SONOMA, CA—Birthdays should be extraordinary events and a birthday dinner party should always be the source of great anticipation. The other day we planned a celebration which included 3 masterful wines plus a few special occasion food curiosities. Here’s how it played out…
Guests arrived and were greeted at the door by—yours truly—with a false mustache which contained an audio chip that spoke the words “Well, hello there” in a deep, sinister voice. Once the visiting couple was caught off guard they were handed a glass of Mumm Napa Brut from Napa Valley.
This sparkling wine always proves popular. It is consistently wonderful time after time. If you’ve never been to their Napa facility, then you MUST go. That’s why I’ve included them in my books for so many years… (Side Note: Few things are better in life that relaxing outdoors on a sunny day at the Mumm Napa tasting room with a glass of bubbly, in the company of good friends, surrounded by their panoramic vineyard views. Mumm Napa is also noted for its fine art gallery. I’ve been to exhibits there that easily go head-to-head with those in big city galleries. Guests may explore the Mumm gallery at their leisure, even while they enjoy a glass of sparkling wine.)
After a bit of chit-chat dinner was served.
Homemade mushroom soup with sour cream and chives sprinkled on top. Not cream of mushroom but a lighter rendition.
The next wine served was a perfect match. An absolutely delicious 2010 Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer from Handley Cellers in Mendocino County. It was SO good! I have never had a wine from them that I didn’t enjoy… Last January, I proudly presented Handley wines with Food Network chef Tyler Florence during two book signing/tasting events at his Northern California shops. The events were free and many of my readers turned out to say hello. Many told me that they, too, were impressed with the wines from this artisan wine estate.
Milla Handley planted her estate vineyard in 1982, built the winery three years later, and in 1987 opened the tasting room. She also makes Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Viognier, Zinfandel and a sparkling wine.
When visiting the picturesque Anderson Valley, in Mendocino County, this is one tasting room, in particular, that you will love!
I’ll be heading up there again real soon, not so much to do research, but just to relax. Yes, I’ll be making a report on the trip for this blog. Hmmm? So, maybe, I will be working after all. ;-)
Though you may think otherwise, I did not catch this fish in the Napa River. It was a frozen gift sent by my dear sister. Salmon Florentine En Croute courtesy of William-Sonoma. A hand-sculpted puff pastry. We gave it a spritz of olive oil before baking.
Inside, was salmon and spinach. Though I usually prefer my fish fresh, this was not bad at all. No complaints. I enjoyed it. Here’s a photo courtesy from William-Sonoma showing how it looks prior to serving.
Now as you can tell, over the past few months, I have gradually become more and more decadent as evidenced by a third wine which was brought forth for the fish course. Uncorked above was a Hearthstone Vineyard & Winery 2007 “Lodestone” from Paso Robles: 50% Syrah, 33% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre. Just 298 Cases produced. You will love this rich, flavorful wine. Its medium texture and pleasing minerality creates a velvety mouth feel and smooth finish. I’m still thinking about this wine days later… It’s all about the Paso fruit and knowing how to tame it!
Hearthstone is a small producer—only 1500 cases annually—from the Adelaida area on the west side of town. Their intimate tasting room only opened in 2009 and is a great visit. The location offers sweeping westward views of neighboring farms and the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Owner Hoy Buell had been propagating vines for other growers when, in 1999, he heeded the siren call to plant his own vineyard. Hoy sustainably farms twenty different grape varieties, selects about half of the crop for his estate wines, and sells the rest to local winemakers. In my view, this is certainly a winery to watch! I’ll be telling you more about them toward the end of the year.
Those of you with eagle eyes may have noticed the bread sticks in the photo. As with everything I’m consuming these days, these were no ordinary bread sticks. They come from a local Napa Valley producer — Panevino. They are the best breadsticks I have every eaten. They are called: No. 6 Grissini and are gourmet semolina breadsticks made with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. I’ve met the owner; a super nice guy. I am happy to buy and recommend his product. Has anyone else ever tried them? You must tell me what you think! Aren’t they insanely good?
Of course, also during dinner we had vegetables. Fresh beets with cumquat (aka Kumquat).
And organic, local Kale, fresh from my old pal Paul the farmer, sautéed with walnuts (from Lake County) and Parmesan cheese. Quite good. The wooden serving spoons were made in Hungary.
For dessert there was Princess Cake from Sonoma’s own Scandia Bakery. But by that time all I could do was sit and stare blankly as everyone else scarfed it down. It was midnight and, though my tank was full, I was out of gas.
Dinner Party Hint #1456: Here’s a simple way to determine whether or not the wine was a hit. Was there any left in the bottle? If not, then you will be highly praised by your guests for weeks to come. All wines served on this particular evening were entirely consumed with great delight!