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napa vintner dinners crush it

So in the midst of all the Auction madness, every night winemakers host these incredible dinners all over the valley. On Thursday we went to Clif Family Winery, where they love biking almost as much as wine. Their tasting room is full of bike gear, trip photos, delicious little snacks, and of course wine.

IMG_0969A guitarist played as the sun set and we sipped their Sauvignon Blanc. Then they cooked us an incredible meal with polenta and roasted lamb – out of a food truck nonetheless!

FullSizeRender(8)FullSizeRender(7)I’m not even a chocolate person (I’m in a VERY small minority, I know) but this budino dessert was insane. It was like a rich chocolate  mousse with crunchy sea salt and whipped cream on top. Ugh, so good. IMG_0690

What a perfect Welcome to Napa dinner.

The next night was just totally insane. Like one of the best dinner parties ever. It was at Grgich (pronounced GUR-gitch) which is a legendary winery in Napa. Mike Grgich is someone you study  in wine courses. He’s been in Napa for decades and is literally the guy who catapulted American wines to Serious Status. Back in the 70s he was the winemaker at Chateau Montelena and made a Chardonnay there. In 1976, that Chardonnay competed against the best Chardonnays from Burgundy, the uncontested gold standard for Chardonnay. And in a blind tasting, his Chardonnay beat out all others! The French were pissed. It’s now known as the Judgment of Paris and many books and movies have been made about it because it brought American wine into an international spotlight and gave it cred.

Anyway, now Mike is 93 and still kicking it at his own winery, Grgich Hills. Check out how rad he is with his sunglasses and beret – like out of a Wes Anderson movie! He danced as his daughter and son-in-law played “You Are My Sunshine.” IMG_0824

As if hanging out with Mike Grgich and drinking his wines weren’t enough, we had freaking Morimoto cook dinner for us!! Mike and Morimoto welcomed us to dinner, complete with Morimoto singing to us in Japanese!FullSizeRender(4)

Then he proceeds to break down an entire tuna in like 7 minutes right before our eyes, whipping out plates of some of the best sashimi I’ve ever had.FullSizeRender(5) IMG_0792 FullSizeRender(6) IMG_0814

He also tells me I’ve been eating sushi all wrong. You never add wasabi to your soy sauce (the chef controls the amount of wasabi you should eat by putting it on each piece) and you should never bite sushi (you might bite off more wasabi on one side – it’s meant to be eaten in one bite).

We then sit down and have a killer four course meal.

IMG_0829

watermelon, oysters, and sea beans with the 2013 Napa Valley Essence

wagyu beef and Korean black garlic with the 2006 Yountville Cabernet

wagyu beef and Korean black garlic with the 2006 Yountville Cabernet

I have to give a special shout out to this amazing Merlot! People often ask me if Merlot is cheesy – ever since Sideways it’s gotten a bad rep – so I take every chance to let people know Merlot can be incredible, and this Grgich one was dangerously delicious. The fruit was succulent and lush, with the great velvety texture Merlot often has. It was incredible with the braised cherries and rabbit. ($47 here)IMG_0832

This dessert was also mindblowing. White chocolate lime ganache, yuzu pearls, coco foam, mango sorbet – and Pop Rocks! We were all dying over the Pop Rocks, although Morimoto said he’d never had them growing up in Japan. So deprived…FullSizeRender(3)

Excellent Napa night!IMG_0842

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