Two Hot New Pairing Programs at Napa Wineries

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lmrwines.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

I enjoy wine tasting, but I definitely perk up substantially if there's food pairing involved.  Thankfully, there are plenty of other people who feel the same way, and our growing numbers are prompting great changes in the way wineries present their products to the public.  I recently had the good fortune to be invited to two of the best winery food and wine experiences in Napa, and can't wait to spread the word.  

Long Meadow Ranch
Adding a food component to their winery's tasting program was a no-brainer for Long Meadow Ranch Winery in St. Helena, which for many years has been producing grass-fed beef, premium olive oils, free-range eggs, and organic vegetables in addition to their wines--and which opened a Ranch-supported restaurant (Farmstead) next to their tasting room just last year.  LMR has just announced some new options for people interested in food as well as wine, with packages at practically every price point.
lmr.jpgThe most comprehensive of these options is the Ranch Excursion, which begins at 10:30 am with coffee and pastries in the historic St. Helena tasting room.  Caffeinated guests are then whisked away to the Mayacamas Mountains, where the Ranch and winery are located (NB-the beef operations are in Tomales and in Humboldt County).  In addition to incredible views over Rutherford and the canyons in the Mayacamas, you get an off-road ride through the Ranch's vineyards and historic forests in a Swiss army vehicle, climbing as high as 1100 feet before returning to the winery building for a glass of wine and tour of the winemaking and olive pressing facilities.  

As you go, you learn about the Ranch's history and its admirable "full-circle farming" philosophy, which aims for sustainability in all aspects.  A few examples: the winery, tasting room, and restaurant building are all solar-powered; the farming equipment all runs on biofuel.  The earth displaced by boring the winery caves went into the rammed earth used to construct the winery building itself.  Organically grown vegetables supply the restaurant, with rotten or rejected produce feeding the chickens who live on the Ranch property, and the compost heap that feeds the vegetable gardens and vineyards.  All operations are 100% certified organic, as well.

lmrsalad.jpgAfter the Ranch tour, you return to the tasting room in the historic Logan-Ives house for a seasonal three-course lunch made from the Ranch's products, paired with LMR wines and extra virgin olive oils.  On my January visit, lunch featured a Dungeness crab and arugula salad with cara cara oranges, and fresh mint; LMR beef shortribs braised in 2004 LMR Cabernet Sauvignon, over a celery root puree with chopped fresh celery leaves; and a buttermilk panna cotta topped with grapefruit gelée. This three and a half hour experience costs $150 per person.  

Those short on time can opt for the Signature Lunch & Tasting ($85 per person), which includes the three-course lunch and a tour of the 2.5 acre St. Helena property on which the tasting room, restaurant, and Friday morning farmer's market are located.  The unique wine flavor garden there presents a (literally) fresh perspective on the differences between grape varietals; the Sangiovese garden plot, for example, features fennel, strawberries, and red currants, while the Cabernet Sauvignon plot has beets, broccoli, olives, and tobacco.

The Essential Lunch & Tasting ($55) streamlines further into a two-course lunch with three LMR wines and the extra virgin olive oil; the Signature Flight ($20 per person) lets you taste five wines and estate olive oils, which include the Ranch's reserve E.J. Church Cabernet Sauvignon, and the top of the line Prato Lungo oil, made from the olive orchard planted in 1872 by E. J. Church himself.

sigpairing.jpgSignorello Vineyards
Signorello Vineyards on the Silverado Trail has offered visitors a food and wine program at its Enoteca Signorello for three years, but the arrival of Chef Michael McMillan late last year has brought a whole new energy and style to the experience.  Chef McMillan built on the existing partnership with Snake River Farms' superior Kobe-style beef, and brought in some exciting new products like Devil's Gulch Ranch rabbit, Kurobuta pork, local fennel pollen, and vegetables grown year-round on the estate to complement Signorello wines with constantly changing menus of delectable genius.  

Dishes like seared Sonoma duck breast with roasted cauliflower and truffled gnocchi, or cinnamon-bay leaf glazed black cod with salsify "fettucine" and roasted white sweet potatoes seem complete works of art on their own, but reach whole new levels of bliss with a sip of wine--sometimes changing their focus dramatically, other times just "going to 11" on the same core flavors.  The chef's presentation of dishes in pairs lets you mix and match with the wines, encouraging exploration of every possible permutation, and resulting in some startling revelations about wine and food synergy.  

The winery's warm and welcoming Salone del Padrone makes a fantastic place to spend a few hours reveling in a six course lunch meal with chocolate truffles to follow.  This epicurean delight is $85 per person (all-inclusive), and happens every day the winery is open, at 11:00 am or 2:30 pm, but you must make a prior appointment.  Call 707-255-5990 to reserve your seat.

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1 Comments

Hi

We had to stop by Prager Winery during a recent visit to Sonoma, California. Many years ago we tasted and purchased some outstanding Prager Port, which remains unopened – we were encouraged to sample it by the owners who rolled their eyes when they heard of our treasured cache. It has appreciated by close to 200% since purchase!

This window in the tasting room has not been cleaned in 25 years! Spiders love the St.Helena sun and the abundance of fruit flies and have spun this amazing web amongst the bottles. The entire tasting room is covered with dollar bills from thirsty – it is really special.

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