Appellation St. Helena (ASH) continues to be synonymous with first class events which promote this historic and pastoral American Viticultural Area (AVA) in northern Napa Valley. The 2015 bASH (4th Annual) Food and Wine Pairing Competition at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) pushed the bar just so much higher.
Thirty-five (35) wineries collaborated with forty-four (44) CIA student chefs and nine (9) St. Helena restaurateurs, caterers and Estate Chefs to produce creative food and wine pairings to complement the elegance and dignity of the CIA Barrel Room. This year’s sold out, smart and upscale event perpetuated the truism that ‘great wine and food’ make for great experiences.
St. Helena restaurants, including Cook Tavern, Archetype Napa, Press and Meadowood Grill combined with Winery/Estate Chefs John McConnell (Clif Family), Chef Jeanna DeMarco (a recent CIA graduate with David Fulton Winery), Joshua Schwartz (Del Dotto Vineyards) and Michel Cornu (Boisset Collection) joined the 22 Student Chef teams and member wineries to create exceptional pairings. Stand outs were an ‘Aged Cheddar Arancini with Spicy Italian Sausage Bolognese’ with the 2013 Titus Zinfandel, a ‘Bone Marrow Macaroni and Cheese with a Bacon, Brussel Sprout and Sumac Crumble served on an Artichoke Leaf’ (a personal fav) with the 2012 Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and, finally, a ‘Black Truffle n’ Bacon American Wagyu Slider’ with the Del Dotto 2012 St. Helena Mountain Block 2 Cabernet Sauvignon (the winning pairing last night).
The food pairings were judged by the public attendees and the top vote getters were announced near the end of the event. “Sip, Taste, Vote!”
Chef Lars Kronmark of the CIA did his usual amazing job of guiding these chef students to success. Although the dishes prepared by the professionals at times had a quality and completeness that contrasted with the sometimes unevenness of the student dishes, that is merely a sign of experience and practice that the students will gain.
As always, however, the strength of this event was the wineries. It is important to note that all the wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Malbec, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Red Blends were from St. Helena. These wineries, large and small, are so passionate about their wines that you will find the winemakers, vintners and family members pouring their wines. Examples include: Calafia Cellars (MaryLee Johnson, owner), J.Lohr (Steve Lohr, Chairman and CEO) and Varozza Vineyards (Jack Varozza, owner) all present to pour and describe their wines. Each deserves mention and praise for the high quality wines that are produced each and every year.
Greystone is a National Historic Landmark, related to its operation from 1950-1989 as the Christian Brothers Winery which, of course, has its own historical and wine significance. There is nothing like this event anywhere in the Napa Valley, or perhaps all of California!
Appellation St. Helena (ASH), is an organization of 80 winery and grower members, which promotes the high standards of grape growing and wine making for which the St. Helena American Viticultural Area is famous. Originally founded in 1875 as the St. Helena Viticultural Society and then disbanded during Prohibition, the organization has been revived recently and includes associate membership for wineries outside the appellation that use grapes produced by member growers.