Sauvignon Blanc
Food pairing: Beurre Blanc Shrimp Salad on Toast created by CIA Team 18; Daniel de la Rosa (Los Angeles, CA) and Steven Fedalen (Los Angeles, CA)
This perky and crisp unoaked Sauvignon Blanc showcases purity of fruit from the first whiff to the refreshing palate through the elevated finish. Grapefruit, lemon drops and fresh chopped herbs are wrapped around a lively spine of acidity. It was a delightful match with the expressive and flavorful herb scented shrimp salad which brought out a nice creaminess in the energetic wine.
Raymond Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
Food pairing: Cracked Pepper Beef Carpaccio on a Vegetable Terrine prepared by CIA Team 19; Ben Newlin (Thousand Oaks, CA) and Tom Stribling (Santa Rosa, CA)
This Cab’s alluring aroma of dark berry, plum, tobacco and spice merges impeccably with black currant, licorice, hints of lead pencil shavings and well integrated oak, richly filling the mouth. Refined tannins frame the attractive layers of fruit, tobacco and savory spice on the palate. I thoroughly enjoyed how the spicy flavors of this delectable cracked pepper adorned beef carpaccio bonded with this beautifully expressive, well balanced Cabernet Sauvignon.
Titus Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel
Food pairing: Warm Smoked Duck with Radicchio Salad created by CIA Team 20; Kelly Gladstone (San Diego, CA) and Ying Chen (Taiwan)
This Zinfandel is abundantly fruit forward and lip-smackingly juicy. The senses are filled with briary blackberry, olallieberry and chocolate-dipped strawberry goodness meshing with hints of toast, spice and vanilla bean. Salad is often a challenging pairing and this one worked extremely well. The savory, smoked duck melded with the wine’s lush fruit sumptuously. The fat and richness of the duck in this dish subdued the slightly bitter note of the radicchio too, a creative and tasty pairing.
Robert Biale Vineyards 2010 Thomann Station Petite Sirah
Food pairing: Spring Lamb Belly with Pea Puree, Black Pepper and Licorice prepared by CIA team 14; John Miller (Sioux Falls, ID) and Alex Tubero (St. Helena, CA)
This complex, deep, darkly hued Petite Sirah offers up aromatic pepper spice and black fruits on the nose, followed by intense flavors of blackberries and blueberries with hints of savory herbs and fresh cracked pepper coating the palate. It is a richly textured, full bodied wine with firmly structured tannins. The black pepper spiked meaty lamb belly with its layers of fat softened Petite Sirah’s power and concentration of tannins, and the consistency of black pepper spice in the wine and the dish pulled the combo together seamlessly; an irresistible pairing.
St. Helena Winery 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Food pairing: Cream of Mushroom Soup with Madeira Brandy created by Goose and Gander Chef Kelly McCowan
This captivating Cabernet (blended with 2% Petit Verdot) draws you into the glass with its dark fruit and heady spiced tea aromatics. Flavors of cassis, blackberry, plum and hints of earthiness weave harmoniously on the palate around a firm backbone of tannins. This paired divinely with the rich and creamy mushroom soup. The mushroom flavors brought out the earthiness in the wine, and the creaminess of the soup rounded out the tannins without taking away from the wine’s complexity, sumptuous.
Sequum 2009 Kidd Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon
Food pairing: Flat Iron Steak with Bordelaise Sauce, Fennel and Apple Slaw prepared by CIA team 1; Ekin Huynh (Orange County, CA) and Fangfang Gong (Chicago, IL)
This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon speaks clearly and proudly of the St Helena appellation terroir. Dark berry, black cherry and Herbs de Provence aromas and flavors wow the senses. It is bright, complex and penetrating on the palate with velvety tannins and a kick of toasted oak on the long finish. This wine was provocatively paired with the Bordelaise-sauced steak. The weight of the full bodied wine and the rich dish were exquisitely in sync and the Herbs de Provence spice in the wine complemented fennel accent in the dish.
Check out Appellation St. Helena’s website at www.appellationsthelena.com, and next spring don’t forget to buy a ticket and attend this fabulous event. I assure you it is a delicious, enlightening experience with tantalizing sips and tastes that will please even the most scrutinizing palate!