2014 bASH Food and Wine Event in St. Helena – Delicious!

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Napa, Tasting Notes (1 Comment)

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!

Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir Soars

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Santa Cruz Mountains

Megan Metz took the reins as Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association a little over a year and a half ago.  Working with the association’s board and members, Megan has been implementing new marketing strategies and together they are broadening the exposure of their vineyard practices, winemaking talent, and well-crafted wines coming from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.

In conjunction with the 2014 Pinot Paradise event in April, five California wine writers came together to review selections of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages of Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation.  Lovely fruit and balance was showcased in all three vintages. I also picked up distinctive characteristics in each vintage, including accents of spice in 2010, vibrancy and brightness in 2011, and earthy, forest floor accents in 2012.  The tasting was enlightening, and made it quite clear this region continues to raise the bar.   Here is a peek at some of the praiseworthy wines reviewed at this tasting:

2010 Vintage

Kings Mountain Vineyards 2010 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:    Forest floor aromas rise from the glass with this alluring, well structured Pinot Noir.  On the palate, black cherry, and raspberry fruit intermingle with exotic spices and a splash of cherry cola. Wonderfully integrated oak brings the wine to a glorious finale.    SRP:  $60 www.kingsmountainvineyards.com

Muns Vineyard 2010 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  The enticing fragrance of rose petals joins earthy, spicy elements rising from the glass.  At the core, the essence of cloves and cardamom spice interplay delectably with juicy black cherry and wild berry fruit. A well-balanced, smoothly textured wine with bright acidity throughout.  SRP: $40   www.munsvineyard.com

Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards 2010 Regan Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:   Scents of minerality and baked cherry cobbler warmly welcome you into the glass.  Sweet black cherry and raspberry fruit takes center stage, highlighted with exotic spices weaving from start to finish.  The mouthfeel is rich and velvety smooth and the underlying nuances of sweet oak add further complexity.  SRP:  $50 www.savannahchanelle.com

Storrs Winery 2010 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Expressive aromas of stone fruit entice the senses with this demonstrative, smartly balanced wine.  Here is a densely fruited, powerful Pinot Noir resplendent in ripe black cherry, fresh strawberry, juicy plums and hints of licorice and savory spice.  Good depth and plenty of grip through the intense, captivating finish.  SRP:  ~$36 www.storrswine.com

Silver Mountain Vineyards and Winery 2010 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  The seductive aroma of this estate Pinot Noir seizes your attention and takes you for a delicious, long lasting ride.  Elegant and sassy with tasty flavors of red and black cherry and raspberry fruit, a touch of herbs and a trace of ground anise seed flourishing on the palate.  Balanced and pure through the satisfying finish.  SRP:  ~$38 www.silvermtn.com

2011 Vintage

Big Basin Vineyards 2011 Woodruff Family Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  This sensuous PN opens with inviting floral aromas that leads to forest floor, dried earth and mushroom notes on entry.  It blossoms beautifully on the palate with bright cherry, raspberry and a splash of cola framed by savory spice.  Intensely flavored yet lithe and light on its feet; delicious.  SRP:  ~$40 www.bigbasinvineyards.com

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard 2011 Branciforte Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Aromas replete with spiced cherries and earth nuances waft from the glass.  The brightness of black and red fruit layered with savory spice, fragrant herbs and forest floor notes creates a cornucopia of flavors on the palate.  The meticulous balance of flavors persists through the finish; a stylish wine.  SRP:  $39 www.santacruzmountainvineyard.co

Kings Mountain Vineyards 2011 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California: Gorgeous perfumed aromas will have you swooning.  Fanciful, bright and alluring, the raspberry, strawberry, cherry cola and anise flavors fill the palate and a touch of earthiness weaves throughout.  Irresistible in its delicateness, this Pinot Noir speaks softly but carries itself with strength, embracing the palate and finishing with a delightful lift.  SRP:  ~$60 www.kingsmountainvineyards.com

Storrs Winery 2011 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Lovely perfumed floral aromas with send you into dreamland.  This elegant Pinot Noir unfolds elegantly from the first sip with vivid flavors of strawberry and pomegranate intermingling with dried cherry and licorice accents. Precise integration of oak adds further dimension.  Impeccably balanced with graceful tannins and a finish that is oh so bright.  SRP:  ~$36   www.storrswine.com

Silver Mountain Vineyards and Winery 2011 Muns Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Stunning forest floor and fresh cherry aromas waft from the glass and hold your attention upon entry.  Allspice, nutmeg and a hint of cinnamon join succulent black cherry, raspberry and earth components that meld seamlessly on the palate.  This Pinot Noir is lively, well focused and structured with silky tannins and a finish that persists memorably.  ~$38 www.silvermtn.com

Silvertip Vineyards 2011 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Here is a smoothly textured, fruit forward, tasty Pinot Noir.  Juicy raspberry and wild berry aromas and flavors burst forward, flooding the senses.  The vivid, palate pleasing fruit is accented with earth nuances, exotic tea spices and a kiss of oak on the lingering finish.  Beautifully balanced and vibrant; a delectable quaff.  SRP:  ~$32 www.silvertipvineyards.com

Clos LaChance Winery 2011 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California: This full bodied Pinot Noir showcases big brooding aromas of concentrated dark fruit with a dusting of fresh herbs.  Blossoming on the palate are bright and tasty sweet black cherries, strawberries and ripe plums interlacing with chopped herbs and anise spice.  The dense fruit is offset energetically with zesty acidity; a flavor packed Pinot Noir.   SRP:  $32    www.clos.com

Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:   The expressive aromatics of red cherries and toasted oak notes grab your attention. Precisely balanced and flavorful, this wine displays a smooth backbone of tannins.  There is a brilliant vibe on the palate, with layers of red and black cherries, pomegranate, raspberry and cherry cordial joining savory spice, licorice and hints of earth; nicely crafted.  SRP:  $35 www.fogartywinery.com

2012 Vintage

Mount Eden Vineyards 2012 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:    Wow a beautiful melding of Old World earthiness and New World juicy fruit.  The earthy, spicy components up front simply captivate the senses.  Chock full of raspberry, strawberry and red cherry fruit with subtle hints of toasty oak, mushroom and savory spice, this PN is refined from entry through the rewarding, lengthy finish.    SRP:  ~$70   www.mounteden.com

House Family Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Cherry and baking spice aromas arouse the senses with this elegantly structured wine.  On the palate, flavors of black cherry, red currant, cranberry sauce, wild mushrooms and a sprinkling of fresh herbs seductively unfold and caress the palate. An artfully balanced, polished Pinot Noir.  SRP:  ~$54 www.housefamilyvineyards.com

Roudon-Smith Winery 2012 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains California:  The dazzling perfumed aroma clearly proclaims Pinot Noir in the glass.  Hints of violets converge with cherry, raspberry and strawberry flavors heightened with spice and earthiness, all swirling delectably on the palate. This wine leaves a brilliant impression throughout with racy acidity playing off the pretty layers of fruit; luscious. SRP:  ~$30 www.roudonsmith.com

Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery 2012 Lester Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Abundantly fruity with fragrant, inviting aromatics.  Gliding across the palate are scrumptious flavors of fresh picked wild berries and cherries and a splash of cranberry soda interweaving with hints of earth and nicely integrated oak tones. Balanced and fresh through the elegant, lively finish; simply irresistible.  SRP:  $40 www.alfarowine.com

Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery 2012 Trout Gulch Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Here is a deep and concentrated wine displaying a more powerful side of Pinot Noir.  Intensely structured and chewy with black cherry, raspberry, licorice and forest floor notes weaving together in a tightly knit fashion.  Full bodied with lively acidity keeping it in perfect balance.  Finishes with creamy, spiced oak notes.   SRP:  $35 www.alfarowine.com

And that’s not all . . . there are many more notable Pinot Noirs from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, and the region is producing high quality Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and other varieties in addition to stunning Pinot Noir.  Wines that can hold their own among those crafted from many top regions around the globe.  Check out the association’s website at www.scmwa.com, and plan a visit soon; you’ll surely discover wines that will rock your palate, too.