Springtime is such a lovely season and though I may be biased, I think spring is particularly glorious here in Wine Country. With blue skies, sunshine, wildflowers and budding grapevines, it’s a wonderful time of year to celebrate by attending food and wine events and festivals. There are so many to choose from, I bet you could attend a food and wine event everyday of the week in Northern California if you wanted – just more reasons to be eat, drink and enjoy the sunshine!
I attended a couple of events during Flavor! Napa Valley this spring. This five-day food and wine festival, which benefits The Culinary Institute of America, takes place throughout the Napa Valley at various locations. With forty events offered, the festival features everything from cooking demonstrations and wine classes to panel interviews with some of the world’s most notable chefs and winemakers. There are elegant multi-course dinners and even a golf tournament!
I was invited to attend the Terroir to Table event at B Cellars, a Napa Valley winery owned by two entrepreneurs with a mutual love for fantastic Napa Valley wine.
I was able to bring a guest along so I invited my sister-in-law, Debbie, to come with me. Debbie works in the wine industry so I knew she would enjoy this tasting and food pairing experience as much as I would.
We met our small group just outside the Hospitality House at B Cellars.
The tour began in the back of the Hospitality House where there is a flower garden and several large planters filled with various edible greenery. It was obvious that spring had sprung at B Cellars!
The grounds were breathtaking with beautiful old olive trees and vineyards and a space for entertaining al fresco. This dining table has a sunken center section in the middle to hold potted flowers, or perhaps even chill wine on ice on a hot day.
Our tour was led by our hospitable guide, Sean, who started us off with a sampling of their 2014 Juliana Sauvignon Blanc. Each wine we would taste was paired with a seasonal culinary creation that B Cellars calls a “B-Bite”. This first B-Bite was Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi with English Pea Pesto and Estate Wild Flower.
Just a few steps from the flower garden area is the large culinary garden at B Cellars. Master Gardener, Shelley Kusch, talked to us about how she transforms the garden in spring and told us what vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers she is planting this year. As you can see from the photo below, she has already harvested radishes and the lettuce garden is coming along nicely!
Along with a spacious and bountiful garden, they also have beehives at B Cellars as well as a chicken coop.
After our garden tour, we were brought inside the Hospitality House for an intimate sit down taste and sip experience.
We began this portion of our tasting with a 2012 Maldonado Chardonnay. Our B-Bite was Flatbread topped with Spring Onion Jam, Grilled Fennel and Shaved Proscuitto.
Next, we were served a trio of B-Bites that we paired with three different wines. From right to left, we enjoyed Mushroom Pastry with Red Wine Braised Swiss Chard and Point Reyes Blue Cheese paired with 2011 Blend 24 made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Petite Sirah.
Next we had Crispy Chicken Thigh with Fregola Sarda, Grilled Zucchini, Roasted Cipollini Onion and Cherry Gastrique paired with 2011 Stagecoach Cabernet Sauvignon.
Our last pairing was Lamb Meatball with Toasted Barley, Currants and Arugula paired with 2011 Blend 25 Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. It was delicious. I wanted a full plate of all four B-Bites!
I appreciate the way each wine brought out different flavors in the food. It truly was an outstanding taste experience and apparent much thought and attention was put into making this a special event.
Once the tour and tasting ended, Debbie and I decided to spend some time checking out the rest of the property at B Cellars. We sat at a table near one of the cave entrances and talked for a bit, enjoying the beautiful view on a gorgeous sunny spring day.
We chuckled over Debbie mistaking this statue for a real live woman – but only for a millisecond – when we first pulled into the parking lot.
Lifelike artwork by Seward Johnson can be found throughout the B Cellars property. Debbie’s ‘friend’ is called “Holding Out”. She is carrying quite a few things including a shopping bag from Talbots.
We also came across this lounging statue called “Cloud Watching”. There are four Seward Johnson statues currently on display at B Cellars.
Before we left B Cellars, we visited the Hospitality House once again and picked out a few wines to buy and take home with us. It’s a gorgeous and very inviting tasting room.
Debbie and I had a great time experiencing B Cellars and Flavor! Napa Valley.
The following day, I attended another Flavor! Napa Valley event. This one was was not only delicious but educational, too!
My friend and PR professional, Michelle Lacy, accompanied me to the Aromatic White Wines for Spring Wine Class.
Led by moderator, Robert Bath, Master Sommelier & Professor, Wine and Beverage Studies, The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, this class stepped attendees through six uncommon styles of white wine from Napa Valley that are becoming increasingly popular among wine lovers.
On the panel discussing their wines were:
~Heidi Barrett, Winemaker/Proprietor, La Sirena Wines, Calistoga
~ Mike Chelini, Stony Hill Vineyard, Spring Mountain
~ Francis Mahoney, Proprietor, Mahoney Vineyards, Carneros
~ Ry Richards, Winemaker, Chappellet Winery, Pritchard Hill
~ Craig Becker, Priest Ranch/Somerston Estate, Napa Valley
~ Jeff Virnig, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Carneros
Though I have tasted wine many times, I have not tasted multiple wines from different winemakers at once. And to be guided by the winemaker is something very special!
It was so helpful to be guided through the tasting, learning about the various winemaking and grape growing techniques used in creating these unique wines while sipping away.
Flavor! Napa Valley was a wonderful festival to attend. I hope to return next year and experience even more events.
Saturday night my husband and I and some longtime friends of ours attended the St. Helena Fire Department’s Annual Lobster Feed. What a blast!
Each guest gets their own apron and lobster hat to take home.
No utensils are given – or are necessary – because you eat with your hands! Along with Maine Lobster, there are artichokes, red potatoes, shrimp, corn, sausage and onions. There are also loaves of French bread, drawn butter and lemons served – all just dropped on the tables!
After dinner there is a live auction, then the band starts playing and dance floor fills up!
We stayed overnight in Napa Valley and returned home the following day. What a great event and for such a good cause. St. Helena Fire Department is not far from Lake County where several catastrophic fires occurred last summer and is now able to buy new equipment for the upcoming fire season.
Monday, I drove to San Francisco to meet up with Kim of Northern California Style for lunch and to attend an event that afternoon. We decided to grab something light and easy at Neiman Marcus’s The Freshmarket. We had lots of catching up to do having not seen each other in a year!
Once we finished lunch we hit the sunglass department at Neiman’s. We must have spent an hour there trying on all sorts of sunglasses from cat-eye to aviator. Both of us finally decided upon a pair right for us. I bought a pair of over-sized Tory Burch glasses that have already become my everyday sunnies.
The event that brought Kim and I together this particular day was a media-only party at the Redwood Room at CLIFT Hotel SF. The Redwood Room rolled out their Spring Food & Cocktail Menu, which features delectable food and cocktails made with honey from their own Rooftop Bee Sanctuary.
Some of the delicious dishes served included: Compressed Watermelon Salad with Lavender Infused Honey, Pumpernickel Crisp, Chevre, Watercress and Lemon Comfit, a bowl of Moroccan Spiced Bar Nuts, fall-off-the-bone Adobo Style Glazed Baby Back Ribs with Red Cabbage Mango Slaw and Vietnamese Chicken Buns.
The menu is full of flavor with many Asian, Mexican, and Italian influences.
CLIFT began Rooftop Bee Sanctuary in 2015 and now has over 800,000 busy honeybees housed in hives 17th stories high in downtown San Francisco.
You can watch a video of the bees in action and find out more about this fantastic project here.
What a busy spring it’s been so far! If you’re planning on visiting Northern California’s Wine Country or you live in the area, be sure to check out the calendar of events at the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau and Visit Napa Valley websites.
Reminder! How I Wear My: Boho is next week! Submit a photo of you in your Boho outfit, along with a description of your look, to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, April 4th to be featured. For more information, check out the How I Wear My page.
Make it a rich day!
Disclosure: My tickets to the Flavor! Napa Valley events were complimentary. All opinions expressed here are, as always, my own.