Appellation St. Helena (ASH) provides first class events to promote this historic and idyllic American Viticultural Area (AVA) in Napa Valley. One of Napa’s many sub-appellations, St. Helena is beautiful, historic and quaint. As the “birthplace” of the Napa Valley wine industry, it continues to evolve and provide world-class wines. This event, the first annual bASH, like the media tasting last November and the trade tasting at the Krug Center in March, continued to build upon the solid, smart and upscale theme – great wine and food make for great experiences. Louise Dye is the power house behind these events. She and her energetic team blow the competition away when it comes to precision in planning and execution!
Unlike the previous two events, this wine and food pairing at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), was open to the general public. Hosted in the CIA’s large barrel room upstairs in the original Greystone Winery building which is a National Historic Landmark. From 1950-1989, Greystone was owned and housed the Christian Brothers Winery which, of course, has its own historical and wine significance.
bASH, was noteworthy in that 28 outstanding wineries poured 57 wines made with St. Helena grapes. Each of the 28 wineries selected a wine to pair with a food item created by a local caterer, restaurants or one of 16 CIA Student Chef Teams. The wines and food were fabulous but it was especially rewarding to get to speak with these Chefs-in-training. They were clearly excited to have this very public opportunity to show their creative talents and pairing them with the world-class wines of St. Helena. The food pairings were judged by the guests and the top vote getters were announced near the end of the event.
In the Professional category, La Condesa, a James Beard nominated modern Mexican restaurant which is located in St. Helena. Their food was paired with a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Revana Family Vineyard. Revana is a small family vineyard with 9 acres planted in 1998. The vines are mostly Cabernet but include a couple of acres of Petit Verdot and Cab Franc. Clearly the pairing was a winner.
On the student side, the results were received with great interest by all. CIA Team #10, Erin Morrissey (LA, CA) and Ellen Fort (Nashville, TN), obtained the most votes paired with Vineyard 29 wines which included an Aida Estate Cab and an Aida Estate Zin.
2nd place went to CIA Team #5, Jenna DeMarco (Santa Fe, NM) and Liz Strole (Berkeley, CA) who were delightfully paired with David Fulton Winery. Fulton is a small case production Petite Sirah specialist producing less than 400 cases per year. They also claim the distinction of being the oldest (1860) continuously owned and operated family vineyard in all of California. Another exceptional pairing!
The 3rd place pairing included an international team (CIA #2) with Michael Egelbede (Nigeria) and Steven McDyer (Kodiak, AK) paired with Benessere Vineyards. The Sangiovese paired wonderfully with the dish proffered by team #2. Benessere is unique as a grower of several Italian varietals such as Moscato di Canelli, Pinot Grigio and the relatively unknown Sagratino as well as the Sangiovese.
Clearly there were many other great food professionals participating like, Tra Vigne, Market, The Restaurant at Meadowood, Vercelli’s, Epicurean Escape Catering and Sogni di Dolci.
As always, however, the strength of this event was the wineries. These wineries, large and small, are so passionate about their wines that you will find the wine makers, vintners and family members pouring the wine. Examples include: Charles Krug (Mondavi granddaughter Alycia), Calafia Cellars (Randle Johnson), Boeschen Vineyards (Doug Boeschen), Crocker & Starr, Ballentine Vineyards, Charnu (Bob Dye) Winery, Flora Springs Estate, Robert Biale Vineyards, Tudal Winery, Varozza Vineyards (Dianna and Jack), Salvestrin (Rich Salvestrin) and St. Helena Winery. All deserve mention and praise for the high quality wines that are produced each and every year by these St. Helena vintners.
This first annual BASH portends a phenomenal second annual if Louise Dye has anything to do with it!