Saturday evening on April 7th guests climbed the long flight of stone stairs outside the magnificent old Greystone building in St. Helena, Napa Valley, then inside ascended another flight of stairs inside leading to the second floor Barrel Room. The occasion was a first-class wine and food pairing and competition properly held in the domain of food and wine, the Culinary Institute of America, in the geographic center of Napa Valley.
The format for the evening was 30 wineries from Appellation St. Helena presenting their wines along with 30 culinary teams serving their inspirations. Culinary teams consisted of three types – current CIA students selected by faculty, chefs from local restaurants, and chefs of local wineries.
Guests circulated among the booths listening to the winegrowers describe their wine and why it was a match for the cuisine, and hearing the students and chefs enthusiastically expound on their creations and giving their perspective on the food-wine match. More than one student explained that although they believed they could envisage what wine and style would meld with their recipe, they actually tasted wines aforehand for confirmation.
After sampling this creative fare, and discussing the merits with each other, guests decided their preferences and cast a formal vote. My vote? In this contest there were no losers! All were winners, and it was obvious all were exceedingly motivated and thoroughly enjoying their individual roles.
Student team winners as judged by guests:
1st Place – Chase Evans, Lake Sherwood, CA and David Ju, Saratoga, CA
Steamed Bao Buns with Braised Beef Cheeks, Shallot Aioli, and Spring Vegetables with
Del Dotto Winery St. Helena Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
2nd Place – Sean Smith Fresno, CA and Reilly Brown Anchorage, AK
Ancho Beef Tacos with Charred Salsa and Escabeche with Parry Cellars
3rd Place – Allison Komara, Frederick, MD and Nina Widjaja, Bogor, Indonesia
Galbi Jjim Korean Beef Short Ribs with Rombauer Vineyards 2014 Stice Lane Cabernet Sauvignon
4th Place – Brandon Matthews Sacramento, CA and Carlos Ramires Carlsbad, CA
Cornet of Red Wine Braised Kobe Beef, Creamy Polenta, with Morel and Black Truffle with 2014 Pellet Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
5th Place – Cameron Hassell Fremont, CA and Nicholas Stogsdill, Great Falls, MT
“Wanna Wonton” with Ballentine Vineyards 2016 Maple Station White Blend
“Most Creative Pairing”, new this year as judged by select CIA Faculty and Staff –
Charles Fulbright, San Francisco, CA and Conner Black Denver
“Saturday Special” with Chase Cellars 2014 Rosé of Zinfandel
Professional team winners:
1st place – Acacia House, Chris Cosentino
Oxtail Toast, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Wild Fennel, with Beringer Vineyards 2012 St. Helena Home Cabernet Sauvignon
2nd place – Goose & Gander
Braised Lamb Neck and Candy Cap Mole, Steamed bun, Benne salad, Lemon Crema, with Ehlers Estate 2015 “1886” Cabernet Sauvignon
3rd place –
Charles Krug Winery Estate Chef Daryl Muromoto, Braised Pork Ciccioli Crostini, Estate Citrus Marmellata, with Charles Krug Winery 2016 Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc
My Wine Reviews
91, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Trinchero, Central Park West, St. Helena, Napa Valley
Dark-ruby in color, Trinchero’s 2013 delivers rich black cherry and blackberry fruit with a cholate cordial background. Revealing an intense rear-palate this dense Cabernet Sauvignon displays a razor-sharp focus, excellent balance, and a heightened acid level making it a great food companion. About $95.
91, Petite Sirah, 2014 David Fulton Winery, St. Helena, Napa Valley
Black-inky-purple, David Fulton’s big, muscular 2014 was produced from 100% Petite Sirah fruit from their estate vineyard. Loaded with black plum, blueberry, and mocha, this heavy-weight is well proportioned with an inobtrusive, structuring tannic frame and a long finish. About $52.
91, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Hall Bergfeld, St. Helena, Napa Valley
This ruby colored Bergfeld Cabernet from Hall estate fruit, planted in gravelly alluvial soil showcases red berry and cherry fruit, with a hint of baking spices and a whisper of toasty oak. Refreshing and bright from the elevated acid level, this 2914 demonstrates definite substance and intensity, but with polish and balance. About $175.
90, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 Ehlers Estate 1886, St. Helena, Napa Valley
Inky-purple with ruby hues, Ehlers’ Estate 1886 is smoothly textured and displays Crème de cassis, blackberries, forest floor with mineral overtones. Consistent with ASH, this mid-weight 2015 provides fine purity of fruit, well integrated structuring tannins, excellent balance, fresh acidity, and good length. About $125.
90, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Taplin Terra 9, St. Helena, Napa Valley
This impenetrable black-ruby 100% Cabernet Sauvignon demonstrates great balance of components and a lifting vein of acid for focus and structure. Brings flavorful, rich, sweet fruit to the glass showing black cherry, black plum, and lavender lasting into the long finish. About $69.