Napa Valley may be small in size, but it is giant in impact. With over 400 wineries and counting, this valley first put California wine on the map by winning the Judgement of Paris blind competition 40 years ago, an event recounted in the 2008 film, Bottle Shock. Having just wrapped upon March 20, the 5th annual Flavor! Napa Valley celebrated this historic moment (along with many others) during their huge four-day festival.
Flavor! Napa Valley began on Wednesday evening on the grounds of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia. Called the Downtown StrEAT Market, this event showcased the talented chefs, artisans, sommeliers and artists of the city itself, which has become a mecca for famished foodies. Among the dishes we tasted were curried shrimp from Kitchen Door, wood-fired pizza from Ca’Momi, ribs and slaw from Bounty Hunter and truffle risotto from Tarla—all enhanced by boutique wines.
Things heated up in the kitchen as we listened, learned, watched and ate at two of the many chef demonstrations held at the CIA at Greystone. First up was graduate Christopher Kostow, who quickly rose to stardom after gaining three Michelin stars for The Restaurant at Meadowood. He shared a recipe for fresh cheese Gnudi from his soon-to-be opened casual restaurant, The Charter Oak in St. Helena. Next up was Chef Tony Gemignani, an 11-time World Pizza Champion who owns eateries in the bay area. Not only did we watch his pie-making technique, we learned the finer points about dough, toppings and oven temperatures, as we gobbled up slices.
The next day brought with it the most anticipated event of the weekend, the all-star cast of chefs, vintners and sommeliers gathered to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the 1976 Judgement of Paris. This grand dinner commemorated the first time the wine world acknowledged the superior quality of Napa wines when, during the 1976 Judgement of Paris, the region’s vintages were awarded Best in Class against previously uncontested French bottles in a blind tasting.
After the caviar and wine reception, a five-course menu was paired with current releases of the very same winning varietals from the Judgement of Paris. Hosts and Master Sommeliers Andrea Robinson and Gilles de Chambure entertained us with witty stories and wine notes, while the food highlights included Chef Bradley Ogden’s spring market salad. This dish was paired with a Chateau Montelena 2009 Chardonnay. The next plate was Chef Richard Blais’ pan roasted cod with seared foie gras, smoked potato purée, morel mushrooms, rosemary oil and flowers, which was paired with three cabernet sauvignons: Heitz Cellars 2010 Martha’s Vineyard Cab; Freemark Abbey 2010 Cab; and Mount Veeder & Spring Mountain Vineyards 2012 Cab.
The extended weekend of world-class sipping came to a finale at the Brunch Party on Sunday. Lobster eggs Benedict and a selection of sparkling wines—all produced in Napa, of course—was the perfect way to wrap up the 40 events in this year’s Flavor! Napa Valley lineup.
If you missed out this year, plan now for March 2017.